Tuesday, September 9, 2008

West Africa September 2008


New York City
We drove my van to NYC to save money when taking two 50 pound carry on bags per person. We were taking a musical Keyboard, an all in one printer/scanner/copier and a computer amoung other things in our second bags. To fly out from Buffalo the second bag would have been $80 each. However there was some sort of truck fire accident on I-80 so we exited and took route 46 instead. This road went through a town where they were having a 5K foot race. Needless to say some roads were closed there as well and the roads that were open were going very slow. Then when we arrived at the Holland tunnel there were 8 lanes of traffic all merging into 2 then an accident in the tunnel forced it into one lane! So we arrived at the airport at 8 PM for a 8:20 flight. Needless to say we did not make it.

Fred knew a pastor in the NYC area so he called him and found out that we could stay at his church for the night. We loaded everything back into my van and drove to his church. We slept on chairs and mattresses in the church sanctuary. They provided plenty of sheets, pillows and towels. Early in the morning Debby and Bill took my van and left to return to Olean. At 7:30 Am I got a wake up call from guess who? Later in the morning we had breakfast at a Spanish restaurant. They had really good fresh squeezed orange juice.

My cell phone was handling all the telephone calls and the battery was dying. On top of that I had forgotten to bring the battery charger so we went out to try to find one. Less than a block away we found a street vendor who sold us an AC adapter for my cell phone for $6. Then I tripped over a milk carton holder that someone normally used as a seat. Immediately I began limping and blood stains showed up on my pants. Somehow I had torn off about a 1 inch square of skin on my shin. Next we found a Rite Aid and bought some bandages and other supplies. Back at the church we had some time for email and phone calls then they serverd us pancakes and bananas. They they took us to the airport for our flight out.

The new flight tickets cost us an additional $180 to fly on the next day. We arrived at the airport at 4PM for our flight at 8:20. However many kids were there as they were leaving to go with the Peace Corps. The line was very long and slow moving. After that we had lunch at an airport restaurant. A sandwich there was $8.50 and a drink was $3. That is called Highway robbery - or maybe something even worse - Airport robbery!

So far I have discovered that I have forgotten my flip-flops, bathing suit, and a flat to round plug AC adapter. I had a back-up pair of flip flops in the van but it left with them around 6 AM. I gave a pair to Fred to pack but he left them out for some reason. In fact they were already in my suitcase when I gave it to him to put a computer in it.

Moroco
We took a break between flights in Casablanka Moroco. I borrowed an AC adapter so I can use my laptop to upload this to my blog. Everything on my screen is in French because the wonderful Internet see that I am in a French speaking country.

Mali
We are in Bamako, Mali, Africa. Last night we had what Fred called a 'wild night on the town'. We went to a bank and made off with thousands, In fact I had 200,000 with me! Then we went to a restaurant and I tried to eat half a chicken. They had my favorite drink a Mango Shake! Then we walked to a grocery store that was closing when we got there. I bought apple juice and mango jelly. The apple juice was watered down. We gave the chicken diner that I could not eat to a hungry little boy along the road on the way. That was likely the biggest meal he ever had. Then Fred and Charlie went to a bread store, and last of all we all had a small dish of ice cream! As far as I know we did not do anything that we regretted in the morning.

Thursday evening I stayed home and washed the dishes while the rest of the guys went shopping. For supper we had fresh bread but there were some problems. Fred's mayonaise for his cuecumber sandwich was bad. My Mango jelly had mold growing on it. I scraped the top 1/2 inch off the jelly, washed the top of the jar and the lid and had supper =). Fred went to get more mayonaise. When I was in the philippines we opened some dried fruit and found tiny ants in it. So we ate it anyway - extra protein. This is called a real missionary experience.

Saturday - Green Apples, clothsline, picture police, and more ants.
Well it turns out that the apple juice that I bought the other day is watered down green apple juice. That sounds like something from Dr Seus. It tastes that way too. It is a good thing it is watered down. Someone told us that there is a clothsline out back so Charlie moved all of his clothes there. Too bad it really rained yesterday! We have pet ants. They ate Charlies bread. Actually there was some left but he lost his appetite for it. I have sprayed for the ants at least twice now. Friday on the way to the church I took a picture of a famous monument. However there is a police man that claimes he was in the picture. If he had asked I would have shown him. Anyway he took the drivers license and I ended up going with the driver to the police station. They never asked to see the picture, its a digital camera and I could show it to him. They just want the money. I hope it gets settled soon.

