Archive for » June, 2010 «

Made it

I am now in Fajara, Gambia at the headquarters for WEC.

on the right is the inside of the front gate to the WEC compound. on the left is a mango tree (there are several on the compound)

the guesthouse in Fajara; my room is on the ground floor on the right

my temporary room in the WEC guesthouse.

My flights all went smoothly and all of customs went well too.  I am enjoying my time so far.  There are so many new things everywhere.  Yesterday, we drove into Banjul to get my ID card and pick up the mail.  It was very busy.  There were people walking and biking everywhere.  I’m glad I was with people who knew where they were going because I got turned around completely.

In the afternoon, I joined a couple of other Trekkers (Arno and Esther) to go to a compound for MBBs in another village to teach the kids a Bible story.  The kids had a lot of energy and after the story, the kids worked on plaiting my hair.  Greeting is very important and so I met many people in the compound.  After that we got food from one of their friends and went back to the headquarters to eat.  I had a wonderful time getting to know them and learning from their experiences.

I will write more later, but I have to go to breakfast.

Feel free to send me an email or snail mail to update me on YOU.  Thank you for praying.

Emily update:  Today I went shopping with Dorothy to get familiar with the supermarkets and where to find things near the compound.  Yesterday, Esther also took me to a shop that I can buy tapalapa (a kind of bread) and a good bookstore.  Everything is quite inexpensive here but it sounds like it will get better once I get to Sibanor.  Esther said that I can buy 20 mangoes there for Dalasi 30 (about $1).  I will stay at the WEC headquarters until Monday when some of the Sibanor team members will come down to headquarters and bring me there.  I apologize that I don’t have very many pictures yet.  I haven’t the chance to bring my camera along on my adventures yet, and it takes a couple minutes to upload each picture once I have them, so please excuse the deficiency.

I will start writing an interesting tidbit about my surroundings or the culture every time I update.  For this update, the most interesting thing about being at headquarters is that there is a mosque right next door to the compound.  I hear the call to prayer every morning at about 5 or 6am and about 8:30pm when I’m going to bed and a few times in between.

Africa Bound!

As I write this, the plane Emily is on should be descending toward Banjul, Gambia. With the time difference, she should arrive mid-afternoon, which makes me as a maybe overprotective dad feel much better. I didn’t much like the thought of her pulling into a 3rd-world airport at night and trying to figure things out (been there, done that, it was scary, even in a group.)

Emily sent a quick note before boarding last night/this morning:

Just wanted to make sure that everyone had my email and such for while I’m gone.  If there are other people who would like read my updates, you can either send them to my blog or you can forward my email and let me know to put them on the list for future emails.  Let me know if you would like me to send you emails to a different address too.

My mailing address will be:

Emily Thornton
c/o WEC International
PO Box 86
Banjul, The Gambia

Please continue to pray.  I will keep putting updated prayer requests on my blog.
 
Blessings,
Emily

You can also email her, but since we’re pretty clueless at this point what kind of Internet access she will have, don’t expect a quick response from her. Last time we spoke with her, she mentioned getting a cell phone or satellite phone for her time there; not sure whether that will work out or not, but we’re hoping!

Keep on praying!

Winnie the Pooh and the farm

The second day, I got to go on a nice bike ride.  Aunt Michelle gave me a map for the general directions, but it gave me freedom to ride into a couple different towns to visit.  It was quite interesting to see all the houses along the road with a dike running next to the road at all times.  I feel really bad because I don’t have many pictures.  My camera was dying so I only got a couple pictures (I’m sure you find better ones on the internet anyways).  The land is SO flat (more than Iowa or South Dakota!).  On my ride I saw more bikes than I saw cars (this is true by the house too – there are professional-looking bikers riding by all the time) and saw a group of roller bladers that even held up car traffic for a ways.  The roads around here are just one lane (for both directions of traffic and bikes!).  It took me about an hour to go all the way around the lake.  I also got to see lots of animals and a couple old windmills.  It was fun.

That night, I stayed and babysat Monique and Collin while Dick and Michelle went to a comedy show.  While they were gone, I started feeling sick, and ended up throwing up a couple times.  First time in six and a half years.  bleh.  So yesterday was a whole lot of laying around watching Winnie the Pooh and eating a few pieces of toast when I was feeling hungry and well enough.  Aunt Michelle wasn’t feeling super fabulous either so we kept sick company together. 

