From Hare Krsna dasi

After various vacations and travels, we’re finally meeting with up Asto again and finding out about his trip to Congo in July.

I ask him, “What is that tall wood vase filled with water sitting on the floor?”

Asto, “That is what the villagers in Katobo use instead of a bucket to hold the milk when they milk their cows. I’m soaking it in water so I can scrub it out.

“It is customary that when there is a guest of honor, they fill that wood jug with milk and put a special little basket lid on it and present it to the person being honored. So, when we went back up into the mountains north of Luvungi this year to visit the chief, to discuss starting a village there, they presented me this container filled with milk. I accepted the honor, and I requested that the cow that gave the milk should never be killed. The chief agreed that she will live out her life in peace and never be killed. The cow’s name is Ru’usa.”

katobo milk container

He also brought back a beautiful wood carving of a spotted white cow. She’s in a sitting pose, evidently chewing her cud. We’ll offer the statue to Krsna tomorrow for Janmastami.

Asto also showed me several photos of the interior of a hut in that village in which they use a cow dung floor. Evidently it is traditional with this particular group of people. (Asto also said he heard a wonderful lecture at the Kulimela this year about how many Vedic practices are spread around the world from ancient times. Perhaps the cow dung floor is an example of that.)

Asto also showed a video of two of the oxen at the Working Villages International project in the village of Luvungi, where they were just being put in a yoke for the first time. It is a little difficult to develop an ox training program, because he can’t afford to be there as much as he would like.

Nevertheless, several teamsters have been training the oxen for about a year now, and he wanted them to try one team in a yoke. On the video you could see it was a little choppy. He cautioned them to expect that the oxen might be upset about wearing a yoke for the first time. The oxen’s names are Bala and Rama. Bala is a beautiful black and white ox of a humped African breed. Rama is also African with a hump, but is tan looks more like a Jersey. Bala’s horns stick straight up and are about 14 inches long. Rama’s horns are shorter. At first both animals were upset about having the yoke on and started to thrash around, but fortunately Bala accepted it more quickly than Rama. The teamster was a man named Liv. He worked with the lash in one hand, and the curry brush in the other hand — constantly ready to calm his animals by brushing them. In the end, after about 20 minutes, it worked, and he was able to drive them around the ring in the yoke, and have them keep in step with each other.

WVI ox training

It was so amazing to me to hear all the Swahili dialogue between the workers and suddenly hear Liv shout a familiar command like, “Get-up!” or “Haw!” or “Whoa!” Liv was actually able to get them to stop by yelling “Whoa!” while standing behind the team. This is something that Asto has stressed with the teamsters. The purpose of this is so that one teamster can control the team without needing another teamster to control the equipment. It’s clear that the oxen need more time in the yoke to make everything smoother, but it looks very promising. Because of travel expense, funding challenges, and language and cultural differences, every step of this project takes great effort to accomplish. So we feel very blessed to finally see results. Asto told Liv that he was doing a fantastic job. You could see that Liv was very proud of his team! A couple moments where the oxen were whipping around in the yoke, I thought they were going to stab Liv, but evidently Krsna was protecting him.

To see productive oxen will be so important for the cause of cow protection in this region. To this end, it was also important for the other villagers to see the honor and attention that Liv was receiving for his constant work in training his ox team.

Thank you Krsna!

your servant,
Hare Krsna dasi