Archive for » November, 2010 «


I learned the phrase, TIA, from my friend who was shopping for some plumbing supplies.  The Gambian salesman was showing her the parts, but they weren’t quite fitting together right.  This was mentioned to the salesman and he shrugged and said, “TIA.”  My friend didn’t understand, so he said, “This Is Africa.”  No more explanation was needed.  Since then we’ve found numerous uses for this phrase.  My week of holidays was the epitome of this phrase, so I will paint for you a picture of what TIA looks like.

Margit reading at the beach

Before I even left for holidays, I had a TIA moment during our day of prayer and meetings.  Margit (midwife and fellow Blue House resident) and I were on for worship and for one song, we wanted to make it upbeat and have a drum as part of the music.  There aren’t really any drummers in the team though, so I was volunteered to do the drums while another flute player played what I would have played.  For the record, I have never played the drum in my life other than banging on my steering wheel or knees.  I have enough music experience though that they thought I could do it.  As we were preparing, I thought someone had said that there was a drum at headquarters, and so I didn’t bother to try to bring one down from Sibanor.  I come to find out the morning of that there is not a drum there.  Hmm.  That was a pickle.  So we found a bucket.  A green and yellow 2-gallon bucket.  So for the first time, I drummed… on a bucket…for worship.  Hope that joyful noise was music to the Father’s heart.   TIA.

Janjangbureh (Georgetown)

For three days of my holidays, Cheryl and I went further upcountry to Janjangbureh, and stayed at a camp right next to the river.  The accommodations were very pleasant and homey.  We spent a lot of time reading and just hanging out together.  The second day, we decided to go on a canoe trip on the river.  There was one canoe that the staff usually used to ferry guests to and from the island, so we asked if we could just take it out for a couple hours.  The river was so calm.  The tide had just come in, so there was little to no current at all.  It was like boating on a pond.

canoeing on the River Gambia - still as a pond!

It was lovely to hear the birds chirping all around and the loudest noises were our oars moving through the water.  The canoe was very solid, and only let it maybe a gallon of water over the three hours that we had the boat out.  When we returned, we decided to go for a walk to give an equal workout to our legs and then sat and read by the shore, watching the monkeys and lizards come and go around us, until the sunset came.

The view over my book - both worth looking at for a while.

reading and eating groundnuts by the river. The head-tie is more culturally expected up-country.

About that time, the staff were getting set up for dinner, so we decided to go take our showers before dinner was served.  I went to close the curtains, and found that a frog had made the journey into my bed.  We chased him out the door (along with a couple more that had wandered in and were hanging out on the floor.  The threshold of the door was too high for them to jump over, so they hid in little holes at the corners of the doorframes.  In an attempt to scare the frogs further into the holes (and ideally outside), I slammed the wicker door behind them.  I thought that business was finished so I went for my shower.  I had just started to get wet when the water pump died.  I hoped it was only a temporary thing, but it persisted, so I asked Cheryl to go ask for a bucket of water to wash with.  She goes to the door and tries to open it, but because I had slammed it, the door had jammed, and she couldn’t get out.  Then she sees that all the frogs had re-entered the room and were all hanging out on the floor.  I had to come help pry the door open with a pocket knife.  After a couple minutes of wrestling with the door, we finally got it open.  Cheryl went to ask about the bucket and returned.  A few minutes later, the bucket of murky water arrived; complete with fish.  I decided it probably wouldn’t be very nice to try to shower with a fish in the bucket just in case I ended up pouring it on my head instead of the water.  Thus ensued the battle of trying to get the fish into the toilet.  This fish was a fast little guy and it took us five minutes to extract the fish from the bucket.  By this time, we had figured out that the water was river water (thus the fish and murkiness), and I decided that I wouldn’t quite feel clean if I showered with river water, so I opted for waiting to shower for the next day.  This wasn’t the end though.  We still had to chase the frogs out once again before bed, and stuffed the holes that they disappeared into with a towel so they wouldn’t return in the night.  TIA on steroids!

On holidays, got to visit Chamen as well to see what my friend, Cheryl does there with the skill center as well as what the other nurses do in the nutrition center there along with working to develop agricultural diversity in the area.   Chamen is a small Fula village that is in a very rural part of Gambia.   My friend Cheryl is working with ladies there to them started with small businesses (tailoring and making soap now). The house they have is very nice with plenty of room and a nice garden.  The downside of working in a rural setting like this is no running water and no refrigerator.  This means I got to experience the world of the squat toilet and bucket shower (though I mostly got used to that in Sibanor), and learning how to prepare enough food, but not too much to worry about leftovers.  They do have a “refrigerator” which is a large jar with a pocket around the mouth where water sits.  When the breeze moves over the water, it cools the water, making the inside of the jar slightly cooler than room temperature.  We measured it one day when the room temp was 36°C, and inside the jar it was 28°C.  You have to be a lot more creative in that setting.  A nice challenge :)

the walk through the "magic forest" to get to the toilet and shower :D

I decided as a result of visiting them there that I am super spoiled to have running water in Sibanor.  I also feel more prepared for moving into a family compound next month.  I’m still nervous to move, but I think it will help make my experience here more complete.  I only have three and a half months left, and I want to make the most of it.  I want to emphasize that it is no less safe than when I stay in the clinic.  I will probably be even safer with a family.  The compound is extremely nice, and is not too far from the clinic.  I now even have a bike so it will make it easier to get to and from work in a timely fashion.  :)  As I prepare to move, please keep me in your prayers; that I would have a good experience with their family and that this experience would be a blessing for those around me.

