Friday, October 22, 2004

Grrrr Wa-Wa

So today someone told me a common saying amongst ex-pats here in Togo “wa wa” “West Africa Wins Again”! What a frustrating day!
I was to go and get my Ghanaian visa today, so I went with Emile to the embassy. We took my passport, (which I’d not seen since I arrived) and went in… now, let me back up… One set of pictures was lost already for my visa, one set arrived late, then the person responsible for getting BOTH my Togolese Visa and my Ghanaian Visa has fallen ill… This all should have happened well before we got to Lome… whatever though…
SO currently my paperwork is under way to get a 2-year visa for Togo. No, I’m not planning on being here for two years, it’s free for a two year visa, OR I need to come down in person once every three weeks –not a month, 3 weeks- and pay approx $40 US each time I renew it. Until the time I get that visa, my passport is suppose to stay here in Lome and I’ve been carrying my “official” photocopy of my passport, stamped and signed by the administrator. LOL, dude, you can’t photocopy a passport and have the picture turn out… I’m this huge Black smudge! ANYWAY !! So I go with my passport to get my GHANA visa, and the lady at the office is laughing at my forms… I filled them out the night I arrived in Togo, and was a little jet-lagged, I forgot some pretty vital info, was a little dyslexic in places and generally made a mess of the forms… So after I’ve re-written the forms, I’m send with Emile to sit in the waiting room, we wait an hour, then the lady calls me back and says “I’m sorry I can’t process your visa, your Togolese Visa has expired”. How could something I don’t have expire????
SO we need to go and get at least one month’s visa so that I can be covered to go out of Togo, then come back into Togo… more pictures taken, then we get to the embassy. We walk to the gate and about to enter… and they wouldn’t let Emile in!!!! So we try to explain to the guards that I need Emile as my interpreter (cause my French is still BAD!!!) and the guard pushes me through the gate and points to one of the buildings. So I go on, I walk in and there’s this room filled with people sitting benches, or standing beside a table filling out visa forms. There’s a hallway out one back corner, and a glass door in the other. I stand in the middle of the room (WHICH has NO signs!) until someone takes pity on me and points around the corner down the hallway. I walk around the corner and there are three closed doors! So I stand in the hallway until another person takes pity on me and points me to an unmarked door. I walk in and the room is filled with people in line; there are five officials behind their desks… I pick a line and wait. And of course, NO ONE in the room speaks English, and I’m just this dumb Canadian with a French name! An official takes my passport and looks at it, he laughs, shows his friend beside him… he laughs, they speak a mixture of French and something else to another guy, he laughs, then the guy leaves with my passport! So I sit and wait some more. Eventually he comes back with some papers, he shows them to other people and they laugh, and then he hands them to me… Where is my passport? Then He’s talking to me about leaving the building, but I really have no idea what’s being said to me, so the first white person I see I grab and ask them if they speak English… thankfully they do (a little) and I’m told I need to go to the first building and to the “white wall”… uh huh? Ok, the white wall…
So I ask the official to show me where I need to go, and he takes me down some random unmarked passageway to a white wall with a mail slot in it… BUT there is a real person sitting behind the mail slot, and he’s demanding payment… THEN I look at the paper I’ve been handed…. I’m being charged for living illegally in Togo without a visa!!! Grrrrr! Then I see that it’s for more money than what I’ve brought with me and that’s not counting the price of the visa! Then another official comes and starts speaking sharply to me… I have no clue what’s going on… and I have a melt down… so now, I’m a silly white girl, with a French name, who can’t speak French, crying in the middle of a busy hallway because a wall is yelling at me! “My official” finally says “ok, bring friend” so he brings me back out to the gate and Emile is allowed to come in, but first HE yells at the official because they are charging me for no reason!! Then when we get inside there’s some big argument over why I have to pay, and * rolling my eyes* we pay up because there’s no way out.
SO now my passport is at the Togo embassy again, and prayerfully I’ll have it and my visa back tomorrow morning… Then we’ll have to wait till Monday for the Ghanaian visa…. So we’ll be heading across the border some day!
I think we are going to the beach tomorrow to watch the whales, some people we know saw them today while they were at the beach. Part of a migration route?
Praise God for a productive day… For a beautiful, cooler evening… Our safe passage down to Lome (We passed the President’s guards-they were heading North to the pres. House.. he flies, they drive… heavily armed trucks, men with machine guns and rifles all standing around in front of the “fan milk” store… it’s the yogurt store.) And Praise for the safe return of Marv to his family, his plane arrived last night.
Pray that everything else works out! That our border crossing is uneventful, and that The Freisen family would get an opportunity to be rested while they head to the conference together.

