Archive for » October, 2010 «

“homeschooling,” birthday, and other such craziness


I have enjoyed my homeschooling job so much this week.  I really enjoy hanging out with Levi anyways, and this week was no exception.  He is 7 years old and is king of the facial expressions (just like his dad).  Every day begins with schoolwork for him which takes him about an hour to and hour and 15 minutes to finish.  During this time, I usually read while he is doing his lessons because I can do little to help (unless it is math) since it is all in Dutch.  Then we usually read a book in English and color and play with Duplos or Knex and watch a film.  The first three days, we watched Ice Age 3, 2, then Incredibles (in Dutch).  In that order.  His choice.  We’ve also been playing a lot of games.  Monday we played Boggle (probably a bad choice considering my extensively broad vocabulary in comparison with his) and a Dutch fruit game.  Tuesday and Wednesday we played Battleship.  He won Tuesday and I won Wednesday.  It was more interesting than I thought it would be because we were playing half English, half Dutch.  For saying coordinates, he didn’t know all his letters, so for a while when I said a letter we had a piece of paper with the letters he got confused with to point at to help with understanding.  Plus we used the Dutch words for hit and miss.  Quite amusing if I do say so myself.

Today was a little different because we went to the beach for the afternoon.  We brought sand toys to make a sand castle or a sand animal with, but the sand had too many broken shells and wasn’t wet or dry enough.  Even so, we found a bunch of clams and had fun discovering how they burrow into the sand and trying to see what they looked like inside.  It took a while, but we finally were able to pry one little guy open.  It’s hard to believe such a funny blob of goo can live in a shell.  Then we went and played in the waves in the ocean.  They were just right to make it an adventure but not dangerous.  We had a blast.  Once we were done swimming, we rinsed off and had a milkshake, then changed into dry clothes and came back to headquarters.

Levi playing at the beach

I’ve been learning a little Dutch here and there – not so hard when we have so many people on our team who are from Holland.  Plus, I know that my mom’s side of the family will be thrilled that I’m learning at least a little bit.  Might give me a reason to go back and visit again.  :D  My vocab is pretty poor, but I can sometimes follow a conversation.  Pretty fun.


birthday pizza

Despite the fact that this birthday was not exactly as expected, it turned out to be an awesome day in which I felt overwhelmingly loved and cared for.  I have such an awesome team to work and live with, and my birthday did nothing but reinforce that.  Since I wasn’t quite sure when I was supposed to be at the apartment to hang out with Levi, I got up at 6:30am and got breakfast (tapalapa from the bitik behind the headquarters compound and chocolate spread with my coffee), did my devotion, and went to the apartment at 8.  Levi’s mom, Thamar wasn’t there, so I just sat and talked with Levi about what we would do that day until she got back.  When she did arrive, she brought one of our other Dutch team members bearing gifts and singing Happy Birthday.  Then Thamar pulled out presents that other team members had left for me to open on my birthday:  body wash, shower set, fudge, body butter.  Wow, I already felt spoiled and it was only 8 o’clock in the morning.  Then since I wasn’t actually needed until 9, I went back to my room and started reading a novel (sidenote:  The Zion Covenant Series by Thoene is pretty sweet – Totally got sucked in this week).  When it was time, I went and hung out with Levi for the day, only interrupted by breaktime/ second breakfast,  and lunch (super yummy Gambian meal with birthday cake – was sung to again).  At 4 in the afternoon, I was released of my duties with Levi so I got on the internet and got to chat with people back home for a while.  During the day, my friend Mez came down from Sibanor during the day and the plan was to go out for pizza to celebrate.  At the appointed time, we walked out to the parking lot where I was greeted with a crowd of almost the entire team that was down in Kombo singing Happy Birthday (yet again) to accompany us to pizza.  I had a tricolore pizza (spinach, onion, and sweet pepper!) and proceeded to get presents from 3 other people (candles, and chocolate).  At the end, someone told our waiter that it was my birthday so they sang Happy Birthday twice (don’t ask me why) and the DJ played a birthday medley for the rest of the time that we were there.  Throughout the day, I handed out birthday treats to the workers at headquarters and to the staff at the restaurant.  I really had a good day, and am very grateful that I have such awesome friends here.  Also received a package yesterday so that was a good continuation of my birthday.

