The home stretch...

In this post...
- shifting time, space and matter
- preparing for the airport
- goodbyes
- final thoughts

April 6, 2009
To the glow of an energy efficient bulb

Bending of time and space my travels in Gambia are quickly coming to close. In addition the news of my cancelled flight to Madrid has yet accelerated my departure.

Finding balance of life is a fine art particularly in a social culture. Here time spent is everything however, time spent drinking Ataiya doesn’t help feed, clothe, shelter or pay the electricity bill. However, finishing projects that nobody will take interest in or take is an exhausting and expensive way to feel good about accomplishing nothing of use.

Additionally each day the mind increasingly begins to wander back home and wondering how the transition will be back to “normal life” (which due to my current employment, social and housing situation will be far from “normal”)

Preparing to hand over the reigns of the garden has required much thought into structure, roles. At times I wonder how it will work and other moments I see so much potential and God’s hand in the work I wonder what could possibly stop the project. Our workers meeting last week brought me to tears of joy. I am really proud of the team here and really believe in each one. Perhaps the most encouraging success is the establishment of a ECG run garden sales network which is already exceeding our growing capacity which was one of my biggest fears. Only by the grace of God could things come together like this.

Apart from garden business each day is full of joy and surprises. However, I am looking forward to Easter weekend which will be a trip up country for the E.C.G. annual retreat. It will be a chance to step back reflect and spend some “non-structured” time with many of the people from HoW. After all this there will be two short days to dot i’s, cross t’s, say goodbyes and maybe think about packing my thing or two.

April 14, 2009
From the departure Lounge in Youdon-International Airport.

It was not easy to say goodbye. Really from many perspectives. Perhaps the most unusual challenge was the African tendency of total social avoidance when a close friends are leaving. That said I was able to eventually find everyone and share a few last laughs, tears and Fulani greetings.

You can’t expect to start such a venture and not develop such strong bond between the people you spend each day with. Even though for some of my friends we have exchange little more than 20 English words but word or actions, love and friendship could write epic novels.

After install the final security measures for the internet café network (and finally getting the internet service renewed from Gamtel) around 10pm. Anne spent the last night helping me pack, meanwhile Alieu provided me with some entertainment and company well into the wi hours of the morning. In addition to make sure I wasn’t lonely Alieu even spent the night sleeping in my room. Although, with my mosquito net packed away I had plenty of company. At least between the two of us we got enough sleep for one.

It was a quiet ride to the airport particularly for a full vehicle. I made a final few phone calls and ran out my credit before handing off my sim card to Musa. It took a few minutes of silence before anyone had the heart to in the goodbyes So far my only regret was forgetting to hand over the keys to my room but hopefully I managed to arrange things via the local system that they will be picked up.

From here I will arrive in Spain and be staying at the YWAM headquarters in Madrid for a week before flying home on the 20th. (Originally I was scheduled to leave country on the 17th but Spanair has cancelled my flight and rebooked it to today leaving me with a longer stay over) I trust this will give me some time to reflect and begin to map out what the next few years of my life may look like.

I’m looking forward to see everyone back home and sharing more details about the trip and all that God is doing here in the Gambia and in my life.

Well here is my boarding call until next trip. Thanks so much for your prayers and support.


An update!

In this Update….
- Welcome Tyler
- Where are the updates?
- The African Shopping Experience
- Please stop eating my crayons
- Musa, Buyam and 3 meter high casava sticks
- Banana Irrigation
What is to come…

March 3, 2009
From the House of Wisdom Office

--- Welcome Tyler ---

When your cell phone rings at 5:30am it is seldom a good thing. When it is the person who you are expecting to pick up at the airport later that day the odds get even worse.

Thomas Cook airlines has a policy. You must have written confirmation of your place of accommodation in the Gambia before you may board the flight (a measure, I can only guess, to protect tourists for being turned away by immigration on arrival). As no one I know has traveled via Thomas Cook Airlines this came as a surprise.

I soon began to negotiate with the airport attendant. His requests were simple. Written proof (on paper – with a letterhead) of his address of accommodation. Surely he must understand a church in Africa does not have its own letterhead, that there are no street addresses in most of the Gambia and that the majority of places do not have electricity never mind a fax machine.

