The asphalt streets of San Diego had nothing as blatant as the harbingers of spring here in Karamoja. I was taught in elementary school that spring meant babies were born, flowers bloomed and the snow melted but never really saw these events firsthand in San Diego. Conversely, Karamoja is brimming with signs of spring like I’ve never seen before.
Firstly, spring in Karamoja means that the rains have begun again. The preparation for cultivating the fields includes cutting down the tall grass, training the oxen and plowing. Most often, the people try to burn down the grass that can tower above a man’s head, but since the rains came early this year, many have been forced to cut the thick, coarse grass by hand. A few weeks ago, the farmers began training their oxen by yoking two or four together and attaching a heavy log for them to pull. The farmer would guide them to nowhere in particular adjusting them to orders, a burden and a team by yelling commands and thwacking them on the hinds with a stick. They have now attached the plows, but the same soundtrack continues. The rich dark earth is being turned and pounded again by the daily rain. Next, they will begin planting mostly sorghum, maize and sunflowers. Christopher is, similarly, on the tractor most of the day plowing the mission’s fields in preparation for an assortment of crops. Although we are also surprised by the early rains and somewhat apprehensive about what that means for the roads, we pray that it would not abruptly cease and destroy the crops that are presently being planted.
The second sign of spring I’ve witnessed is the multiplicity of young animals. On a recent village trip, I saw a puppy, a kitten, a kid (goat) and five or six chicks all in one compound. We have also gotten to witness this first hand as the Tricaricos (another missionary family) are raising chickens and ducks right out our front door. We presently have 40 chicks and 21 ducklings chirping away about 100 feet from our house. Not to mention the five kittens that live at our back door (but that is year-round entertainment).
Another similar phenomenon is the migration of winged termites. Early spring every year, termite mounds transform from an encasement for mysterious, hidden termite activities into the main attraction. Small holes open up to emit the flying termites in a constant stream for some hours. The locals love to eat the bugs! They will circle around the mound as the termites are coming out, catching the body-heavy fluttering insects before they can get too far. The people either pop them straight into their mouths sans wings or dump them in a pitcher to be fried up later. The entire ecosystem seems to join in the feast as flocks of birds swoop overhead catching any that fly out of reach and the cats pounce on any that fall to the ground. I tasted a few this morning to get the experience and found them to be rather fatty and crunchy.
As a city San Diego girl, I’ve never seen such manifestations of the picture book conceptions of spring before. It is a pleasure to watch life budding anew all around you as a reminder of God’s intricate creativity.