The first update

it has turned out that just because internet cafes exist it does not mean they work...the entire country's internet has been up and down like a yo-yo (or like our water system) and trying to time that with our schedual makes updating more of a challenge.

But alas here is the first update... there is lots enjoy.

Sunday May 1st; 6:53PM PST

Well, I am off again. It is hard to believe it has been 5 years since I left for Senegal and almost on the exact same day. Who would have thought?

In a cool surprise we met with most of the team in YVR. I was under the impression this would occur in London. However, it has made for an already pleasant start to the trip. Everyone has connected quickly; you can really see God’s work in assembling the team.

The flight has even been somewhat enjoyable, although, I learnt not to get the white red with the meal. I had the privilege of sitting beside Dave Warner who I’ve discovered is a project assist of sort and is working part time for CVM. Jess and Jana are beside me while Ali and Steven are right at the back.

I was given three verses for the trip
1. Psalms 91 from my Grandma
2. 2 Kings 5-ish by Darrell Neufield
3. Another one which was posted anonymously on my blog.

It is unreal how much stuff I am taking with me. I can only imaging what security will think of my bags. ~72Kg in total. The transfer to Gatwick should lend some stories for the next flight.

Tuesday May 3rd, 3:41 AM GMT

My dried fruit, honey nut cheerio cheese wrap was surprisingly good. I must be really hungry. I managed to grab 3 hours sleep tonight in the Gatwick Airport. Our group has taken over a large alcove has our “hotel room”. Our stay included free skate boarding entertainment, a steady stream of airport reminders and room service from the machine gun totin’ airport police who searched Adam because he was sleeping with out luggage.

I had am amazing day in London. The transfers went extremely well. It was a bank holiday meaning the ‘tube’ was quite vacant giving us ample room to lurch on and off of the old rickety underground to the chime, ‘mind the gap’.

We took over a row of seats in the Victoria train station and took turns guarding the luggage (aka) trying to sleep on top of it all. Those not passed out on the luggage would wonder around the winding streets of London trying to remember which way to look as not to have an unfriendly encounter with a speeding Peugeot.

My first shift was guarding. I pulled out my guitar and jammed with a group of disenchanted high school aged punk rockers that just happened to be hanging out at the train station. They couldn’t keep a cig out of their mouths for more than a minute as they ranted off lines of their favorite underground British punk tunes with a laugh, accent and banter that brought alive the forced British readings of my secondary school education. Once they had parted ways I managed to pass out on my red bag to the amusement/shock of the other travelers and security.

Upon arrival of the other half of the group, Steven, Jess and I set out to get lost of a beautiful Sunny day. You don’t really need a tour book in London. You just start walking and you will start to run into landmarks, beautiful old cathedrals and a few close calls with the traffic. A couple of thoughts I pondered while crashing sauntering through the streets; there are very few beggars on the streets, they will dispose of any unguarded bags in public places, all the cars are new or restored classics, McDonalds is the best source of public washrooms and the underground transportation is really cool and there are more tourists than locals in most of the downtown area.

At 8:30 we caught an hour coach to Gatwick. In my sleepless glazed stat of mind I had my watch torn off while handling my bags. I was sure I saw it on the ground as the bus rolled out of the station. However, it later turned up in the under bus luggage compartment, a sweet taste of grace for a tired traveler who spent most of the bus ride musing over the loss of my cheep digital watch. This served as yet another piece of evident that someone is looking after me.

Tuesday May 3rd, 9:53 PM Gambian Time

It is great to be back in Africa.

After an hour or so of Frisbee in the airport we headed in the check in. We had a few problems getting our things on cleared to be loaded. After we cleared security then we were crammed onto a new 300 Series Airbus. It seemed the manufacturer had accidentally installed an extra 5 rows. However, the flight went by quite quickly as I sat beside a young English chap named Nicolas. Rambling on between the monarchy, music, pop culture and cultural idiosyncrasies the 6 hours flight, flew by.

The Gambia Airport was actually quite nice. Built in 1997 and designed by some famous Senegalese architect it was more stylish then Heathrow or Gatwick from the outside, it definitely had its Africanisms. The general chaos, print shop deluxe signs, a customs desk that was little more than an old school desk and no security. Steve Hewko was able to wander back into the secure area of the airport along with and the extra helpful “freelance baggage handlers”. It was amazing how quickly they would end up holding a piece of your luggage, it is good thing they are at least honest. In comparison to my last African airport experience this one was quite mild,

On the down side two pieces of baggage did not arrive in African. We believe they were left behind due to weight restrictions. We hope they arrive on Friday on the next flight into town.

We (okay really 5 over helpful Gambians) piled our bags on top of a blue 1986 Toyota 7 passenger van and subsequently piled all 14 of us inside for a 15min ride to Shalom, which will act as our principal residence here in the Gambia. Beautifully situated on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean the color full compound houses a Catholic mission which the pope John Paul II had himself visited in his day. Complete with a few mangy dogs and random kids and various other quintessential Africanisms. I will have no problem calling this place home.