Also thanks to those who have been commenting and letting me know what you would like to hear.  I am on it trying to get some of that typed up and put up.  I don’t want to put up too much at one time though, so you will just have to be patient.  Keep sending the ideas and let me know what you like hearing about.  Thanks for all your prayers.


The weekend of camping on the beach lived up to expectations!  After the language class finished for the day, Levi, his mom, and I packed up and headed out of headquarters.  They were going back to Sibanor, but they were kind enough to drop me off in Brikama so I could meet up with James, Mez, and Simeon for the weekend.  In Brikama, we grabbed a few more groceries for the weekend and then caught a couple gellies to get to the lodge we were going to stay near.  We weren’t planning on actually staying at the lodge, but the guy in charge of the place gave us a good deal for camping (and being able to use their showers and toilets!) so we set up our campsite on their property.

the campsite - the boys got the little black tent, girls got the orange and brown one.

After we set up the tents, we went to the beach (even though the sun had set for the evening) and went for a swim in the ocean with the fabulous waves.  The moon was full so we could see really well even though the sun had set.  After swimming, we got out and built a fire on the beach and made baked potatoes with garlic and beef jerky in tinfoil.  Once they were cooked, we melted a bit of cheese with it too.  Very tasty except for the bits of sand that sneaked in.  Then we hung out and talked on the beach until 11 while we made s’mores (none of them had ever had a s’more before!) for dessert.

When we finally decided to go to bed, the guy in charge brought us to use a shower.  Then we walked back to the tents to get set to go to bed.  The boys in the little tent and the girls in the big tent (what gentlemen!).  As we were getting ready though, Mez all of a sudden sees a HUGE crab crawling over her stuff!  We didn’t scream too loud, but the boys came to rescue us and toss the crab out.  We thought about cooking it and eating it, but it was too late to cook and eat it at that point, plus, our cooking pot was way too small to fit the crab in it.  Oh well.

Saturday morning, we woke up about 7:30 and lazed around the campsite making breakfast and chatting about our countries (James and Mez:  Aussies, Simeon:  Swiss) and other various things until about noon.  When we finally decided to head out, we decided to try to rent bikes for the day so that we could travel further.  The lodge we were at didn’t have enough for all of us, so we walked up the beach to another lodge to see if they had enough and would give us a good price.  They had set prices that were too expensive for us so we settled for taking foot transport.  We walked down the beach to the Senegalese border (a river).  The guys walked ahead of us girls and we had an awesome conversation about all sorts of things.  I’m very sad that she was only here for a month visiting because she would have been an awesome person to get to know better.  Once we got to the river we walked inland to the coastal road and stopped for lunch at a restaurant (on the river).  Although I would like to say that the meal was wonderful and we had an awesome time there, that would not be true.  I would honestly have to say it was the worst meal I’ve eaten since arriving here.  There was sand in the dough so every bite was crunchy and the cheese tasted funny.  Everyone else was able to finish their pizza, but I had to give the second half of mine to Simeon to finish.

Mez, James, and Simeon; pizza on the river note the half eaten pizza in the foreground.

After we finished, we walked back to our campsite via the coastal road and grabbed a few groceries for dinner and breakfast in the town.  On the way, we asked each other random questions like “if you could be a fruit, what fruit would you be?”  It was a blast.  We are all pretty different so we had a lot of crazy answers but it was cool to get to know all of them better.

When we got back to camp, we quickly went for a swim as the sun set (I didn’t get any pictures of the sun setting on the beach :( ).  The waves were bigger and we swam out further, because it was so relaxing to swim after walking all day.  Then we made a fire and made our dinner of tapalapa with potato and mayo as a filling (actually quite good, especially compared to lunch).  We continued asking each other random questions during and after supper, but got tired earlier so headed for bed after taking a shower.

Sleeping in the tents was not the most comfortable arrangement but I slept much better the second night (I was exhausted from walking and swimming).  As anyone who has gone camping knows, it’s not very comfortable to sleep on the ground, and I am pretty bony, so it’s almost impossible to find a comfortable position to sleep.  The other thing that made it hard to sleep was worrying about rain coming in the middle of the night.  Rainy season is leaving, but it still means that rain is possible.  To make it worse though, we had set up camp under palm trees that rustle like pouring rain when the wind blows through them.  I had left a few things out to dry so I kept thinking that I had to get up and run to grab them in the middle of the night and rearrange our bags to keep the rain from leaking into the tent, but it was only the wind.  Whew!

Sunday morning we woke up and had porridge for breakfast (yum!), and then had church on the campsite.  We sang songs and had a discussion for the teaching part.  Then we chatted until about noon when we packed up and got a private gelly to take us to the tourist area (pretty close to headquarters) to get good pizza and dessert at the supermarket before taking the gellies back to Sibanor.  The weekend was awesome, but it was exhausting.  I’m glad I went, but I’m glad I got to sleep in my own bed that night.

my completo. been meaning to put this pic up for a while to show you what I've been wearing :)