You might know that I am one of those people that watch 'House' and try to tell them that they forgot this disease or this symptom, etc. They come up with a lot of rare diseases on that show! Anyway this morning I brushed my teeth and my tongue was black! I spent a while going through rare tropical diseases and then I remembered Bismolitis. Charlie checked with his mom and it can be fatal but usually only after 40 or 50 years. What is it? Pepto-Bismol if taken while laying down can turn the tongue black. I think the life span prediction had something to do with my age. Yes, my stomach is bothering me a little so I have been taking Pepto-Bismol and of course drinking tonic water. =)

Iwent to the police station again today with the pastor and everything went fine. They looked at the picture (shown above) and agreed that I was not taking pictures of the police. Then they had me pray for the police and we went back to the church. We have prayed for the Pastors and Bible School students and said good bye. But not without a final note from the pastor. It turns out that someone called him before we came and said there are some europeans coming and one will have a problem with some photgraphic equipment. So he knew this was going to happen and had peace throught the ordeal. Then he asked me to pray over the church as well to close out the meetings. We saw a total of 49 people baptised over the weekend in two churches in Mali.

Ghana
We waited from 1PM to 7PM for our ride to take us from Mali to arrive. We had been told that the church would provide us with a ride. They called us after 6 PM to say they were there. So we carried our baggage down but there was no bus or anything. Fred called them back and they were actually just then leaving to get us. Since our luggage had all been carried down we left it with the gate guards. We also gave the gurads all of our left over food. When they finally did arrive thay told us that the bus needed repairs. When they could not get it fixed they gave up and got another bus. So when they did actually arrive we went down and guess what? There was no bus. There was a Toyata land cruiser there that some people were removing luggage from it was laready full. It must be that someone else had just arrived. Nope. That was our vehicle. The church was providing it because some of them were going to a conference in Bobo. So guess what? There were now 8 of us and lots of baggage. Fortunatly it had roof racks. They packed our stuff up on top and wanted to leave. We insisted on ropes to tie it down for obvious reasons! That was OK because it wan not going to rain, right? It did not rain, it poured. So we arrived at a CMA guest house on the border abour 1 or 2 AM and were back on the road by about 9 AM.

We arrived at the next rest stop around 2 PM and our next ride was not there. Fred started calling and found that the person who was to set it up was just then arranging it. The people there wanted to put us on a nice Air Conditioned bus. Then after a while they treated us to a real nice supper as our transportaition had not arrived yet. Then while we were eating the small buss arrived. Fred looked it over and amoung other things it was missing 2 of its 4 headlights. It was now late and we would be driving after dark. Does it really matter that much since they just leave their lights on high all the time? They convinced us to take the 6:30 bus. So we had an hour or so to walk around and do some street shopping. I bought a round to square AC adapter so I could plug in my computer. It was a cheap piece of junk. If I wiggle it around a while it might just work on an angle. Then they took us to the bus. It had been modified to have many more seats than it was made to have. After a little while they turned off the ventilation because it was dripping water, likely because it was raining. Of course turning it off did not stop the leaks but made us all drip too. We managed to get my window open a little bit. We arrived ar our next rest stop at about 11 Pm. There was a pastor there by the name of Zachi. He is a little guy but God is going to do great things with him. He had a friend who was a taxi driver get us in the morning to take us to the Ghana border. There a friend of his came with his taxi and took us to the next rest stop. We arrived at about 4 PM.

We arrived at our first stop in Ghana. There was no Internet and there were no air conditioned rooms available as there is a conference going on and all the rooms were booked. Fred and the rest of the crew went shopping and to get a cell phone to make arrangements for the remainder of the trip to Accra Ghana. Since we were staying a while we sent in our laundry. For 5 sets of clothing I sent in I got back 5 sets of socks, and 2 of underwear, shirts and pants. Something was amis here. After searching a while they found the rest of my laundry on a clothes line. However it had rained several times so it was very wet. I hung it all up in the room hoping it would be dry by morning. That was a long night, I was sick all night and finally recovered somewhat by about 4 AM. That day Fred rented a van so I could lay on a seat and we were off again.

