Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fi alto Wooda

"Goodbye is bad." This is a common saying among the Fulani. As a whole, the do not like goodbyes, and I don’t blame them. Personally I hate goodbyes. I’m not a fan of change. But as our time here comes to an end we are preparing to say “Fi alto” (goodbye) with no intention of coming back unless “Allah jatbe,” or “Father accepts.”

The past few weeks have been hard. Last week was Thanksgiving, a traditional American holiday celebrated with family and I was 6360 miles (thanks to the GPS) away from my family. We had no turkey or pecan pie, matter of fact we didn’t even celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, instead we celebrated on Saturday with ham. Lindsay and I did make a box of Stovetop stuffing for lunch on Thursday and we spread out some leaves that Linds’ mom had send to decorate the table. We held hands and prayed over our stuffing and told Dad some of the things in life we were most thankful for. This year I was thankful for things that I had always taken for granted before.

This year I am thankful for:
American Family
African Family
Running Water
Mud huts
Grass Roofs
Propane burners
Sauce mixes
Dr. Pepper
Sleeping Bags
Fast Food chains (nothing about food is fast here)
Common Languages
Ceramic Toilets

Before Africa I would never have thought to be thankful for most of those things and if by chance I did think of them I would never have been genuinely thankful for them. Now, I am genuinely thankful for electricity.

Now this is going to sound silly, but I was more upset about missing Black Friday shopping than I was about missing Thanksgiving. That sounds very materialistic, which I am, but that’s not the reason I love Black Friday shopping. I love Black Friday shopping because I get to wake up before the sun is even close to rising and spend the whole day hanging out with my mom. My mother is pretty much the single most wonderful person in the world. She’s reason I’m in Africa now. No matter what challenge I am faced with in my life, she always assures me “it’s do-able.” For as long as I can remember my mom has always allowed me to go Black Friday shopping with her. We always take some leftover turkey to munch on and stand in line at Wal-Mart to be there when the doors open even though there’s really nothing that we need. We just go for the experience. Then we hurry to Menards then to K-Mart, because they have cheap pop and my dad is mildly addicted to Diet Mountain Dew, then we hit a few more stores and stop for lunch at Village Inn or Perkins. Mom and I always get a big meal and split it because we’re hungry but not that hungry due to the fact we’ve been munching on turkey all morning long. I wonder who she split lunch with this year? After lunch we go back home to hide the goods. Then we take a long nap and wake up in time for dinner. But the fun doesn’t stop there. From that day until Christmas, mom and I know all the presents. It’s our secret. I get to help wrap everything and I know almost every present before it’s opened. But… this year I missed it. I won’t lie, it made me cry. But now next year I have something else to add to my thankful list.

Praise to the Father, our Ethnographies are turned in! Now we only have a few more things to do before we leave. Ever since we turned them in I’ve found multiple things each day that I wish I would have been able to add to it. It seems so incomplete now.

This week was our last full week in the village. We got out to the bush late Monday afternoon after stopping in town to use internet. As soon as we arrived at the village everyone began telling us about a dance that was to happen that evening. Lindsay and I were super excited. We finished dinner and got ready to go. The drummers were staying at our place so we waited until they had finished eating then we left. It was dark by this time. The kids told us that we would need some money so Linds and I grabbed some small coins on the way out. The kids grabbed our hands and we ran through the millet fields to a clearing where the band had set up. The band consisted of five African men, four drummers and one shouter/singer. We thought we were late since we had to run through the field to get there, but it turned out we were the lame kids that got to the party before it started. We watched the drummers warm up and we wished that the temperature would do the same. The later it got the colder it got. Finally other people arrived and it was time to dance. The girls went first. They held their brightly sequined scarves above their heads and twirled about moving their feet as fast as they could. For a while Linds and I were convinced that you could tell how good a dancer was by the amount of dust that they kicked up. They tried to get us to go out there but we told them we didn’t know how. Finally they convinced Linds to go and everyone LOVED it! I was still unsure how I felt about the whole thing. After all it was just a huge circle of people standing around watching one person dance at a time, I like being the center of attention, but this was a little much even for me. After Linds danced twice I finally got up the courage to do it too. It turned out to be quite fun. Linds and I both did it individually once more, getting a little braver each time. Then we gave the drummers some money and the shouter yelled a lot of stuff in Hausa which we were told meant thank you. Then people started giving money to the shouter and they would tell the shouter something and then he would yell it everyone. Sometimes people would give money to see certain people dance. Some men would pay for their sons to dance, and others would pay to see the young girls dance. Men and women would give money and say something to the shouter and everyone would laugh and people would get up to dance. Linds and I were pretty much clueless for most of the evening because all of the drummers were Hausa and even though everyone there to dance was Fulani they still all spoke Hausa. Linds and I only know a few words in Hausa so we weren’t able to understand much of what was going on. After a while we were getting tired and it was getting cold so we moved to the end of the circle and sat down for a little bit. Then all of a sudden everyone was looking at us and the shouter and some other men were shining there flashlights on us and everyone was saying our names. Apparently someone had given money to see us dance. However, since the last time we dance their dances had gotten a lot more complex. Plus, there were a lot more people around now, probably around 50 at least. But we hopped up and we quickly planned what we were going to do and out we went. I followed Linds’ lead and we walked around the circle moving our scarves from side to side then we counted to three and jumped, from there we moved our feet as fast as we could and spun in circles. We made it our goal to kick up as much dust as possible. In the mean time, I broke my shoe! So I had to exit the circle. I found some of the palm leafy plants and fixed it by tying a leaf through it. It worked for the evening, but it would have to really be fixed later. Linds and I got called out to dance once more before the evening was over. It’s kind of creepy knowing people are paying to see you dance, but it was most definitely a family affair, so that helped a little. Jemma, Tetdari, Jimma, Sambo and Doodoo were all there dancing the night away with us. Ardo didn’t go because he was said he was too old, but Doodoo has to be much older than he is. He missed out. It was definitely a night I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We didn’t take a camera, but now I’m glad because a photo could never do my memories justice.

The next day everyone slept in a little and drank a lot of ashi. I had left my shoes outside that night and someone had come by and refixed it by tying a new palm leaf to it and cutting off the extra. I was very thankful. It’s amazing how many things they use those palm leaves for, they are so strong. We met with Ardo for tea that afternoon. When Ardo saw what had happened to my shoe, he set about to fix it for me too. He takes good care of us. He untied the palm leaf and had one of his kids go get some coals, a knife and an old flip flop. He used the coals to heat up the knife and cut the part I was missing off the old broken flip flop. He then heated up the knife again and melted the part he had just cut off on to my shoe. He heated up the knife a few more times to smooth out the edges and make sure it was on good. In the states, I would never have thought about fixing a flip flop, we would just go buy more. Here they don’t have extra money so the save everything they can and they fix even their flip flops. Since Ardo had the stuff out, he went ahead and fixed another broken shoe too. I really felt like family.

