Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From tree to bean!

Just wanted to share with you our favorite home school extra curricular activity here in Arua! I remember praying quite a bit about coming back to Arua for our second time around. Since our time line doesn't correspond with the Ugandan school system, it's almost a requirement that I home school the kids. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like to teach from home, I do, most days! It's just sometimes I get that worried mom thing in me that questions whether or not Osobie and Fatu are getting to experience enough or will be able to be involved in fun kid things like sports, music, art, karate,..etc.. You get what I mean. So, as we were making the decision to come back again for 6 months I started asking God what I should do about home school this time around. What I felt like He told me was not to compare what kids in the states have versus what we will have in Arua. I also felt like he told me to teach them what they can learn from Africa. So... I have been doing just that. We have been learning about the animals, birds and insects of Uganda. We have been experimenting with cooking some local foods that we haven't tried before, as well as picking up on a little bit of Lugbarra. The one activity that's been the most fun has been....COFFEE!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, anyone who knows me will know that obviously there is some "mama bias" in learning this one! Heck, even O and F are clued into my pretty serious coffee drinking habit! But, sincerely this has been so stinking fun!! I wish I had photos from our first excursion but I forgot the ole' camera.
We picked the ripe coffee beans from the trees at our friend Alice's house. Alice's grandma (De-de) Shalom is the lady in charge! She's probably 65 or 70? Anyway, she has coffee trees planted and she does all the work of harvesting, crushing, and roasting before she sells them in the market. So, for one afternoon we picked and picked and picked! It's no easy task I tell you! There are ants that hide in the bunches and they bite and crawl all over your arms and fingers as you pick. I'm sure most Ugandans don't think harvesting is that bad or hard to do, but for novices like us, it was an exciting and tiring afternoon! We picked loads of coffee beans until the tops of the trees were bare.
Next we put the beans out to dry at our house. De de Shalom gave us our very own batch to work on so we carried it home and laid them on the cement near the house. We dried them for many weeks.
Then came time to crush the shell and discover the precious coffee bean inside! This was the part I was most excited about...holding the mighty coffee bean! The kids were stoked too! So, we made another date with Alice and de-de Shalom and we all headed out to her house. We had so much fun! Alice and Shalom showed us the two different traditional ways of shucking the shell of the bean as well as the sifting.
As you can see, this is the first method. The wooden cylinder and heavy wooden smasher. Of course I forgot to get the Lugbarra name for both of these tools. They use these grinders for millet and various other grains, seeds, pods and such that all need crushing. The wooden pole is heavy! No wonder most African woman have intensely strong arms. Oh, and talking about strong...this photo and these coffee activities all took place at Alice's house on Saturday. The very next day, Sunday, around 3:30 pm Alice gave birth to a healthy baby girl! Talk about strong women, Alice wasn't only grinding and sifting coffee with us that day, she was also re- thatching her grass roof with her husband and a hired worker. Wow!!
Next came the second method of shucking the shell of the coffee bean, rock on rock. You use a large flat stone and place the dried coffee in a pile in the center. Then you position a sifter at the end of the rock. The rock should be slightly pointing downward so the beans and shells will slide down into the sifter. You then use another small hand held rock with a flat bottom and you pull back over the coffee shells and push down then rock forward again. It's got a little rhythm to it if you watch the professionals at work (Alice and grandma)! I started to get the hang of it and even Alice said, "Katie, she knows how to grind coffee!"
I have a new appreciation for coffee farmers and for coffee! It is a LOAD of work for such a small little nugget of love and caffeine! Jeff, myself and the kids all took turns with the grinding techniques and tried out our sifting skills! A handful of shells and coffee beans after being crushed in the wooden bowl.
Then the last part was the sifting. Here you can see Grandma Shalom working it! She sifted that whole bunch of coffee beans faster than the 4 of us did on our one batch. I practically threw half of the beans on the ground from my poor sifting and slow reflexes to pull back in time. I spent most of my time digging in the dirt picking up the tiny green coffee beans that I spilled !

Seriously though, once grandma or de-de Shalom took over she put us all to shame! That woman is strong and you can see the years of experience she has had grinding, shucking, and sifting! I was so impressed and so grateful for the opportunity for us to learn about coffee.

Walking home from Alice's house enjoying the green lush African landscape...and praying the makeshift bridge made of timber holds together for us!!
We have one last part of this whole coffee process, the roasting. We have some Dutch friends who drink Ugandan coffee that is roasted by their friend and house helper, Grace. So, our next and last field trip will be to their house next week to learn how to roast the bean! We'll let you know how it goes once we sip our very own Ugandan home brew!