Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sisters of Perpetual Togetherness

Most of you know that right now on our mission station there are only 3 single ladies. So when our regional administrator and his wife were coming with another couple, we decided that they needed to be informed upon arrival that there have been some changes. The station is now Ndungu Kebbeh Abbey, the residence of the Sisters of Perpetual Togetherness. This sisterhood was formed in 2002, but was only active for a few weeks. (Suellen and I are the charter members.) Since May of 2006, however, the sisterhood has been actively in charge of this mission station. We have had 3-4 members present at a time. It's possible that by the end of 2008 we could have a record 5 members here together.

This type of sisterhood is not for everyone. The sisters work together, pray together and play together, but they do NOT share a house. That is beyond the call of duty in the eyes of all the sisters!

So in anticipation of the boss's arrival, we decided that the change in status should be announced. Here Suellen blesses the sign before it's official placement. (as Teresa, the newest member, watches, thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?")

I have been designated the Mother Superior, due to my status as charter member and senior missionary to the other two. When more senior missionaries return, I will happily relinquish my position!

Here are the 3 current members of the sisterhood. (Teresa suggested that the other name for our group could be the Ndungu Kebbeh chapter of the "Unclaimed treasures".) Of course, I would just say that the treasures have been God and Africa.

Now for those of you that have taken any of this seriously, please don't! Our boss found it amusing and his wife wanted to stay. (He wouldn't let her though, go figure!)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I've been tagged

A friend left me a note that I've been tagged. Now being new to the blogging world, I didn't really know what this meant. This what I have to do.

1. Post the rules and link to the person that tagged me.
2. Tell 5 random/weird things about myself.
3. List 5 places I would like to see or see again.
4. Link to 5 blogging friends and notify them on their blogs that they've been tagged.

Well, first of all, thanks a lot, Amanda. Amanda tagged me and she can be found at I met Amanda when she came to The Gambia to teach missionary kids. That was pb (pre-Brad). Now she and her husband Brad are the parents of two cuties. Brad is in the military and will soon deploy. Amanda and I hadn't communicated in years, then we found each others blogs...and I got tagged!

5 random/weird things about me. This is a tough one. I'm pretty normal (okay, no comments out there).
1. I talk to myself (often) and in two languages.
2. I am a ventriloquist. (Now which came first number 1 or number 2? hmmm...I'll never tell.)
3. I have what my friends call a "texture thing" about foods. I won't eat foods that are "rubbery/slimy" (ie. eggs, mushrooms etc).
4. I go crazy without a book to read.
5. I hate wearing shoes. (Handy that I live in Africa rather than Alaska, huh.)

Five places I would like to see or see again.
1. I want to see all 50 states of the U.S. I have been to more than half, but I've never been out west.
2. London
3. South Africa
4. Orient-no country in particular, just that region
5. My first answer covers a lot of ground.

Now I get to tag some people. This is hard because I only know a few people who blog.

I tag Suellen a fellow blogging missionary here in The Gambia.

I tag my nephew's girlfriend. I don't know you yet Chelsie, but welcome to the family.

I tag a missionary who seldom updates her blog, so I don't have much hope that she will participate.

I think that's all I can do. This was kind of fun. Although I wouldn't want to do it very often, hint, hint.

I might have a regular post later this weekend. We'll see.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

House tour continued

I decided that I hadn't shown you part of my house- the back patio. I don't get to enjoy it very often, but the flowers are pretty. The flowers and patio itself are courtesy of the previous occupants of the house, the Johnson family. The only problem with it is that before you can really enjoy it you have to sweep out all the dirt and leaves that blow into it and of course ignore the people that are calling at the front door. Sometimes if I have a little extra time in the morning, I'll eat my breakfast out here. This time of year it's too cold for that (60's and 70's at night) and the sun doesn't come up until around 7 am.