That evening when Linds and I were eating dinner all of the women from the village came to talk to Ardo. Ardo had moved his chair over by us to let us listen to the radio with him, so everyone was sitting right by our house. It’s inappropriate for a Fulani to watch people eat or to eat in front of people, so Linds and I hurried up to finish our dinner and gave the women our extra food. We happened to be having corn bread and chicken alfredo that night. They eat up all of the corn bread and continued passing the alfredo around trying to get someone to eat it. This was really funny because our homestay mom’s were there and this was the first time we had been able to cook for them since they had cooked for us for a whole month and they didn’t like our food. We considered this pay back for the multiple times a day they fed us millet. Finally Ardo’s mom gave the food to some kids to finish. Then all of the women began to say that they had heard about our dancing and were sad they missed it. Then Jemma started making drumming noises with her mouth and all the women began asking us to dance for them. Linds and I agreed and I got my scarf and we performed the same routine we had the night before and they absolutely loved it. We all laughed for a long time afterwards. They told us we knew how to dance well and told us that we were Fulani. Then the women got down to business. They told the chief the concerns that had brought them there that night. They spoke quickly and it was hard to follow. Many numbers were thrown about and lots of mention of money and the lack there of. After the women left, Ardo told us that every six months he collects a certain amount of money from the women of the village. He then takes all of the money he collects and puts it into a bank account in town. I didn’t even realize that there was a bank in town. The women had come to discuss how much money would be collected and debate how much money should be collected from each woman. We’re still not exactly sure what the money will be used for, but we think it acts as their insurance policy.

After the women’s meeting, I got out the hot tea and hot chocolate mixes my mom had sent in a package earlier and Linds and I began to boil some water. Ardo, Jemma, Laidy, and Ardo’s mom were all still hanging around our compound so we decided to make some for them too. We had made hot tea for them several times before but this time we had quite the variety to chose from so we spread them out all over our mat and asked them to chose whichever one they wanted. We tried to explain what each one was, but it’s hard when they don’t have words for it in their language. Laidy and Ardo’s mom chose raspberry hot chocolate, Ardo chose wild berry tea and Jemma chose Earl Grey tea. We made each one their own cup and they were overwhelmed because ashi comes in a shot glass so I think they thought they would only have to drink a little of it. Laidy and Ardo’s mom loved theirs and they let Jemma and Ardo try it. Ardo liked it so much that he had Laidy pour some into his tea and then proclaimed it to taste like chutum. At first I was greatly offended by this and then we all had a good laugh. How dare they tell me that my specialty hot chocolate tastes like spoiled milk mixed with dirty water and millet! After a while I realized that in a way it was a compliment, they thought it tasted like something a real Fulani would make, and they liked it!

Wednesday and Thursday went by rather uneventfully. We spent the days giving away all of the stuff that we would no longer need and trying to get things organized. We also continued to story at each compound. On Wednesday Mike went to the next village over to pick up Sidi, the man whose ‘swimming’ we were able to attend a few months ago, so that he would share the story about ‘swimming’ with Hajia’s compound and the new believers there. It went over really well. The women asked really good questions about if they followed this path would they still be able to have bouki’s (baby naming ceremonies) and other good stuff like that.

We have only two more days out in the bush. I’m not good at goodbyes, so yarp a lot! I’m looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our time is almost gone...

Hello all!

The past week has been quite eventful. Let me take the time now to fill you all in on my life thus far.

The trip on the bus on the way back from the capital city was rather uneventful. It was long and hot and I slept most of it thanks to Dramamine. We spent the next day resting and reorganizing since Melissa didn’t come back with us. Mike and his family (Melissa’s team leader, our new fill-in supervisor) came down and we ate lunch and discussed what the future is going to look like. We found out later that Melissa is going to leave the country to seek medical care for her back. As of right now it’s still unclear whether or not she’ll return before we leave, but it doesn’t look like it. So instead of going in to Melissa’s on the weekends, Mike will pick us up and we’ll stay at their house most weekends (they live 3 hours away). I was a little concerned about all the details to begin with, but now I am at peace with everything, thanks to Dad.

Tuesday we went back out to our village. One of our moms, Laidy, had her baby while we were away. It’s a precious little girl. She’s a good size and looks really healthy. We got to hold her and hang out with the family most of the day.

Wednesday night was the highlight of my week. It’s been getting really chilly at night so after dinner I put on my hooded sweatshirt and my sweatpants and we started making some ashi for the chief and hot tea for us. As we sat there drinking in all the warmth our tea had to offer, we seized the opportunity to tell the chief another story from the Good News. We really wanted to share about the love of Dad, so we thought about it for a few minutes and decided to tell him the story of the prodigal son. We hadn’t actually prepared anything or thought much about how much language it would require, we just went for it. We asked him if he wanted us to tell him a story and he happily agreed to it. We then told him about a man who had two sons. One son was a good son. This son worked in the fields for his father and was a good worker. The other son was a bad son. This son took money from his father and went to a city far away. The son then spent all the money he had taken and spent it on things like ashi and shirts (we couldn’t come up with anything better) and then when he ran out of money his friends left him. He had no money for food and he had no friends. He then decided to go back to his father because at least he had food. As the son was coming home the father saw him a long ways out and ran to him, hugged him and said “I love you.” Then the dad killed a sheep for him and the roasted and had a party like they do for baby naming ceremonies. The chief understood everything we said and even retold the story to one of his wives instantly and he told the story way better than we did. They all seemed to really like the story. We then told him how the dad in the story was like our Dad and how we are the bad son because we have sin and we’ve taken everything we can from our Dad and left Him. But just like the dad in the story our Dad still loves us and if we return to Him He will run after us and welcome us home. He will always welcome us back no matter what we’ve done while we were away. He loves us no matter what, we just have to return. The chief understood everything we said and even applied it to him and retold the story and the application to us. I was so happy that tears came to my eyes. I know it’s ridiculous, but after over 5 months of trying so hard with a difficult language and hard concepts when we finally go across that Dad loves him no matter what and to have it make sense to them it was almost too much for me. I was so proud of us. I couldn’t stop smiling. We finally did it without any special preparation or help of a translator. Dad did it through us! Of all the vessels in the world He chose us to deliver this message at this time in this place and it felt great.

We don’t have much time left now and it saddens me. I feel like I’ve finally got what this is all about. I’ve been able to successfully share the Good News on the spur of a moment and it crossed all the cultural barriers and was understood. I’m not sure anything can get better than this. I still can’t believe He chose me to come here to do this. What an honor. I’m so in love with Him right now it’s not even funny. But it’s almost time to leave. Only a few more weeks here. I don’t want to leave. But then again life here isn’t all roses…

On Thursday Lindsay and I got locked in our hut for 45 minutes! That’s right, we got locked in a mud hut in Africa. We were not alone though, we had Nana, the two month old baby, with us too. Oh and we were locked in by a TSA lock, one of the locks with a three digit code. Hannah-tu, only nine years old, had gotten a little upset with us for shutting the door to our hut and somehow managed to lock us in our hut. This wouldn’t have been so bad but nobody knew how to unlock it. We knew the code and we told several people, but they would look at the lock, spin the dials a little bit and then proclaim that they didn’t know how. Finally someone when out to the fields and got the chief because he’s the only one that knows how to operate those kind of locks.

