Sierra Leone part 15

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 – 8:30 pm – MΓΌnchen, Germany

On Tuesday evening as I returned to the hotel from the center, Rachel, who had come to the Esthers gathering, was waiting outside the gate for me. We talked awhile in the restaurant. She is an amazing girl. She loves the Lord and His Word. She loves telling others at her sewing school about Him. She said that she wrote down all I said on Sunday and then told her colleagues about it and if I understood correctly, she said that there were a couple that accepted Christ as a result. I am challenged by her example. She seems to be very proactive in sharing Christ.

Kristianna visited during lunchtime one day. Stephen, her dad, brought her over after I said that it would be fine for her to come visit me. We only talked briefly because I had to go back to work, but she said she would come back later. She did come back with her adopted sister, Dorcas. They are 20 and 16. They were very quiet. I asked them a couple of questions and they asked me if I am married. I shared some of my ideals concerning marriage.

A few times, Christianna (the girl who came with her brother the other day) came to the center to see me. The first time, Agnes came to tell me that she was there. I went to just talk briefly with her. After a few minutes, Agnes came and told me that I was needed inside again. The other times Christianna came I wasn’t available, so I believe it wasn’t God’s will for me to spend time with her.

Almost every evening had more work to be done at the hotel. If there was a good light source at the center, we would have worked later than 6pm there. On Wednesday and Thursday evening evening, a few of the language speakers stayed at the hotel to work late into the night (i.e. 2:30am for one of them). The lighting at their dorm was not adequate for work.

On Saturday morning at 9am we went to the center for the graduation ceremony. Rachel came as she had said she would (and brought me a shirt that she had sewn). The executive secretary of the Bible Society came to give the key address. It was a special ceremony, and the passion of Gregory for the spreading of the Gospel in Sierra Leone was touching.

After the program, Rachel, Kristianna, and Dorcas came back to the hotel with me. I spoke with them in my room, showed pictures of my family, treated them to drinks at the restaurant, and showed them a sampling of my Sierra Leone pictures. They each left me with a picture of themselves, their contact info, and their birthdate. I’m grateful for my sisters in Sierra Leone, and hope to stay in touch and encourage them in the Lord.

In the evening, an awesome storm rolled in. I spent awhile shooting and filming it from the top level of the hotel. I love storms (as long as I feel safe).

On Sunday morning, I spent a short time with Mummy sharing the Gospel with her. I wish that I had endeavored to meet with her earlier so that I would have had more time, but I trust that God is powerful enough to bring her to Himself even if I didn’t have a great deal of time to reason with her.

Rachel came to say goodbye, which was really special for me.

About 9:00am, we left in two vans for Freetown. Mohammed, the owner of the van in which 4 of us rode, is educated and kept us engaged in conversation. He teaches at a school in Bo. He was interested in pictures of the States that Kenyon showed from his laptop.

As we drove, I photographed and filmed villages. Several times, I saw what looked like church services going on, sometimes in straw-topped open air structures. I didn’t have my camera ready and aimed when I saw them. Some things just have to be seen and appreciated without being preserved by a picture.

Sierra Leone part 14

Monday, November 22, 2010 – 8:43 pm – Brussels airlines – seat 18k

We’re on the way home. Where do I even start to tell about tell about the last week? It’s been amazing. It’s been very full. I’m full of experiences — some of which are easy to describe but some of which cannot be put into words. Last night, we had a kind of impromptu debriefing session as we ate the dinner that Gregory and Agnes sent to the guesthouse for us. I took a video of the setting. The electricity was not very strong. I cut the canned meat with my pocketknife. We talked about the experiences and impressions of these last three weeks.

But I must back-track…

On Monday morning, we continued with the primer construction. I continued with my job of word control. I became known as the word hunter and my computer got the reputation of manufacturing new words. What impressed me was the perseverance of my teammates as I would return the lessons with too many new words highlighted for them to go through and revise. Though there was frustration present, they kept on with the work and teased me about it.

This last week is now somewhat of a blur because it was so full. We finished the health lessons on Tuesday, I believe, and started fully working on the Bible stories on Wednesday.