This is my "hot" water heater. The tank and the plumbing were left behind by the Johnsons and a group of men who came to help us last spring built the tower and put it up for me. For much of the year it really does help give you a warm shower when you want one. So far I've found that it works best if its only half full, but I haven't had it during the hottest part of the year yet, when ironically, you are content with a cold shower most of the time. This time of year when it's so cold (at least for those of us with thinned tropical blood), showers are still too chilly to enjoy. Sometimes nothing will do but heating some water on the stove to put in a bucket for a "bucket shower".

Friday, January 11, 2008

On the road again

In January the adult literacy classes start. We have done training for the literacy class teachers all fall, now it is time for them to gather their students and begin teaching them to read and write in a local language. The literacy center supplies all the materials needed for the class, chalkboard, small table and stool for the teacher, books, notebooks, pencils and even a gas lamp for those classes that meet at night. Before the classes can start we must deliver all the materials to the villages. That is what I have been doing for the last few days.

We pack a box of books and supplies for each village, load the tables, stool and blackboards on top of the car and away we go.

Along the way, we see many sights that we take for granted, but I was thinking of you all as we traveled and took some pictures of some of the roads. I know that you might not think of these as roads, but most of the roads that I travel from village to village look a lot like this. Actually, these are good roads.

Check out this road that threads the needle between two baobab trees. This particular village is easily recognizable because of this little grove of baobab trees.

I must admit that this bridge gives me a small case of the heebie-jeebies whenever I cross it, but it was fun today to stop and take pictures of the birds on the bridge. My employees are starting to get used to me stopping the car to take pictures. I tell them that I want people in America to learn what Africa is like. They like that idea and are starting to point out things for me to take pictures of .

Look at this gorgeous shot of the bird in flight. WOW! I love my new camera!

As most of you know, I struggle with fatigue as a result of what is known as chronic Lyme disease or post-Lyme syndrome. Some days are worse than others, but I have learned to judge how much energy I have for the day and plan how to spend it. Some days I know that I will have to be careful because I'm starting on an empty tank. On those days, I don't waste my precious strength on something that someone else can do. That's how I started the day when I had to deliver materials, so I hired a driver to take us around to the villages.

As you can see, my driver has a little trouble seeing over the steering wheel, but he has a buddy backing him up.

Now how does that air-conditioning work again?

Seriously, I really did hire a driver for the day. Actually, I borrowed him from the clinic. Tijan is a fun guy and a great help on days like this. Maybe my small drivers will be able to help out in a few years (after they can see over the steering wheel).

Monday, January 7, 2008

Counseling 101

Some days I feel like a counselor. I have had days when people were literally lined up outside my office at the literacy center to talk to me about their problems (not financial problems, that's another function altogether).

Today I went to the office thinking that I would have a quiet day working on end-of-the-year bookkeeping. Just as I was preparing to sit down and get to work, the housekeeper comes in and says, "Haddy has been fighting with her husband and brother-in-law all morning. You should go talk to her. She might listen to you." Since Haddy is a young woman that I often help with her problems, financial and otherwise, I went.

It was interesting to watch how Gambians counsel in these situations. Most of the advice given was along the lines of, "Be patient. This too shall pass." As the various ladies gave their advice and told of problems that they had had in their marriages, it underscored for me the powerlessness of women in this culture. All of these women had been beaten and verbally abused by their husbands for silly reasons or no reason at all. They figure since they experienced it and lived through it, Haddy can too. They warned her that if she leaves her husband, she won't be better off. They tell her to think of her children, particularly her boys and stay for their sake. In this culture, the women own the girls and the men, the boys. So in this case, if she leaves, her girls go with her and the boys stay with her husband. Without their mother in the compound, they are likely to be neglected, if not mistreated. Their paternal grandmother is there, but she won't live forever.

I, coming from a western culture, have trouble telling her to stay in an escalatingly abusive marriage. My main advice to her continues to be to be quiet when someone starts yelling or insulting her and run if she's in physical danger. I have also told her to pray for her husband. She continually asks me to pray for her. She is trying to convince her family to intervene, which is her only hope of getting out of this situation, but they are dragging their feet.

