Monday, November 29, 2004

cough cough

I woke up sneezing, and now I’m going to bed dry throated, scratchy, dusty, smokey.
The fields are on fire.
Today we went to the pool (there’s one in all of Kara) before we got in, the lifeguard grabbed his skimmer to get the biggest of the ashes out of the pool. Its VERY strange to swim with drifting ashes.
People have started to burn their fields. Most of the crops have been harvested, and as they are finished… they are set to flame. It’s “just the way it’s done”. Tonight I had to walk along a path through a field that was on fire.
I guess these are controlled fires… on purpose anyway. And sometimes there’s someone watching as it burns to see that it doesn’t go past where it should go. Not that there’s much that can be done if the fire decides it’s own path. (read back about the Kara Fire Department… big building, no trucks). I was told that one of the most beautiful sights to watch… though scary too… is the mountain on fire. The base of the mountain is maybe a ten min walk from the centre… The only problem is that Harmatan has come in so thickly I can’t see the mountain anymore! Visibility is pretty much nil. Today was the first day that I couldn’t even see the outline of it. Yesterday it was a looming shadow with it’s own halo… the dust was reflecting the sunset… very cool.

With the dust and the smoke comes the most incredible dryness… I can write my name on my legs with my fingernail…. and that’s after using lotion! I set my laundry out to dry on Saturday. It was all dry in an hour and a half! Ok, true enough it was covered in enough dust that it looked like I’d left it in an abandoned building for the last century… but it was dry!
I now have to dust off my chair and desk each morning when I go into the school room (and yes, I’ve closed the windows for the night) I also have to dust them when I come back into the room after coffee break and lunch… I’m only gone for ½ an hour… but it’s enough to collect dust! I’ll try to get some pictures of it… but I don’t know that the camera will do it justice!

Friday, November 26, 2004

down south... way down

American Thanksgiving in Togo…. need I say more? oh yes, yes I do…. but let it be only this…

“This land is your land
This land is my land…
From California to the New York Island
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream Waters….”


I thought the words were

“From Bonn Vista to Vancouver Island
From the Artic Circle to the Great Lake Waters….”

Yes, Southern Baptist (I’m talkin’ Texas Southrin’ Twang and Drawl and pack horses)

The other day I stretched my wings of independence and showed the world just how bad my French REALLY is.
I went into the market on my own.
Now, I think I could have been doing that since the beginning, but it’s just so easy to rely on those around you and not have to think for yourself… Anyway, I’ve got my own “friends” in the market. Those who know that I have no idea about what’s going on, and they don’t make too much fun of me, they appreciate the trying.
There’s MY peanut lady… she roasts peanuts and cashews and candies peanuts…. mmmm (I like her!) ok, my first day in Togo I went to coffee break and looked at the table… and looked again… and looked again… it had a row of wine bottles and gin bottles. Here in Togo they are all recycled to hold nuts! I think when I go home I’ll have to start siphoning my peanuts into bottles… it’s so satisfying shaking a handful out! Try it out.
I’ve got MY own apple lady now (I just got her that day… or rather she got me! She saw me walking towards the market and she came running over and told me she had something to show me…) EVERYONE has the same stuff in the market, but you don’t really want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so you sort of spread your shopping around… It’s really about who’s friend you are… not about weather or not they have what you need, because if you need it and they don’t have it, they’ll find it for you and be sure to have it the next time you’re there…
I’ve got MY own Vegetable lady.. and she knows what veggies I like, so she starts piling them up before I say anything. Then there’s the fruit stand lady and her trainees… she runs the show, and sends them scurrying around. She has the best mangos and pineapples… and she has eggs too… and I’m usually convinced to buy two or three other things that I didn’t need there… the part that I love the best is that then they carry everything for you to your car… on their heads while dodging the motos (motorcycles/mopeds) and cars and pedestrians… I love it.
So I went to the market with a small list of what I needed to buy… I came back with three times what I needed… I was having too much fun.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Ripple Effect