Friday we headed back to the family that we are staying with on the weekends. We went a day earlier than we expected because we’re all getting a little sick due to the change in the weather. When you are used to 120 degrees, 70 degrees seems like frost bite. The weekend was really relaxing. We were able to just hang out and be in a family atmosphere all weekend.

My Heart
For those of you who don’t know me very well, I’m ridiculous. If you look that up you find all sorts of synonyms for it including, but not limited to, ludicrous, preposterous, absurd, silly, outrageous, unreasonable and my favorite…incredible. I am all of those things. The antonym is sensible. That’s something that is rarely attributed to me. Often I don’t think things all the way through. Let’s take this trip to Africa for example. Let’s look at what I was getting myself into.
Africa is hot…I don’t like to sweat.
Africa is dirty…I don’t like to get dirty.
Africa has limited food…I’m a picky eater.
Africa is full of bugs…I hate bugs.
Africa has gigantic snakes…I’m terrified of snakes.
Africa has parasites…I’m afraid of parasites.
Africans wear headscarves…I’m not really a scarf kind of person.
Africans wear bold, mismatching patterns…I’m into earth tones and pastels…that MATCH!
Africans rarely touch each other…physical touch is my number one love language.
Africa has the poorest countries in the world…gifts are my second love language.
Africa is full of work…I’m not a huge fan of work.
Africa is full of millet…I love flowers not millet.
Africa is full of morning people…I’m NOT a morning person
Africa is for strong people…I am weak.
Africa doesn’t run on a watch…I thought I didn’t either.

If I was a sensible person I would have opted for a different culture, or at least a different climate. If I were a sensible person the idea of living in a mud hut would have sunk in and I would have run in the other direction. I was not assigned to Africa…I chose Africa. I wasn’t thinking, but Dad was. It has been incredible. I’ve learned a lot because of it too.

I’ve learned that after a while you don’t notice sweat running down your back.
I’ve learned that after living in Africa you stop seeing the need to shower constantly…you’ll just step out of the shower and start sweating again and before you know it you’re dirty again.
I’ve learned to enjoy all sorts of food. I can eat bread and salad and actually enjoy them.
I’ve learned to not think twice about killing bugs with my bare hands.
I’ve learned that some things don’t change…I’m still terrified of snakes.
I’ve learned that parasites aren’t the end of the world…just take cipro.
I’ve learned that headscarves provide a nice alternative to showering daily.
I’ve learned that just because they don’t match doesn’t mean I don’t have to.
I’ve learned that if you want to hug someone you just have to teach them how.
I’ve learned that gifts come from the heart, not the pocketbook.
I’ve learned that hard work helps you sleep at night and gives you a sense of achievement.
I’ve learned that you can find flowers in the desert and millet is good roasted.
I’ve learned that you can get used to pounding at 4:00am and if you do happen to be awake at that time Dad often makes up for it by providing a beautiful sunrise.
I’ve learned that God only uses the weak.
I’ve learned that a waltz ain’t a waltz if you’re rushing it.

And that brings me to the next topic on my heart… “a waltz just ain’t a waltz if we’re rushing it.” That’s a line from one of Amber Dlugosh’s songs. I’ve been reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge for the second time. Last time I read it I was at Windermere working at the Edge (a challenge course), which happened to be one of the best summer jobs ever. I was able to read about the beauty of Dad then go to work outside and drink in the beauty of His wonderful creation. I saw deer drink out of a shallow creek and raccoons play in the woods, one time while I was at work I even saw a small red fox just chillin’ in the woods. I could see the beauty of Dad’s creation everywhere I looked. I could even see it in the people I worked with. Each of them had unique characteristics that I could see directly reflecting the image of Dad to me. In Amber I saw Dad’s sensitivity, in Chris I saw Dad’s desire for us to enjoy Him, in Kayla I saw Dad’s delight in each of us, in Malissa I saw Dad’s nurturing spirit, in Coty I saw Dad’s protection, in Jered I saw Dad’s passion, in Clark I saw the love of Dad, and in Dan I saw Dad’s desire for us to do good. All of that to say, that last summer I experienced the beauty and love of Dad daily. I felt beautiful even though I was sweaty and disgusting because I knew that I was actively being pursued by the creator of the universe. Dad was literally using everything in the world to show me His love for me. That summer I wasn’t worried about the future. I didn’t have to. I knew it was taken care of. I mean I’m sure there were days that the weight of the world seemed to be on my shoulders, but those just aren’t the parts that stick out to me. Sadly when that summer ended so did my ability to see Dad’s love for me. I mean I knew he loved me, but I just didn’t feel it the same way anymore and to be honest that really sucked. So the past year has been a heavy one. I’ve constantly felt like I need to know what to do…about everything. I felt like I need to know what I was doing the next semester and when I graduated. I felt like I needed to either be content with singleness or catch Mr. Right real quick. I wanted a foolproof plan. As it turned out my plan turned out to be further proof I was a fool. As you might recall from previous posts I’ve had a bit of difficulty giving over my future to Dad because I want things to go my way. This also includes that I want things to happen in my timing. Dad has recently convicted me of how difficult I’m making things by always desiring things to go my way in my time. Dad is still trying to romance me the same way He was that summer at Windermere, but I’ve been missing it. He’s created a beautiful symphony to set the pace of dance of my life, but I’m trying to rush things. I’m trying to lead and stepping on His feet in the mean time. I’m missing out on part beauty of the mystery of the future by trying to plan everything out ahead of time. I’m rushing the steps trying to figure out where we’re going next. I’m missing out on the excitement and thrill of not knowing what comes next. I’ve never been a very good dancer; just ask anyone who’s ever dared to dance with me. Rhythm just doesn’t come naturally to me, but it doesn’t mean I can’t learn to follow. After all, a really good dancer once told me that it only takes one good dancer to make a couple look good and right now I’ve got the best partner in the world, I’ll even let you in on a little secret… He created the dance. So I’m learning to follow. I’m trying to be fluid. I relish in the beauty of the present and flirt with the mystery of the future. I’m at rest and I can see the beauty in all of it…including myself. There’s nothing like being romanced with someone who knows you better than you know yourself and let me tell you…He knows me. And after all…”a waltz just ain’t a waltz if we’re rushing it.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Five Down, One to Go...

Well hello to all!

