In Liberia West Africa, living conditions were very poor when I was a little girl. The descriptions that are here are STILL the way people live in the rural areas of Africa. First of all, what looks like just haphazard structures placed this way and that, are really not as the center of the village is where the Chief lived and ruled. And his wives were in different huts close by. This is my only picture to share with you - as you can see written below the picture, are the words, Fassama Jungle House - this is the village of Fassama. Where my family lived when I was 6 years old.
There were never any plants in the village. Nor any trees. Just dirt. And sometimes a stray village dog that always looked so skinny and starved. I never saw anyone pay attention to these dogs. The huts were made of stakes driven down in the ground and tied together with vines. Once the round structure was built, then cow manure would be mixed with a little mud - and flung on the sticks. Slowly the 'mud' would pile up and as it would dry, the natives would use their hands to smooth the texture of it to make sure it filled all gaps.
There were not any buckets or tools - just the bare ground and many hands working together to create a new hut. And when the walls were dry, then longer stakes were taken from the jungle trees, and cross tied above the wall creating a cone shape roof. And then it would be tied together with more vines. Now these vines were not just little vines, but were heavy and thick and when it was wet and softened it could be shaped. Then when it would dry, it would tighten up and make a sturdy binding. Then the thatching would be applied, branch by branch of palm trees. And the vines would be woven around the base of the palm branches tying each one to the next one. Until a very thick covering was created and became waterproof. Unfortunately many types of bugs and snakes lived in the thatch roofing and this could create it's own hazard for the family indoors.
Once our house had to be redone also. The missionaries house was square, but made of mud walls and flooring and thatch roofing also like the natives houses. And I remember watching the natives redo the floor. The smell was rank as the hot humid air was thick with the smell of manure and mud. There is no hot weather like that of West Africa. It's so humid that the jungle fairly drips with moisture - as well as all the people who constantly have to mop sweat just to see to do their work. This humidity makes everything grow like wild on the west tropical coast. Back to the floor though. And when the floor was done, and dried it was shiny and smooth and polished like a dark colored cement. I don't remember my mother complaining about the process. We just stayed out of the way while the experts did their magic.
My mother and father, would keep an watchful eye on the thatch roofing above our heads, watching for creepy crawlies to drop down. Sleeping under mosquito netting was a blessing as we were assured of bug free rest at night - even though it was so hot to sleep under! We children did complain about sleeping under them! But mother's cause for worry was real and she would not budge about the hot sleeping 'tents'!
Research this year has shown that 3,000 African children die a day from malaria, and that a simple mosquito net could save this many children's lives daily!
Inside each village hut in the center of the room, is a fire that burns constantly. The smoke curls up into the thatch roofing turning it black and creating a pungent smell of smoky sweat! There are no windows in the huts. Only a door opening. This was for the protection against animals. And the fire burning was a deterrent against them entering the doorway. The people would sleep around the fire. Somehow the height of the huts thatch roofing kept them from catching on fire. And these houses would last several years until the torrential rains would wash away the strength of them and slowly they would rebuild one by one.
The smells cannot be described very easily I can just tell you that these words come to my mind as I remember back to being inside huts. Just simple words - earthy, sweat, stinky, mold, ashes, burning wood, sometimes the smell of sickness, rotting plants and foods, dirt. It was dark inside with just a flickering flame for lights. But politeness and manners were paramount even there within the dank chambers of abject poverty.
And from two entirely different worlds - we learned from each other survival. Better structures to live in from us, and how to survive this climate from them. And God took the two separate planets (it seemed at times) and blended strength and respect for one another and created love from Himself to each of these who would allow Him into their lives.
And that which hatred and fear, disease and plague, poverty and nothingness, ignorance and loss could not conquer - Love did. Because God so loved West Africa that He gave His only begotten Son....... do you know the rest of this verse?