Most Akha villages are built directly on the side of a mountain. They compensate for this in two ways. Either they build the floor out of bamboo and suspend it like a deck on bamboo stilts. Or they use retaining walls to level the ground and build directly on the dirt instead of on stilts. At first, I really hoped to get a stilted house. I thought “Yuck, I couldn't stand living on dirt floors!”. Well, sure enough... we got a dirt floor. Luckily, after a day or two, I found that it wasn't so bad after all. And when we saw how they build the stilt houses, we decided that we're glad to be on solid ground! But, I digress, what I really wanted to tell you about was the art of having a dirt floor.
After we'd been in the village about 4 days, my closest neighbor, Bu-saw, decided it was time to treat the floors. In order to keep the dust down, the Akha wet the ground and pack it hard... so hard in fact, that after a while, you can actually sweep it! So, Bu-Saw and some village boys started trekking the 200 meters down the hill to fill up their water jugs and then proceeded to make a mud pit out of my living room! Now don't misunderstand me... the “mud pit” wasn't a negative thing. In fact, quite the opposite. We had a wonderful time stomping around in the mud and getting thoroughly dirty. After we finished, she told me that I'd have to let it dry and then do the whole process another 2 or 3 times before the floor would be finished. Phew! Who knew dirt floors would be so much work! But in the end, we're so grateful that God has provided new friends like Bu-Saw who are willing to teach us all the ins and outs of village life when we don't have a clue!