Yay for Public Transportation
When we were planning to go to the capital city, Lindsay and I volunteered to take the bush since there would not be enough room in Melissa’s truck and DF always is encouraging us to take as much public transportation as possible. The day before we left Linds wasn’t feeling well so Lacey ended up taking her spot. The next morning we woke up early and got to the bus station a little before 6:00am. Still extremely tired and a little disoriented Lacey and I found a wooden bench at started waiting for the bus. Then this really old man started staring at us and mumbling something in a language we didn’t understand and at this point we knew the trip was going to be an interesting one. The old man lurked around for a bit until we made eye contact with the bus station worker and he instantly asked the man to leave. About ten minutes later the bus pulled up and we hopped on. There were two seats saved side by side for us right by the door. The bus was completely full and off we went. Off on our great adventure to the capital city. About an hour into the trip, to our great surprise, the Rimbo man started passing out kossoms (drinkable yogurt in a pouch) and smashed cupcakeish things. They were really good. I’ve never ridden in a gray hound bus, but I think this was probably comparable. I almost I forgot I was in Africa until trash started flying from all directions as people attempted to throw their wrappers into the stairway that just happened to be directly in front of us. It really scared me for a second. In the early morning the bus was still really cool and was actually quite enjoyable. At one point the bus driver stopped the entire bus because there was a three year old little girl that had to go to the bathroom. She and her mother got off bus did their business on the side of the road and got back on. It was actually pretty cute. We stopped about half way through and got off for a few minutes and found some random man walking around selling really cute leather shoes, so Lacey and I both bought a pair. I was really excited about them until I wore them once or twice. As it turns out 100% leather means 100% so the bottoms are just one piece of leather and they are really slick to walk in. The second half of the trip was not nearly as enjoyable as the first part. The sun was fully up and baking us inside of the bus. We did have a window seat so I opened it up and it helped a lot, but it was still quite warm. When we got about an hour outside of the capital city the bus driver hit the brakes and I looked up just in time to see a giraffe running across the road. There were probably at least three giraffes on each side of the bus. As it turns out we are in the only country in the world that still has this type of giraffe living in the wild. Later on we went on a tour to see the giraffes and learned that there are only 153 of these giraffes and we saw six of them and one baby giraffe that was only a month old. We finally made it to the capital city and we taxied to the guest house and met the rest of the team. Now, tomorrow morning at 4:15am we will be out of the house and on our way back to the bush.

Marine Ball
Well the Marine Ball was a success. We did our nails, hair and makeup, put on our pretty dresses and went to dance the night way. As it turns out there are only six Marines in the country…opposed to the nine that we thought there were. The night started with a short ceremony and a reading of a speech Hillary Clinton sent. Then the Ambassador was announced and she cut the cake and dinner began. I was seated next to one of the marines who turned out to be quite the character. He was a lot of fun though. He left his phone and camera at the table while the ceremony was going on and it kept going off, so I turned it off. Instead of a house salad, he started out with rum and coke. Before long he was in an enthusiastic conversation with a retired army man at our table. Dinner was really good though, I had the steak and potatoes…I’m definitely a steak and potatoes kind of girl. The man that was supposed to sit on the other side of me didn’t show up, so we looked at his little name card and saw that he was getting the tiramisu (a personal favorite of mine) and that I had ordered the crème caramel, so we messed up his place setting and had the waiter give us his dessert and we all shared it. After dessert we got out on the dance floor. The marine that had sat at our table earlier was already quite drunk and kept trying to dance with us. We refused. We did do the electric slide a few times and danced in a circle with a few guys. The drunken marine turned out to be a majority of the evening’s entertainment. Linds and I did manage to make friends with a few of the marines. One of the marine’s named Matt was super sweet and it turned out we had met him when we had arrived back in June. He knows a lot of the people we work with and he invited us to go sand boarding with him and some of the guys the next day. We agreed. Most of the music that was played that evening left a lot to be desire…there was a lot of random salsa music and stuff we had never heard before. So, we called it a night around 11:30pm and headed home. Over all the night was quite a bit of fun, it felt good to dress up and go out again.

Sand boarding
So the next day we all went sand boarding on the dunes on the other side of the river. I attempted sand boarding once before, but it was on a much smaller dune. I knew we were in trouble when the first marine went tumbling down and came back up out of breath. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not exactly the most coordinated or athletic person in the world. A few more of the guys went, then Lacey when, then Lindsay, then Lauren….and then it was my turn. I tried to back out gracefully, but they wouldn’t have it. So I slipped my feet in the straps and off I went, screaming down the hill. I fell a few times on the way down, but nothing too bad. Then I started the daunting task of climbing back up a massive sand dune. It’s so much harder than it looks. For every big step you take you only move a few inches because the sand slides down each time. So it turns out to look something like 12 inches forward 10 inches back and for a big hill two inches at a time takes a lot of effort not to mention the fact that you still have to bring the board back up with you. Anyways, we all had a good time. It was fun to hang out with guys our age and just have fun for a while.

Recent Developments
Our supervisor, Melissa, has been having some back pains for a while and they have recently gotten a lot worse. She’s been trying to fix it with Tylenol, but now pain killers won’t cut it and her toes are going numb, so she’s staying in the capital city and we are going back out to the bush with Rachel. Things are still pretty up in the air for Melissa, as of right now it looks like she might be flying out of the country to seek medical care. Please keep it in your yarps. It will also affect our last few weeks here. Since we are living a very bush lifestyle there is no way we could spend the rest of our time without someone being fairly close and the next workers are over 3 hours away, so it means that for the rest of our time here either we will have someone else staying at Melissa’s house (which will take them away from their current work) or we will be staying with the other worker 3 hours away. Either way, things are going to be changing and our time left in the bush will be less than we expected. Time is flying.

Bush Activities
As for actually doing what we’re here do…we’ve been doing it. Were continuing to go from compound to compound telling stories and Hajia’s compound still loves it. Last week we were also able to have Apollos (our second language teacher) come out and do some translation work for us and we were able to interview the Chief, the new followers, and some of the women. We’ve gotten to know a lot more about the culture, but if you want that information you’ll have to read our ethnography at the end. We also had at least three more men say that they want to know more and that they want to follow as well. It’s super exciting. Also I’m not sure how much I told you last time I blogged, but it’s officially freezing cold here at nights. In the bush we have to wear sleeping bags or else we wake up at 3 or 4 am shivering.

Good Night Sweetheart It’s Time to Go
I’d love to write more, but I’m getting really sleepy and I have to be up and out by 4:15am…I’m not a morning person. So please keep everything in your yarps and I’ll see ya’ll in a little over a month.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gorko Walla, Lefi Walla