However, after 15min of dialog Mr. Thomas Cook would not yield from the policy and with no shift supervisor of manager for appeal this pawn has the final word. So at T-minus 30 minutes before take off we were required to comply even if our place of residence had no address.

As email was not a valid option (they didn’t have a printer Tyler could use) I was given a fax number. To complicate the matter I was in Buyam – not in Situka. (aka 100km from the closest paved road) So finding a fax machine at 6am was going to be a challenge. Calling Wolfgang a WEC staff in the city and he graciously sprang into action. Unfortunately the fax machine in the Pipeline office was broken but fortunately I serve a God who is bigger than fax machines and airline policies. Left to pray. Time passed and later heard back from Wolfgang who called the airline as was informed that they had allowed him to board. Praise God!

Upon his arrival I discovered Tyler had managed to get a hold of his mom who typed a letter stating Tyler would be staying at house of wisdom in Sikuta for 6 six and signed it under her name and faxed it in during the final boarding call. For some reason this was acceptable and Tyler passed through.

So with great joy I welcomed Tyler look forward to sharing a bed with him for the next 6 weeks!

--- Updates?

I understand many of you may be wondering why there have been no written updates during the month of February. Well aside from it being a shortened month it had a full month’s worth of activity.

- Before Michael’s departure we had some ambitious goals to add some new wooden benches (now known as Solomon’s Porch Bantaba) and clean-up a major portion of the compound’s sprawling garbage pills (which is now just one massive pile).
- I caught a nasty bug that put me flat out for a few days. (not to mention I got stung by some caterpillar-porcupine hybrid when I put on my sandals).
- The arrival of a CVM team to the house in Senegambia brought in some Theologians from Wycliff College to offer a few lectures.
- Meetings with the US Peace Corps, Gambia is Good’s, WEC conference and a visit to the Bakau Woman’s garden.
- Moving towards just facilitating the work activities in the garden as I begin to hand the direction and responsibility of the garden over to its workers.
- Continuing to play music with the Wuli band.
- Acting as an unofficial tour guide to other Toubab vistors to the House of Widsom compound.
- Planning out goals and objectives for my remaining time in the Gambia.

March 9, 2009
4:15pm :: resting on my bed.

--- Shopping Gambian Style

One of my favorite activities in the Gambia is shopping for supplies for projects. It is a love hate relationship as the task at hand usually requires an entire day and it takes a half day to recover from the intensity of the experience.

A 20 min ride down Situka Hyw brings you to Serekunda’s London Corner. (Hi-way may be deceiving as it more resembles a motor cross track) Armed with a sketch book, backpack and a hidden stash of Dalais the course is set. The maze of narrow streets vendors seems endless and the constant flow of human, animal and vehicle traffic require a heads up attention. If you are fortunate enough to find what you are looking most of the work is done otherwise you are soon forced to re-design your project on the fly.

With a visible cultural disadvantage price negotiation can be the next obstacle. Purchases are an intricate mind game to find the going rate and then unlocking the best deal from the savvy shopkeepers and your local friends may not always know the correct price. I have gathered quite the reputation around the compound often beating the prices of the locals have been paying.

Once the goods are acquired you are face with returning the goods home. With no shopping carts, SUV or superstore green bags when the third item on your list of 7 items is two 200L oil barrels you have a problem. Often this is negotiated with the price and items are to be left at the store and picked-up by a hired wheelbarrow and paraded through the streets to the transportation depot once everything for the day has been purchased.

Computer, palm logs, a 1L of honey, 30m of chicken wire, a pack of toilet paper, a 50kg bag of manure and two 200L barrels are soon loaded and driven down to Sikuta garage. Mission complete!

