A nine-day adventure

POSTED ON 2009-04-21
  by David Bell

Mud, pigs, dogs, rats, an unstable house and a suggestion to visit the local witchdoctor, introduced and challenged the Scott and Natasha Flaugher family to life among the Elseng people.

The family planned to stay in a tent during their nine-day visit to the tribe, but while setting it up the people voiced their opinion.

The people were afraid that the pigs would wreck the tent and bother and hurt the family if they were on ground level. Their solution was an old tribal house whose owners were out of the village.

"The kids were thrilled about the house on stilts, thinking of it as an amazing play house," wrote Natasha. "However, when it started falling apart we had to do some quick tribal house etiquette training."

As the family was setting up house the rains came, bringing mud into the house and revealing lots of leaky areas. To escape the pools of mud the Flaughers climbed a narrow pole to a second level where they tried to settle in for the night.

They soon discovered that the sagging floor had many weak areas and it felt as if the whole house might collapse. The children were unable to sleep well and cried out loudly in the night.

After midnight a man came into the house, climbed the pole and flashed his flashlight on the family.

"I guess you don't have to knock, day or night," wrote Natasha.

The visitor said that the children were too loud and it was disturbing the pigs. He said the pigs, especially the one they call Babi Jahat -- the evil pig -- might come into our house and try to attack us. He also said that the Flaughers had totally confused the weather and the whole land, causing not only problems with the pigs but the huge rain storm as well.

He suggested "that we go see the local witchdoctor who could give us 'words' to help with the situation, Natasha wrote. "We declined."

The next day the Flaughers were greeted by a different man who offered the use of his slightly less leaky and rickety house next door. It was much easier to get into the top floor and the family was able to stay there the remainder of their stay.

"We were grateful to be able to use the other empty tribal house to store our food as the rats became more of a problem," Natasha continued. "The big dogs too would try to get into the house all night, trying to eat whatever was left out, including dirty dishes."

Water was a huge issue. With no river in the area, water holes on different sides of the village are the people's only source, but it is a hike to any of them.

"Our kids sure enjoyed the adventure of bathing at the muddy water hole," Natasha wrote. "Thankfully, there was a small pool of clearer water for collecting our drinking water. One challenge of bathing at the water hole was that the kids were in need of another bath upon returning to the house due to the slippery trail and mud. Experiencing some of these challenges is helping us better understand what the people deal with on a daily basis."

As their time in the village drew to a close, more women visited Natasha, enthusiastically sharing their language and asking when the family was coming back to live with them.

Natasha and the children left the village on Friday while Scott was joined by co-worker Jareb McClain to begin building the team's houses. The McClains lost one sling-load of plywood for their floor when cloud cover forced the helicopter pilot to dump his load in the jungle. Please pray that the men can get much accomplished this week and for safety.

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