I don’t really know how much has been on the news about what’s going on/ what’s happened in the Ivory Coast over in Canada. There hasn’t been much here by way of news… wait, that’s not fair for me to say… I don’t listen to the news because I have NO CLUE what they are saying! But from what I gather from people who DO listen to the news there hasn’t been that much.
Really it’s not that far away from here, so there is the ripple effect happening. Don’t worry, the political situation is “fine” and I’m totally safe. More what I mean would be the people that I know, or that are well known to people here who are being deeply effected.
Take for example the Crockers. I’ve mentioned them a few times, they are an amazing family. They just so happened to be in Abidjan when everything fell apart. They happened to be in one of the central neighbourhoods on the Saturday night when things went really bad. They could hear the riots just a few hundred feet from their compound… to hear their stories made me cry. . They were evacuated, but before they were, they were right in the middle of the riots. So now, as they are dealing with the debriefing issues, and as their family adjusts to a new life (life AFTER being in the middle of a neighborhood with bombs and guns and raping and looting) it effects everyone around them as we learn to be sensitive to their needs. Especially with the children that are involved. For awhile their teacher thought that maybe she wouldn’t stay to keep teaching (she was in Abidjan with them). But praise God, she returned to Kara yesterday and said she was staying, she’ll start back up teaching a week from now. (I’ve got some extra children in my class for now!)
Another family that I’ve met here was evacuated for the second time in their missions carrier…
Dozens of Missionaries have moved into Togo and other nearby countries as they wait to go back to their homes and friends. Some wait to see what’s left to go back to. Today we heard that some mission boards have decided to send their people back into the country! Pray that they would be safe!
Other than that, things are awesome here... except that the mountain dissapeared today :(
Harmatan is on full force!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Back to "Normal Life"

Ok, Again, Sorry for the delay… I guess that’s just a part of life here. Our phone lines are iffy at the best of times…

Let’s see, what can I tell you today?
Well, I moved this weekend! I’m now living about a 15 min walk from the SIL center in a funny little compound (you have to go outside to reach the kitchen) with Barb. So far, so good! Although today I realized that maybe I had it better living at the centre… school was finished early, but I wasn’t ready to go home and sit and do nothing. At the centre there’s always people around to visit with, or I could retreat to my room for a few hours then pep out and see if there was anything interesting going on… Now if I leave the centre and then return, people ask me if I’ve forgotten something. :S
Not so sure about this set-up but the company IS comfortable, and it’s nice to have the excuse to leave the bubble.

ok, some stories from Ghana…

Does anyone other than my sister and I watch Lonely planet? (great show!) I think it’s called Pilot Guides now, and both Bethy-B and myself (at one time or another) have set our hearts on marrying one of the hosts- Ian. ANYWAY
I saw one episode about Ghana during my “all I want to do in this world is go to Ghana” stage (unfortunately, NOT hosted by Ian) and in it they were looking at some crazy coffins that were being made at the coast. So, I’m on my way to a funeral with my host family (yes, another interesting cultural experience, another story another day) and I’m just about to open my mouth to ask “hey, where about’s would I see some of those interesting coffins?” and instead I squawk… (Like in Haroun and the Sea of Stories, when Rashid finds he can tell stories anymore) “awk” Says I. Because as my mouth is trying to form the aforementioned question, we drive past what looks like a carousel animal warehouse … but the sign reads “quality resting places, woodworkers, coffin makers”. (or something along that line… I was so surprised I couldn’t quite make out the words)
Yeah, no joke, these are coffins made to represent the life of the dead person in them. A few days later I went to one of the carpenter’s shops to see them being made. It was really neat, so much work… just for something that was going to be buried! If you were a farmer, you could be buried in an ear of corn, an onion, okra, tomato A CHICKEN!!!…. You own taxis? Choose to be buried in a car… A king/prince… a lion coffin… a carpenter? A wood planer. A pilot? an airplane. An animist Priest? A cobra…. fisherman? A fish, lobster or crab. There were coke bottles, beer bottles, a turkey, a red pepper… I saw SO many different types, but my favourite had to be the Nokia Phone, when you opened it up, it had stitched into the lining “check your messages”. In the workshop they were busy working on one that was a castle…. so much work! They were hand carving the brick detail into the walls!

Ghana had this one really neat thing that I think I might start up when I get back to Canada… So, in Canada, we go window shopping. We go from store to store, just looking to see if we are interested in what they have… sometimes, we really just look in the window… When you are sitting in traffic in Accra, shopping comes to your window! People spend a lot of their time in traffic…. I think I spent about 16 hours of my two weeks sitting in traffic. That would be a fairly conservative number. While you are stuck in place, there are people weaving in and out of the cars, selling everything from gum to toilet paper! You can buy freshly roasted plantain/plantain chips or shish kabobs, a new antenna for your vehicle, a calculator or a puppy/kitten. (My hosts informed me that cat tastes a lot like goat). It’s all very handy!
School is going well, I’m feeling a little more like a teacher… slightly more organized, although life is a little chaotic with four extra families on centre (not many of the kids WANT to concentrate!)
Pray for the many activities happening this month on centre, there’s a bunch of big meetings and conferences/training and consulting stuff going on, many people are coming and going, pray for safety and that much would be accomplished!
PRAISE GOD!!!! The Crocker family (the family that I often go to village church with) is safely back in Togo! They were in The Ivory Coast for training all this month, but were evacuated on Thursday. They had to spend the last week or two staying in their compound due to the situation… no one was allowed to go out. They were airlifted out (with a 10 minute warning) by the German air force. The kids were pretty happy because they didn’t have time to pack their school books… unfortunately for them, the next group of people to be airlifted out had time to pack their books for them… So they are safe and sound and going through some debriefing stuff along with others who were evacuated….
Pray for safety for those who may still be there…. and that the situation would die down soon.
Praise God I’ve finally gotten my Togo Visa… I guess I’ll be allowed to leave the country. It is a two year visa… The Friesen’s are really hoping that I’ll come back (no longer are they using subtle hints)
Pray that God would lead in this area, and that they would be able to find a teacher sometime soon…
ok, enough.
love you miss you, email me!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

ET Phone Home?