Ghana we Go

Well, Praise God, I heard from my contacts in Ghana, and it looks like I’ll be spending some time there in the next two weeks volunteering with YFC (Youth For Christ) West Africa! I don’t know what that means in terms of my email connection, so you might not hear from me for a little while :( That also means I can’t hear from you!!! :,( but please keep sending emails, I will eventually be able to respond!
Oh yeah…
Right now We (being me and the Friesen family) are still waiting to hear if the Friesens have accommodations in Accra (the Capital City of Ghana) if everything works out; then I’ll be going to the YFC guest house on the 25th or 26th and staying through until the 5th of November. If they can’t find accommodations then I won’t be going until November 1st. Anyway, I know that’s all rather confusing. I hope that they have accommodations, because otherwise we’ll be staying in Lome (Togo)… and I’m not so interested in being there. ;)
Last week I went to put something in the freezer in the Kitchenette (There are two kitchenettes shared between the 26 rooms at the Centre) for some reason the shelves were full… and that didn’t make any sense to me because I KNEW I was the only person staying on that side of the centre… I opened up the bag to see what was inside… it was a goat’s head. ‘Cuz you know.. I like to keep a goat’s head in my freezer just in case of company? I guess someone forgot to take their leftovers home with them. I guess I missed the feast, turns out that I’m two months late for termite season too!
Harmatan just rolled in this week! There are two seasons in the northern part of Togo, there’s wet/rainy season or there’s the dry/dust season. No, not the “dusty” season, the DUST season. Kara, the town that I live in, and the area around it; is surrounded by mountains… not huge ones, but it’s like living in the bottom of a bowl. During the dry season, the dust (sand from the Sahara desert) blows over the mountain range and gets stuck in the bowl… a giant cloud of dust. Yesterday the wind picked up and the mountains to the south and the west DISSAPEARED! It’s like fog… but dirty… The kids said that soon we won’t be able to see the mountain directly behind the house.. I can’t even imagine it.. but then again I couldn’t imagine what I’ve already seen! Tonight the sunset is yellow.

I went out to one of the villages for church again on the weekend, I went with the Crocker Family (the church planters) To visit a church that they had planted last year before rainy season started. At first they were going to move the church to a slightly bigger village a few miles away, but then when the rains came they weren’t able to follow through with it. The roads got washed out and they couldn’t go back to check on how the church was doing until just last week. When John got to the village he asked the pastor there if they were still meeting in the same place, the pastor said yes. Then John asked if they wanted to move the church to the other village and the pastor said “we don’t need too, we planted a church there and it’s growing”.

On our way there we passed through a village getting ready for their market day… up to 15kms away we saw people carrying things to market… a STREAM of women going down the road, each with baskets piled to overflowing on their heads, their children tagging along beside them even the smallest had something to carry in their own basket. By the time we left church (we ended up staying quite awhile!) The women were trickling back out of the village into the countryside, nearly all their baskets were empty, and the children carried all the things their mommas had bought. It was very cute!

We ended up being at that church forever! We got there and did a communion service, with a loaf of bread and Coke (juice is expensive, so our other choice was millet beer or water) There was tons of dancing and singing. After the communion service we had a baptism service, there were 5 people who had been waiting for Pastor John to come back to baptize them.. we all trucked down to the nearest river and found a clear spot. The water was really shallow, so the people getting baptized sat in the water to get dunked… There was this little bridge over the water where some of us sat to watch… and where I was going to sit were these strange squashed berry things… I flicked them off without thinking… as soon as I sat down and looked at the tree above me I realized what they were… giant fruit bat droppings! YUCK

After the baptism the church invited us to a special lunch they had prepared for us, we had Pot and sauce… Pot is a lot like Ugandan Posho (Julie, your FAVORITE!) sort of like Italian Polenta… it’s made from corn meal, but more finely ground, and you eat it by the PILE… and it’s so heavy… kinda bland tasting on it’s own, but they add some hot peppers and other stuff to it, so it’s bland with a hot after-burn! Sauce is just anything cooked with water… we were fortunate enough that it was chicken!!!! I wasn’t so much looking forward to fish heads in water… though I’ve promised to be committed to culture and try not to grimace too much as I take it down. Yeah, so we had a great meal, no need for our packed lunch at all!

