Monday, January 31, 2011

Trek to the Bush

Well, I went on my first trek into the bush a few days ago. Wow. I've never been so thankful for 4 wheel drive in my life! I have to say, the trip didn't start out too well for me. I am taking Doxycycline for my anti-malarial at this time and if I take it without eating too much breakfast, it can make me a little nauseated. In fact, the sickest I've ever gotten in Africa (so far) was when I threw up after not eating enough with my Doxy. Well, the morning we were leaving, I ate a little banana, took my doxy and off we went. Oops. I don't think it was enough. I was in the backseat of our vehicle with 2 other people and for some reason the heat, combined with the exhaust fumes from the city and the cramped quarters were causing my stomach to have....well....not the best morning. Then we stopped so our friends could get their lunch. Fried fish with the heads and tails still intact. Yikes. I was afraid that would push me right over the edge. But thankfully the nausea passed without making itself known...all over the backseat. I think that might have made the trip worse!

We went to scope out a village to see if it would be a good fit for this years rice planting initiative. Looks like lots of fields to me!!

I thought it was kind of neat the way that we ended up going there. One of Chad's friends was raised in the community but ended up leaving when he was 19 and his father died. He went to stay with his mother and ended up doing really well for himself. He is married with some kiddos and runs a successful taxi business. But he hasn't forgotten his village and wants to help them if he can. When he found out about the rice initiative, he told us about all the land this village has that has been farmed in the past but not for many years. So we went to have a look.

The language this village spoke was Temne, which is coincidentally the language that most of my neighbors spoke when I lived here a few years ago. So when the kiddos started yelling "apato" "apato" I knew they were yelling, "white man, white man." So I clarified that I was remembering right and started yelling "Wenebee Wenebee" or "black man, black man" back at them. :) I dont' think I pronounced it quite right but when I started saying "apato, Wenebee" then the laughter started. Ha! That made me laugh. Gotcha!!

Of course once my camera came out to take some pictures all the kiddos got in for a group photo and loved looking at themselves after I took the picture.

The village is pretty big with over 1000 people and no clinic. If someone is sick, the people in the village rig a hammock type thing and two people carry him the 3-4 hours to the nearest clinic. Needless to say my wheels started spinning. :) We'll see what God has in store for the future!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What the heck is that thing?

Well, it's official. I have been bitten by something on my leg and have no idea what it is! At first it looked like a simple mosquito bite and it itched, so I problem. But the next morning I woke up with a ring of bruising around the bite. Never had that with a mosquito bite before. So like the good little nurse that I am, I circled it to see if it would grow. But with the bad "street smarts" that I have (as my family likes to remind me so frequently), I used a pen and accidentally washed it off in the shower that night. Oops. However, the next morning the bruising had grown about 2-3 times as big. Naturally, my first thought was that I had necrotizing faciitis or the "flesh eating disease." And I was a little concerned. But I just kept watching it and over the last few days the brusing has gotten smaller and smaller. Phew...dodged a bullet there. Guess I get to keep my leg. I've asked around, but nobody seems to know what it might be. Hmmmm......
In addition to being bit by strange things, I am slowly adjusting to my new home here. Here are some pictures.
This is the house that I'm staying in right now. There are currently two families and myself living here. I'll be staying here for my first month and then moving up country to work in a hospital up there.

Here's our view from the porch. We look out over a river which is beautiful. At first I was afraid that this would cause there to be more mosquitos but actually the fact that we're on a hill gives us a lovely breeze and keeps the mosquitos away!
This is my bedroom. It's just the right size and has an adjoining bathroom which is awesome.
Here's my bathroom. No warm water but I've found that I don't mind. At the end of the day I'm so hot and disgusting that the cold water feels wonderful. We also have flushing toilets but can't put the toilet paper down there. This......takes some getting used to. :)
Finally, here's the living room. I like to come out here when I'm getting claustrophobic in my bedroom. There are three kids that live here so it's nice for them to have a big room to run around in.
So there's your tour. :) Now maybe you can picture where I'm least for this month. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm Heeeeeere!

I have been in Sierra Leone for exactly 3.5 days now (give or take a little) and am starting to adjust. My trip was largely uneventful...until I got to Sierra Leone. :) The airport in Sierra Leone is built on a peninsula so in order to get to the capital city you have to cross a large inlet of the ocean. I've always taken a ferry in the past, but this time was going to take a water taxi. This is where I had a couple of problems. I arrived with 4 bags which is 2 over what is normally allowed on the plane (I paid extra to bring these bags). Now before you think I'm a huge clothes horse, ONE of those bags were for the people already here. The rest were my shoes. Not really. :) Well, the water taxi people were not happy about my extra bags! They said that I was only allowed to take 2 bags I was like..."wait, nobody told us that. I can't just leave my bags at the airport!" So I tried to bluff and say...well, maybe another water taxi can take me. But he totally called my bluff!! Oops! He told me to give him my ticket and he would refund my money. The problem was that my ticket had been bought by someone else on the other side so I didn't have my ticket and to be honest, I had no idea how to go about getting another water taxi. Rats. Well, he went away for a while and when he came back they started loading my bags on the bus to take us to the departure beach. Phew! I made it.

