I have to apologize because I have not been able to update as much as I would like. Although I thought I would have dial-up internet in Sibanor, it has not worked yet for me for whatever reason. I last checked my email since the 9th of July, so I’m sure I have ones that have been unanswered for that long, and I want to apologize for not answering them quickly. The internet problems also mean that I will probably only be able to check my email every couple weeks when I make it down to headquarters until further notice, so please understand that this will be the norm for a while until we figure out how to get it to work here in Sibanor.
If you have a topic about life here that you’re dying to hear about, feel free to request! I’m trying to make sure that the info I post is relevant and not too long or boring. I have a ton of info in a document with several suggested topics that I’ve already written about, but just need to post at some time (not all at once – you would get bored).
I also love to hear about how you are doing. I love getting emails and especially snail mail. It makes my day. Thank you for those who have already sent me letters!
Although there may have been worries that I might lose weight while I am abroad, with the awesome food I’ve been getting here, I don’t think that will be a problem at all. Right now, it is mango season, so we are enjoying them for breakfast or dessert or for a snack. I did not know before now that there are lots of kinds of mangos like there are lots of different types of apples. There are some that are more like candy and there are some that are a lot more citrusy. Yum! The other fruits and veggies I’ve had are awesome too. I had jackfruit for the first time yesterday (they are HUGE – I’ll try to take a picture of one before I leave since my camera wasn’t working when I had it). I’ve come to actually enjoy cucumbers and tomatoes and peanuts. This trip has forced me to be flexible and I’ve found that I’m not as picky as I thought I was. There are very few things that I have found that I did not enjoy.
The one thing that I haven’t liked is cola nuts. They are a very cultural food that they serve at weddings and naming ceremonies (I had one at a wedding). They are very bitter. My language helper likened them to wine served at weddings in toubabadou (non-African world), though they don’t carry the intoxication power (I’ve heard of people trying to get high off of them – gag).
We get fresh bread called tapalapa every day. I think I described it in a previous update. One of the more unusual things that I’ve eaten and come to enjoy is tapalapa with a bean filling and a spicy sauce. I will have to ask my language helper if I can get the recipe to take back home so you all can have a taste.
In general though, we have to make our own meals in the evenings and on weekends. I’ve learned how to be creative to make tasty dishes with less complicated ingredients than I’m used to cooking with at home. Rice and pasta are staples. Potatoes are pretty normal. Tapalapa pizzas are pretty easy and good. Hot dogs, SPAM, and fish are more normal than any other kind of meat. I never would have thought that I could ever say it, but I’ve come to actually enjoy SPAM (as much as one can).
The schedule of meals is a bit different to get used to. We usually eat supper/ tea between 7 and 9pm. I’m used to eating between 5 and 7 at home so that’s a little different.
Although this is an entirely different part of the world, there are definitely days that I feel like I’m at home with the weather that we have. Although I said that all the rain is preceded by a massive wind, this is not always the case we’ve had several gentle rains. Robyn said that for being the rainy season, we’ve had less major storms. It’s nice here to not have to worry about tornadoes and such here. Storms still look impressive, but compared with SD storms, they are pretty wimpy. Only the quantity of precip they can drop is impressive (though I’ve heard that SD is trying to rival the rainy season here). Yesterday on the drive to the coast, we stopped in the market in Brikama, and there was water everywhere. See pictures for details.
The major form of transportation here is by gelly gelly (also known as public transport). There are only a few expats that have vehicles, and short term workers are not allowed to drive here (this is fine with me). This means that if we want to go anywhere further than a few miles away, we take public transportation. Gelly gellys are usually vans that carry about 15 to 25 people around the country. They are inexpensive, especially when compared with the price of riding in a car with an expat, but less comfortable and take about twice as long (because of all the stops they have to make). Any luggage beyond what fits on your lap goes on the top of the gelly (this can end up being a tower on top of the car – I’ll try to get a picture at some point). This includes goats and sheep as well! My first trip on public, a lady near me had a chicken under her seat too. It looks a little comical, but it is the norm here.
I found it interesting to learn that the gelly gellys do not honk randomly. They only honk if they have space in the gelly for more people to ride. This means that if you are looking to get a gelly on a busy road, all you have to do is walk in the direction you want to go and if a taxi honks as it passes, you flag them down and tell them your destination (generic; not always the place you are really going) and they will take you. I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of the system so that I can even come down to the coast on my own.
Thank you all for all your prayers. I appreciate you all a ton. Please be continuing to pray for team unity, especially as we have staff who are going home on furlough or for a few weeks which will leave a gap in the work. Especially since it is rainy season, the workload is increasing, so this will pose a problem for the clinic. I’ve really been adjusting well to living here, but continue to pray for opportunities and boldness to get to know the people and the culture better.