Thursday, May 20, 2010

Puppy update

      Our puppies our now 2 1/2 weeks old and are beginning to open their eyes! The other week our neighbor Linda had mentioned that would like to move them to a different location. We searched and didn't find a nice place for them, so they stayed where they were. Being "wild" dogs, things are a little bit different than when we prepare a nice place for them to have their puppies in the states. We usually have a nice big box or pen with some old blankets where they can be comfortable. I would have loved to put a nice blanket down for our furry friends, but we don't have an old one and we don't have a nice place indoors for them. We hate to see them crawling around in the dirt becoming more flea infested by the day, but that is life here and we need to accept it as it is as they will have to learn to find food and fend for themselves as they get older.
       Now back to moving of the location of the puppies. Our mama, Tia, had chosen a nice concealed area, but unfortunately the path was becoming quite worn from all the visitors, making finding the pups a bit too easy. Lately some of our dogs have been digging in our flower beds for some reason. Therefore I didn't think too much of it when Tia came around last night, dug for a bit then laid down and stared at me. She didn't stay long and then she was gone to check on her babies. This morning however, I heard the squeaks of puppies quite loudly from my bed. I wasn't completely awake so it didn't register that they couldn't possibly be that loud from their prior location. Elias then came in the room asking if I was awake and telling me to look out our window. I sat up, put on my glasses and looked outside to find the litter was now sleeping peacefully under one of our plants in our flower bed.
      We haven't completely figured out the reason for this move, but Tia has not enjoyed being so far away from us and the rest of the dogs. She has been coming around more and more often to just sit and be with us and her siblings, leaving the puppies alone. We think that she just wanted to be closer to us and the rest of the dogs. We have to say we don't mind the puppies being close by to keep a watch on them and visit them as often as we like, but it did come as a bit of a surprise. Unfortunately, since the move we did lose another pup. She was our favorite and this morning when I went to go see her she was cold. We have since wrapped her in paper towel and laid her in a shallow grave, marking the location with a cross that Elias made. We aren't sure what happened, but Elias is convinced it's because Tia leaves them too often and isn't a good mother. I'm not sure how wild dogs mother so I'm not convinced it's because of that, but there is no way for us to know. Here are some updated pictures of our little cuties:

they are under this plant, which as a disclaimer practically dies every day because of the heat despite our efforts to keep it alive
here are the five of them before we discovered that the dark one had died

even though they are dirty, they are still cute and we can't resist holding them every now and then

Blessings to all of you and thank you for experiencing our time in Africa along with us through our blog!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Public Transportation

        For any of you that have been in a developing country, you know that taking public transportation is always an adventure. Here in Gambia it is no different. You never know what kind of van/bus you will be riding in when you enter into the bus park, but you can guarantee that it will be nothing like anything you've seen in the United States. Sometimes you climb up in and there are nice, new padded benches, and other times the benches actually move around the floor a little. I have also been in transports where the floor itself moves.
       Most transports have 2 large back doors, like a delivery van, for entering and exiting. Some also have a sliding side door, or a door that used to slide and now opens by hinges. Then they always have your two front doors that all vehicles have. Some that only have 2 back doors for main entering and exiting make it fairly difficult to get in and out of considering the vans are usually quite full. This also makes riding long distances fairly uncomfortable and smelly since it is a hot climate, with many people, in a small space that is all metal making it feel a bit like a toaster oven. 
      The benefit to public transport here compared to many other countries though is that there is a limit to how many passengers the van can legally carry. All passengers have to be seated, there may be "too many" on a seat by our standards, but the more that can fit, the more money the driver and his apprentice make. In many other countries, you are fortunate to get a seat and then there is always more room for standing passengers (this was my experience in Bolivia and I have heard stories of it being the same way in other countries). To enforce this law there are various police check points set up along the roads that look into the vans to make sure that it is not overcrowded. It has not always been this way, but not too many years ago this became a law and has been enforced since. 
      Now onto our most recent transport adventure. Last evening we were coming home from Pirang and right as we reached the road, what looked to be a transport was coming along. We flagged the van down and hopped in. This van was different however. The seats looked like mini tour-bus seats and there was even a baggage rack above our heads. Elias and I looked at each other and questioned whether we were actually in a public transport or if we had just flagged down a group traveling into kombo, the city area, from up country. People will flag down any vehicle passing here and many times pickup trucks, cars and SUV's will pick up people on the side of road as they pass. As we continued on I noticed more and more the bright red dust that is only found farther up country where the main road is no longer paved. I first noticed the dust on the floor. It was so thick that I couldn't actually see the floor itself. Then I noticed it on the seats, on people's clothing and then I even notice it in their hair and skin. This is the same dust that caused Elias and I to come home early from the youth camp we went to in December as it was too much for Elias' lungs. It covers everything and as dry season progresses it becomes worse. Soon however, the rainy season will be here making travel more difficult and muddy instead of dusty. I'm not sure where the transport was coming from, but it must have been a decent distance as people were coming in with duffle bags for their stay. 
       As I said before, you never know what you will find when you climb into a transport, but it will never be like anything you have seen or experienced in the United States.