So tomorrow (Thursday) we are heading down to Lome, pray for safety on the roads.. it’s a 7+ hour drive depending on the road conditions… the mountain pass to get back down to Lome is WAY worse than the Northern one that we pass over to get to the village churches, there’s much more traffic too…. Pray that all the details of the trip get worked out soon, and that there are no problems crossing the boarder! Marv is flying back tonight, he should be here tomorrow night so long as none of the flights are delayed.
More later…

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Je Suis Desole Pour Mon Courgette

Hello, my name is Blanche… lol, I went to pick up some pictures I had taken for my Ghanaian Visa, and the name on the outside of the envelope was “Blanche”. I’m hoping to spend some time visiting with the Ghana YFC people while the Friesen family is on vacation… right now the details are kinda sketchy, but if it falls through I’ll be going to (North West) Benin instead to stay in an Anii Village with a family who do oral narrative translations, they are going through the bible in chronological order, starting with Genesis and sharing the bible stories with a people group who hold oral tradition way above anything written… geee… I don’t know what to pray for to happen! Both options are pretty good to me!

Sorry that the last message got posted twice…. Sometimes I can email my messages in, sometimes I can’t… I guess the program was just being really helpful to make up for the lost messages!

I got to go to the market on Tuesday! Dude, I love the market. Market is always open, but there are certain days when EVERYONE is at the market, all the vendors in town come together, and their families… oh heck… the whole town is there, and if you’ve got anything you can sell it there. Just put it in a basket on your head and you are in business! lol. I can’t remember if I’ve written anything about the market yet, if I’m repeating myself, sorry, I write off line to save my phone units (internet time) so I can’t go back and check what I’ve written and to whom!
This market is partly indoors, mostly outdoors. The inside part runs all the time, it’s mostly fruits and veggies and meat in there… The tables are really close together and everyone is selling pretty much the same thing, you find someone friendly and they become “your” vendor, they watch for you and send their children to greet you the second your feet enter the building, they show you all the new things they have… making sure to mention that you won’t ever get it anywhere else… ;) I almost fell into the drainage pit the first time I went there… it’s just randomly in the middle of the building; full of green slime… and it’s moving… alive with bugs and bacteria…. *shudder * . It’s right beside “MY” fruit and veggie lady, and I didn’t see it because I was so overwhelmed the first time I went in.. Too much to see, too few eyes to see it with.
There is an upstairs to the market building; I didn’t even notice it the first two times I was there! I went this week; it has all household stuff, and plastics and fabrics. I bought a new pair of flip-flops for 350 cfa (my sandals couldn’t take the walking, they gave up in two weeks!) That’s around 72 cents American. However, I also bought 6 bananas, 4 tangerines, a giant fruit that I don’t know the name of but have become hopelessly addicted to, and a zucchini for 400cfa- I still haven’t really figured out the money. Things that I think should cost more cost way less… but then things that I think should be cheep are SO expensive! 750cfa for a single serving of yoghurt.. hmmm, but it sure is good yoghurt, I’ll keep paying the price.
We toured the whole market this week, it was the first time we’d been able to do it. There was so much to see in the outside stalls! There was the pottery section, the soap section (they make some crazy soap!) The “pharmacy” section where you can buy a bottle of pills (unmarked) or just two or three pills… pre-wrapped in saran-wrap! I guess you have to just hope that you remember the right colours! ~ Or you can go to the real pharmacy, you don’t need a prescription for anything, just say the name of what you want to buy and they’ve got it, or they’ll have it in an hour! And yes, these are manufacturers labels on the packages… a little safer; just watch the expiry date! There was the “restaurant” section … a bunch of ladies with fires and charcoal stoves boiling and frying and roasting all sorts of yummy smelling things, and then there was the Animism/witchcraft section, it was in a side ally off of the rest of the market, but it was really busy there too. You could buy anything from a monkey’s head to dried mushrooms, powdered bones to witchcraft seashells there was so much, as we walked through, Edith leaned over to me and said, “I just whisper the name of Jesus when I have to walk through here”.
So I bought myself a lovely Zucchini at the market… I was so happy to find one, it was nice and solid, and wasn’t dented, didn’t sound hollow.. it was good. I left it in the cupboard for an hour before putting it in the eau de javel (yeah, make sure all veggies and fruits soak in a little javex before you eat them!) And when I picked it up, it had turned into a mushy mess! I could feel little pathways running under it’s skin, something was inside and had eaten it before I could!!! So sad for my zucchini. I had really been looking forward to eating it....