Today we were feeling a little better and Michelle had to go take a driving test, so we left with plenty of time to spare.  On the ride, there were HUGE greenhouses and some modern windmills (kind of an eyesore here).  Then once we got to the right town, we ended up very lost and frustrated.  The road signs are particularly small and hard to see and that made it even worse.  We ended up at the testing place ten minutes late but she could still take the test. 

After that adventure, we were close to Delft (the town where the famous pottery is from).  I was so sad that I forgot my camera.  We stopped at a cafe and had lunch just as the Netherlands v. Denmark game was starting.  There were people everywhere with orange t-shirts, wigs, and horns.  I’ve been seeing “Hup Holland” signs all over since I got here.    The entire country seemed to come to a halt during the game.  We went to the city center and poked around in some touristy shops and then drove back to the farm. 

We went on a walk this afternoon on the property.  It goes a long ways back from the road.  I was quite impressed.  They have lots of cows (koe) and  milking robot.  There are several calves too and I got to feed one the other day.  They drink their milk so fast!  The calf I fed ate his huge bottle (between 1 and 2 liters) in less than two minutes and was still hungry for more.

Anyways, thank you for your prayers.  They continue to be an encouragement to me.  I will be flying to Gambia tomorrow.  Please pray for nice flights and a cooperative stomach.  I will try to update again as soon as I can, but if you don’t hear anything, don’t assume anything is wrong.  It may be a few days before I get a chance to do an update.

Feel free to send me an email or snail mail.  I enjoy hearing from you!

Land Of The Dutchmen

I had a good trip from Philly to Amsterdam.  My flights were all on time and connections weren’t hard to make.  I slept very little on the plane though (figures) so I will hopefully be able to switch time zones pretty easily.  I arrived at 6am, and took a couple hour nap, so I’ll find out if my tactic worked tonight.

I’m enjoying myself so far.  I’m staying with my aunt, uncle and cousins for the next few days.  I’ve gotten to see a fair amount of the country just by driving from the airport and to the grocery store.  The roads are small (after being in PA, I didn’t think they could get much smaller but they are basically one lane and very winding).

I understand very little Dutch, so that makes trying to keep up with Monique’s  3-year-old (mostly Dutch) chatter a bit interesting.  This morning she gave me a book in Dutch to read to her, and she was really confused why I wouldn’t read it to her.  I could have maybe tried, but I think I probably would have made a fool of myself.

I will be flying out to go to Gambia on the 15th.  Please be in prayer for my flights, that all the details would be smooth.  Also please be in prayer for my transition to living in Gambia.  Culture shock will happen, but pray that it would be mild so that I can serve more effectively.  Thanks for all the prayers.  You all are appreciated.

and the training continues

Staff and Trekkers (back row: Carol, Andi, Ron, next row: Tonda, me, Karen, Marissa, second row: Rona, Cheryl, Carol, Chris, Bethany, front row: Rene)

I’m learning a ton out here on “The Hill,” as it’s referred.  We’ve been talking about culture and team dynamics and logistical stuff all week.  Tons of awesome information.  I almost feel like I need more training before I go, but I guess I’ll learn better on the go. :P  In the picture above, the staff members who have been teaching us are Ron and Tonda (a married couple), their daughter Bethany (who is engaged to Rene, our worship leader), Rona, and Andi (the new staff member).  They are in the middle of staff transitions so that is why there are so many of them.  The rest of us are being trained with WEC to either do a trek or join as full time staff (just Marissa).  The Trekkers are going various places around the world, some of them closed countries.

To train us, we’ve done various exercises to get used to cultural elements we may encounter.  The first day, we had to wear the entire set of clothes that we wore the day before.  The next day, we weren’t allowed to wear our shoes in any private spaces (classroom, bedroom).  Then we had to eat a bunch of different foods without making faces (marmite, sausage with pink mashed potatoes on top – looked like a cupcake), and then eat Gambian style.

eating Gambian style! Very yummy

We also did an exercise in language learning where we learned a few Korean phrases at The Hill, and then had to go practice them in a Korean market for a while.

learning Korean: our phonetic interpretations of the phrases

Then yesterday, we had to go the whole day with only 5 Kleenexes for toilet paper.  Today, we had to eat everything with chopsticks, and tomorrow, we have to take a bucket shower.  It’s been a challenge, but a stretching experience.

