Sunday, August 19, 2007

stick bridge

Yesterday afternoon I finished the last of my interviews here and went for a nice hike with Chris and Diana Clemow, young doctors from the States who are working here for a few months. Diana and I donned skirts out of respect for the locals, but we’re not sure we will keep respecting the locals on any future hikes. Even hardy skirts make hiking much more difficult.

A river borders the Tenwek property. Twenty years ago a little dam and power plant were put in (a huge project, to be sure) to supply the electrical power for Tenwek. It’s rained a lot here lately, though I hear this is supposed to be the dry season, and the river was very high. We hiked a loop, crossing over the river in one spot and circling back across the top of the dam. The terrain was beautiful and we passed numerous houses, small and larger gardens, people washing clothes in the river, sheep, cows, men chipping rock (by hand) to make gravel to sell, and lots of little kids who called out “How are you?” to us. We think that must be one of the first English phrases they learn. It’s very cute to have these little voices backed by smiles calling out to us, all with the same kind of high-pitched cadence to those words.

We began our walk by heading down to the bottom of the waterfall created by the dam. There we ran into John Spriegel and the Spriegel kids who’d been visiting the bats in the cave beside/behind the waterfall. We all hung out for a little while and they accompanied us over the first bridge on our loop.

The first bridge is the stick bridge, and from what the Spriegels said, even the locals don’t like it very much. Rumor is that it’s going to be replaced by a cement bridge in the near future. The bridge is wide and looks stable. But that all changes when you approach it more closely. Sturdy-looking logs stretch across the width of the river and then “planks” of various shapes and sizes run across the main logs. It looks like some mud has been placed on top to help hold everything together.

I was determined not to be bothered by the fact that there’s nothing to hold onto while you cross and to confidently make my way to the other side. However, that wasn’t as easy as I wanted to believe. You see, the logs are of uneven widths, heights and levels of round and flatness, which means you have to watch where you’re walking. Though the pieces of wood are fitted closely together, there are still spaces in between them, which means while you’re looking down for good footing you can see through to the water rushing past (and, remember, the river was very high).

Though I tried hard to focus on the sticks and not the water underneath, after a few steps out onto the bridge, I was still hit by a serious whirl of dizziness. I stopped, determined to make it, took a few more steps and began wondering just how I was going to get across. About that time, Rebecca, one of the 13-year-old Spriegel twins, came dashing back to help me.

Part of me wanted to show how missionary-y and out-doorsy I am and make my way across without help. Part of me didn’t want to need help from a middle schooler (or anyone else, actually). But, I quickly decided not to listen to that part of myself, took hold of Rebecca’s hand and easily went the rest of the way across. It was amazing the difference it made to be able to hold onto someone.

So you can see where this is going, right? :-) The walk across the bridge was just another very tangible reminder of the importance of receiving help from others, of not trying to go it alone all the time and of not letting pride get in the way of receiving the help that makes things easier. This trip has continually taught me the necessity of receiving help well.

I think the issue of giving and receiving help is also fresh on my mind as I’m living in a place where there are a lot of people who need help and some who ask for help even though they don’t need it. But, I’ll get into all that along with thoughts and questions about poverty in another post.

p.s. In case you didn't notice it a few days ago, I added in a post dated Aug 8 that has photos of mine and Erin's travels to Ghana.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating story about the stick bridge. Just the name makes me nervous about crossing it! - Jason

Anonymous said...

We are wondering what is at the base of the tree in the bottom picture. Might be our monitor but it is hard to make it out and we are curious as to what it is. Mom