Sierra Leone part 13

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 – 7:30 pm

I just came in from a couple of minutes watching the lightning. Now the rain has started. In addition, the mulah is speaking. The loudspeaker must be pointed right at our floor. I can see the mosque from my balcony. Every morning at 5:00, the mulah speaks. It has been 13 years since the last time I heard him. Though it is saddening to hear him because I know so many are caught in the darkness of the muslim religion, he takes me back to a different time and place — that of my childhood. Pakistan. I am reminded of my childhood days in that distant land. Yesterday, we passed a blue-colored goat on our way to the center. He was tied up. Eid is a major holiday for the muslims, and last night they apparently had a feast after a day of fasting. I was reminded of being in our flat in Karachi and hearing a goat being slaughtered down below. For days afterwards, the streets were lined with carcasses and blood. Yesterday I was in a place where I didn’t hear any slaughtering, but I’m sure it happened. All because of the darkness of people’s hearts. Oh that the light would shine there.

Sierra Leone part 12

Monday, November 15, 2010 – 11:40 pm

Today the Mende team worked on the health and agriculture lessons. I continue to do the word count because it is simplest for one person to do it the whole time since that person grows familiar with the words and the process used to keep track of them. One story I checked today had 42 new words and 6 forms. They are only allowed about 12 new words in the health lessons. One of the team members claims that my computer multiplies the new words :-), and another dubbed me the “word hunter.” Though trimming down the stories is very tedious work for the team, they persevere. We are frequently reminded that it is difficult for us so that it will be easy for the new reader.

There are four dialects of Mende, so the native speakers are working to make the primer understandable to speakers of them all. We have each of the dialects represented on the team, which makes for interesting debates about which words and spellings to use. It is somewhat confusing for me. I have to pay attention to every little detail to make sure that the finished product is accurate. At times I have to remind those who rattle off revisions to the stories that I do not know Mende. πŸ™‚ Carey Jo is teaching me a lot. With her experience, she has learned how languages work, and helps the team revise and trim down the stories, which amazes the native speakers.

This afternoon, a girl I met the other day came to the room where we were working. She came with her brother. I still don’t know where they are from, but had gotten the impression at our first meeting that she wasn’t from around here. Since I had to tell her that I have a lot of work the whole day, she said that she would come back on Wednesday. I didn’t feel that I should tell her where I’m staying, but will pray about what to say to with her on Wednesday, though I may not have any time to take away from the work.

Tonight, as Carey Jo, Lori, and I worked in our “office” continuing with the word count on the stories from today, one of the hotel staff dropped by. When he found out about our work, he asked if we could teach him to read Themne. He said he would speak with Gregory about it. It is very touching to see the need for our work right in front of our eyes. I wonder how few people I see here can actually read. I suspect that many can’t.

Sierra Leone part 11

Sunday, November 14, 2010 – 8:45 pm

We worked on the primers till lunchtime on Saturday. As for the Mende (the team I am on), up through lesson 32 has now been entered into the computer, and the speakers are working on translating and simplifying the health stories. I am impressed by the perseverance of my teammates. They have to revise the stories so much, yet they still maintain good attitudes and don’t give up.

After lunch on Saturday, Alfred, Carey Jo, and I revised one of the lessons in our “office”. Then, Kamanda escorted 6 of us to town. As we struggled to collect 7 Okada for our entourage (there was a bike rally happening, so many were preoccupied), I was glad to be with someone who is experienced in it. Patty and I opted to spend our time at the internet cafe. I was able to send an update to those who are praying, access Facebook, and reactivate Lightroom for my picture storage and editing. I tried to download Bible study software, but that was impossible. However, it did work to chat with my dad and my mom scanned and e-mailed a couple of personal notes that had come in the mail for me. The others came to the cafe when they were done shopping, and our group of 7 rode Okada again back to the hotel or center.

In preparation for my hair styling, I washed my hair with a lot of shampoo. Since I won’t be washing my hair with shampoo for at least a month, I decided to indulge in a good lathering. I’m considering dumping my hairbrush since I won’t need it, either. By 5:00, Putsy was doing my hair. During the 5+ hours it took to complete, I typed up material for my Esther talk, browsed Kenyon’s pictures to copy those that had me in them, showed some of my edited pictures, and conversed with the ladies who spent time watching and helping by separating the bunches of extensions. Putsy did the twist style on my hair, and I like it so far. I look forward to experimenting with different up-dos.