We have by no means been bored.  In our free time, we play Quelf, explore the bowels of the castle,

exploring the bowels of the castle - the furnace room

gone on a sightseeing trip to Philadelphia, where we got to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall,

Independence Hall

the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  In the Cathedral, we got to go back past by the altar in the sanctuary and UNDERNEATH the altar to see the tombs of the past cardinals and bishops of the church.  It was amazing.  As a Protestant, I didn’t think that I would be allowed, but the church historian took us back there and said that it would be okay).  Then we went to the river to see the USS Olympia, an old navy ship that has been retired.  It was amazing to see inside.

On the USS Olympia (L to R: Carol, Karen, Chris, Cheryl)

It’s crazy to think that I leave in less than three days.  I’ve enjoyed orientation and really enjoyed getting to bond with my fellow Trekkers.  I will miss them.

From here I fly to Amsterdam, where I get to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins for a few days, and get used to to the time change.  From there, I leave on the 15th to go to Gambia and will be there for the nine months of my Trek.  I will try to update as much as I can, but I can’t promise many pictures since I will be using dial up internet while I’m there.

Send me an email or a piece of snail mail.  I’d love to hear from you!

the castle

The US headquarters for WEC International are in Ft. Washington, PA.  The site is Camp Hill.  It is less well known, but it is one of the sites that George Washington’s troops (10,000 or so) camped at.  They decided they were too close to Philadelphia, so they moved their camp to the infamous Valley Forge. In the 1880s, the wealthy Fell family built a country home at Camp Hill called Camp Hill Hall. It has been known popularly as the “Buckingham Palace of Philadelphia.”  The property changed hands over the years and eventually ended up vacant for a few years in which vagrants and thieves nearly destroyed the building.  It was at that time that WEC International inquired about buying the property to use as their offices.  Major repairs had to be made, but now Camp Hill Hall itself is used for missionaries (and short term people like me :) ) to stay in for training and furlough as well as offices for staff that work in the offices here (the office was formerly a barn, but has been renovated on the inside).

I’m staying in a room with three other girls who are training for a WEC Trek as well.  Carol, Karen, and Mae.  There is one other woman (Cheryl), and one guy (Chris) who are training with me.  We have our first day of orientation today.  It’s hot here, but I should get used to it!  It will be a busy week of orientation.  I can’t guarantee I’ll have as much time to update.  Please remember that no news is good news.  Love you all.  Thanks for praying.

I’m posting some pictures so you can get a feel for what The Hill looks like.  Enjoy!

outside: dining hall is on the left

front entrance of the castle

side of the Hall: note the balcony in the upper right corner; this is right down the hall from my room

a little further down the Hall: the top floor with the white paint is the room I'm staying in

the other side of the Hall: the kitchen is on the ground floor on the right side.

our room. Mae is on the bed and Karen is on the computer by the windows

fireplace in the dining room (note how small the chair looks-it isn't a small chair)

a little sitting room in the hall on the main floor

Automatic Updates…

A few people have asked whether they can be notified automatically when Emily in Gambia is updated… The easiest, and best way to do that is to sign up for RSS updates to the site. You can click the Entries RSS link in the lower-left corner of this page to set it up.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a standardized web feed format used to publish frequently updated works. The RSS feed for this site includes full or summarized text of each post. RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader”, or “aggregator”. There are many free software options that you can download and install on your computer, or if you have a Gmail account, you can use that instead (I think Yahoo and other free email accounts have similar options.) Email the Dad if you need help!

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Philly!

Update: Got word from Emily that she, Sam & Pepper (her car) made it safely to Philadelphia. Thank God for safe travel, guardian angels, and 15 year-old cars that can pull off a 1,400 mile trip with no troubles.

Next stop: Amsterdam (and Bodegraven!)

Emily Edit: Yes, Pepper did wonderful.  No problems and fabulous gas mileage :)

I left Sioux Falls at about 7:30am on the 30th and picked up Sam about 2 1/2 hours later at his house.

On the way, we stopped in Rock Island, IL to see the other Augustana College.

We also drove through Indianapolis.  We drove past the speedway (which is ENORMOUS)

and then proceeded to get very lost.  The signs were not very helpful but our map had good street markings so we eventually got back on track.

We drove through the night and took a shortcut through some Pennsylvania back roads just as it was starting to get light out.  It was amazing!  They had super steep roads and fabulous views.


We arrived at Erin’s (Sam’s gf) house at about 10:30 am (EST).  We had been through 9 states (Sam had only 8 since I picked him up in MN), and had traveled about 1400 miles.  Long, tiring, fun trip and glad we made it safe and sound.

Today, I will be driving to the WEC headquarters to start training tomorrow.  I will try to keep everyone updated as often as I can, but I can’t guarantee that it will happen as often as everybody hopes for.