--- Arts and Craftyness ---

From recent census 50% of the population is under the age of 18. So wherever you are or whatever you are doing there are always plenty of unsupervised kids around and interested in what you are doing. At House of Wisdom this is no exception. Occasionally I feel the need to provide some structure (mostly to keep them from grabbing random objects in my room)

Recently this structure has come in the form of a colouring club. Which is a fancy name for me handing out paper and throwing out a few boxes of crayons on my front porch. Nevertheless, it is a treat to see the creations inspired from their minds as they push the limits of modern art. Often this involves becoming the art (eating the crayons) or changing medium (my door or chairs) – then I’m reminded of my brother early childhood attempts to product a lifesized masterpiece of the killer whales he saw at the Vancouver Aquarium which only bring further joy to my heart.

On the topic of arts and crafts - when Tyler arrived he came with lot of stickers (heart, smiley faces, animals, ect..). As we strive not to give things directly to the kids (to help avoid the thought pattern – Toubabs = free stuff), I recommended we donate them to the Sunday school program and to my surprise they have already been put to good use to decorate the teacher’s bike. He simply explained the kids would have nothing to stick them to so he thought it would be good the put into good use… oh well.

--- Buyam ---

Before Tyler arrived I took an opportunity to travel with Musa Fatty to Buyam to visit what many in the know profess to be the best garden in the Gambia (and this includes the president’s garden). Run by John Greinner, a Canadian and former drug addict now a WEC missionary for 12 years, he picked up Musa and I up in his beat-up Toyota Helix and talked most of the way up.

A very passionate man he also speaks flawless Mandinka, runs a youth center, discipleship school, translates and creates audio books while holding the highest respect of the community in which he lives. After sharing dinner, hearing about the history of the compound and searching his house for a snake the watchman saw the night before we deemed everything safe and went to bed.

The next day David from Sifoe (ex-British military officer, now a semi retired businessman living in the Gambia) came and helped install an inverter he just sold John and joined us of a tour of the garden. As David and John are both very vocal and opinionated Musa and I spent most of our time listening as the conversion ebbed and flowed through the keys of African development to planting methods.

From to time during the tour I would glance I could see Musa eyes light up as he saw 3 meter high cassava sticks (most stunt at 1.5m), lime tree fences, graphed grapefruit/lemon tree, 1000 mango trees nursing in a concrete lined food tank. Perhaps the biggest inspiration would be meeting Solluman John head gardener who had worked with John over the past 12 years. I think it opened his mind to a new set of possibilities.

I too was inspired on many levels and excited to try many of the ideas. However, the highlight of the trip was getting to spend quality time with Musa. Juggling, playing dice, talking about life and even cutting hair the African notion of “moving together” definitely applied. After Tyler’s early morning wake up call (see preveious post) I cooked some French toast with some real Maple Syrup as a thank you to John and his family.

As we lefted Musa asked John for a new bible as I nearly forgot my passport but was reminded by grace just before I loaded onto transport. As we walked to the airport Musa and I shared a mutual excited about how God has lead us together and are looking forward to the future plans of the Garden.

--- Go Bananas

Since my arrival watering the bananas has been a chore and despite my best attempts to persuade the older kids to take on the task the trees have slowly been dying. However, this is no longer a problem! Over the past 4 days Jo (from Kamloops with CVM), Tyler and I have designed and implemented a banana irrigation system. Based off a barrel and some electrical conduit with holes; it is pretty sweet. I hope to post some pictures soon.

--- From here to the end

Here are some rough plans and thing you can be praying about over the next month or so…

- Kids camps with CVM in Gidah (similar to what I’ve done in Soma in the past)
- traveling to Senegal this weekend to watch Musa run in the Dakar half marathon and visit Mohammed and Matar.
- establishing a House of Wisdom waste management program
- recording project with the Wuli Band
- setting up an internet café at House of Wisdom
- another visit to Samba Chargie
- handing over the management responsibilities of the garden

Peace and thanks for reading!

Could this post contain no spelling errors?

No doubt if you have been reading the blog thus far this title will perk your interest if not suspicion. Yet it might be entirely true as this blog is mostly visual. Yes, I have sat through 5 mind (and bum) numbing hours of page loading to birth a Gambian facebook photo album.
Enjoy... (no fear you do not need a Facebook account to view it)


"We Move Together"

Post Summary –
- Planting seeds = Faith
- The joy of visitors
- Braveheart in the Gambia
- A week in the life of Mike in the Gambia
- Visiting Samba Chargie (a journey to the North Bank)

January 27, 2009
11:17pm – under the shelter of my bug net

Every morning at 9am I have a meeting and breakfast with the work group for the agriculture team. It a chance to go over the day’s tasks and ensure everyone has eaten (as many would not afford breakfast on their own dime). Part of the session we spend praying, reading and sharing experiences.