You know those giant plastic bugs that you can find at the dollar store? About the size of your hand… I found one here two nights ago… but it wasn’t of the plastic variety… it buzzed around crashing into the building. Needless to say I only went outside when absolutely necessary. Tonight when I was walking over to the main building I think I may have stepped on one in the grass... normally I stick to the path, but I was trying to scare some of the really noisey bugs into quietness... it's been SO loud this week!

This morning I go up early and hiked partway up the mountain… it was beautiful… the sun was just coming out, it was actually cool enough that everyone was out working in their gardens on the side of the mountain… the terraces are very neat… these people work so hard… And the land is so unforgiving! People spend hours in backbreaking work... and the ground is filled with rocks... I am blown away by the people daily.

We are heading up to Tammariland Again for Church tomorrow, There’s a small church that was planted there that the Crockers helped to plant last year during dry season… during the wet season there was no way to get there (rivers got too big, mud holes too wide) And John (Crocker) thought that the church must have stopped meeting.. He went to visit sometime last week and the roads have cleared, he found that the church had grown so much that they had gone ahead and done a church plant of their own in the next village! We are going up for a baptism service in the morning… pray for us as we head through that mountain pass again!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Round the Mountain we must go, OR, Under the Mango Tree

I think I was suppose to write about the trip up from Lome in this post, but then I went to church up North, and I’ve decided I’d rather tell you all about that. Besides, The trip up from Lome was mostly stories about the mountain pass that we travelled, and we had more mountains to travel over to get to church last Sunday.

Grab something to drink and settle in, this will be a long post!

Marv’s mom passed away last Saturday night. He was able to be there with his family, so that’s really good; He should be coming back to Togo next weekend (the 23rd?). I know the whole family will be glad to have him back; it’s been rough on all of them.
Edith came and told me on Sunday morning that she and the kids wouldn’t be going to church that morning (they were pretty upset from the news), so our previous plans for church on the mountain were going to be put on hold. Dave, the missionary that took Lisa and I out to the village last week, is quite involved in a church at the top of the mountain, and we were going to hike up as a group. Rather than go up on my own with Dave, I went to church with the Crocker family. The Crocker’s are Southern Baptist missionaries who are involved with some pretty serious church planting initiatives. God has really opened up some amazing doors for John and Susana and their 4 kids. SOOOO…. North we went, wow. Really, I can’t even begin to describe what this place looks like, the mountains… the villages, the people… life happening everywhere. I just hope that my pictures will do it some justice.

We drove for about an hour until we reached a point where we had to cross the mountains, (out of the bowl!) The cliffs on either side of us… we had to pull over once because a truck had passed so close and so fast it had knocked the chairs (tied to the roof rack) off balance. … Then came the part where we started to come DOWN the mountain.

Oh, better let you know about the traffic signals… turn your right blinker on if it’s not safe to pass, turn your left one on if it is… and if there’s clumps of dirt or branches on the road spaced evenly and slowly pushing you into the oncoming traffic, it means either there’s a broken truck around that blind corner/rise in front of you… or a wreck, and usually you can tell from the colour of the smoke. Wrecks happen CONSTANTLY; people overload their already dilapidated trucks WELL beyond the point of safe, seriously, I’m talking transport trucks loaded, then a second full load tied to the top… and not tied well. Anytime we take the main road out of town there’s a truck on it’s side, it’s load spilled and a crowd gathering trying to salvage the load. And that’s on the flat part of the road! On the mountain passes there’ll be part of a truck at the side of the road… the other part has fallen over the edge. Parts of the pass ride along the side of a rock face, this is BLACK from smoke, trucks and other unlucky vehicles that have crashed into it. And this is the two-lane section!!!!!!

Ok, down the mountain we must go, but first there’s this sign. Roughly translated it says “stop, look before you descend, 10% grade, drive slowly, sharp turn” THEN it had a picture of a truck out of control going down a hill, with the 10% under the truck and at the bottom of the hill a skull and crossbones! AS IF!

Along the road all the way down were chunks of trucks, too big to tow away, or too damaged to be of any use. We passed a slight turn in the road to the left (the road was pretty narrow at this point, edge of the cliff to the left, rock face to the right) and there were scars in the rock from cars and trucks bouncing off the rock and going around the corner. I thought, “well, that’s not too bad; the sign made it out to be way worse” THEN the road got really steep, and took a sharp turn again to the left. I remember looking at the rock-face, and the ground directly below it and thinking “whoa, there’s been a lot of accidents here… Thank you Jesus we made it down safely”. The corner was LITTERED with glass and scrap metal. We made it to the bottom of the mountain and drove out to the village for church. Susana said that there are accidents there all the time because so few people are able to maintain their vehicles and everyone is so overloaded.