At 10:30, I was working on my Esther talk again and got to bed after midnight. I rose again early this morning to do some more prep after getting ready for the day. I wasn’t feeling great, and I thought the time before leaving was short, so skipped breakfast again.

Patty and I went with Gregory and four of the other participants to Jestina’s church. It is an Assembly of God church in a remote part of Bo. It’s only been a part of the city for a few years. After the service, the men except for Gregory went to find Okada to take them back to the hotel. Gregory and we ladies walked up the road and stood in the shade under a mango tree to wait for Stephen to pick us up in his jeep. I filmed the drive back to the hotel and look forward to showing the footage (if it turned out well) of Bo streets to friends back home.

I was really not feeling well this afternoon. I felt very unsettled inside, heart pounding, and weak. Though I wanted to prepare for my talk, I felt like I had to rest. Carey Jo gave me a granola bar and I drank a coke as well to try to revive me. It didn’t really help. While I was resting in my room, Carey Jo and Lori came up to pray for me. I couldn’t eat very much lunch. Instead of plain water, I mixed up vitamin C water to take with me to the city hall. By the time I was to speak, I felt strong again. Praise God! Stephen translated into Creole as I spoke. I ended up talking about less than I had planned (though it lasted over an hour) but I am confident that it turned out exactly how God planned for it to. About 50 people came.

Back at the hotel, I went through my suitcase before dinner. Earlier in the day I found that something had eaten through my medicine ziplock and into my smaller multivitamin ziplock. I threw the ziplocks away without even opening the smaller one to investigate. So I wanted to sort through my things to see if they were all in order. I’ve been keeping my things on the desk or in my suitcase because of the humidity and musty closet. I found the beginnings of mold on a couple of items in my suitcase but thankfully that was all.

We have learned that there is an insect that releases an acid when it is smashed. It is about a half inch long, red and black striped, and winged. Often I feel like there’s a bug on me, but it’s mostly paranoia, I think.

Dinner was french fries and fried spam slices. It was refreshing, as we usually eat rice and chicken or fish at lunch and dinner. Tomorrow, the last week begins, and we are starting at 8:30 instead of 9:15 at the center. We have a lot to do this week.

Sierra Leone part 10

Thursday, November 11, 2010 – 9:40 pm

Musa Jambawai Sr. (the older of two brothers on the Mende team) and I just finished revising lesson 21. We worked in the “office” – the entranceway to the floor where we caucasians are staying. Primer Construction is really like working a puzzle, only perhaps more complicated because there is never only one option. I want to get someone to film me working with him on a lesson because it’s hard to explain in words how it works. Ha, there’s a pun!

Today, Patty and I left the center shortly after 6. I wanted to get back to the hotel to take sunset pictures. We both walk fast, so we just left together. After a bit, Gregory called to us asking if we were running away. I guess he had followed us. It struck me as funny, but it was good to have him accompany us the rest of the way. Even two white ladies shouldn’t be walking by themselves, I guess. He walked a bit into the “road” so that the bikers wouldn’t force us off. I feel like I have a dad here, which I’m sure would be comforting to my daddy.

If we were working in a place with good electricity, then we would work later than 6. But because we have to walk back to the hotel and the light in the center is not adequate, we try to leave before it gets dark. However, some do work later into the night on their own.

I’m still hoping to get more of a tan. Carey Jo told me today that I need to walk slower so that I will be in the sun longer. πŸ™‚

Sierra Leone part 9

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 – 9:15 pm

Word control is a really big job. I just finished up some work on entering stories and the translations into my computer. Working with a language I don’t know is definitely challenging. The writing teams submit hand-written stories to me and I enter them into the computer. Often they aren’t easy to read, and so I have to ask how words are spelled, and often I find that I mistype them if I don’t. Sometimes I feel like we’ll never finish the Mende primer in the two weeks allotted. But, I know that we must and that by God’s grace we will.