Accra Ghana.
In Accra Ghana we are staying at the Baptist guest house. The internet here is very strange. Facebook works, but not gmail or blogspot. Fred an I finally updated the Flash memory in the wireless router so now I can add pictures to my blog. In Accra Fred is teaching every day on Acts. Below is a picture of him with some of the students.
Here is an example of God's provision. We brought a newer Sony laptop for one of the pastors here to replace his old dead Compaq. However he had someone install a new bigger hard drive in the dead laptop and wanted that in the newer computer. That would normally not be a problem for me except that Compaqs sometimes use a trox screwdriver and I did not bring one of them with me. Now what are the chances of finding a size 10 trox screwdriver in all of Africa? After trying everything I could think of I thought I should go downstairs and get a soda. On the way there there were two guys chatting at a table. I felt God tell me to ask them. They did not have a small screwdriver and could not find one. All they had was this strange tool and they did not know what it was - a size 10 torx screwdriver. Problem solved.
We had a free afternoon and so we visited the mall. In Accra they actually have a very nice mall. It has a food court with exellent food. It was nice to eat something really good for a change. We went for a walk on the beach today. It was nothing like anything that you would possibly imagine. It started with a nice looking lighthouse and went downhill from there. The beach was strewn with garbage, every rock was covered with drying fish. Broken and half repaired boats covered the beach, and there were old nets everywhere. When we got back I discovered 1/4 inch welts on my ankles - yes they have sand fleas too.
When we got back to the guest house Friday they were spraying pesticides everywhere. The floors inside the building were covered with white liquid that really stinks and gives me headaches. So for a while I went up onto the roof to check my email. However really dark clouds rolled in and it got really dark. So I had to go back inside.
Friday night Fred was to speak on leadership at the church. However when we arrived there were no lights at church, electricity had been off all day. Fred taught in the morning without electricity because there was ample sunlight but now it wes very very dark. They bought 4 candles lit them and we had a church service anyway. There were about 25 in attendance in the dark.
Saturday we are working at the guest house getting stuff ready for graduation on Sunday. There is still no electricity at the church. There are about 21 students graduating. I guess their diplomas will be printed on an inkjet printer. The schedule of events may not get printed at all. That reminds me of some acronyms TIA = This is Africa. I asked another missionary what his favorite acronym was and he said CA = C'est Afrique guess what that is in English?
Graduation went great. They had a working generator. There were a couple of choirs that were wonderful. The graduates gave all of us gifts. After the service we took several pictures of them. Below is one of those pictures.


After graduation we had a last supper with the graduates in the dark. I think it was chicken and rice. Then the General Overseer took us to have some ice cream. When we went to leave the ice cream place his car made a funny sound and the steering stopped working! We ended up with all of us stuffed into a cab.
Lome TogoMonday we were back on the road again then we stopped in Lome Togo for a couple of days. We took a walk on the beach, it has one of the best beaches in West Africa. We also ate at a Lebonese restaurant. Fred is teaching at the Bible school here.
Monday night I was sick again. I have been taking pepto bismol this whole trip and spent one night throwing up when we all eat the same stuff why? However I was not at all sick both saturday and sunday, what is the key? How about blueberry jam? When we first arrived in Africa Charlie bought some blueberry jam. He did not like it so I decided to use it. I did not have any jam the two days that I was not sick! That is what I have been eating here that no one else is eating, blueberry jam. It tastes fine, the only thing unusual about it is that it pours.
There are 'real' gas stations over here but there are a lot more of the kind shown in the picture above. Gas is 350 a liter at these gas stations versus 550 a liter at the normal gas stations. Where would you buy your gas? For a funnel they usually use an old plastic soda bottle to pour the gas into your car.


Cotonou Benin
We have made it to the last country of this missionary journey - Benin. I can no longer say that I have never been in Benin. The twins were glad to see Fred, as you can see they did not want him to leave again. He kept saying 10 more days until we go home. Below is the twins dancing to the sound from Charlies MP3 player.


We are back! It was a long trip and having two 4 year olds added to the fun. They love to play with their food. Have you ever filled one of those little loafs of bread with yougart and then tried to eat it? Guess what happens? I saved some wet wipes to try to clean up the mess but the messes were coming faster that the wipes. At one point I thanked the stewardess for saving me by taking away the food trays. The picture above shows them with the family that has adopted them.

Here are a couple of pictures from the orphanage. Both are real tear jerkers. One shows the really small kids taking their afternoon nap on a mat on the floor. The second shows some of the girls waiting at the doorway. The sense of hopelessness in their eyes was overwhelming.
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