We unpacked had a drink (the water here tastes just how I remembered it) and ventured off to town to send off a quick email regarding our safe arrival. On the way back Hewko loaded everyone onto taxis, well everyone but the other Steve and I as the guy in the internet café would not let go of my hand. So, began our first adventure. Finding the way home was easy. It was shaking of the ‘bumsters’* that was the issue. “My friends, my name is Jimmy, Jimmy look after you we are bothers, I hook you up take care of you because I’m an honest man, I like to help you we do music have some ….” After 15 min of non-stop talking we finally managed to ditch him at the British consulate. Meanwhile, Hewko realizing we had been left behind was riding taxis back and forth on wondering where we were. Everything worked out.

Dinner was delicious; the sisters here know how to cook. After we had a quick health and safety meeting and after which I had a cold shower that was a refreshing end to a muggy 31oc day of travel.

* bumsters are African bums which try way to hard to make friends with White people in order to get some financial backing or gifts in return.

Thursday May 5th, 7:16AM Gambian time

Having trouble sleeping I decided to wake up and have some quiet time. It is a cloudy morning with quite a strong wind.

Yesterday, we spent the morning with orientation. The focus was primarily cultural and religious. In the afternoon we left for a walk to a Crocodile pond in the middle of an urban slum. Despite the poverty the streets were remarkably clean and void of real Africa stenches which typically scream at your nose. Apparently the Gambian government has legislated a few hour block of time were Gambians must clean up the area in front of their dwelling. It was also surprising how little we were being harassed, for a mob of Toubabs.

The crocs were fairly docile and most were in the pond. Charlie, the giant pettable one, is the main attraction. However, he was on the far side of the pond. With the guides sleeping in a wheel barrel on their siesta, I hardly felt comfortable venturing around the other crocs for a hug.

When we returned to Shalom we had the privilege of meeting Gary and Pam Nipper who had been missionaries to the Wolof people group since 1987. They had some amazing stories of work God has done through them and some excellent advise for us as short term missionaries. I am looking forward to working with them.

In the evening we had another short session and them a quick Wolof lesion with Omar. If I have yet to talk about Omar he is a contact from Hewko’s last trip. (Decker I did say hi for you) EH told many Wolof jokes, I hope to record a few as they are so funny because they aren’t. Understanding jokes is the last thing that happens when you are entering a new culture.

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out and playing a nostalgic game of hid-n-seek. I also had a chance to Jam with the other musicians on the trip. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. We definitely did not connect on a musical level. It will undoubtedly be a challenge to put things together. I also realized I left 4 cables behind when I was repacking bags before I left. Not so cool. Mom, Dad if you could check the side pocket of the black bag to confirm that would be appreciated and I’ll just have to find a way around it. :o)

Thursday May 5th 11:37PM

The best thing today occurred after the worst way of spending two hours in Gambia, watching the Waterboy. After touring through Sena-Gambia to see the monkeys. It was a 7 min taxi ride with a driver named Mamadu and Jana. After our initial banter over the price we hopped in and got him to put on a reggae tape. He will hopefully be back to drive us to our destination tomorrow. We will be doing a Jesus film on Saturday and will be doing a prayer walk through the town and making preparations.

Just before bed, I went down by the ocean and played guitar with a few others and somehow lured myself into the ocean for a night swim. To my dismay the water was out when I returned to the compound that will leave with a salty sleep night.

Saturday May 6th 12:08 AM

Today began our first day of ministry. In the morning I spent my time, putting together some musical tracks for a concert we will be putting on tomorrow (well, I guess today). Then after a trip to Westfield for Chawarmas and a Coke we head to Telladine where we spent time walking the street and meeting with the chief as we will be showing the Jesus film in the area. We returned and cooked a spaghetti dinner with the first Mangos of the trip, quite the treat the Mangos here are unreal.

The evening consisted of trying once again to find an open internet café and Catching crab for the sisters at the mission. You could almost call it a crab rodeo.

Note from Sat 12:00 apparently we caught the wrong crabs and we ceremoniously release a bucket of dead crabs in the ocean. (it turned out only the big one survived)


Anonymous said...

That was a sizeable first post. I feel very updated now. It's awesome to hear you guys are all doing so well and that the group you're with bonded so quickly. Good luck with your second day of ministry. :) You and Jessica are in my prayers.

- Anna

Carly said...

Great job Mike for keeping us posted I really appreciate the details it feels like I am there in Africa which I am not when you describe your mission trip to me in Gambia. Been praying for you hope everything theres ok.


Anonymous said...

Ah Mike, your blog entries bring back so many memories for me of The Gambia! Including Omar. He used to drive me insane! Keep posting.

-Stef (of the original team) ;)

Chelle said...

Hey Moo,

Poor crabbies... I had no clue that there are right and wrong crabs to eat. Who knew?
So, do they eat the crocodileys too, or just pet them?
I heard some Senegalese/Gambian music on CBC today. Made me think of you. It was, urmmm... interesting stuff. Lots of apparently random twanging and jumbled-together lyrics. The rhythm was pretty cool though. It will be interesting to see what kind of a fusion you end up with if you collaborate with the people down there. I hope everything comes together for you and your project.

Thanx for all the info! Take care, stay healthy and keep us posted.

:) Love, Chelle (and Mao)