Refugees I - Cover

Refugees I

Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 2: A Settled Life

August 7, 1991

With focused diligence, Jomo attacked the weeds growing in his garden with his hoe. They had provided him with the best hoe he had ever owned. The blade was made of a good hard metal, and the handle was straight and smooth and strong. With care, it would last him a lifetime.

Hoeing was hard work, made harder by having to do it in nearly intolerable heat, despite it being early in the morning. To avoid the deadly hot sun of midday, he only worked in the garden early in the morning and late in the afternoon. He was going to have to quit working soon, he knew, or he’d start becoming dizzy.

It seemed to him that the barest hint of moisture made plants appear as if by magic. Unfortunately, most of the plants that came out of the ground, weren’t the plants he was trying to grow! It was a never ending battle keeping the weeds out of his garden. At first he had questioned the drip hoses the Jade Warriors had insisted he use to water his plants. After seeing how many weeds grew, he was glad that water was more or less limited to the area around his plants.

He had never grown any of the crops that they Jade Force recommended he planting here. There had been a lot of talk about what would grow, here. They had pictures of each crop at various times in its life, so that he’d know crop from weed. He had chosen to grow primarily sweet potatoes and had three rows of the plants. They looked a lot like yams, but he’d been told that they weren’t really yams. He had chosen to plant beans, squash, and melons as well. He’d eaten melon in the past and enjoyed the sweet refreshing taste of it. He was looking forward to seeing it grow here and providing the melons to his family as a treat.

The harvest was a long way in the future. After two weeks, his plants were just barely poking out of the soil. Still, it was exciting to watch his crop begin to grow. It was his crop. He had his own little plot of land that had been carefully measured out, the boundaries staked, and marked with his name. No one else was supposed to enter it without his permission.

The sound of an approaching airplane caused him to stop hoeing to watch it land. He looked over at the runway with a little pride. The landing field was more than two thousand paces long, and a hundred paces wide. He had helped build it. With shovels and rakes, they had cleared the landing strip, and leveled it so that the planes could land. Rocks had to be moved. Plants dug up. Shallow spots had to be filled. High spots had to be lowered.

It had been a lot of hard work, but he had gotten paid for it.

The airplane, which arrived every day at this time, brought food, water, and materials. It would land and then taxi to the end of the runway near the camp. The men in camp who weren’t farmers, would be lining up to carry the supplies back to camp from the plane. That was their job. Everyone had a job.

The Jade Warriors didn’t do physical labor around the refugee camp. He had resented that until someone had pointed out that this was a refugee camp, not a home. It was up to the refugees to make it their home. The Jade Warriors were there only to make that transition possible.

People in the camp worked, or they went without. At least, they worked unless they were too young or old to work ... or were sick, or had been injured. Even the kids spent time raking the dirt around the camp every morning before school. Women took care of the small herd of goats and the flocks of chickens. A few women had taken it upon themselves to plant a small flower garden inside the camp.

The Jade Warriors did little around the camp except guard it and teach people what they needed to know. They seemed to know a lot about a lot of different things which he wouldn’t have expected of soldiers. They knew about medicine, farming, and construction. They taught others how to fix up the camp, and then stepped back to watch.

The Jade Warriors had a camp of their own. It was set off to the side and no one was allowed near it. He wasn’t even sure how many Jade Warriors stayed there. One day a new face would appear and then the next day an old face would be absent. Hearth Maria had left the second week after they had arrived. He had liked her, despite the fact that she wasn’t really a very friendly person. She had been replaced by Hearth Ramya.

Jomo returned to work on his garden. He only a had a little more to do to clear out the weeds on the row he was now working. This was the life of a farmer, and he enjoyed it.

Moswen, the man who worked the plot of land next to his said, “I heard they are drilling a well, today.”

Jomo stopped hoeing and turned to face Moswen. “I heard that, too.”

“Maybe we’ll have enough water to grow larger gardens.”

Jomo laughed. and said, “I don’t think I could keep the weeds out of a larger garden.”

“I know what you mean.,” Moswen said, also laughing. “It looks dead out here until a little water gets sprinkled on it.”

“Yes. Do you think they will be hiring some of us to dig the well?”

“I don’t know. The Shield said that they were bringing in a drill. I don’t know what that is, so I don’t know if they’ll need help or not.”

“I’d like to earn a little extra money,” Jomo said.

He would like to surprise his wife and earn enough money to buy some colorful cloth for her to make some new clothes. It would make her proud to be one of the first women in camp to be able to walk around wearing new clothes!

“Same here. I will probably go to the school if they don’t need help,” Moswen said.

The school was in an open building, just a roof and nowithout walls. In the middle of the day, it was the most comfortable place in camp, since they had water misters that cooled the air. The teacher, Hearth Chiyo, allowed anyone to attend, so long as they didn’t interfere with the children. Too often parents wanted to berate their kid for not knowing some answer. and Hearth Chiyo came down hard on them when they did that. Jomo and Moswen were discovering that they were learning to read by attending. They even scratched the letters onto the dirt floor to make words.

Jomo was proud of how well his son was doing in school. They’d had a test and he’d had a nearly perfect score on it. Jomo hadn’t done that well, but he sometimes missed classes to earn a little extra money. Missed classes meant that he didn’t know all of the words. He wasn’t ashamed. He learned them when the teacher went over the test.

Moswen said, “I don’t know how I feel about girls going to school.”

“Those Jade Warriors are smart, very smart. They know lots of things. Most of them are women. I’d be happy to see my Zahra become smart like one of them.”

“They are hardly women,” Moswen said. “How could a man sleep at night knowing the woman next to him could kill him so easily? How could a man rule the house knowing that? They might have the parts of a wife, but they’d make horrible wives.”

“Maybe he would have to be nice to her,” Jomo said.

“Like that’s ever going to happen. You’re lucky. You have a good wife.”

“Maybe because I try to be a good husband.”

“Don’t make me laugh.”

“I wasn’t joking,” he said flatly.

“I’m going to see if they need workers,” Moswen said with some anger.

“I’ll finish, here, and then check it out.,” Jomo said without heat.

Later that morning, Jomo and Moswen were constructing something called a windmill. It was a strange looking device with long legs and a metal flower at the top. There was something called a vane that was supposed to keep it pointed into the wind, but Jomo didn’t understand how it could do that. He just put the parts where he was told to put them. He did learn how to use a wrench, which he figured was a good skill to have.

He got paid a little money for his work. He wasn’t sure what he could buy, with the handful of coins, but he wanted to see. He headed over to the nearest Shield. He knew enough to approach the man from where he could be seen. Shields reacted very badly to having someone try to sneak up on them.

“Shield De?” he asked politely.

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