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just a fancy story about the day to day job of living!

1/730 of an experience

I woke up to a cool morning and drank my coffee on the cement porch of my cement house. It was one of those days that are left open, no appointments, or commitments had been scheduled so it was left up to my momentary instincts what was going to justify the passing of another day. I decided to visit my friend Kwabena, who I knew was harvesting his rice fields at a local agricultural dam plot. So I got on my bike and rode off into the imposing resonances of the ascending sun. When I entered the dam's network of roads I was struck by the subculture that was inhabiting this irrigational development. All the farmers in the area seemed to be out, the roads were bustling with activity and a few opportunistic food sellers had established their operation on the roadside. On one side of the street, bicycles were moving by with farmers who had their water jugs and cutlass's, fastened to the back. On the other side of the dirt road, walking gangs of enthusiastic women bearing headfulls of harvested goods were on their way home from the fields. I found Kwabena's site easy enough, he was busy hacking at rice stalks and from the looks of it , had a lot more hacking to go. He greeted me with both enthusiasm and surprise and it showed instantly that he was happy I had come. We talked about the heat and the amount of work he had in front of him and I told him that I had come to help. He smiled and thanked me. I mentioned that I had seen people beating their rice stalks with sticks on my way in and asked what that was about. They are threshing he said and after a few more minutes of small talk, he led me to the local crew of rice beaters. After the rice bearing stalks are cut and collected from the fields, they are brought to these smooth, flat, beating grounds. Here, the ungerminated embryo's are separated from the stalks that produce them by an ageless process which accelerates the dispersing hands of nature at least ten-fold. On the beating grounds, men and woman, armed with carefully crafted beating sticks, were taking turns delivering fatalistic blows to the cash crop. The groups seemed to be set up unsystematically operating along the general principal that if you had some spare time, or wanted a break from the leech infested harvesting in the mud flats, then you could just pick up a stick a beat some rice for a while. The rule in these clan-like farming plots is: what goes around comes around, or: if you beat my rice, I'll beat yours! It seems like people try to help one another as much as they can, Kwabena and I, armed with our own sticks, helped a few people beat the rice out of their harvest. I, never having done anything of the sort before grabbed the stick like a club and preceded to barbarically attack the helpless rice pods with all of my might. It wasn't long before I tired out, my hands throbbing. While leaning on my stick after two and a half minutes of methodless beating, I rested and watched the rest of the beating circles choreographed approach. After the first batch, Kwabena took some time to explain the common grip and general mechanics of the swing. I tried again. It took some time before I got the hang or the tricky wrist and knee movements that allowed a more rhythmic rate to develop, and after that it was all Zen! It was then that I realized, this wasn't some five minute affair. The people who I was spending this sunny morning with would be there beating rice until sunset. My approach adapted to the newly discovered frame of reference and I actually felt a rhythm coming alive within me. I concluded that activities like these were where the Fra Fra's drew their creative expressionism from. Their dances, drumming and festivals are somehow rooted in these long unmechanized processes of life. I felt like I had connected with these people as I searched within myself for my own rhythm. For a while the stick was an extention of me and my movements were in tune with the rhythm of life, that is until my hands began to rip, blister and weep! My blows became inundated and infected with raw pain, this, all of fifteen minutes and three bushels into my rice beating experience. I presented my swollen and torn palms for some of the other beaters to see. We all laughed. "Ho tare panga," I said in Guruni, the local dialect meaning "you are all strong," and I got a clear, undistorted feeling that we were all communicating in some altered unidentifiable language. We exchanged our strengths and weaknesses. We had a shared common experience, one that is apparently very hard to come by. All too often I find myself in a position of leadership, trying to push uncomprehendable methods on a different unaccommodating style of life. We never seem to understand where each side is coming from, but we force it in the name of progress. Here, I was able to simply observe and appreciate the extremely time consuming and chalice-forming basic means of survival. The people I had worked those fleeting fifteen minutes with, appreciated my attempt to experience their situations. It left me feeling good. Kwabena led me and my baby powder palms back to his rice fields. I told him that we had machines to do all that work for us. He said that there were some motorized threshers around, but because the cost of use is so high most people still used the traditional means of threshing. Human Threshers we joked! To my surprise Kwabena led me to my bike, anticipating that I was ready to leave. I was, the sun was becoming intolerable as it inched overhead. Kwabena thanked me for my visit and I also thanked him and wished him luck with the rest of his harvesting. In the end, I didn't help him one bit, I actually took up some of his time, but as I left I heard him commenting to some of the other workers on how much I try. I nearly felt guilty, I got so much more than I put in, I guess that is the beauty of this job. I felt like a politician making an appearance at some blue collar industrial work-site and the results were nearly identical. For a few campaigning minutes I made an attempt to live through someone else's hardships, and the people were moved to see someone try. In the end I received their support and acceptance in exchange for some simple human sincerity.