God’s plan is better than mine

On Wednesday, I received an email that my mom was in the hospital with chest pain.  That was about the scariest thing that could happen while I am away from home.  It turned out to be all right – only minor blockage of small arteries – nothing that a month on warfarin wouldn’t fix (btw, I did experiments in Pharmacology with warfarin so I know it works well).  Whew.  She is now out of the hospital and doing well.  I really discovered how well the crisis management team works here though.  They made sure to check on me to make sure I was okay and to get updates.  They were ready to send me back home at a moment’s notice if necessary!  I was blessed to be here when I received the news though because I would not have been able to get updates as easily.  God really knew what he was doing when he sent me here for the week.

I am super excited because this weekend, I will be camping on the beach with other short-termers from my village (James, Mez, and Simeon).  James is bringing the tents, I’m bringing the junk food (since I’m nearest the grocery stores), and so we should have a blast this weekend.  Don’t be too jealous!  I will be able to be on the internet again November 3 to 5 or 6, and then again the week of November 15.  Hope to catch some of you all then!  Have a blessed rest of October!  Miss you all.  Keep in touch!

Semper Gumby, music, and bugs

Got the pics.  Enjoy!

Semper Gumby

I’ve already said that I’ve been learning to deal with change better while I’ve been here.  This weekend has been the epitome of that theme.  Less than 36 hours ago, I was planning on having a busy birthday – the clinic has been getting busier and busier with the rainy season coming to a close, plus there is a station meeting that day.  I didn’t anticipate a whole lot of time for relaxing and enjoying the day, but that was okay with me.  As long as I got to spend it with people I enjoy, I didn’t mind having the majority of my day taken up with work-related activities.

Then my plans got tossed to the side during work yesterday.  My station leader came and told me that for this week, they need me to go to headquarters with one of the families at our station to home school their youngest child, Levi for the week while his mom takes a course, and his father works in Sibanor.  A couple of the nurses in Sibanor were willing to take over my responsibilities and my room and board are paid for this week.  I’ve never tried to home school anyone (much less a boy with Dutch as a first language).  I get along with him well, but I’m just not sure exactly how this week will look.  It also means that I get to Skype with my family on my birthday and get to catch up with people from home while I am here.  :)  On top of that, our visitor in Blue House will be coming down to hang out for my birthday evening!  On top of that,  I wouldn’t have been able to have proper internet until November had this not come up, and I know that my family would REALLY like to chat with my on my birthday.   So even though my plans got turned on their head, God knew exactly what I needed and I’m so thankful that He is in control and not me.  I’ll try to update at the end of the week to let y’all know how it all goes.

At the end of the week, I’ll be going camping on the beach with other Trekkers from my village for my weekend off, so I’m super stoked about that.  I plan on updating again at the beginning of November before I go “up-country” to visit my friend Cheryl and the rest of the Chamen team for a week.  I’m excited to visit and get the “real Gambian experience.”


I knew that it was a good idea to keep playing my flute and I also knew that it has always been a good stress reliever so I decided to include it in my packing list.  I’ve been using it some but not as much as I thought.  Since it is so hot, when I practice, I have to stop playing every couple minutes because my lower lip has gotten so sweaty that my flute starts slipping off to wipe the sweat off my chin and mouthpiece.  Makes the whole experience less pleasant for playing.  :P

Even so, at the beginning of very month, the entire country team has a day for prayer and meetings together.  At these we also have worship and I’ve been playing my flute and singing for every one I’ve been in the country for.  It’s fun to help get this put together for the rest of the team.  Music has always been a big part of who I am so it’s cool that I can use my gifts here as well.

