Sunday, January 10, 2010


The other day Jason and I were driving back from a village about 2 hours out of Bissau and we saw branches full of fruit for sale. I thought they were coconuts at first, so we stopped to check them out. It turned out that they were not coconuts, but they were a related fruit called “ankol”. The entire branch was only $2, and the people selling it assured us that it was quite good, so I thought, why not? We threw the branch in the back of the truck and got back on the road.

When we got home I asked some people at the youth center about “ankol”. They all said that they liked it but they hadn’t had any in forever since you can only get it in the interior. Their memories of its yummyness made me curious so I decided to test out our new mystery fruit. I picked up the branch and the first thing I noticed was that it was heavy! Like ridiculously heavy. This picture is not an exaggeration!

The second thing that I noticed was that it was really hard to get off of the branch. I had to twist, yank, and basically use all of the strength and cunning that I possess for each one.

Sydney is not amused

Sydney was much more interested in chewing
on the new stick than in the fruit itself

Finally I had one and I took it inside to check it out. I cut into it and was immediately puzzled. Most of the inside was a dense, spongy sort of material, but there were three sacks each about the size of a golf ball filled with clear jelly. I tried the spongy stuff first, but it was so bitter it made my toes curl, so I decided that the edible stuff must be the gooey part. I grabbed a spoon and stuck it in. I was prepared for the worst, but I was surprised, and then even more confused. It tasted like... well... nothing. It didn’t really taste like anything at all.

I went back outside and asked my friends how they usually eat “ankol” and they said they cut the top off, take a spoon, and dig out the jelly goodness. They asked me if I liked it and I said that I didn’t not like it. They all laughed.

Jason came home and came to the same conclusion, so then we were left with about 40 “ankol” that we didn’t really want to eat. I decided to load a bag (several times because I couldn’t carry all of them at once) and give them away to our neighbors. As I visited different neighbors and took out the “ankols” they were all so excited. Some of them hadn’t had one in 20 years and most of the kids had never tried one. Before I knew it I was hearing all kinds of stories of people’s childhood memories, it was a great time.

Then the weirdest thing happened – people started giving me stuff. Someone gave me a handful of lemons, someone else gave me a little bunch of bananas, and one of our neighbors gave me a bag of freshly harvested peanuts. Here in Bissau people ask us for stuff all the time. Everyday, especially if I leave my house, people ask me for things – money, food, you name it, even the clothes that I am currently wearing. A lot of the time we do help people, so we are very familiar with giving stuff away. The difference with this was I got the opportunity to give something away that I wasn’t asked for (kind of like a preemptive strike) and people gave me things back. It was strange and kind of nice.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sydney's Adventrues

Most mornings our puppy Sydney leaves our house with Jason and makes a trip to the bread hut. It’s little building with woven reed sides and a metal roof where they bake bread daily at the crack of dawn. The only things inside are the table that they mix the dough on and a huge clay oven where they cook the bread.

A month or so ago Jason and Sydney set out to pick up the morning bread and they ran into three big dogs. Sydney has met these dogs before and usually she just rolls on the ground in front of them and they all play a little bit. For some reason that day these dogs were mad. When Sydney came around the corner they jumped her. They were barking, biting, and going crazy. As soon as Jason realized what was going on he chased the dogs away, scooped her up in his arms and brought her home. He checked her for wounds, just a few scratches, and sat with her and snuggled her until she calmed down and got comfortable again.

The next day when Jason took Sydney to the bread hut with him the dogs were there again. Sydney didn’t run for Jason - who was right there, ready to protect her - she took off with those dogs at her heals. She didn’t remember Jason saving her or carrying her home or sitting with her and petting her, she just remembered those three big dogs.

The day after that Sydney did not want to leave the Youth Center where we live. She cowered and cringed and finally Jason had to put her on a leash. He had a wary eye and a hand full of rocks, but Sydney didn’t see that. She just remembered those three big dogs. Jason dragged her all the way to the bread hut and home.

Jason ended up doing that everyday for two weeks, and each day Sydney was scared and timid. Once the other dogs saw that Sydney was with Jason and not just running free they completely left her alone. After those two weeks Sydney finally realized that with Jase with her those dogs were actually scared of her! After that she didn’t need a leash anymore, she loved going with Jason and she still does. Now, when she sees other dogs, she doesn’t cower on the ground, and she also doesn’t run away; she just keeps walking with Jason.

The other day a stray dog came into the Youth Center and started chasing and biting some doves that are pets of our director. Sydney tore after that dog barking like crazy and that dog took off! She chased that dog all the way down the street and then proudly trotted back home. After I saw that I was thinking about how timid she used to be and how much of a contrast there is now and it struck me how alike Sydney and I are.

Just like Sydney, sometimes I wander a little bit from God’s side and sometimes a pack of dogs comes out of nowhere and blindsides me. Sometimes I don’t understand why God let me be attacked. But what I really don’t understand is when God puts on a leash and leads me back to that place again and again and again.

Sometimes it’s an abrasive person that just rubs me the wrong way. I pray for love and patience, but God seems to bring that person back into my life over and over and over, completely draining all of the love and patience that I asked for :-) There are lots of other ways where I can feel like I’m in the same difficult or hurtful situation over and over and it just doesn’t make sense. When I was thinking about Jason and Sydney it made me realize that sometimes God brings me into those situations on purpose so that I can be assured of His presence and His provision no matter what the circumstances. He’s always working to change me because He has a purpose for my life.

Jason and I can’t really have a timid guard dog, so we helped her get her confidence back. God can’t really have an impatient, scared, easily annoyed, shallow, selfish Christian, so He helps me become more like Him. He doesn’t bring me into those situations over and over again to drive me crazy, He does it to change me, and when it comes right down to it I’m so grateful for all of the changes He’s worked in my life over the years!

"Bring it on!"