Well, when we got to the departure beach, we found out that they had oversold the tickets and there were too many of us. (My four bags seemed REALLY large at this point and I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb for bringing SO MUCH stuff!) Oops again! :) Well, after about an hour and a half of people yelling at each other, another little speed boat arrived and they put every ones luggage on that little boat. Except mine. Mine went on the back of the passenger boat. It wasn't tied down and the slats between the rails were really big so I was a bit nervous that it would fall out. When I asked the porter about it, he said "well, it's never happened before." Alrighty then. But they stayed put and I finally arrived in Freetown (poor Chad and his son had been waiting for me at the arrival place for 3 hours!)

I'm staying with an American family here and the house is really nice! I have my own room and my own bathroom and we run the generator at night for the security lights so I have a fan if I want it. Awesome!! I will post some pictures next time.

I am adjusting bit by bit to being here and each day is getting better. I'll admit that when I first arrived there was a part of me that wanted to turn around and go home. But I am slowly adjusting to my new reality of this being my home (the hardest part of this adjustment being that I won't see my fam every few days). But God has been so faithful and I'm getting really excited to see what the next part of His plan is! Thank you so much for those who have been praying for me! It's such a blessing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are You Packin'?

There it is! Through the blood, sweat and tears my mission is finally accomplished and I have finished all my packing!!

Since I am pretty much a professional now, I've included some of the valuable packing tips I learned during my struggle.

#0. Before you start packing, it's important to go through your belongings and get rid of all the things you may have collected throughout the years. If you don't want to pack or ship it to Africa, and if it's not worth the effort to pack up to the attic....toss it. Before you take your things to Goodwill however, I think it's nice to try to give some to your friends and family. It's important though, that you don't get offended if they don't want the cell phone chargers to phones you no longer have or clothes you've had since high school that you may love....but have seen better days. They're not rejecting you.....just your things. Repeat that like a mantra.

(Side note: I was teased mercilessly for trying to give my family the electric cord to a heated mattress pad that I had lost. But who's laughing now that I found the mattress pad??? Ha. Sweet victory is mine!)
Ok, now onto the actual packing.
#1. Wandering aimlessly around the house looking at your piles of belongings does not actually put them into the suitcases for you.

#2. Make sure you measure your luggage BEFORE you start packing. Just because you measure one piece of luggage and it's within the prescribed limits, does not mean that your other, bigger bag necessarily is. You will save the time and effort of taking all of your carefully placed and weighed items out of the first (and turns out ridiculously oversized) piece of luggage and re-placing it in much smaller piece.
#3. You're going to need to make some tough choices when deciding what you will take and what you will have to save to send later. Even though you may really really really want to take your "Strongs Exhaustive Concordance," the 11 pounds may be weight prohibitive.

#4. Be prepared to put in some time. "Some people" may have had to completely unpack and repack their luggage 4 times before they got it right.

#5. Whittling down your personal belongings can actually be a good way to get rid of some bad habits you may have picked up along the way. For example, say you have the unfortunate propensity to clean your ears 2-3 times a day. If you don't have room for Q-tips....problem solved.

#6. Now for the #1 most important tip I can suggest!! The most important thing you can do is have a mom who can't stand messes and is frustrated beyond belief and your lack of activity in the packing department. This will allow you to sit on the couch eating your birthday ice cream while you direct her where to put all your crap. This is by far the easiest and best way to pack. I highly recommend it!
Well, that's all the tips I have for now. Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Woo hoo for the weekend!

Why can't every day be a weekend day???

This weekend I packed my bags and flew down to visit some relatives. I wasn't sure how it was going to go because the first thing I did was fall down the escalator at the airport. Classy. If you know me at all you wouldn't be surprised by this.....I wasn't.

Fortunately, it was NOT an indicator as to how the rest of the weekend would go. I got to go spend some time with some family that I rarely get to see so that was great. I spent a majority of the weekend on the couch which was awesome! They took such good care of me! After go go going for the last couple of weeks it was nice to literally not be able to do anything because anything I needed to do was a whole state away. Forced vacation is awesome. I highly recommend it.!

While I was down there I got to share about Sierra Leone and thanks to the generosity of some amazing people it's official. I am now 100% of the way supported. Just in time! I love it when God does that! (It's a lot harder when His timing is so much different than mine!) :)

Anyway, T minus 9 days today. Yikesabee! (Name that movie??? It's a tough one!)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

T minus 2 weeks!

So wow. Two weeks from today I'll be....well, I'm not really sure where I'll be but it will be somewhere between here and Sierra Leone. It's coming fast. Really fast.

In my attempts to get everything done, I've been staying up late, long after everyone else is in bed. Although I'm definitely more of a morning person, after years of working night shifts, I'm used to wandering through the empty house at night. I'm used to the quiet. I actually kind of like can get some good thinkin' done during those times.