Kenyon shot a clip of me at the computer today. I thought it would have been really bad since I couldn’t concisely explain what I was doing. However, I watched it and it’s actually pretty funny. Perhaps it only communicates frustration and humor, but those would be accurate emotions of the day.

I have figured out how to effectively use the printer here despite the high humidity. I have to run each sheet of paper through the printer 3 times before actually printing. And then the toner actually sticks to the paper. It takes me at least four times as long to print as it actually should, but at least it’s possible.

Tonight, there was a heavenly sunset. I didn’t get back to the hotel in time to get a good panorama, but I did get a few shots from the training center. As we walked back to the hotel, I noticed a pretty greenish-blue haze among the trees in the distance. It’s probably due to the high humidity, but nevertheless this is a beautiful country. (I found out later that the haze is partially due to the fields being burned after harvesting.)

I asked Gregory about the program on Sunday evening. He said that it will be me talking for an hour if that’s not too much. There will be nothing else on the program. I’m excited but somewhat nervous at the same time.

I should go to sleep now. My phone is low on battery power, but I don’t want to plug it in as that would mean that I’d have to unplug the fan. I’ve been waking around 4 in the morning with the feeling that it’s time to get up, so hopefully I won’t be in too much trouble if my alarm doesn’t work tomorrow. Ah, the things that I’m dealing with these days. Nothing like life at home. Wow. I’m thankful for this experience.

Sierra Leone part 8

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 – 9:25 pm

This week is much different than last week. I hardly had anything to do last week. I just had my sessions to prepare and present and took lots of pictures during the class time. Now, I am checking every story that’s completed to make sure that they have been composed within the parameters of the word and letter quotas. It feels like accounting work as there are so many details to keep track of. I am enjoying it and have already learned much about primer construction.

I finished reading the book of Esther again this evening. My talk for Sunday evening’s Gathering of Esthers is more obviously taking shape now. Though I started out preparing to talk about Esther, I am finding that the book is really about God. His character as revealed in the story of Esther is amazing. I am planning to go through the whole book while highlighting various lessons that the Lord is teaching me from it. It’s good for me to not have any additional materials here to help me prepare. As I only have my Bible, I am realizing more fully that it truly is sufficient.

Humidity really messes with printing, I’ve found out. I have to run paper through the printer a couple of times before actually printing on it so that the paper will be sufficiently dried to cause the toner to adhere to it. I’m trying to keep our paper in a plastic container while we aren’t printing, but still need to dry the paper by running it through the printer before printing.

Yesterday, the tailor came to get our fabric during breakfast. He got our measurements and style preferences and will get our finished outfits back to us by Saturday. I am looking forward to working on my African look. πŸ˜‰

Tonight, there was some racket going on in the street. It didn’t sound like friendly commotion, but I wasn’t about to go find out what it was. Campaigning for the 2012 elections has started and I wonder if it had anything to do with that.

Mummy is good at remembering that I need to work on my Mende language skills. πŸ™‚ Since she knows that we learned some on Saturday evening, she now speaks to me in Mende. It’s a good thing that I know “Kaeengoma” (Thanks be to God.) as I can say it in answer to anything. πŸ™‚

For dinner we had a burrito-style sandwich that tasted like gyros. It was good, and the farthest we’ve gotten from the usual chicken and rice meal. Fried plantains were on the menu again. I really have to make those at home. They are really delicious.

Sierra Leone part 7

Monday, November 8 – 7:00 pm

I have 30 minutes before dinner starts. I’m sitting on my bed with the fan on and the balcony and hall door open so as to air out my room. When I come back in the evening, it needs it. There is quite a bit of mold in the building. Airing out the room as often as possible is helpful.

Oh, dinner is ready early. Be back later!

– – – –


Dinner was delicious fish and french fries. I’ll probably eat more fish during my time here than I have in my whole life previous.

On Saturday evening, Putsy braided all of Carey Jo’s hair. It took her five hours. We learned some Mende during that time.

We also learned some things about Putsy’s life. She is part of the team cooking for us these three weeks. Every day she has to do some laundry and the cooking for her family before she comes here to help get breakfast ready for us by 8am. So she gets up around 4. She only returns to her home after we have eaten dinner, which starts at 7:30pm. She does not live here in Bo. She is seeing her task of cooking for us as a ministry. These people’s concept of ministry is so different than mine. Often, I think first about accomplishing all I have to do and then with whatever time is leftover I can serve others. She is spending her day serving us and has to squeeze her other responsibilities around that. She will be doing my hair in braids while I am here, and that also is something she considers a ministry.