On our way back from church we noticed a dark column of smoke near the mountain. As we got closer we saw that there were lines of trucks parked to the side of the road, and then saw where the smoke was coming from. We started off on a different route home. The road was closed for 7 hours to truck traffic; it was opened after 4 hours for small cars. Two ladies that were visiting the centre said they were some of the first through the pass, a tanker truck containing fuel had hit the corner at full speed, it’s brakes had failed, several people were killed with the explosion, they couldn’t be pulled from the fire. They said that when they were allowed to pass, the truck was still on fire, and they had to drive quickly because the pavement was so hot they were afraid the tires might melt.

The Togo Fire Department is only about 25 minutes from that spot, it’s built near the 2nd international airport.. not the one I came in at. No fire trucks came to the crash because there’s no money to buy any. I guess the fire chief sits in his new building during office hours and stares out at the empty truck bays… there’s room for 8 trucks.

We had a choice of two routes home; the first included a bridge that had been closed for the past two years… no one had heard if it was open yet, and the second included a one lane mountain pass… you go up or down, if you encounter someone coming from the other direction, the smaller vehicle goes backwards in the direction it came from. We decided we’d try the bridge. Thankfully it was all repaired, John said as we were getting near that if it looked “kinda” safe, we could all get out and walk across and he’d gun it across in the land rover…Thankfully it was a whole new bridge, so there wasn’t any racing. One hour and forty five mins to church… four and a half hours home.

OK, so that was all awesome, I loved seeing the countryside, watching the people, seeing the differences in the villages as we travelled from one area to another, but church was defiantly the highlight. We had church in a Ditammari village, under a giant mango tree! It was great, we sat in the roots of the tree, there was a nice breeze, people walked by, saw what was going on, some joined in… it was VERY cool. We started with 20 people and ended up with about 35.
True enough, I don’t have the foggiest idea what the sermon was about, and I didn’t know any of the songs… John spoke in French, (I think it might have been about being saved by grace.. not by works…. But yeah, my French is still lacking) and a Tammari man translated. But, it was neat, really neat. The Ditammari are probably the poorest people group in Togo, but they are also the most easily identified because of their homes, called Tatas… When you go to look up info on Togo, there’s usually a picture of one. It’s like a little castle made of mud! With turrets and everything! They are the only people group who make a two-story home.
I guess they started to build them like that because they were often targeted to be caught as slaves; The Ditammari are the smallest in stature in the area. By building their tatas with the high thick walls, it’s more difficult for intruders. They started to build their homes closer and closer together (round huts) then started to build walls between them, these developed into what they are today. They bring their livestock in at night to the main floor, and they sleep in the second part, this way the livestock can act as an alarm system too! The doorways are really narrow (to make it difficult for intruders) and there are small holes out the sides of the building on the top floor for arrows to be shot through. They sill have the central courtyard area, but it’s in front of the tata instead of inside. Until I can spend some real time online to get my photos on here, you’ll have to use your imagination as to what I mean. :)
Ok I could write another two pages worth of stuff from the village, on Idols and Fetishes and Family alters… The grain silos on top of the houses, The meat drying racks, the jewellery…. *sigh * but you’d stop reading because this is already long enough.
Meh Neh Ta Na, (Hey everyone, how’s it going?)
Meh Na Kay (it’s going great [with us])
Alafia (good!)
Deh Behng (see you later)
Ok, I don’t know how to type using the International Phonetic Alphabet on this computer, so just sound it out…. (I started Kabye lessons today)
Write me emails I miss youLes