Several nights ago I was doing just that.....thinkin' hard after everyone had gone to bed. And I had a meltdown. Total. Complete. Meltdown. "I can't do this! I can't leave! There's no way! What was I thinking? I'm going to be killed in my bed....have my fingernails ripped off (a fear I've had since middle school. Weird, I know). Is it too late to stop this? What will happen if I call the whole thing off? I can't do it. It's too much. I'll miss too much!" (Note: Let it be known that due to my recent night shifts I had slept for just a couple of hours in the last few days, so I knew I wasn't thinking rationally at the time). Anyway....I digress.

Want to know what started this breakdown? I can pinpoint the exact thing. Earlier in the day my sister mentioned that she was going to miss texting me. Texting! That's what started this! And our texts are ridiculous! I think the last one she sent me said something poetic like "bite me."

During my tirade I actually said, "Lord, why did you have to give me such a great family? It would be so much easier to leave if I had a family that I couldn't stand!" (See, I told you I wasn't thinking clearly.) And on that note, I finally fell asleep.

Well, after 13 hours of sleep, the world looks a lot brighter! The next morning I was feeling MUCH better and was much less concerned about my fingernails being ripped out. But some of the questions remained. Can I really leave do this? I mean really? I've been waiting for this for so long, but now it's here. Now it's time. It's not just in my fantasies anymore, but it's becoming a reality.

And I felt like I just had one question to answer. Do I really believe what I say I do? Do I believe that Jesus is who He says He is? Do I believe that He will do what He's said He'll do? (Ok, I guess that's more than one question...but you catch my drift). If so, than the answer to my questions is...yes. I can do what He's calling me to do, because of who He is.

I love that. Love it love it love it love it love it. Yes! I do believe that! I do! So I'll go! Ican go! Because Jesus is so incredible and has changed my life so incredibly, I'll go. And I'm excited. Today I was looking through pictures of Sierra Leone and was so excited I could hardly stand it!

I'll miss my friends and family terribly. It's true. I'm not naive about that. But I am also so sure that this is where God's leading me that there's no way I could stay here. So I'll go.

(Sorry this was kind of a heavy post, but I decided to let you see the good, the bad, the ugly and the ridiculous.) Knowing what my family thinks about my street smarts (or lack thereof), I'm sure there will be a lot of the ridiculous to follow.......

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Less than 3 weeks. Wowzers!

I have a confession to make.

In September, I ran a half-marathon with a couple friends of mine.

Go us!

While training for this monumental (at least for me) task, I ran...a lot. I ran inside. I ran outside. I trained in different countries (ok, it was Canada...but still! It IS a different country!)

I was so relieved for the half-marathon to be over for the sole reason that I had no more pressure to run. I had run some before the half and would naturally continue after it was over. It was just nice not to have the pressure of having to run.
So here's the confession.

Since September, I have run exactly one time.
All my hard work. All my hours of busting my hiney to get in some kind of shape. Gone.
So what does this have to do with Africa?

Well, I am now at about 2 1/2 weeks until my departure date. I've started playing the "this is my last time to do......" game. And believe it or not, one of the things that I've been thinking about is...running. Whoda thunk?

See, I'm not sure if you've heard, but Sierra Leone is hot. I don't run very well in hot weather. Also, I tend to be a solo runner as I've found that running with someone causes them to worry that I'll end up in respiratory arrest. Not pretty. So, as it tends to don't know what you've got till it's gone. Now that I've realized my running may be limited in Sierra Leone, I really want to start up again before I leave. Ironic. This has led me to think about the other things that I want to squeeze in one last time before I move. Here's the list I've come up with so far.

1. Running. I've already discussed this. Whether or not it really happens is yet to be determined.
2. Snow. I like snow but am usually content to watch from inside or play for a few minutes before coming in for some hot chocolate. However, I want to squeeze in one more trip up the mountain....even if just for a quick snowball fight!

3. Scarves. I love wearing scarves. I've even tried to figure out how I could pull it off in Sierra Leone. I mean, people wear scarves in summer. You know, those light flowy ones? I could try one of those! But then I remember the heat. And the humidity. And I immediately want to put my chin length hair up in a pony tail just to get it off my neck. At just the thought of the heat and the humidity. So I'll leave my scarves here. But I'll be wearing them a lot in the next 2 1/2 weeks!
4. Subway. No, not the transportation, but the delicious fast food restaurant that I may have mentioned before. Now this is a tough one, as I'm also pinching my pennies but I may be saying "yes" to Subway a few more times than usual in the next couple of weeks.

5. Hoodie sweatshirts. I LOVE hoodie sweatshirts. They are an absolute staple in my wardrobe. Last year my cousin told me that I still dress like a college student. After contemplating her observation I had to agree...but would not be deterred. My love runs deep. So if you see me around town in the next couple of weeks, expect me to be brandishing one of my favorite hoodies. Maybe with a scarf?
Of course these are the silly things. I have been blessed with amazing family and friends and will be squeezing every minute out of the day to spend time with them. While wearing a hoodie...and a scarf...eating at the snow??