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August 8, 1977

Dear Mom,

…. With trips to Addis getting fewer and fewer, we’ve changed over to using a wood stove here. The logistics of keeping ourselves in gas just got too much.

The garden is going well. To a great extent we’re now self-sufficient in regard to vegetables. Vince has a rotation system worked out so that he keeps replanting every so often, thus keeping a steady flow of ripening vegetables coming. Not having winter here means a year round garden. Our papaya trees (about 40) are now a year old and some have fruit starting on them so in a couple of months we’ll have fresh fruit too. We have subscriptions to both Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening and enjoy trying out the different things talked about in the articles. Recently they discussed a simple method of measuring the amount of water in a large tank (ours is two and a half thousand gallons). We put the thing together in less than an hour from materials we found around the house and garage. Now by just looking at the level of water in a plastic garden hose section, we know where the level in the tank is. Before the only indication we had was when it ran dry.

The language is going well enough. Recently, in an effort to learn more about and get a feel for the way the Borana think about things, I’ve been collecting and translating proverbs, riddles, fables, songs and poetry. You might be interested in hearing a few. Some of the proverbs are similar to our like
“See the mother, take the daughter” (like mother like daughter), which might be said to a young man looking for a wife.
“A young camel can finish a forest of bushes as he slowly eats” like our dripping water wears away the stone.
Our monkey see monkey do is much like the Borana one that says, “A passing camel makes sitting camels rise up”.
“I haven’t seen the fat of a donkey” means that as there is no possibility for a donkey to be fat so this thing we are talking about is not possible either. Another one says “I can’t cut off my rotten finger and throw it away” said about a wayward child.

Some riddles I found particularly interesting. The children especially enjoy telling them.
“I have fire in my stomach and am at God’s mercy”, I am a house.
“100 have entered the crawl and 100 are outside”, hoof prints of cattle.
“The mother looks at the man, while her children kill him”, a rifle.
“Rain comes from four directions and drops into a lake”, milk from four tits into a gourd.

Six un-understandable things:
Baldness without the head being scraped like a cow skin.
How a snake can walk so fast without legs.
A road how it can stretch itself so far without being cut into strips like meat.
The land, how it can stretch itself out without being pegged down like a skin.
The sky, how it can stay up without poles like a house has.
The fruit on a certain tree, how it always stays the same size in the dry season while the cows all get thin.

Finally, what never sleeps although all else is sleeping, a cowbell….

Love,

Ned

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