Marriage Proposal

Two weeks ago I learned that I’m worth over 300 cows. While visiting our homestay compound, our homestay dad decided that he should take it upon himself to marry me off. Apparently he has talked to the son of the old woman that lives behind his house and convinced him to marry me. The first time this was brought up the man wouldn’t even look at me, dad did all of the negotiating. Our homestay mom and my supervisor, Melissa, gently reminded the man that I had good skin, long hair and that I had a really good face, this raised the price. Melissa asked him if he followed the Son and he replied that he would if she gave him me, his mother also said that she would follow if she gave me to him. Then Melissa set the price, she told him that she would need at least 300 cows for a finder’s fee and that my father would also need cows, goats, sheep and cash. Needless to say the man didn’t have any cows, let alone 300 so the deal was off. I thought that our homestay dad had arranged everything by himself, but the other man seemed to be quite supportive of the plan and even began talking to Melissa about me himself. Niether Lindsay or I had ever seen this man before last week, or at least as far as we can remember, but we do know is mom quite well. His mom is a demanding old man with only four bright orange teeth and a great big smile. It’s hard enough to understand the language when we don’t know it, but even harder when the person who is talking barely has any teeth. The next time Lindsay and I visited our homestay compound by ourselves and dad brought it back up again. Now they have begun calling him “gorko Say-u-doh” which translates into “Krissy’s man.” It’s mildly amusing, but completely embarrassing. I’ve adopted the statement “gorko walla, lafi walla” which literally translates “no man, no problem.” I’m sure my philosophy on that will change, but as for now it’s kept me out of trouble. The man did stay and listen to all of the stories we shared that day and told us he understood them and enjoyed them, so I guess that’s a plus. We did however meet this really attractive African doctor the next day when we took this kid to get stitches and I told Melissa that if he asked me to marry him I would lower the asking price to 100 cows. We all had a good laugh, but he didn’t ask. I don’t know why not.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to marry a bush African. People here don’t usually marry for love. Women rarely refuse a marriage offer, even to be the third or fourth wife. I can’t imagine my husband dating other women and marrying other women while I was home taking care of the kids. Women do a majority of the household labor. They pound the food, cook the food, feed the kids, have the children, clean the compound, wash the clothes (by HAND), go to the well, carry the water, and basically everything else. The only thing the men do is plant and harvest and the women help with that too. There is just so much expected out of a wife. I really don’t think I could physically handle it. This week I went to the well and helped pull up five buckets of water (really they aren’t buckets, they are more like small rubber tarps tied to a ring of fabric and rope but buckets are easier to say) and I pulled two all by myself and now I have a pretty good sized blister that had already popped before I noticed it was there and it hurts. I can only pound for a little while before I get blisters from that too. I’m sure after a while I would get calluses and I would get stronger and it would get a bit easier, but I already get depressed because I’m dirty all the time. I don’t think I would ever get to feel pretty. Not to mention other wifely duties that I’m sure are not designed to meet her needs, but his. I wonder if men ever tell their wives that they are pretty or that they appreciate them. Apollos told us that Fulani don’t kiss. I guess I never even thought about that before. They have no need for it and it never crossed their minds to do such a thing. I can’t imagine marrying a man and never being able to kiss him. It’s really sad because I dearly love to kiss. I can’t imagine a world without kissing and romance in general. I bet these women have never heard fairly tales of handsome princes coming to save the damsel in distress. But then again, maybe I’ve heard too many of them. It seems to work for them. They laugh and joke and smile just like I do. I guess it’s just different, not better, not worse….just different.

Homestay Compound

There’s been a lot of excitement at our homestay compound lately. Hajia, one of our homestay moms, has officially claimed the Son as her S*vior. Each time we go to her compound she gathers everyone around to come sit and listen to the stories. We’ve been averaging around 25 people (including children) each time. Hajia’s excitement has been overflowing to everyone else. We’ve been able to share six different stories and every time a new person arrives Hajia makes sure we start from story one and catch them up on everything before moving on. Hajia has heard the first story enough that she has it completely memorized. Earlier that week Hajia’s sister was also there and she was so excited at the prospect of hearing stories that she literally began to jump up and down. She lives quite a ways from us, so Melissa copied off some tapes of the stories and sent them with her so she could listen to the whenever she wanted. The only requirement for the tape was that she had to share with at least two other people after she listened to them. I can see Dad working all over the place in this village.

My Birthday

Well, last weekend was my birthday …it was also our first full weekend without electricity at Melissa’s. We go without electricity everyday during the week and we really look forward to it on the weekends. Last weekend, however, was a bummer in regards to electricity. The power usually goes in and out, but this was the first time it went out and stayed out for a while since we’ve been here. We came in on Friday night so I could my entire birthday at Melissa’s (my birthday was on Saturday) and the power was already out. We waited and waited for it to come back on, but it didn’t. That night we all pulled our mattresses and couch cushions into the living room to sleep because there was a slight breeze coming from the door and the window in there. I awoke the next morning to a lovely birthday surprise…SNOW!!! That’s right, there was snow in Africa for my birthday. Since the power had been off for quite a while the freezer had begun to defrost and Melissa had pulled a big chunk of “snow” out and proceeded to break it apart and throw it on us as we slept in the living room floor dying of heat. It was a wonderful beginning to the 22nd year of my life…snow in Africa. We had biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast. Linds and the other girls had decorated my place at the table with confetti and balloons. It was super special. Then we got dressed and headed into Maradi to use the internet and go to the pool. The internet wasn’t working so I had a minor breakdown and cried. Melissa and Linds felt really bad, but it had nothing to do with them, so they let me open up two of my birthday presents in the car. They were gifts that my mom had sent from home…two pickles in a pouch and some Reese’s peanut butter cups. My mother truly does love me. It brightened my day. We then hopped back in the car and went to lunch at a different place hoping that their internet might work. In the car, Lindsay and Lacey made ridiculous jokes to make me smile. We got to the place for lunch and their internet was horrible too. I was able to look at three different pages and send two emails to my advisor and we were there over two hours, but at least I got to do that. I would have posted a blog then, but blogger wouldn’t even come up at all. But anyways, from there we went to the pool and I had a pool party for my birthday. It was ridiculously hot, but fun. We are now in what they call the mini-hot season and the temperature gets up over 120 degrees some days. Most days we don’t look at the thermometer at all because it just makes it feel worse. As I sit here and write this at Melissa’s house, it’s 95.8 degrees, but the fans are on so I’m not even sweating. Speaking of Melissa’s house…so far this weekend the water has been out. We just came in this morning, but we don’t have any running water and we may have to go to the well if the water doesn’t come back on soon. Oh the joys of West Africa. I will never again take for granted running water and electricity. So, back to my birthday! The pool was a lot of fun. That evening we went back to Melissa’s and she made steak, baked potatoes and Italian noodles… all by flash light. I had a lovely rotic (romantic without the man) birthday dinner by candle light. That night we slept on Melissa’s porch because the house was too hot. We didn’t have power all day Sunday either and everything in Melissa’s fridge and freeze had thawed and some stuff had already begun to spoil. The power finally came back on around 8:30pm on Sunday night and Melissa hurried and cooked up all of the ras meat that had thawed but was still cold. We stayed in at Melissa’s on Monday this week too because we needed the rest and Linds and I needed to work on our Ethnographies. We weren’t able to during the weekend because our laptops needed electricity. Monday was restful and lovely.

This Week

Since we had a rather late start this week has flown by. We’ve been able to continue sharing our stories with the different compounds each day. Hajia’s compound is still as excited as ever. The chief has been gone a lot the past few weeks doing his chiefly duties in Maradi, so we haven’t seen him much. We are a bit concerned about him though. His kids have loved our stories and they ask to hear them often, but when the chief comes around his kids tell us not to share the stories because dad says it’s bad. We’ve questioned the kids about it, but they won’t give us any details, only that it’s bad when dad comes around. The chief claims to be a follower and we don’t have any idea why he would say such a thing. We’ve been yarping about a way to bring this up with the chief in a culturally appropriate manor and we’ve also been talking to our supervisor about it. Please keep it in your yarps too.