Since posting this post I have taken a few picture of the bus park and the transports:

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Sunday in Kiti

      On Sunday Elias and I headed off at around 9:30 on our bicycles to the village of Kiti for church. We had been wanting to do this for awhile but spending all day at Kiti in the heat sounded a bit daunting to be completely honest. This week however, we gave ourselves no choice. We decided the previous week that we would meet with the leaders of the youth group, to begin training them to replace us, right after the service. 
      As we got closer to the church, there is a smaller dirt path that we have to ride on. At the end of the path there is a cashew tree. To summarize an embarrassing story, the combination of the low hanging branches and loose sand resulted in me (Jess) running straight into a bunch of leaves and branches. With my pride hurt and the help of my husband to get the dirt off, we continued on to the church where a couple of the members had viewed the event. Thankfully, no one said anything so I can only hope that maybe they didn't have as good of a view as I had originally thought, or they decided that it would be best if left unmentioned. 
     Once inside the church, the pastor called Elias aside and returned about 15 minutes later announcing that Elias would be preaching that morning. This wasn't the first time Elias had been asked, but it was his first time agreeing to preach. So the pastor, Raymond, gave Elias his half completed notes and had him preach on faith. I have to say I was quite proud of my husband. It is never easy to preach from part of a sermon that was prepared by someone else. 
    After church we met briefly with the leaders, Zil and Ezekiel Manneh, to let them know our vision and how we typically prepare lessons. They informed us they didn't have Bibles so we promised to get them both Bibles as soon as possible so that we can begin preparing lessons with them. We then left our bikes at the church and headed to the compound of one of the elders in the church who we know as Tiu Jon, or Uncle Jon. We have found Jon to be very different from many of the Gambians. He is very easy to talk to, he doesn't make fun of our language blunders and he doesn't ask for anything unless he absolutely needs it. Elias said that his mouth was goat instead of his mouth was broken on Sunday and Jon didn't even chuckle, but I have to say I was having a hard time keeping in my laughter which provoked laughter from one of youth. 
     We spent the day drinking Gambian tea called atia (the spelling may be incorrect) and just chatting. I learned how to make a mango, rice and fish dish that Elias and I really enjoyed last time we ate lunch in Kiti. The day went quite quickly and we felt that it was a really successful day! By just being in the compound talking and spending time with families from the church (even though they don't all attend), I feel as though a new bond was created. We have spent time there before, but not since we began the lessons. That evening the youth seemed more interactive and open to us even though we weren't necessarily talking to them the whole day. 
     We also felt as though we made some breakthroughs with our understanding of the youth. We thought that more of the youth had stronger english language skills than they have. We knew that one of the boys who came yesterday couldn't speak english so the youth decided that rather than having someone translate, it would be better if we taught in Kiriol. What a difference it made! Some of the youth who have seemed very inattentive and disinterested in the past paid attention the entire time! One even admitted that he didn't want to answer questions because he felt that his english was terrible. It was so exciting to see the difference teaching in their heart language made, compared to a language that they have to struggle to understand. We also noticed how much praise and encouragement when they answered questions helped. We have known that praise does wonders, but in a culture that is full of put downs and discouragement, youth seem to come alive when they are praised.
    We see so much promise our groups and we are praying that they will be open to God doing wonderful things with them. We both came home tired, but extremely satisfied as it felt that we are finally bonding with the culture and developing relationships that we will be sad to see come to an end in  November. 
tea and mango time!