In general, people here like Bob Marley-esque reggae or something rhythm-based.  Other than the Jola dancing group, I haven’t gotten to experience a whole lot of music.  I intend to try to get more exposure to different music here.

When I came to Gambia, I brought my mp3, but it was always a little finicky.  It has proven to be more of a hassle than what it was worth though.  It has worked up until this week.  It all of a sudden decided to delete all but five random songs off of it.  Grrr.  Now I can only listen to the songs that I’ve found CDs of in Blue House (mostly classical – not so bad but I need a bit more variety most days).  So as I type (since I have internet), I’m appreciating MySpace music since I’m deprived most of the time of much of music from home.


dancing at a football game. Gambian version of cheerleaders but WAY better:)

Though the people tend to be pretty shy to begin with, they really love to dance.  Dance is part of celebrations from naming ceremonies (8 days after the birth of a baby) to weddings to any other big celebration (eg. after Ramadan).  It doesn’t happen at every celebration, but the people here look forward to dancing.  You always know it’s a good worship time when there is traditional dancing in the aisles.  :)  Love it!  It’s so cool to see them really get into the worship of our God.

A while ago, I had the opportunity to see a group of Jola drummers who normally lead the dancing at such festivals (see the pic in the previous post).  I saw it in an open place where there weren’t spiritual undertones, so it was perfectly okay.  The drummers kept up a basic rhythm and sometimes lead some singing and the women in the circle would take turns dancing in the center, dance-off style.  When someone would start dancing, the people in the circle holding clappers (thick reeds cut in half and banged together to help create the rhythm) start to bang them in a faster, more intense manner to help encourage the dancer.  It was pretty awesome to watch.

Insect adventures

came in the kitchen to find these three jumping spiders hanging out. note the size of the middle one compared to the screw!

bag of flour. note the little patterns all through it. weevil tracks. have to sift every bit of flour you use.

the hundreds of bugs killed during get fit (so they wouldn't stick to our sweaty bodies as they flew by)

the centipede-looking insect

I came to Africa expecting all the big bugs.  Rainy season has not failed to produce a wide variety of bugs in a variety of shapes, sizes, and abilities to annoy me.  Here ensues a description of some of the most common perps.  Beware to the faint of heart.

The bites you really have to watch out for are from the medium sized black ants.  When they sting you, there is no mistaking it.  One day a black ant decided to bite me in 7 spots in an area the size of a silver dollar on my leg.  These bites don’t really itch, they HURT like crazy though with a stabbing pain that can last from 10 to 60 minutes.  Not fun.

Ants in general are a constant problem.  Even after a rain, within hours, the ground outside is covered with little anthills.  Needless to say, we have to be really careful, especially in the kitchen, not to leave food out and to wipe up spills ASAP so that the ants don’t come and find them.  We have to even be careful that we clean up the bugs that we kill because the ants will come to tear apart the remains of the other bugs to take back to their hill.  Whew.  I’ve gone on a couple cleaning rampages in the kitchen in the morning because I hate having them run over my feet while I’m making breakfast in the early morning light, but it’s actually quite a fruitless exercise because they are hiding in the cupboards and the floor as well.  It sometimes makes me feel better though.

There are plenty of mosquitoes, but I don’t get bitten as often as you might think.  It just depends on the week.  There have been weeks when I’ve only gotten one or two bites, and there have been weeks where I have gotten a few dozen.  It seems that the shampoo I use makes a difference too.  I got some lemon-scented shampoo when I got here and used it as body wash as well, and I hardly had any problems.  I switched to a different one, and I’ve been getting bitten more.  I can at least use the lemon stuff for body wash in the afternoons so maybe I won’t smell quite as good to the bugs.  :)

We also have trouble with cockroaches.  Not so many big ones, but lots of small ones.  They like to hide in the back of the silverware and dishtowel drawer, so we have to periodically set the drawers out in the sun and have to wash the dishes before we put them in and after we take them out of the drawers.