This morning I was scheduled to share but had little to offer. Resorting to reading some random Psalm I headed out to meet the crew. While I sat on the dirt eating my chocolate paste filled Tappa-lappa looking at a bag of peanut seeds I had a sudden change of heart for topic. I needed to talk about faith.

You prepare the soil (in our case pick axe, shovel out, mix in cattle dung, mix in, burning chaff filling back in and watering) in faith it will make a difference to the results of the crop. When shoveling buckets of cow crap and digging hard dry ground or digging the extra 6 inchs of hard pack soil it becomes easy to doubt the effectiveness or question its importance. Planting seeds is an act of faith; you bury a packet of potential and hope it soon will poke a green leaf to the surface. In a position of dependency that period of waiting can be excoriating.

In the same way the last couple of days I have really been struggling with my impact in teaching, vision for the agriculture program and effectiveness of living in community. These actions are in faith; faith God has called me here; faith the misunderstandings, health issues, discomforts produce benefits worth living with the people I’m aiming to help; faith it is possible to build a profitable self sustaining agricultural program at house of wisdom. Faith what I start can be completed.

When the father of a sick son came to Jesus asking for healing, he ask the man if I believed. To which he replied “I believe. Give me faith to overcome my doubts”.

This conversation was burning with-in my own heart and so perhaps what I shared today was more for me than anyone else. Thoughts I wrestled with as I crawled across the ground poking holes and dropping seeds into a week of intensive soil preparation. On the road ahead I see the need to hold on the faith of what God has called me to and knowing he will see it through to completion.

Sunday 2:08pm

It has been a joy to be part of Mike and Jon’s Gambian experience. Over the past week they have told stories, shared testimonies of their lives and spoken into the lives of many youth who face overwhelming odds and in an uphill battle. Not to mention Jon looked extremely sharp preaching in church today in his newly tailored African suit.

In the mornings Jon and Mike are out working along side the gardeners and taking on not only the immediate tasks but really approaching the situation in a holistic manner. Furthermore they are all stars with the kids. Coming home from school the kids rush through the compound gates in search of their giant Toubab friends. Juggling, drawing, taking pictures and just hanging out it has been a treat to see them engaged.

As this is the last week with Jon we are making plans to visit Ali Bah’s home village on the North bank (a more rual area of Gambia) and to see James Island an important fort during the time of British salve trade.

Thank you to all who have taken time to write me. It is encouraging to here from you and to here about life at home. I’m sorry for the many people I have not been able to respond.

As many people have been asking what an average week looks like I’ve mapped out some of the week’s highlights (and challenges below). I’m also hoping that as Jon returns he will have a chance to post some photos onto the internet of what we have been up to.

Sunday: Church service, Mike shared his testimony – I was experiencing digestive track problems so was unable to stay in the service – took a bunch of Imodium – Martin came by and we fit 16 people in a landrover and went to the beach to play soccer. Made Spaghetti for Martin, Jo and Musa. Vistied with Paul and Sandy.

Monday: Agricultural work in the morning – planted some seeds and dug some new lines for planting. Taught Math class – working with memorizing the multiplication table – Math is a challenging subject for most Gambia students - Taught a guitar class.

Tuesday: Agricultural work in the morning. Spent time with administration working in the afternoon. Heading to a celebration for Gambia is Good an NGO (non-government, organization) who’s goal is to supply the tourist industry with locally grown produce. Returned to the compound for toubab English class. Jon and Mike are taking the more advanced students and adults while I have been working with those who are just beginning to read.

Wednesday: Agriculture meeting in the morning. I met with a horticulturalist from Senegal about sourcing seeds and long term plans for the farm. Jon and Mike joined me in Fajara to meet with Toni and Rita. Toni has business which came up so we read books and I talked with Gee (a well educated man from Cameroon about broadcasting wireless computer to computer networking signals. We had dinner with the smile team (team of 12 university students from England who are teachers) who have Mariatu cooking for them and they also made us chocolate cake (wow!).