Saturday, October 09, 2004

a maizeing

Where to start?
So I was going to talk about the trip up from Lome… but that will come later. I’ve just had the opportunity to escape the bubble that is the Kara Centre, and I am particularly excited about the adventure.
Whoa, Les… Kara Centre?
Right, the Centre in Kara where I live is run by SIL and is a wonderful place, amazing and intelligent people wandering in and out all the time, working on incredible projects, everything from dictionaries to oral narratives, direct language translations to literacy training, phonemes, syntax, tones … and anything else along the way…. A Linguistic Anthropologist’s dream centre. It is however, a bubble. You can live here and never interact with Africa if you never leave it’s walls. But that’s ok, because it was never intended for anyone to live here full time, it’s a guest house, people are suppost to come and go. There’s even a rule about the length of time one is allowed to live on centre (not including the people who are the “centre managers”-those keeping the place going- those being the people who I’ve come here to help with schooling!). That said, pray with me as I decide when and where to move… The details are REALLY up in the air- I am here for a short enough time that I could live here… but I don’t think it would be good for me.
Bubble burst, where’d you go?
Today I went with one of the kids (Lisa) and a missionary named Dave (who is doing some project on compiling data about tones in the Kabiye language…) To help Dave’s gardener (Bleze) bring his maize crop into town. More and more families have sent the younger generations down from their homes into the towns to work, but the families still work together to support eachother. So we set out to pick up Bleze, we found him and two of his friends? (I don’t know who they were… maybe related? My French is so bad I’m sure someone told me but I missed it) and we jammed into Dave’s little Toyota and..
Hold on, why does a missionary have a gardener?
Good question! It’s not like North America where only the rich have gardeners or house help, nearly everyone does, it’s one way of helping people out-providing jobs.. besides, the money needs to be shared anyway, and who has the time for housework… remember, this isn’t Canada we’re talking about, it’s a completely different system, and it’s not a class thing. Families here would have young relatives come live with them who would do the same thing-and the money would go back to the families in the village… OH! almost exactly what Bleze is doing! ;) where was I?
Oh yeah, jammed into the Toyota, and bumped and banged our way out of town (not too many paved roads in that direction) ok. None. Dave though it would be a good idea for us to go to see the family before we drove in to take the maize out, so we parked, and began to walk. We walked for about 10 mins, baobab trees rising out of the grass... this is grass WAY over my head, I’m talkin’ grass 11 or 12 feet high, it bows in and you walk through a tunnel in places. Coconut and Palm, Mango and Papaya in the clearings, groundnut plants growing between them. Scatterings of partly finished homes and decaying huts. (I’ll tell you about buildings another day).
We stopped under a group of large Baobab and Mango trees that were somehow growing out of a tall pile of rocks. The rocks were really smooth… worn from generations of people coming to rest in the shade… it was incredible to think of the number of people who must have sat there to affect the rocks the way that they did. In some places there were large (three feet by two foot) oval rocks that were shaped like basins, but they had holes in the bottom of them. Bleze explained that they were used grinding stones that had worn through! Women use these flat stones to grind maize and millet they place them on the rock, and crush and grind with another rock…. How long would it take someone to wear right through a rock? These were at LEAST half a foot in thickness.
Then we came to Belze’s family’s compound. Homes here are generally set up with 3 or more buildings (one room each) turned so they create a courtyard in the centre.. that’s where all the living happens, out in the courtyard.
Inside we were met by chickens ducks goats and his grandmother, a tiny OLD woman, sitting on a step, her skirt around her, and a little baby toddling around nearby. When we came “in” another woman (an aunt) and a young cousin appeared. We (Lisa and I) were seated while Belze went over to his grandmother to tell her why we were there. Then Dave was brought over to meet her, where he surprised her by speaking in her own language… she thought it was HE-LAR-IOUS, and laughed and laughed and launched into some dramatic story about falling down the day before… and being deaf and why would a white guy know her language? She was pretty excited. Then I was invited over (next in age order) I’ve already forgotten my rehearsed greeting since then… but anyway, a hand shake with my right hand, left hand holding my own forearm (out of respect). Lisa and I were sent back to our seat against the mud bricks, and a young girl brought us some water in a gourd to drink… Dave said just to put it to our lips as a sign of thanks/respect for the gesture; we couldn’t really drink it since it wasn’t filtered. Then she brought us some groundnuts to eat… and we just sat there taking it all in. The young girl brought the nuts to Dave and he responded in Kabiye and she looked so surprised (she’d missed him talking to her grandmother) and she said she was relieved because she didn’t know what to do with so many white people!
It’s so different… village life. There’s no hurry, you just do what needs to be done when it needs to be done… until then you live. We sat while one young girl sorted beans and another shelled groundnuts. Then when enough? time had passed -so it wouldn’t seem like we were rushing out, we started our goodbyes (rather our “see you tomorrow’s”, good bye is too final, it’s like saying, “well, I’ll certainly never come back here again”. And we eventually left, only to round the side of the building into a cousin’s compound. The young girl who had brought us the water had followed behind us with a small bench.. she knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soon.
EVENTUALLY we left. It probably was around 5:00 (sun sets at 6:10, dark at 6:20) but when we reached the clearing where the partly finished homes were, there were people sitting on the step… so we started again… handshakes, water, groundnuts…. Millet beer. Dave said, as a gourd filled with the cloudy brown stuff was passed to me, that he should have waned us that there is no fellowship in Togo that is complete unless it is around a calabash. (More on Millet beer another time).
Yeah, we didn’t leave there till close to 6. By that point I was sure I’d met every relative of Bleze’s that existed, and we still hadn’t even seen the maize that we were suppost to bring into town. We walked back to the car and drove it down a path to another set unfinished buildings, inside of one (surrounded by guinea hens) were the sacks of dried maize cobs, there weren’t enough bags so the rest was piled on the floor, a young girl with a hand broom to shoo away the hens and ducks sat beside the door.
We piled the bags into the back of the car.. ok, not we… they… man those things were HEAVY! Lisa another girl and myself climbed on top of them and squished ourselves in for the bumpy ride back to town, the guys squished into the front.
We arrived at Bleze’s home and the unloading began. This time I helped… I had to! This one lady with a baby strapped to her back stepped up to carry a bag… so how could I not? I walked up to the car and said “sur la tete s’il vous plait” Bleze LAUGHED and looked at Dave to see if I was joking, when Dave nodded that “yes” I wanted it on my head, he helped me with my load then followed me into the compound… I’m sure just to watch his family’s reaction! They doubled over laughing at this white girl with a giant sack of maize on her head, but I know that they appreciated the help, and really, anytime we try anything (us crazy white people) they appreciate it so much, even when we mess it up really bad… just to interact/ show that we aren’t so different!
Anyway, the whole experience was great, I learned a few more phrases to add to my severely limited vocabulary, learned a ton of cultural stuff, and just had fun in general.
Sorry this was such a long post…. I did cut a lot out.
Wish you were all here!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Better late than never