Elias and Tiu Jon studying the lessons we do with the youth

lesson time

Our new friend Holly-stein, since we think she looks a bit like a holstein cow. She is three weeks old and probably the smallest goat we have seen so far. Her mother died, so Tiu Jon is caring for her by giving her water, rice and scraps. She loves to be pet and you can see that she is barley longer than Elias' hand! 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Excitement in Brikama

     As we walked back from the market we saw black smoke billowing up into the sky. Our first thought was that the Galp gas station was on fire, which would be quite dangerous and terrible in itself. As we kept walking we looked down a side street where many people had gathered and were staring at the source of the smoke. We decided to venture down ourselves to see where the fire was exactly. As we rounded the corner of the intersection the crowd became larger and we found what we were "looking" for. Sadly it was a family's compound. The flames were raging on the inside all the way to the ceiling. Being a concrete or mud block house the flames were contained inside, but our hearts sank a little as we quickly continued on our way in efforts to be out of the way of the fire department.
      At home we have house insurance. In a fire we lose things that are meaningful and valuable to us, but with the help of insurance, family and friends they can be replaced and a new house can be bought or built. Here insurance is less than common and most people don't have bank accounts so their money is most likely kept in their homes. I'm not sure the typical protocol for a house fire here, but thankfully, being a warm climate culture there is usually family to help out at least some. Unfortunately a compound contains several families that would in other situation help each other out.
     It is hard to hear of someone losing their home in the United States, but seeing the house engulfed in flames here hit me in a new way. I felt a new sorrow and disturbance about the whole ordeal. The Gambia is continually becoming more and more developed, but the people here still have much less than we have as Americans and seeing someone lose it all, knowing that the money to replace what they had will be hard to come by, made me think about how blessed we are.
     On a lighter note, we have a few dogs here that live on the grounds of Methodist Mission where we are living. We have grown to love them dearly as we throw out our scraps, fill up a bucket of water and just enjoy sitting outside with them. For the past couple months one of the dogs has been pregnant and we knew that the puppies were coming soon, we just weren't sure when. Yesterday morning Tia (the pregnant dog) came to see us and we could see that her belly had changed so we knew that it would be soon. We didn't see her the rest of the day so we figured that she had bedded down somewhere to have the pups, but we couldn't find her. Then, last night as we were coming home, some of the other dogs came to greet us and I heard some growling coming from the bushes as one of the other dogs got too close for Tia to feel comfortable. So, I trekked back through the leaves to find our furry friend, and there she was looking proud as can be with her new babies. I took her some water and we counted 6 alive and unfortunately one dead. This is more than we were hoping for as some of the residents here at the mission don't really like the dogs and have been trying to send them away (two have already been sent away). We are hoping that they will at least let Tia wean the puppies before doing anything about her or the puppies. Typically people will come and take them away so that they can have a guard dog of their own, so hopefully that will be the case this time as well. Either way, we are excited for our new additions to the mission and we can't wait to watch them grow and develop personalities! Here are a couple of pictures:


"can't it just be over, it's too hot!"

"hey, look what I did today!"

 our new litter