Yesterday, we visited Alfred’s church. It was a small congregation, but very passionate. I filmed some of the worship and took pictures. There were 3 offerings. The sermonette before the offering and Lord’s Supper were similar to what I would hear at home, but somehow the same type of message is intensified here. When they speak about giving to God primarily to honor Him, and worshipping Him for Who He is rather that what He does for them, I think of how little they have on this earth, and am challenged by their deep devotion to God. Perhaps we in the West are actually done a disservice by our wealth. Our desires are met in many material things that many times we don’t even perceive a need for God. Really, that’s what it is. At least for me.

In their worship I see souls so thirsty and hungry for and satisfied by God. Yesterday, they kept singing and dancing for a long time. Almost everyone was in action. The only musical accompaniment they had was a drumset. Their singing was beautiful. I think everyone here can sing well. During the offering, they kept on singing and dancing up the aisle to drop money in the baskets.

At the end of the service, Michael (one of the members) addressed our group and spoke about the history of their church and current situation. Their denomination has been discussing what steps to take to expand their reach to the interior. Literacy has been among the things they discussed, so us being here at this time is providential. Their congregation may be one of the first to make use of the primers to reach out to its neighbors. Hearing from coworkers about the relevance of literacy ministry is one thing. Hearing it from these people is quite another.

After exiting the building after the service, I took a picture of Carey Jo with a bunch of the children on the steps. The children then swarmed down to me to see the picture. They almost pushed me over as they crowded around my camera. I wished someone else had a camera to capture that moment.

Alfred invited us to his home next-door where we were treated to a meal of cassava and fish. We piled into a vehicle and Michael drove us back to the hotel. I was squeezed in the front between Gregory and Michael, but from that position was able to capture a picture of all those in the back including me in the foreground.

In the afternoon, we went to the internet cafe. This time, I had more success with sending e-mails. Uploading pictures to Facebook, however, was a no-go. It was nice that because of the slowness of the connection, I was only charged for 45 minutes even though I was on for 1.5 hours.

This morning, Gregory spoke to us about numbering our days. It was a timely message, and Carey Jo followed it up with writing a timetable of our work for the next two weeks on the blackboard.

Then, we started the construction of the Themne and Mende primers. Carey Jo said that last week was play and this week is work. I am on the Mende team. Since I don’t know the language, I am doing word control, at least for now. It took me awhile to figure out how to work the custom dictionary in Microsoft Word, and I still am dissatisfied with how it functions, but came up with a system that should work. The goal for today was 6 lessons, but the team came up with 8. We have to revisit lesson 8 tomorrow, but so far progress is great. My task is to make sure that they aren’t using too many new words in the lessons. It was organized chaos today, but from my perspective it was more chaos because of my troubles with the computer program. It should be much more pleasant tomorrow.

Sierra Leone part 6

Saturday, November 6, 2010 – 10:13 pm – listening to Valley of Vision in my room with the lights off, window open, and fan on

Since I last wrote, the Pricer Construction Institute has ended. Well, not quite. The official class time has ended, but on Monday morning we delve into two weeks of putting it into practice by constructing the Themne and Mende primers.

On Thursday after lunch, I taught two sessions: Special Lessons and Finalizing the Primer. Carey Jo would have taken my preparation materials away from me during the lunch break if I hadn’t agreed to go take a rest. Days are very tiring here. On Friday morning, I felt like my head was spinning a bit during class. Not sure why, but nevertheless I stayed at the hotel for the rest of the day after lunch. Gregory and Carey Jo responded to my saying “It wasn’t bad.” with “You don’t want to wait to rest until it is.”

I enjoyed helping grade assignments of filling in the manuscript. I didn’t know what to do before I started, but by the end had learned more about constructing the primer.(I consulted the applicable section of the Primer Construction Manual as I graded.) Nothing like learning it for yourself by grading others’ work!

