Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas and Kampant

       Since our last post we have celebrated Christmas and attended a youth camp called Kampant. Christmas was different as it was around 100 degrees and of course the obvious being that we are in Gambia. We began the day early to head over to Gary and Denise's house for a white elephant gift exchange and breakfast casserole. Then Elias, Gary, a friend Hayden that spent Christmas with us and I headed to church which was filled with much singing and dancing.

Our table of 50 Dalasi (roughly $2) gifts

Opening gifts

          After church we had a delicious, yet very expensive meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy. The turkey was about 9 pounds and cost about 19 american dollars! But it was worth it considering Gary and Denise haven't had turkey in five years. Then we finished out the day by skyping home to both families.
          The next day we left for a youth camp called Kampant. I'm not sure how many youth we took from the mennonite fellowships, but we had 34 registered which is a really good number. The camp had about 100-150 youth show up and went from Saturday to Thursday. As you can see, I'm writing this on Wednesday which means we came home early. Elias was sick before we left and since the camp was out in the bush there was an excessive amount of dust and it was starting to take a toll on him so we decided to come home yesterday after breakfast. However, we are very happy that we had the opportunity to go and see what the youth are so excited about. They had wonderful speakers and each night they had a different activity after dinner. Sunday night we had a prayer time, Monday was praise and worship, Tuesday was a debate on 1 and 2 Timothy and Wednesday is a talent show. I am disappointed that we couldn't be there for the debate and talent show, but I'm excited to hear all about it. Gambians love to sing and dance, so even though we sing the same songs over and over they are always sung with passion and praise for the Lord.

Sing and dancing, and yes all of those spots that look like water are dust

Some of the girls that Elias and I will be working with, most of them are from the Pirang youth and it was cold hence the warm clothes, we could see our breath in the morning and I had trouble staying warm at night with a sheet, towel and skirt covering me while I was sleeping in pants and long sleeves!

Playing futbol in the early morning sun before breakfast

The camp looking in from the road

-A very different but very special Christmas and the chance to reconnect with home
-We had a wonderful time at Kampant and made new friends
-Elias is feeling better now that we are away from the dust

Prayer requests:
-We are still having difficulties getting a house
-We will finally be beginning language study
-Relationships with the youth of the different fellowships

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pace of life

   As in most relationship oriented cultures, pace of life is much slower than that of business oriented cultures such as the States and Europe. Another way that these cultures are referred to is "warm climate" and "cold climate". This can be, and has been, a source of frustration for cold climate missionaries serving in a warm climate culture. We tend to think that things could get done much more quickly if there wasn't so much time "wasted", and in some ways we are right, a lot more could get done, but for those of the warm climate culture that comes at the expense of relationship.
    Here in Gambia to walk anywhere it is important to make sure that additional time is made because it is very important to greet everyone that you pass, and of course the obvious reason that it is very hot and easier to walk slowly. Some will greet us and keep walking, but others want to stop and shake our hand, ask our first and last name and then usually ask a few questions that leave us with blank stares and laughter. Some will even try and teach us what they are saying and how we should respond creating more smiles and laughter, but pleasure in the fact that we were trying to communicate with then and respecting their culture where greetings are important.
      This is only one example of how pace of life slows down, but we have also seen it in one of the churches where they have been making bricks to rebuild two rooms that collapsed during the rainy season and act as part of the house for the family living there. Once these rooms are built then the sanctuary can be blocked off from the rest of the house and the family will no longer have to use it as their sitting room. While in the states the bricks would be made and the rooms would be completed very quickly, it takes more time and it is difficult to get people to show up. We could easily go in and set up a time, but we really want the church to take the initiative themselves. Here a few pictures of the brick-making:

     As you can see, this process is not easy as you have to dig the mud out of a hole, then form the bricks and let them dry before the building can be done. All of this is done the hot sun. Yet it can still be frustrating as we think, "if we just worked two Saturdays they would be done!" We have also found frustration with the gentleman we need to contact about the house we are looking at renting. Due to the indirect communication used here, we usually hear, " I will call you tomorrow" without hearing anything until we call him, at which point we are told we will hear back from him in several days. My final example is one that some of you may be able identify with somewhat...laundry. All laundry here is done by hand, you do first wash, second wash, first rinse, second rinse. I have done laundry by hand before, but never a week's worth for two people. We try not to wear many clothes to cut down on the amount to do, but it still takes between 2-2 1/2 hours and yesterday the sun was so strong (it reached about 100 F the other day) that by the time I hung the last load and was worried about running out of clothes pins, my problem was solved when I realized that my first load that I had hung was already dry! Unlike most men in Gambia, Elias helps me, so you can only imagine how many hours women spend doing laundry each week here, especially those with babies. Here are a couple of pictures of doing laundry:

     I will try and post more pictures later. Blessings to all of you!

-We are beginning to get to know the youth better.
-We are still healthy!

Prayer requests:
-That everything will work out with our house
-Kampant- a youth convention from the 26th-30th of December that Elias and will be attending, please pray for the both us and the youth
-For language learning even though we have not starting formal language study

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We have arrived!

     We have officially been in the Gambia for a week today. Last Thursday evening (Gambian time which is 5 hours ahead) we arrived at the airport in Banjul, The Gambia with the Guinea Bissau YES team. Our travel was quite uneventful, which is a good thing. We left Albany at about 10:00 a.m. and arrived in D.C. about an hour and a half later. We then waited in the Dulles airport for about 6 hours where we met up with the Guinea Bissau team and then we were on our way to Brussels. The flight was about 7 1/2 hours to Brussels and then we had a 3 hour layover. Then our last leg of the stretch was about 8 hours with including a transit in Dakar, Senegal and then we finally landed in the Gambia. We were shuttled to customs then waited for awhile for our bags to arrive. We were greeted by Gary Williamson, one of our outreach directors, and Beryl Forester, the Guinea Bissau outreach director. They took us back to MEHDA, where Elias and I are currently staying, where Denise (Gary's wife) and Lori Doll a 2 year long termer had beef stroganoff ready for us.
     The first night we slept very well considering sleeping on a plane is never easy, but then the next couple nights we noticed the 5 hour time difference and it took some adjusting.
     In this past week we have learned how to use public transportation, met most of the youth groups we will be working with, have begun to learned our way around the market, eaten Gambian food (rice and fish), which Elias likes, but I (Jess) will need some time to adjust to, hand washed clothes, been out to the gardens, and went grocery shopping with a quick swim trip included.
      Elias and I are unsure how long we will be staying here at MEHDA, but we currently have no electricity and only cold running water, however running water is a blessing either way. At our house that we will be living at for the remainder of the time we will have both electricity and running water so we are very excited about that even though we have learned that living without electricity isn't that bad.
     Ok, well I don't want this blog to be too long, so while there are many other things I could write about, I will stop there and hopefully have some pictures next time. We love you and miss you all! Blessings!

-We Made it!
-We have not gotten sick yet
-We are adjusting

Prayer requests:
-That we will remain healthy
-For the Lord to provide vision as to what our role will look like with the youth
-Language learning