Harvest Time

Well, it’s officially harvest time in the L.O.K (our village). The last few weeks have been filled with harvesting millet, beans, corn, peanuts and sorghum. It’s an exciting time to be out in the village. There is always work to be done and the scenery changes every day. One day Linds and I went out to take some pictures and ended up helping pick peanuts. I never realized what a peanut plant looks like until I a few weeks ago. The first time I ate a freshly picked peanut I was surprised that it wasn’t hard like the peanuts we eat out of a jar, but then Linds mentioned that all the peanuts we eat in the States are roasted in some way, shape or form. Fresh peanuts actually have a texture that is close to that of beans. Oh the things you learn in West Africa. I had also never seen women actually use the wind to separate the seed from the chaff until. The story of separating the wheat from the chaff from the Word has never been so real before. I made sure to take lots of pictures of it because I thought my dad would enjoy them back home. The Word comes to life in West Africa. Oh and I also never realized that you could eat field corn. Being from Nebraska, I grew up eating corn on the cob and I loved every second of it but we always ate sweet corn, never field corn. Field corn was for feed only. Here the only have field corn, so that’s what everyone eats. Also, they don’t usually boil it like we do back home, but they roast it over the fire and push the kernels off with their fingers and just pop it into their mouth. Only little children eat the corn off of the cob with their mouths. It’s actually pretty good. We’ve also discovered that you can pop millet similar to the way you pop popcorn. It doesn’t make fluffy white bite size pieces, but it does expand and tastes pretty good…especially for millet. I never would have thought in a million years that I would actually enjoy eating millet, but I do if it’s roasted like popcorn.

Marine Ball

One of the perks of being in West Africa this time of year is the Marine Ball. I guess the birthday of the Marines is November 10th, so they hold a ball every year in honor of their birthday. This year Linds and I have chosen to go. I’m really excited. I guess all of the Marines in the country will be there…all nine of them. Melissa and Rachel will be going with us to the ball too. It’s been a really long time since we’ve been able to dress up and look cute and I can’t wait! Since we didn’t happen to pack any ball appropriate dresses on our way over here we get to have them made here. We were able to pick out fabric two weeks ago during our stay in Maradi and now the tailor is in the process of making them. My fabric has this bright blue, lime green, black and white firework-ish pattern all over it. It’s going to be a floor length strapless dress with a black satin sash. My mom also sent my bright blue high heels to go with it. I can’t wait!!! Plus, how many people ever get to go to a Marine Ball in West Africa? (And Marines are extremely attractive in their uniforms).

Food in the Bush

We’ve been getting a little more creative when it comes to meals in the bush. Lindsay and I have discovered how to make corn bread with tuna cans and a make shift Dutch oven. We’ve also been even braver with the can meats. Just a few days ago, we had fried spam and eggs for breakfast. It’s really not that bad. We’ve also been able to make the best salmon patties ever out of a pouch of salmon, one egg, some milk powder, stale Pringles and a little bit of oil. We’ve also discovered tons of different uses for laughing cow cheese and pepperoni. I really enjoy trying new things for dinner but I’m really scared that one of these days it’s going to turn out horrible, but so far so good. Oh and for my birthday my mom sent me Macaroni Grill in a box. It’s similar to the same idea as hamburger helper. It was a nice change of pace to eat Macaroni Grill in the bush of Africa. Mom also sent homemade salsa and a small box of Velveeta cheese so we had nachos in the bush last week too. I lost a bit of weight during homestay, but since then I’ve been able to gain a little bit of it back and for the past two months I’ve been able to maintain my weight. My body has finally adjusted to Africa and I’ve been able to adjust my diet to my body. I’m healthy and happy now. Please continue to keep our health in your yarps though because a lot of people are getting sick this time of year and we are realizing how short of a time we have left, we don’t want to be sick for the rest of it.

More of My Heart

The past month has been hard as always, but it’s easier than it was. The “wall” part of culture shock is gone for the time being and now it’s just the struggles of day to day living. I’m not sure how much I’ve mentioned in the past about the storying we are able to do with an MP3 player, but we’ve been able to download a series of 34 stories in Fulfulde from creation to the return of the Son and also so some indigenous pr*ise music in Fulfulde. Melissa also gave us some battery powered speakers so we can share the stories with large groups of people. Our days consist of going from compound to compound sharing the stories and music and then asking if they understand and if they have any questions. We are around story six in most compounds and it’s about Abraham and his sons. This is a big place for division among followers and Muslims. So, please yarp about this. Since we’ve began going from compound to compound we’ve been able to establish a little bit of a routine. We go to Hajia’s on Mondays and Wednesdays, we also go to the old woman behind Hajia’s on Wednesday, Sambo’s on Tuesday, and on Thursday we go to Adamo’s. We leave Friday open for the chief’s and anyone else’s that we missed throughout the week. With our schedule has come a sense of accomplishment that was much needed. I now feel like we are accomplishing significant things each day. It’s really helped me find purpose in being here and has helped me to stay. Currently I’m saddened by the thought of leaving and I never thought that day would come. Don’t get me wrong, I love home, but I love things here too.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sweet Bouki's and "Swimming"

Well the past three weeks have been pretty busy. I’m sorry I’m not more faithful about keeping up with my blog. It’s been a really rough few weeks, but it’s been good nonetheless. I have so much I’d like to share with you all, but I’m just going to try to hit the high points to give you a little deeper glimpse into our lives here.

Here is a quick overview of what a bouki is. A bouki is the ceremony where they name a new born baby. The bouki usually takes place a week after the baby is born unless they have to wait for family to travel from long distances. Preparation for the bouki starts days in advance. Close friends and relatives help by preparing extra food. The morning of the bouki several men will go around announcing the birth of the child and that there will be a bouki that day, they also ask for money. These men ac t function like our daily newspaper by getting the word out. Then people come and give gifts to the family and a religious leader names the child and a sheep is slaughtered. The child’s head is shaved as a covenant that the child will follow the road of its grandfather and milk is added to the water used for shaving because the Fulani are “cow people.” Then the meat from the sheep is given away to the people in attendance and everyone celebrates.

Jemma’s Bouki
Three weeks ago Thursday was the bouki for Jemma’s baby. The night before had been a hot night so we had set up our cots and mosquito nets up outside. We often sleep outside, but this night had a few extra surprises for us. Since the bouki was going to happen the next day there was a lot of activity that evening. Linds and I had our nightly ashia with the kids like normal and this time we shared some bubble gum too. For the most part this went really well, but one boy named Ibram decided to drive me crazy. Ibram is 15 years old and knows what to do with gum but for some reason he decided to take his gum out of his mouth and proceeded to stick the gum to my arm. I, however, was not impressed with his decision. I was very upset and gave him a piece of my mind, half in Fulfulde and half in English. Ibram then proceeded to mock me and repeat what I said. Then he told Lindsay that she was good and that Say-u-doh (ME!!!) was bad. I had just about had it. He finally left and a little later he came back and asked for some tea and I told him no. Then later he came back and asked to borrow our tea pot. Linds told him that he could and it put me over the edge. I just went and sat in our hut. I had officially hit a huge wall of culture shock. I lost focus on why I was even in the country. Then people started coming to our hut check on me because the Fulani don’t understand or see a need for alone time. So, I left. I quickly realized that I was in the bush of Africa and had absolutely no place to go and it was dark so that meant I couldn’t even go sit in a millet field because I wouldn’t be able to find my way back, so I went to the squatty. That’s right; I went and cried my eyes out in our bathroom area. Dad and I had a long talk before I was ready to come out, but after crying and yarping for over two hours I finally emerged from the squatty. I came back and found Lindsay had already set all of our stuff up and was in bed. She had even set out my malaria medication and had made my favorite flavored water for me. Then I crawled into bed and talked to Linds for a while. We would have fallen asleep at a decent hour, but Ibram and all of his little boy friends had set up a little ashia party of their own about 15ft from our beds and they were making quite a racket. They had never done this before, but since the bouki was then next morning I guess all the boys were able to stay at our compound extra late. Linds and I were up really late talking since we couldn’t sleep.