Those who know me well know that the one insect that I cannot stand and those are centipedes.  There are plenty of centipede-esque insects running around.  The ones I see most often are red and black striped.  I think I have officially conquered my fear of them though :)  I haven’t even tried to kill one of these (though I was quite afraid that they were poisonous when I first saw them).

It seems like there are waves of certain kinds of insects as well.  For a couple days, we had a terrible time with some moths that liked to find holes in our screens and come to swarm around the kitchen light during dinner-time.  Then last month, at keep-fit, there was a HUGE swarm of flying black ants that were attacking the light and the TV.  We had to turn off the light and then we could hardly see the TV with all the bugs in front of it and the ones that would fly by us would stick because we were hot and sweaty (it was impossible to go two seconds without one sticking), so Debbie sprayed them with insecticide so that we could finish our exercise in peace (though I gagged on the spray and almost lost my lunch).

Thank you all for your prayer support.  I am SO grateful for you all.  It really makes me thankful for all of you who are faithful friends even when I’m so far from you.

Change is the only constant

our feet after tromping through a rice field to get to the river to swim :)

Jola drumming group I got to see. Very fun to watch. The women love to dance!

Change is the only constant

The past few weeks have been full of some big changes in our team.  First of all, one of our team members went on furlough.  On the same day, all but one of the team children (out of 9) were brought to Senegal to go to school there.  The loss of all these people has taken a small toll on the entire team.  Every one of them is missed dearly (especially the families).

We have also had some additions to our team.  One is a Dutch midwife who is living in the Blue House with Rosemary and me.  She is about my age, so we have already enjoyed getting to know each other a bit.  We also have the return of one of our nurses from a trip home for a wedding, and the arrival of a friend of his that will also be staying in the Blue House for the month that she is in the country.  That means that the house will be full for a while.  :)  Fun time.  It should be fun to have a full house again.  The most exciting addition to the team has been the adoption of a set of Gambian twin girls by our station leaders.  They are almost six months old and are wonderful babies – not too fussy and already sleep through the night.  They are super cute and have made life a little more interesting for their parents and for the team.  Their names are Elaynia and Jarinia (with a German j sound) though I probably mutilated the spellings.

Change in me

Since I’ve arrived, I also feel like I have changed a lot as well.  I’m already starting to get nervous to go back home to see how you all will react to the changes you see in me.  I feel as if I have grown out of my bubble and become more willing to try new things and experience an adventure.  I’ve always been known to be pretty introverted, but now I ask questions and speak my mind more readily.  Dr. Jamie has even remarked that he thinks I’m a good mix of extrovert and introvert – both extremes cause more work for the team by either not asking for more work or talking too much and not getting things done.


Before I left for orientation, one of my assignments was to fill out a form with my expectations for my experience here.  This was probably the most helpful activity to prepare me for what was to come.  I didn’t know a whole lot about what I was getting into and this was a little scary.  The activity made me think about what I did and didn’t think would happen and how I would react in various situations.  It also made me realize that I couldn’t really expect anything.  God may use this experience in a way that I never would have expected.  I realized that I needed to be flexible so that I can make the most of the time here.  Even when I was at training, one of the main points was that on our treks, we needed to be “Semper Gumby” (always flexible).  This has also been a main point that I’ve learned while here.  I’ve had to be flexible with my schedule, duties, other people’s expectations of me, and everything in between.  Even settling into a real rhythm is impossible here:  Things are always changing.  It’s good stuff.

Other stuff

I won’t be able to get proper internet for about a month now because there are plans in the works for a camping trip to the beach on my weekend off (right before my bday) :D, so I won’t have internet access for a while :(.  If that changes, I will update y’all.  Then next weekend I plan on taking some holidays and travelling up-country to visit my friend, Cheryl and see what she is working on up there.  I will also be taking some time down at the coast so I hope to do another post and some catching up with people then.  Exact dates are TBA.  When I know, I will have my dad put it up on here so you all know.

I am starting to get to the point where I am not as sure what to write about anymore.  Let me know if you have ANY suggestions.  Hope you have a wonderful October!