Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bad Hair Day

Lots of people have commented that they liked my hair when it was braided so I thought I would show you a few "after" shots...

This one is from the first time I got it braided. I had a lot of other hair braided in with it, so it was still kind of seperated into large chunks when I took it out.

This one is from this past time when the braids were all close on my head. It was only my hair so it just turned into a huge friz-ball. Serious bad hair day...

In other news, last summer one of our friends from Guinea-Bissau, Fernando, came to the US for 6 months to study. He just returned here last Sunday and we have been very happy to see him. He is going to take over my job when we leave so we have been working together.

Today he was talking to the students in one of the English classes about America and he told the students that if they are not happy here in Guinea-Bissau they won't be happy anywhere, not even in America. They were skeptical. They said, "but what about 50cent? He's living the life. I want a life like that." Yeah, some life... And besides for every one 50cent there are thousands of other guys living on welfare or with their mother, sending out demo CDs, and waiting for the fame to roll in.

Many young people here think that if they could just leave Africa they would be rich and famous and have no problems in their lives. Just your typical grass is greener thing. One of the things that struck Fernando the most when he was in the States was how many people there are unhappy; way more than in Guinea-Bissau (one of the five poorest countries in the world). He said that it just really drove home the point that happiness comes from within.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Coffee, Babies, and Hair

Another vacation has come and gone... I've always been a list maker, but I've noticed that as our time here is coming to a close (yeah, we have less than two months...) I've started to make ridiculous lists. I will write down 20 things to do in an amount of time that would be more realistically suited to 2. I'm just not sure how we are going to be able to get it all done...

On a happy note, Fernando is going to be coming back here from the States today or maybe tomorrow. He was in Dakar (Senegal) on Monday, so he could've made it back yesterday, but he had a few things to do there first. We are all really excited to see him again. He told Jase on the phone last week that two of the things he is going to miss about American food are starbucks and brownies. I have developed some pretty awesome brownies over here, so that should help a little. Jason and I love coffee too, and because of the heat we have started to really love iced coffee. When we first told our Brazilian friends about cold coffee, they made some pretty terrible faces, but when we had them over for tacos last Tuesday we changed their minds. We made iced coffee drinks in the blender and they were a big hit.

Jason and Gilson enjoying some "café fria"

You know how sometimes you have a bit of a bad day and you need something to remind you that everything really is good? I was having one of those days on Saturday when my friend Ligia stopped by. She and her husband were participating in a conference here at the Youth Center for a few hours and she had brought her little three-month-old, Manasés. She didn't mind keeping him with her, but she knows that I love babies so she didn't know if I would want to play with him for a few hours. I (of course) said yes and we had a good morning.

Me and Manasés hanging out right before he fell asleep.

I decided for fun that I would get my hair braided, so I did that on Monday. It's not going to be a permanent style for me, but it's fun for something different. I think I kind of look bald, but the people here really like it.

Putting in the braids took under an hour because we didn't use any fake hair. When I got my hair done last time it took 4, so I was relieved.

The finished product.

Wow, I still can't believe we are leaving here in less than two months!!!!!!! See y'all soon!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I'm terrified of mice!

It's funny how you can think something is so bad and then something else comes along that is way worse… Life is always like that. Someone else always has it worse than you do.

Now really, honestly, I can't complain. I shouldn't complain. But something just happened that is so gross I can't help but let it out. You see, we have mice in our kitchen. I am deathly terrified of mice. Now to those of you who grew up on farms, or just possess amazingly strong stomachs I apologize. I am terrible with rodents.

We have tried some things to make the mice want to leave. We put all of the food in ziplock bags, but they ate through them. I have resorted to a few large rubermade totes for most of our storage and smaller tupperware for everything else. Alas, we live in a guest house so we have different people in and out all the time. For some reason none of them seem as concerned as me about the whole situation and they leave food out a lot.

Most of the time the mice are kind enough to only come out at night, so all I see is their ever-present poop. A few weeks ago Jason killed one with a broom. Then a few days later I opened the silverware drawer in our big wooden cabinet in the kitchen and almost put my hand right on top of one. I screamed and ran outside to call Jason (who was on top of the roof adjusting an internet thing). He got two other guys and together they pulled out the drawer, the mouse jumped high in the air and when it landed it was promptly smashed to death with a broom and fed to the dog. So yay! Our mouse problem was gone, no worries! Or so I thought.