I've been having some technical difficulties, sorry, this might show up twice.

ALSO: could someone tell my dad that I can't get any email to him??????? PLEASE! Ask him to email me.

From: Lady Lesley Marie Boileau To: Subject: Jet lagging! Sent: September 23, 2004 9:32:17 PM

Hey Ninjas, ok, so some of you have been left out of the info loop for awhile as to where God has been leading me, so you'll all just have to go to the website to get a little caught up!
So, praise God, I'm currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Waiting for my connecting flight to Lome, Togo. Honestly, this trip has been such a blessing already. So I was leaving toronto and thinking to myself "who in their right mind flies to Togo Via:Frankfurt, AND Addis? I'm not going to recognise anyone, I won't have a travel buddy... not even one that I just follow and never actually talk to (you know the type? the lady with the BIG hair that you know must be reliable enough that if you follow at a distance you'll end up in the right place) SO, I get to Frankfurt and i'm TRYING DESPERERATLY to find my flight listed... and it's not. and I hear this voice beside me pipe up "you can't find Ethiopia either?" I turn and there's this girl close to my age, big M.E.C. bag on her back. she continues and says "I read the tag on your luggage when I was in line in Toronto and I've kinda been following you, I'm going to Lome too!" So, not only do I have a nice travel buddy, BUT (and this is so God's work!) She's a Christian, working in Benin for 3 months, and her original flight was last week but it was cancelled and she ended up on my flight! and we had seats together to Addis!!!!!! And we've got some pretty crazy background similarities.... so cool. I left T.O. Wednesday at 10:45 pm, I think it's thursday 5:30pm in Canada now, but we've had a 9 hour flight and a 7 hour flight and 4 hours layover AND it's Friday morning (early, but friday) I think we've got another 6 hours flight left. ok, gotta stop typing now, this will probably be the ONLY BIG email I send, I'll send out little notices when I've updated the website instead to avoid overloading my account with returned emails. If you reply, don't include the orginal message to save some space in my inbox ok? thanks!!!! PLEASE email, I miss you all already, and I love to hear from you.... keeps away the lonlieness. Peace prayers and crunchy granola, Lesley if you get this twice, let me know and i'll try to fix it

