Chapter 20 – Making Progress
Considerable progress in facility preparation was essential if we
were to realize a camping program before the end of 1974.
Finishing the Main Lodge
Finishing the main lodge was priority. The massive size of the concrete floor was somewhat intimidating. To start with, how can a person pour a level concrete floor when a large ant hill protrudes up out of the ground near the center of where I constructed the building? This mound built by termites was nearly hard as rock. Apparently the soil was mixed with fluid secreted by the termites during construction. Just for fun I decided to experiment by crushing some of material from the hill to make clay blocks on the block machine. I was surprised how well they withstood the rain and sunshine for months.
Before I could continue with pouring the cement floor I needed to deal with this huge lump that stood in my way. The hard white ant hill had been long since vacated by the termites and so was not very high. No problem I thought! Little did I realize that it extended far down into the ground. How far, I didn’t know. My efforts to fill in the gaping hole created by the maze of passage ways seemed impossible. After pouring in sand and water I was finally satisfied. However, even after the floor had been poured and the concrete cured, there was always a slight hollow sound when walking over that particular spot.
Up until this time the concrete was prepared by several men in a shallow box. Now I had obtained an electric motor-driven cement mixer. This increased production considerably, but I still had to keep a careful eye on the procedure. Would the necessary ingredients be added in the correct amounts? One time the wheel barrow actually arrived on site without any cement added!
I divided the floor areas into nine squares. When one square had cured I removed the wood forms. Then the adjacent square was poured. T his way I could more easily finish the surface
Now we needed to install the kitchen stove and other necessary facilities. Finally by early September, the lodge was ready for programming even though not completely finished.
A Surprise And Major Setback
But then we were confronted with another surprise. The Van Nattans received word telling them that Amharic language school, which they were required to attend, was starting in September. That meant their immediate departure to the north of Ethiopia. It was sad to see them leave; Steve had contributed considerable help at this stage by acquiring much of the equipment to set up the camp such as bunks and foam mattresses (55 in total), kitchen utensils, and many other necessary items. He had also been exceptionally good at promotion and fund raising. Elizabeth was a cheery helpmate.
Nothing Like A Little Pressure
Then we received word that 30 to 50 men were coming in for a conference on September 19. These were church and mission leaders that wanted to spend a few days discussing important matters. That gave us three weeks to build a toilet, design and make tables and chairs, install windows, and finish building Borema’s house (he was getting married). Betty would be busy planning the purchase of food, and organizing the kitchen as well as attending to the clinic. Betty had taught one of Borema’s sisters to use the hand sewing machine, and she was able to sew the mattress covers for the beds.
We also needed an Ethiopian lady to help cook the national food. We had a lead on one person that needed follow up. Injerra and wat, the national food, was not a part of the local Arsi culture, so we needed to bring someone in from outside the area.
That happy long anticipated “zero hour” was closing in on us!
A Midnight Visitor
I was awakened in the blackness of the night with the sound of our chickens in distress. I had better investigate. Grabbing my flashlight I carefully went around the side of the house toward the chicken pen and there in the spotlight of my flashlight was a sleek looking leopard slinking across the back of the garden toward the pen. It was a sight to behold! Extended in a long crouched position, muscles rippling and tail flicking, he (or she) slowly approached his midnight snack. I thought Betty should see this as well, so I turned to enter the house, but the leopard sensed my presence, turned around and sailed over the back fence in one silent leap. It was quite a sight!
Children Home from School
Pressure to get the camp facility up and ready before the first conference was pretty intense. But that didn’t mean there was no time for family fun and relaxation.
The children were home from school and would be with us for three months.
The summer months were prime time for missionary families to camp on the beach for their holiday time. That meant Cathy and Jeff and their friends from school were in for many sorts of adventure. One day Danny Coleman came dashing back to his family campsite white as a sheet, barely able to speak and trying to tell them that while running along the beach he stepped on a small log that rapidly moved under his foot … it was a snake … a python! Some time later another smaller python was spotted near the beach. The snake was found and dispatched with a number of lethal blows. What fun. Jeff posed for a picture while holding it. Then later when the kids returned to find the snake it could not be found. Those lethal blows weren’t lethal after all and the potentially dangerous critter was able to slither back to its habitat somewhere.
We hiked back up to what we called the gorge; a deep gully with an
old river bed populated with towering trees and vines.
A Great Place for Teenagers
Young fellows from Bingham loved coming in to help or just enjoy the adventure of living in the bush. Hunting baboons was a favorite for some. On a number of occasions we were really helped by the volunteers who came in for a week or two. Doug Koop and Paul Tews would come in on their motor bikes. One day major repair to one of the bikes was necessary. Parts were strewn around on the ground while they studied their manual. One of my workers was intrigued by the whole process and eagerly wanted to learn an English word or two from the manual. One of the fellows suggested the first words that caught his eye, “oil modulation”.
Nobody knew what ever that meant, let alone my worker, Fato, who went about the work site saying those words to anyone who would listen!
One year the older students from Bingham Academy used Langano for their annual retreat weekend. I prepared a complicated treasure hunt for them.
A Special Dinner
One Sunday we were invited for a meal in the home of a former chief. This was probably the first encounter his wife had ever had with entertaining foreigners. We were ushered into a round mud-walled structure with thatched roof. But the humble surroundings did not distract from the effort this dear lady went to in providing the best possible meal. It began with a porridge made from teff flour and salt. As that boiled she added a little red pepper and butter. It was then served in the communal clay pot from which we ate with spoons crafted from cow horns. It was delicious. Then a big metal mitad (a huge, handleless frying pan) was placed over the little fire within three stones located in the middle of the hut. She put some water with salt and red pepper in the mitad and boiled generous pieces of goat meat in the sauce. We knew that meat was eaten only on very special occasions, so this meal was a very significant expression of honour on the part of our host. By this time we were full. But another course of corn porridge was being prepared. She stirred the clay pot with a long stick. Although the meal was served mid-afternoon it was 7 pm before we got home. Another opportunity for bonding with these lovely people had been made possible.
So much to enjoy while living at Langano but we mustn’t let that distract us from so much to do yet before the site would be ringing with the sounds of campers.
For one thing Betty’s new clinic building!