The morning of the bouki I had woken up around 6:15am and decided that it was too early after our late night so I rolled back over and fell back to sleep. About an hour later a man with a megaphone came strolling into our compound announcing the bouki. I about died! He came into our compound and made a beeline straight for my bed. Now let me add a few details to this embarrassing moment, we always sleep in our skirts out of respect for the culture, but when I sleep I move a lot and my skirt gets all tangled and it rides up. This usually isn’t a problem because I am covered by my sheet and when I wake up I can fix my skirt before climbing out of bed. However, this morning I was in a rush because the megaphone man was making his way towards me. I couldn’t get my skirt fixed fast enough so I jump out of bed with my sheet still around me and stumble into our hut which was thankfully very close. By this point Lindsay is cracking up at my desperate attempt to get away, she had woken up before me and was fully clothed and ready when the megaphone man came. So, that’s how the morning of the bouki began. Linds and I hid out in our hut for breakfast, which consisted of a granola bar and some beef jerky. While we were eating breakfast people began arriving. Before long our compound was a happening place. All of the women were inside the compound hanging out under the tree passing the baby around and the men were outside the compound under some little cabanas and trees. The Hausa women prepared food but since it was Ramadan only the children and women who were pregnant or breast feeding ate. Around 10am the Imam (a Muslim religious teacher) began saying a prayer and after every section everyone would spit into their hands and wipe it on to their faces and say something in Arabic. This is a symbol of the blessings that have been said from their mouths being applied back to themselves. Then the name of the child is announced and the women make this noise that is similar to a scream but very very unique. Jemma’s baby was named Nana Hinda-tu. Then it was time for the sheep to be slaughtered. A sheep is slaughtered as a sacrifice to Allah so that Allah will know the name of the baby. According to Islamic tradition if Allah doesn’t know the name of the child, he or she will never be allowed in to Al Jenna (kind like the heaven). Melissa was holding the baby right before the sheep was killed and the grandma of the baby game and woke up Nana so she would know that the sacrifice was happening otherwise it doesn’t count I guess. Then it was time to kill the goat. I was pretty excited for this part so I ran and grabbed Lindsay’s camera and videotaped the whole thing. First, they slit the throat of the sheep and let all the blood drain out. Then, the made a cut around the ankle of the sheep and pulled the skin away from the meat with a reed and then the man blew into the reed and the sheep swelled up real big. It was like a sheep balloon. This helps them skin it and it worked really well. They skinned it all in one piece. At the very end they chopped the head off and the four hooves. After that I lost interest and started playing with the baby again. About half an hour later the man that killed the sheep brought the head and the hooves over and sat the right beside where Lindsay and I were sitting. As it turns out the head and hooves are just supposed to be close to where the baby is and since we had the baby most of the time they got put next to us. It was a little creepy though. At one point the head started bleeding again and the man had to come back and get the head and cauterize it with the fire. By this time it was close to 1:00pm and everyone either headed back to their compounds to sleep or they slept at ours. I decided to join them and I took a nap in our hut.

It was late evening before things started to pick up again. I woke up to find that there was a small band assembled outside close to where all of the men were gathered. They had several different types of drums made out of animal hides and some clarinet/flute things too. As the sun started down, the party started up. The sheep was almost cooked and a variety of other dishes were ready to eat. These dishes included rice and sauce, millet and sauce, bean cakes, fried millet, and of course chutum! We didn’t get to stay for the rest of the festivities that night because we had to leave early and help clean someone’s house the next day that lived three hours away. It was a really good time though.

Formal Language has Officially Ended
About two weeks ago was our final language session with Apollos. I’m not sure how much I’ve told you about this man, but he truly was a man after the Father’s heart. Every day we would meet together and he would start us off by petitioning the Father. He was so refreshing. He also leads a small gathering on the weekends and was making indigenous songs for the Father. We were able to go to his house on several occasions. Once his wife invited us over for dinner and she made us a traditional African meal with rice and sauce, fruit and hakko (cooked leaves). Hakko is probably one of my least favorite food items here in Africa. They just pick certain weeds out of the millet fields and pull the leaves off and cook them up and eat them, but Apollos’ wife’s was the best I’ve ever had.

We were able to learn a lot from this man. One day, after one of our language sessions, he came with us out to one of the villages to help with some teaching. We were probably in the village for three hours and we were able to see what a difference having a Fulani share with them actually made. Together they used a combination of Fulfulde, Hausa, French and even a little English to get the full meanings of everything. The switched back and forth between the languages effortlessly and Apollos was able to explain things better than we ever could by using Fulani logic and proverbs instead of western ones. As we sat there I couldn’t help but remember some of the things I learn in Malone’s classes about indigenous communities for the Father and think that this was what it would look like here. It would consist of two big mats, one for women and one for men. There would be one man telling stories that applied to them and answered questions that they would ask. They would use multiple languages because that’s what everyone knows and if someone didn’t understand in one language they would just switch to the next. There would be someone making ashia towards the back of the mat and they would pass it around to keep everyone awake. It would take place outside under a big shade tree where you can feel the slight breeze every so often. Occasionally someone would grab a stalk of millet and roast it over the ashia coals if they got hungry. It would start in early afternoon when the first people got there and it would last until all the questions were finished. People would come and go as they needed and children would wonder in and out too. When telling a complicated story everyone would draw in the sand help further explain things. The atmosphere would be relaxed but everyone would be very attentive. They would meet on whatever day worked best for them and they would talk about topics like multiple wives, yarping, persecution and “swimming.” Everything about that meeting seemed effortless and focused on Dad.

We had our language evaluations the next week. Fulfulde is one of the hardest languages in West Africa and for the difficulty and the amount of time Linds and I have been in the country Apollos said we have done really well. Just when I thought I’d be sick of language and I almost cried to know it was over. I felt like we learned just enough to know we don’t know much. We do have enough language to communicate just about anything we have to with enough charades and sound effects. There is just so much more I want to learn.

Daniel with the Chief
Last Monday, instead of having ashia with the kids like normal, the chief and his wives came over and had ashia with us and kicked the kids out. We made some light conversation and then the chief brought out his copy of the Good News. The chief has the Good News in Hausa and we have our English copy and we have a limited amount of common Fulfulde to work with. The chief began flipping through the Book and asking what certain books were about. He happened to stop on Daniel and I thought it would be easy enough to explain so I started in on it. We told him how Daniel was a follower of the Way and that he yarped to Father many times a day then bad men got upset and told the king that everyone should yarp to the king and not to Father. Daniel still continued to follow the Way so the king had to throw Daniel into a hole with lots of big cats, then Father sent His people to hold the mouths of the big cats so they didn’t eat him. Then the next day the king found Daniel and he was not cat food so the king said everyone had to yarp to the Father that Daniel followed. Needless to say it wasn’t exactly word for word out of the Book and we had to use a lot of hand motions and sound effects for words like lion’s den and many others, but I feel that we got the main point across…Daniel followed the Father and He protected him. I felt that this was really a significant story for them because they live in fear of persecution everyday and it has been especially an issue for the chief.