Even though I wasn't seeing any more mice (we seemed to have killed off the two boldest) I was still seeing a lot of poop. Then on Monday night someone (with a last name of Atkins, but not me) overfilled the water filter so that on Tuesday morning water had filtered through and overflowed all over the counter, floor, and most annoyingly into the drawer under the filter. I took the drawer out, dried off all of the utensils, and Jason put it out in the sun to dry out. Later that day we had two Brazilian couples over for tacos (they were really really delicious) and when I bent down to get the mugs out of the cabinet below where the drawer had been I saw a dead mouse in the back. We're pretty sure it died of being smashed to death when the drawer closed. The drawers stick really bad so most of the time I close them with a hip ramming. I was totally grossed out but kept it together and Jason and I didn't really discuss it until the company left.

After that we had to go do a staff internet training, etc, etc, and when we did finally get back to the kitchen the lights were off, which is weird because I always leave them on. The switch by the door doesn't work so you have to walk all the way across the pitch black kitchen to turn them on, and that just seems like a death wish to me. Anyway Jason and slowly made our way to the light switch and when we turned it on two mice jumped out of the dish rack and ran down behind the stove. Again, screaming burst from my mouth. Then more mice ran around the other side of the room past me and behind the fridge (Jason says they were the same ones, but I am skeptical). So I ran upstairs and we didn't get a chance to take care of the dead mouse last night.

Today Jason and I went down to the kitchen to remove the carcass. Really Jason was the one who was going to do the removing, I just sat in a chair shuddering. As I said before, deathly terrified of mice… I knew that something was wrong when Jason said "Wow!" and started laughing. I asked him what was up but he said that if he told me I wouldn't sleep for a week. Well, then I had to know, so I asked again. He said that the body was full of big maggots that had eaten pretty much all of the meat. I did not want to see it and I did not allow him to take a picture (you can thank me for that since he definitely would've made me post it here). Actually I just started crying. Jason disposed of the mouse and then I asked him if he thought we should check the other drawers just to be sure. He pulled out one of the two other drawers and sure enough another dead mouse, this one creased in an L-shape from being smashed by the back of the drawer (or so I was told). This was just too much for me so I retreated to the upstairs to share the story with you. Jason has joined me and informed me that the other mouse was not full of maggots, but that is a small comfort.

So really, the worm in the tomato was a little shocking but only because it was unexpected, this was just gross. I know it could be way worse than this. There are rats here that are more than a foot tall and really fat. Like I said, I can't complain, I shouldn't complain… and yet here I am. I mean, I just thought you should know...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Kenya 2

The conflict in Kenya still rages on. Almost 900 people have been killed and even though the government is currently negotiating a peace deal, the people on the ground have said that won't change anything. To many of them this is long overdue. When I read the stories and see the hate in the eyes of the people in the pictures it almost makes me want to give up. I feel like rebellion is literally popping up everywhere in Africa right now. Sudan still has not found peace, Chad has rebels storming the royal palace as we speak, and in South Africa police are raiding churches have given refuge to people fleeing from Zimbabwe.

As I was thinking about all of this I ran across a letter that a YFC missionary in Nairobi published on YFC International's website. When I read it I remembered that we will never be able to make sense of the things that are happening around us, but we can stand for things that are real in the middle of all of it. The purpose of the church in the world is to bring unity and healing; to tell people that the only real way to erase hate is to accept God's forgiveness so completely that it allows you to extend that forgiveness to other people.

January 2008 ~ Nairobi, Kenya

"As I write, rain has just started. It is hot in Kenya - our summer. Not only is the weather hot, but so are emotions. The rain feels good – it seems to cool things down.

As the events of the last few weeks unfolded, one thing became clear – this is NOT just about elections, it goes much deeper. This is a struggle for justice, for people from different tribes to dialog and forgive one another for injustices going back several generations. It is a spiritual battle, not physical. If we could see into the spirit realm, we would see what Peretti wrote so eloquently about a few years ago.

The greatest tragedy is that the Church has been divided. One pastor preaches in favour of one candidate, another in favour of someone else. A Kikuyu Christian prays this one will win, a Luo prays for another, and a Masaai prays for yet another to win. Which prayer will God answer? Today the Lord spoke in our church...and in many churches in Kenya. Unity...God is not confused...there is a divine plan, and our prayers needs to be, 'Your will be done, not mine.'

