Spending time in Bouva has been a dream of mine since my first visit there… over 5 years ago now!

It became more of a priority after our wedding, as Renel’s parents live there and I haven’t spent much time with them. So as the team was preparing to leave Bouva, we prepared to stay an extra week. We asked Renel’s cousin to go to the nearest town (2 hours away) and buy enough drinking water for the week and then we moved into Renel’s parent’s house.

Renel’s parents have a typical Bouva home – main structure for sleeping, a cooking hut behind the house and separate structure for “storage”. Renel’s mom uses this second structure as a business… she goes to town a few times a month and buys extra supplies (rice, beans, cooking oil, etc) and sells it in smaller quantities.

Here’s a closer look at the cooking hut – they position 3 large rocks (to hold the pot) in the middle of the hut and build a fire underneath it. Learning to cook like this was a great experience – especially making coffee with a ‘coffee sock’.

A lot of their food is grown locally and everyone has a garden down by the river. Renel’s dad has 2 gardens – 1 down by the river (30 minute walk) and one high up in the mountains (2 hour walk & only used during the rainy season). The community was very excited that we had stayed and everyday we had visitors that brought us food from their gardens… mangos, corn, squash, coconuts, even goats, chickens & fish!

Renel tried to help his dad but he accomplished little except eating more than his share of mangos:

Their main food is corn & pitimi and here is how they grind it. Renel’s dad has the grinder on his property but it’s for the entire community and it’s used constantly!

The river is also their only water source… for drinking, cooking & bathing. We walked down to the river (30 minutes each way) twice each day to bath and carry water back to the house. Here’s Renel at our favorite bathing spot.

Here’s the bathroom… no explanation required:

There is no phone service in Bouva but you can hike up the mountains (~ an hour each way) and you can find very unreliable service. I only did this twice during the week… the walk didn’t bother me but the cactus scratches itched for days!

Mom & Dad, this is where I was standing when I called you:

Renel’s mom was very excited that I was so eager to “do things Bouva style” that she wanted to show me how she makes fresh peanut butter (she also makes flat bread and sells the bread & peanut butter to the school kids). Every 2 weeks she walks over 2 hours (each way!) to the nearest ‘peanut mill’ to make the peanut butter. We decided to buy one for her as a way of thanking them for their amazing hospitality.

On a side note… “deciding to buy one” isn’t as easy as it sounds! We had to hike up the mountain to find phone service, call a relative in the nearest cit, arrange for them to borrow money to buy the mill for us and then rent a motorcycle to drive it to Bouva… shipping & handling was a lot more than the mill itself!

Here is Renel & his parents making the first batch:

This is Sedlin – she is Renel’s cousin & has lived with Renel’s parents for the past year, since her mom passed away.

She was very quiet at first but after a few days she sat down beside me with a comb and asked if I could braid. Luckily we were in Bouva (where there is no sense of time) because it took me all morning but when I was finished I had made a friend for life.

Sedlin goes to the community school in Bouva (which is held in Pastor Luc’s church). Every school day she gets ready for school and waits in the front yard for the school kids to pass… I don’t know where the gang starts but it gets bigger every house it passes.

Here’s another student in the school, I don’t know his name but I see him every time I go to Bouva and I’ve always wondered about his hair. I had the chance to sit with him after school and he told me that his father is a voodoo priest and a spirit told him that his son couldn’t cut his hair or he would die. His mom tried to keep his hair braided but the braids never stayed in so she gave up. This little boy hates his hair, especially when the kids tease him about it… he showed me bald spot at the back where he has ripped it out himself. I’ve always known about the voodoo presence in Bouva but not having the distraction of hosting a mission team I was able to see how it affects their everyday life.

The week passed way too quickly for me and I was sad when it came time to leave. I loved getting to know Renel’s parents better and I appreciate all that I learned.

Sedlin, I miss you already!