Last week we had our first “swimming” session. Originally we thought there could be up to 6 candidates, but then only one showed up. To make the experience as reproducible as possible we did it in the river right outside of town. We woke up on Monday morning and headed to the river. We walked because that was the most reproducible way to do it and it was hot! We met the follower on the bridge and we followed him down the river a ways so that we wouldn’t be in plain sight of everyone. Persecution is still a big fear for them. After a short hike over the bridge, across the countryside of West Africa, and through the keebbe (stickers that get stuck in all our clothes) we found a lovely little cove for the event to take place. Melissa had asked her supervisor to officiate the occasion so he wore a boubou and did the whole thing in Fulfulde. It was quite wonderful. The follower went under the water head first because that’s the way it’s shown on the Son video and they were familiar with that way. Plus, many of them don’t know how to swim and it really scares them to have to go backwards into the water and it never really says how it’s done. It was a really cool thing to be able to watch and be a part of. From here on out that follower will be the one to officiate it for the next candidates.

My Heart
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I hit a huge wall of culture shock a couple of weeks ago. And that probably the best way to describe it….a WALL! I felt like I had hit the end of my rope and couldn’t see the point in staying any longer. I felt beat by the language and the children. I just broke down. I would have called my parents or Frost, but our phone was almost dead and I wasn’t sure where it was. For a little while, as I sat in the squatty potty, I thought I might literally be losing my mind. I caught myself thinking that everything was just stupid and there was no point in being there. I missed my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my friends at college and my professors at school too! What’s the point anyway when everyone is afraid and no one really cares? Thankfully, I caught myself in this thought pattern and I knew it was not from the Father. Then I got ticked at Dad for sending me out into the middle of flippin’ nowhere for me to break down in a squatty potty and give up. As I bawled my eyes out and yelled at Dad, He spoke softly to me. He reminded me of His love for me and His love for the Fulani. I then realized that He hadn’t sent me to the desert to kill me, but to grow me. I then proceeded to make a mental list of all the good things about the Fulani. I wasn’t able to come up with a whole lot, but I came up with 10 really good ones. Then I remember why I was actually there. I’m not here to change the world. I’m not necessarily here to spread the Good News among the Fulani either. I’m here to learn what spreading the Good News looks like. I’m here to learn what it takes and even to learn what culture shock looks like. I’m here to grow and learn, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Some days I’m better at it than others, but every single day I learn something I didn’t know the day before. Our efforts have been blessed too. The people in our homestay compound are now followers and we were able to watch someone “go swimming.” We’ve shared our personal testimonies multiple times and we’ve shared stories from the Book with no preparation. I am very thankful for all of these experiences.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my future. I recently realized that in less than eight months I will be done with college (if all goes well) and I’ve been worrying about the future. I know worrying is not what the Father has planned for me, but I struggle with it still. My life hasn’t exactly worked out how I had planned. When I graduated from high school I thought I would be married by now and be on my semester abroad with my husband, obviously that didn’t work out how I planned, but I’ve been blessed to get to know Lindsay instead. I also thought that I would major in physical therapy because I wanted to go into sports medicine so I could rub hot guys’ muscles and then I quickly learn biology was not my thing and instead I’m getting a minor in Social Work. I’ve learned that I love to help people. Even the things I thought I had planned for next semester are already falling through. I thought I was going to need to take Jan term, but I don’t. Malone once told me that we are to be so flexible we are fluid and I thought I was very flexible, but I’ve learned recently that I only fake flexibility. Deep down I want things a certain way and when they don’t turn out that way I get mad. It doesn’t matter whether Dad has something better planned or not…my pride gets hurt. So I guess I’m telling you all of this to ask for your yarps. I’m not necessarily asking you to yarp about my future (although I would appreciate it) but rather to yarp about my flexibility, because Dad has my future in His hands but I’ve been fighting for my way so long it’s hard to know what His will really is. Please yarp that Dad will break my pride issue and for me to submit my plans to Him and to joyfully accept His plan for my life and as things change (and things will change for sure) I will do so fluidly.

I have so much more I want to write, but I realize this is already quite long and it’s getting late. If you’d like to know anything specific that I haven’t answered yet, please email me at Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please continue to yarp for the Fulani and our team here.

Love always,

Saturday, September 12, 2009


This has been an exciting week for us. One Monday our neighbor had a baby boy! The deliver when very well. The baby is healthy and happy. Lindsay and I were just hanging out at our hut, playing with the children when one of the kids told us Tetdarey (our neighbor) had her baby. We asked Jemma, the wife of the chief, and she told us the child was lying. Then a different child came up and told us that Tetdarey had a baby. This time when we asked Jemma she said it was true. Jemma also told us that we could go visit Tetdarey’s compound. So, we ran over to see what was going on. We were there for a few minutes and then they brought the precious baby out to us and we got to hold him. The child couldn’t have been more than an hour old. It still had a little blood on it from the umbilical cord. We asked if we could take a picture and they were very excited about it. Then they told us that Tetdarey didn’t have any food so Linds and I went back and made a chicken rice side with lots of vegetables. We’re not sure who actually ate the food, but the plate came back empty.

On Thursday, one of the mom’s in our compound, Jemma, had her baby! We were out under a tree after language learning got done and Halima came by and told us that Jemma had a baby. We didn’t believe her at first so we asked if it was a boy or a girl and she told us it was a girl. So, we quickly went back to the compound and sure enough Jemma had a precious little girl. That evening when we were making dinner, we also made enough for Jemma too since we provided dinner for Tetdarey when she had her baby. Also, by sharing our food during this time we’ve been able to show much we care about them and this is a very significant thing for the culture here. Out of the six families that are in our village two of them have brand new babies. This means that this Monday there will be a booki (baby naming ceremony) for Tetdarey’s baby and on Thursday there will be one in our compound for Jemma’s! I’ll explain more about what a booki next week after we go to both of them.

As for the rest of the week, it’s been really good. For the first time since we’ve been here we’ve had a regular week. We went out to the bush on Monday and we stayed until Friday with absolutely no problems. We’ve had language learning from 8am-9:30am every morning and then we’ve stayed under a tree for a couple of hours to study the Word and to practice language. Then we hang out with the kids and eat something snacky for lunch. In the afternoon we visit the different compounds to sit and visit with them. Then we head back to our hut for dinner. We make a good sized meal for dinner and share our leftovers with the mom’s. Then we break out the ashia. We only had ashia two nights this week because due to the large amount of sugar and caffeine, we haven’t been able to sleep until really late. As a substitute we did have kool-aid and popcorn one night and the other night we had cookies and water. This week was truly refreshing. It was wonderful to be back out in the bush for the whole week without getting sick.