We (the Church) are a chosen people… a royal priesthood. What do priests do? They mediate between the people and a Holy God. They offer sacrifices and prayers for the people, pleading YOUR will be done, Lord. Bring us the leader of Your choosing, because You know the heart of the candidates. Bring a man/woman after Your own heart, Lord, no matter the tribe.

We must also serve God, not any other person or idol, as did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They said "God is able to save us, BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we will not serve other gods!" (Daniel 3:17-18)

When we pray, "Your will be done,", when we serve God alone, there is unity in the Church. We don't ask, is God for ODM or PNU, or Democrat or Republican? When God brings leaders to rule over His people, then we can build a united nation. Otherwise we have chaos! Join us in praying Your will be done, Lord!"

The reason that I am here is to spread the life-changing message of God to as many people as I can so that people can find hope and peace and make sense out of their lives. That doesn't only happen in West Africa. God wants you to be doing exactly the same thing in exactly the place where He has put you too. This is not a quick process; it happens one person at a time. But, if we do not start reaching those people things like this will continue. People need to have something to live for and if we don't tell them what they were made to live for who will?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Waiter, there’s a bicu in my tomato!

I know that wherever you are can have a bad day. I've had plenty of days like that in America. (Like the day that I slid off the road on the way to work and had to call a tow truck to get back on the road. Oh, I did this twice in the same morning...)

Anyway, yesterday was one of those days. I learned a long time ago that there is no point going through something unpleasant if you don't laugh about it later. So, I will fill you in on a little part of it.

We have a break this week and I've really been looking forward to it, so of course last week had tons of problems. Nothing major just a lot of minor exasperations, but all of that ended in a loud way yesterday. There is a girl who goes to the market for me and for some reason I have a terrible time getting her to understand exactly what I want. So on Friday I was taking the groceries out of the bag after I got back from class. I was disappointed when I saw that she had bought the wrong kind of beans and I was thinking about how I could have described them any more clearly. While I was distracted by my thoughts I picked up the first tomato something moved on my finger. I dropped the tomato and when I saw the nasty worm that had been touching my finger I literally jumped and screamed. I included a picture for you.

*Note: His head kind of came off when I threw the tomato and that made some of his guts squirt out, so that's what the nasty green stuff is. Also, this is Jason's hand holding the tomato because I didn't really want to go there again.

It really wasn't the end of the world, just the bicu (bee-choo) that broke the camel's back.

Oh yeah, I have another funny story regarding food from last week too. Jason and I eat lunch together with some of the other workers at the Youth Center each day. One day this past week we had fish. The lady who cooks for the group of us usually cuts them in half (not long ways, but where the belt would be if they needed to wear a belt for their fish pants) and fries them. So they have the head, tail, skin, bones, everything except the guts. The fish are about 8 inches long.

Anyway, I picked up a tail piece and a big, round, organ-looking thing about the size of a tootsie roll (except more oval-like) fell out. I looked at one of the guys and said, "What is this?" He said, "It's the egg" so I put it in the pile of bones that we don't eat. He looked confused and asked, "Aren't you going to eat that?" I said, "No, wait, do people eat this???" He said, "Yeah! If you don't want it I'll eat it!" So I gladly handed it over. Actually that day all of the fish were mature females and they all had large ovaries full of eggs and Celestino ate all of them - I think like 5 or 6 total. I was kind of grossed out but I did eat a tiny little bite of one that was broken. I didn't eat the actual outside part, just a few of the eggs. They were really tiny and I think each ovary had like 1000 of them.

The guys were laughing at me and Jason for being weirded out about the fish eggs so Jason asked them if they would eat a cow testicle. They all laughed and said of course. Then they proceeded to tell us how people eat the cow skin and that hooves make really nutritious soup for people who are sick. It made me realize that the food we eat over here is really good compared to the food that we could be eating over here.

On a related note, Jason and I like to try new things so when we saw "Africa Cola" we couldn't resist. Here's Jason trying to drink it.

I think he forgot to take the top off... Actually after this picture we did open it up and take a sip... aaaaaand then we closed it. You see, even though it looks the same as a regular old Coke it kind of tasted like a mix of Coke, Ginger Ale, spiced gum drops, and Lysol. Needless to say, not fantastic.