I thought it was about time to get something posted here! I’ve been internet deprived... and therefore, deprived of keeping in touch!!! AHHHHH! I miss you all!
Quite a few exclamation marks don’t you think Les?
Yup, but it’s to emphasize how much I miss the people I love!!! Keep those emails coming!!!! Better yet!!! I’ve still got a mailing address: (hint hint!)

BP 57
Kara, Togo
West Africa

So Monday, I was sitting minding my own business, when out of the air dropped a package onto my lap. I GOT MAIL! I got a whole stack of mail from Miss. Lauren Webster’s class @ Wallaceburg Christian School! I’ve got to be one of the luckiest people ever, I have a whole classroom of people praying for me over here :) (Thanks Laur, it meant a lot).

Yes, I’m still alive, I survived going to Ghana, although there were several obstacles to get there (see last post) God is good, and we arrived in one piece. We decided to cross the border in Lome (Togo) into Aflao (Ghana) WHOA BABY! Crazy experience, and due to missing one vital piece of car information… mighty expensive. The number of people crossing the border… all on foot (ah ha, they knew it was pointless to bring the vehicle through!) *shaking my head * it was something to see… Waiting in the customs office “hillsongs” came on the radio… ENGLISH!!!! It was a nice change, that’s for sure.

The road to Accra was under construction; the trip there reminded me of playing a Nintendo car racing game, all the cars going wherever they could! Later someone told me that if you ask a Ghanaian what side of the road they drive on, they’d reply “the better side”. A number of times in Ghana we had to drive in the ditch as the oncoming traffic took over all lanes of the road… I never knew that a two-lane road could hold five lanes of traffic!

I was able to hook up with Joseph Aryee (from Ghana Youth For Christ), and he found me a place to stay with the Darmani family. I spent the two weeks traveling around visiting some of the different programs run by Ghana YFC. Funny thing…. Whenever I went to observe the programs (oh, let’s say a school program or whatever..) For some reason people expected that I was coming with a full teaching program! On our way to one school group the leader turned to me, (RIGHT after we had just discussed with Joseph that I had just come to watch) and said, “well, you’ll only have to speak for a little bit.” I looked at him and asked… “um, how much is a little bit?” (I HATE public speaking! And, I’m NOT a pastor!) He replied “oh, no less then twenty minutes”. Gee!

I spent much of my time being a tourist, and being stuck in traffic! OK, funniest thing ever! So, you spend most of your day stuck in traffic (how do people get to work on time?) what happens when you get hungry? What if you don’t have time to pick up a few things on your way home from work? No Problem! Roll down your window and start shopping! People are walking in and out of traffic; selling everything from toilet paper and watches to chocolate and giant snails…
I had the opportunity to go watch drums being made, I visited the Cape Coast Castle (one of the sites where the slave trade happened) and even got to go on the canopy walk in the rain forest!

I saw so many things… and met so many people… I feel bad trying to summarize a two week trip’s adventures in two pages… SO just remember to ask me lots of questions about it when I get home.

One thing that I can say is that God is amazing… It’s not often that we have the opportunity to find out why He answers some prayers the way that he does… A few years ago I applied to go to Ghana for a program through my university. I was SO devastated when I didn’t get into the program (my room mates can attest to that!). I couldn’t understand WHY I couldn’t go, I thought that was where God was calling me and the opportunity was totally shut down. Then a team from NYFC went to Ghana as a work team (they did some construction at the yfc centre), things weren’t going to work out so that I could go…. Again, I was confused! I was ready, I was willing, I was able… why was I still in Canada? A year later I had the opportunity to go and work in Uganda with Watoto… I fell in love with the children, with the people, with the village life/culture… Then I was blessed enough to come and work here in Togo, and though the language barrier has been really rough, again, the people, the life.. all of it, I LOVE. While I was visiting in Accra I realized how it was totally God’s plan… If my first exposure to Africa had been through that GIANT crazy city… I wouldn’t have the love I have for this place now…

Looks like I’m moving off the SIL centre on the weekend, I’ll be moving in with another missionary, her room mate just left for the States for a few years, so she’s got an empty room! Her name is Barb, pray that I don’t drive her too crazy ;)