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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.