methow grist 2011-2014 archive


Smiling Inside
Meet Jerry Junior

The Methow's Jerry Merz writes from Zambia about the men working in the metal shop - Mabine, Gift and Charles - and a new person in the community - Jerry

As we make preparations to leave Zambia, I am finding it is a whirlwind of emotions. Every time I go in to the shop, I look at “the guys” in a different way. I will readily admit that I’m really going to miss them. It has grown in to a special bond in my life…unlike any other connection I have had with other people. When I look back, I feel bad for how hard I have been on them at times. But in the end, we have come out with a very special friendship. They invited me to come visit them in their homes quite a while ago. Today, I finally took the time to do so. When I got back, I wondered why they wanted me to see where they lived. They are tiny, tiny brick buildings, two small rooms with a tin roof overhead. As soon as the sun comes out, it is an oven inside. They don’t complain about it.

Today was a holiday. I went to work until about 3 o’clock and then took my motorcycle over to their compound. I found out later that they spent their entire day off waiting for me to arrive. It ended up involving friends, family members and even a landlord. I was touched that they wanted to share what little they had. At one house, I was offered a soda and some biscuits. I know that this was a huge sacrifice for them and accepted it with a combination of gratitude and guilt.

A couple of weeks ago, Gift told me that his wife was due to have a child soon and if it was a boy, they planned to call it Jerry. I must admit to an embarrasing level of vanity with my wishes for a boy. Last Monday, March 5th Gift and his wife

HAD A BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



When I was at Gift’s house today, he informed me that he can not officially receive that name until I give him a gift. I can’t give it to Gift or his wife….I have to give it directly to Jerry (Junior). He also asked if I could take his wife and baby to the clinic on Tuesday morning. It is all very confusing, but I can just add it on to the rest of the confusion over the past two years.

I’m smiling INSIDE

Over the past month, I have been working with Grace to get a grant for bicycles for the guys. Their walk to work takes about an hour (hour twenty for Gift)….that’s each way! We WERE able to secure the grant and I am so happy that we were also able to get the bikes before I left. They’re used, but very nice ones (for Zambia) The guys are very proud of them, as others notice how nice their bikes are and their commute has been cut down to 20 minutes each way. That’s eight more hours a week of free time. But one caveat is that we now expect them to use this new mobility to go out and find their own orders for the shop. A final piece toward the goal of sustainability.

Next week is FILLED with dinners, lunches and gatherings all in preparation to say good bye to a number of good friends. I’m looking forward to having this time together and dreading the goodbyes.

The magnitude of this past couple of years is really starting to sink in. It’s funny that I couldn’t “really” feel it until I start to prepare to leave it. I wish I could feel these things more… they are taking place.


On the other side of all of this, I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family in Seattle and then on back home to the Methow. See y’all soon!




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