From: Lady Lesley Marie Boileau To: Subject: letter 2 Sent: September 25, 2004 3:29:30 PM
Hey Ninjas So Thursday I wrote to you, but the message got messed up so only a few received it. It MIGHT have gone to the website I’m not sure, at my last test it hadn’t worked yet…. If you’re a Prayer ninja and you’ve been left out of the loop as to what’s happening, you’d better go check the site to find out… OR if you’re new to the prayer ninja scene . Anyway! I’m in Togo and I’m alive!! Praise God!! So at the last update I was in Ethiopia, my flight path was a little on the long side but it saved me a ton… and, it also provided me with countless stories for future postings… Ok, so we were sitting in the plane on the tarmac and we’d been there for about 30 mins, so people were starting to grumble; those who were awake started to grumble, it was 3am local time. Then an aplogetic voice stumbles through 4 languages explaining our situation, eventually he gets to English, and I hear “we have sent someone to the store to buy a part for our plane, he will return in twenty mins. Until that time we wait. Thank you for flying with us, we are sorry” ok… so what PLANE PARTS store is open at 3am, what part, and how do I get off the plane?
We arrived in Lagos and hour late, then arrived in Lome only 45mins late… pretty good. I was met by one of the SIL staff (Wycliffe Togo) Jim Green and he helped me thru all the ins and outs of visas, he had a special pass to meet me right off the plane and to come thru customs… now I’m at the Lome guest house, and the whole Friesen family is here! Marv met me at the airport, And the rest of the family (Edith and the kids Lisa, Beth, Tyler, Simon and Michael) came in the evening to the guest house. I guess we’ll be staying here until Wednesday as Marv has to return to Canada, his mom is very sick with cancer so he was called home… We’ll head up to Kara (my home for the next three months) then. If your getting this message twice, let me know Ok, I should get off the computer, I’ve got lots to tell you and show you (via pictures) but that will wait. Love you all Peace prayers and crunchy granola Lesley Guess what!?!? You can write to me c/o
Lesley Boileau
BP 57
Togo West Africa

contact.. finally

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay on the previous posts, I guess there was an error when I sent them… anyway, ces’t le vie!

Are you ok?
Yeah, but I miss my friends and family, it’s kinda sucky not knowing many people, and I don’t want to spend all my time with the Friesen’s I don’t want them to get sick of me… or me of them! I’ve met so many people… I have no idea which name goes with which face. It’ll come with time.

So Les, how’s Togo?

Well, so far so good. Things have been incredibly hectic with Marv having to leave for Canada, Edith has had to step into his place here at the centre, so that means I’ve jumped right into what I came here to do… It’s neat how God totally had this already worked out… I mean, I knew from the start of this process back in April that I was suppose to be going SOMEWHERE in September. I didn’t know where, but I knew when. Then I was given a few opportunities to leave earlier, and one to leave later, but I KNEW September. Didn’t know why till now.
However, with his sudden departure and Edith being so busy keeping things running, I haven’t had any orientation to how the program that the kids are using works. It’s sort of “fly by the seat of my pants” right now. But they are great kids and up to the task, so they help me along. I feel bad that I don’t have any time for preparation for them, I’m still trying to figure out what it is that they’ve learned, and what comes next, and how each of them learns best…. But, we’ve made it through the first week, I’m sure that sooner or later I’ll catch on!

Am I going to be able to get hold of you way over there?

It looks like I’ll have internet access once or twice a week, (send emails) I’m using one of the kid’s computers.(send emails) There is an internet cafĂ© but the keyboards are French (France French) so the keys are in the wrong spot, (send emails) I’d waste too much of my time trying to find the keys for it to be worthwhile.

Ok, but back to Togo?

Right, sorry about that (send emails I’ll write back eventually, and I miss knowing how everyone is, and just to have that connection with home is so good.)
Eh hmmm?
Weather is good.. HOT and humid! It’s the end of rainy season, so it rains every other day or so… not like Canadian rain, it doesn’t stay all day. It’ll be super clear out then ten seconds later a huge gust of wind will blow a storm right over the mountains onto us. It usually only lasts ten mins, HARD rain, but the other night it started at 12:30 and stopped at 7am. Each rain someone says “well, that’s the end of rainy season, no more rain for a few months” then it rains again.
Dude! I have a mountain in my backyard! Seriously! I look out the window each morning and look up.. way up. Kara is in a “bowl” there’s mountains on every side of the city. OHHHHH the ride here was CRAZY. Seven and a half hours in the land rover, the last two hours on the mountain pass…. But I’ll post that story next time.

What can we be praying for: for you?
Language comprehension and ability to converse in French is the big one. I’m fine on centre, it’s all people that I’ve met and can get by with my limited French, their limited English.. and there’s tons of English speaking missionaries here. But I want to be able to go to market without feeling like a helpless baby! Also that I could figure out the “North Star School” program. It’s great, I just haven’t had much time to take a look at it. Oh, and that I wouldn’t be lonely. I miss you guys!


No, enough for today this is a long enough posting!
Love you all,Les