The pattern for the first few days of the week was clouds rolling in and a heavy rain starting right after we had finished class and returned to the hotel. The weather has gotten less predictable during the last few days. We haven’t had a really heavy rain for two days. Earlier today, the temperature in the hotel restaurant, which is covered but half open around the outside, was 92. Never have I experienced such humidity as here. I am dripping in sweat when I arrive at the training center after walking or riding a bike.

Isaac fixed my shower the other day. I now can fill my bucket with water without having to go to another room. I fill it every day to make sure that I have water to shower with in the morning. He also cleaned my room and replaced my sheets. I was going to move my things to Carey Jo’s room before giving him the key to work on the shower, but wasn’t fast enough. He knocked on the door before breakfast. Then I didn’t feel like I should move my things and didn’t think that it would be a problem with him. He did ask why I didn’t hang things in the closet, and I said that I wanted them to stay dry. He noticed my water pouch hanging from my backpack and I could tell he was really puzzled as to what it was, so I said it was for water. He asked if it was to keep it cool, to which I replied that it wasn’t but that I could carry more water that way. I didn’t want to mention that I have to purify their water before I can drink it. Later, Lori told me that they all understand that we have to have purified water, so I guess it wouldn’t have been a offensive to mention it.

On Thursday, when we were walking back to the hotel from class, I snapped a picture of a group of men pushing a car on the road. They were *not* happy. So I said that I would delete it (which I did, by the way). I need to remember to ask before taking pictures. I may forever be teased by my colleagues for “flirting with jail” or “almost getting us sent to prison” or “having an illegal picture” on account of my snapping pictures of the airport. It’s fun when people ask us to take their picture, which they often do when they see us with our cameras.

Something I’ve noticed here is that people want to hear your answer to “How are you?” One practice is to shake hands and ask how you slept in the morning. People are very cordial.

On Friday, Gregory assigned one biker the task of transporting all of us one-by-one to the center. When it was my turn, he was stopped by what looked to me like a mob. I couldn’t understand what the problem was, but one of them had taken the keys out of the bike. I sternly said “Let him go!” to one of them. Then, another biker with a passenger drove up and appeared to be taking something (money?) out of a bag. Then, the “mob” let us go. When my chauffeur let me off at the center, I asked if he was going to be okay or if they were going to stop him again. He said he would be back. I knew he was going to go get others, but the answer didn’t satisfy. I went to Agnes in the classroom and told her what happened. She said that the bikers have to pay a tax to their organization. How it works I still don’t know, but I hope I don’t have to travel on a bike solo again.

During part of Patty’s desktop publishing session on Friday, I wrote the steps she was explaining on the chalkboard. It seemed to be a help to students who wanted to take notes. We had about 6 computers in the class, so they were able to practice what she was teaching.

This morning, we 5 white people went with Agnes and Stephen to the market. It was unlike any other stressful shopping trip I’ve experienced. The combination of riding motorbikes, dodging vehicles, making sure we stayed together, keeping my bag close, navigating narrow pathways, saying that I wasn’t interested or ignoring shop owners who wanted to sell me something, and sweating profusely was…exhilarating. There was so much western clothing and items being sold. It’s amazing to see the many items that have “Obama” printed on them. I declined the suggestion to buy a jeans skirt with that imprint.

There is a supermarket here that is air-conditioned and carries many of the comforts of home. Interestingly, there are Kit Kats that I’ve never seen elsewhere. They are large candy bars and one kind has a caramel addition and the other has nuts in it. They’re good. We’ve had a couple of evening chocolate meetings in Carey Jo’s room. πŸ™‚ We walked by a cocoa bean shop and the owner broke open a bean for us to taste the inside. It tasted quite good. It was great to have Stephen and Agnes with us because they knew how to deal with the market shop owners. Agnes bargained with the seller of the fabric that I liked to get the price down to 40,000 Leones instead of 45,000. Now we just need to meet with a tailor to decide on a style and then I will have an African outfit!

On Friday, I spent some time in the kitchen talking with some of the ladies. I found out that Mummy’s birthday is on Sunday and that she is a muslim.

This afternoon, we visited the internet cafe. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do very much because the power went out while we were there. The power had gone off at the hotel early today, but came back on this evening.