This is a situation that requires more wisdom than I have. As all of us talked, Haddy settled down and agreed not to answer back when her husband or his brother insult her. Pray for the husband to have a change of attitude and for Haddy to be safe as she submits to her husband. Just minutes after I left Haddy's house, she arrived in my office. Her brother-in-law had waited until everyone left and then started insulting her again. She didn't answer him and when she couldn't take any more she came running to hide out in my office for a while. Fortunately, her mother-in-law, who loves Haddy and knows her sons' character, arrived home from her trip before I left the office. She will be a refuge for Haddy.

Just another day at the office!

Friday, January 4, 2008

A tour of my house

I've been digging out a little bit in the past few days, so I thought I would give you all a tour of my house. I used to live in a 2 room apartment, but I moved across the compound to a bigger house about a year and a half ago. My small house was developing some serious cracks in the walls, so I was advised to move to another house. At first, I rattled around in this big place, but now I dread the thought of ever moving back into the small house. Right now there are only 3 singles on a compound designed to house 6 families and 5 singles, so there are houses to spare!
Anyway, welcome to my home.

You enter through a small greeting area, pass through a curtain and voila, living room, kitchen and dining room. Check out the new curtains. I just put those up a few months ago, thanks to Teresa who sewed them all. Look at the end of the room. See the fancy wiring? I have extension cords that run from my bedroom at the end of the hall (where the batteries and inverter are) to the living room. I got tricky with getting power to my home office which is the room next to my bedroom. I strung an extension cord across the ceiling and drilled a hole through the wall. It might not be pretty, but it gets the job done.

Look at my pretty new bookcase! I received some Christmas money and found this bookcase for an affordable price. I had been looking for a bookcase for that spot ever since Suellen returned from furlough and reclaimed hers. A few of the books on it were purchased with Christmas money too. No bargain books here. $14 for a paperback, maybe $5-7 for a used paperback. Not much available either.

A kitchen is a kitchen.

You can't see it very well, but the family who had the house before me left a locally made china cabinet. It's not gorgeous, but it's nice to have some closed in places to display things.

Down the hall, the first door to the left is the bathroom. Yes, I do have an indoor one, but I didn't think you needed a picture. Let me know if you do. The second door is the guest room, third, my home office where I sit typing this right now. The door at the very end is my bedroom. There's a door to the right that leads into the back yard.

Guest room ready and waiting. Never been used except by a fellow missionary needing a place to hide out and sleep.

The messy office. I haven't dug out here yet. I'm too busy blogging.

The bedroom, complete with cat. She'll share the bed, but only if you don't move around too much. It's a waterbed and she is nervous since the day that I laid down on the bed and catapulted her off as she was perched on the edge of the bed. It offended her dignity especially when I was laughing hysterically.

Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

We returned to NK on Monday with two vehicles loaded to the gills. We were praising the Lord that the line at the ferry was short. We left the guesthouse at about 10:30 am and were home by 1:30 pm. Those of you who have experienced the ferry, know how good that is. Drive time from the guesthouse to here is about 1/2 hour on each side of the river and the crossing itself takes any where from 30 minutes to over an hour depending on the state of the engines. Wait time is highly unpredictable especially mid-day. Usually we figure on at least a 2 hour wait. If it's less than that we celebrate! My longest ferry wait ever was about 13 hours. I left the hotel where I was staying at 5 am and finally got home at 8:30 pm. Those kind of waits don't happen too often fortunately!

Suellen, Teresa and I celebrated New Year's Eve with our traditional bonfire. Shivering (after all, it was probably high 60's, low 70's), we sat around watching the fire, eating chile, cornbread and brownies. We decided we would go to bed when the wood ran out. (We thought it would run out before midnight, but it didn't.) Being missionaries who like to accomplish something even with a fun event, for the past couple of years, we have been building our bonfires in the stump of the big tree that used to be in the center of the compound. You can't see the stump anymore and this year we made inroads into the roots that still remained. By the time others join us here, the 3 of us will be the only ones who know why we have bonfires in the center of the compound.