After we went out to hear the holy family band play at Karaba resort – this was a full day.

Thursday: Went and did some farming. After I spent time doing administrative work and then after lunch prepared for the evening English class and guitar lessons. Jon lead the compound bible study. We prayed for a man from the compound who recently returned to his home village in Guinea Conakry.

Friday: I got sick woke with a Fever – slept the morning and spent the rest of the day reading the bible and planning the farm’s development. Jon and Mike when to explore the Gambia for the afternoon. I when to the compound store and found they were watching Braveheart so I sat and explained to all the locals what was going on and why limbs and head were getting dismembered. I then slept some more to prepare for the chaos that was an all night youth event held on the compound. (being sick I retired early with a good set of earplugs) ***Discovered they have Ovaltine in the Gambia.

Saturday: I woke up and had a jam session with the Wuli Band. Spent time learning about the Kora (a traditional West African instrument that is a cross between a harp, guitar and a large kitchen mixing bowl) We then spent the afternoon at the Fatty’s eat Benichin (stirfried rice of the Gambia), drinking Atailya (green tea) and playing guitar to the large gathering of youth who came by to visit.

Sunday: Church, lunch, nap time and then off to the beach for some football. Today’s complication was when I got a fishbone caught in the back of my throat and needed to swallow oversized mouthfuls of rice and drink 2.5L of water while on the verge of vomiting to remove it. (I’ll be more careful with bones in the future) We finished the day with prep for our journey to the north bank and a game of Dutch Blitz with some of the youth and a lady who is illiterate and can’t count.

All in all a good week in the Gambia.

February 5, 2009

We left early Monday morning for the North bank. The plan was to visit Ali Bah’s mother and family who recently lost their father to lung cancer (yes, smoking kill in Africa too). For Jon and Mike this would be a truly rural Gambian experience – 1.5 km from highway there is no power, no running water and no toilets (just a 20” deep 4 foot wide hole you crap beside and push your business in with a stick).

We added a side trip a chance to see a famous slavery landmark. It was a bit of a shock to the system but not surprising to be thrusted into a tourist trap. First was the village development fee, then tour fee, then the boat fee, then the boat driver tip, then the tour guide tip. We managed to escape the restaurant, craft market and snack bar before heading back to town to buy supplies for our stay in the village.

Travel is typically a challenge and there can be many adventures and challenges.
- finding ways to keep your legs from going numb because there is a metal bar sticking into your right thigh (Ali Bah)
- learning eating your sandwich before the ride keeps it from falling through the floor (myself)
- discovering riding on top of the van is better than inside (Mike)
- knowing the right the time to ask the driver to pull over before filling your pants (Jon)

Traveling by horse cart as the sun set over the African horizon we arrived just in time to get our bearings and distribute our gifts of rice, meat and oil to the family. Through out the night village members came by to greet and with an adult population of ~100 people 3 foreign visitors is big news.

The village of Samba Chargie (named after the founding father) is itself quite beautiful. Its remote location from the road it feels like a time warp (until someone pulls out their lead acid battery to charger their cell phone) It is quite nice but life is rural Africa is not simple and the last year’s excess rain cracked and destroyed a handful of the mud brick and thatched roof buildings and excessive use and no maintenance the towns only hand well pump is working at 33% it’s normal efficiency.

The village is Islamic and so Modu Bah (a full time resident in the village) and Ali Bah (my neighbour in Sikuta) both received heavy criticism (and physical beatings) when they decided to follow Jesus. Not wanting to abandon the family and their home village they each have gone to great lengths to restore relationships and over the years have seen much progress. Part of our journey's goal was to show our support for the brothers and promote an understanding of peace and love between the two religions with-in the village.

Tuesday morning we spent touring around greeting, gifting and praying for village leaders, family members and friends. At each stop we were well received and saw a genuine hospitality and joy that we had come. As well it was a privilege to be accepted in to the Bah family. There is no doubt the lost of their father has drastically impacted present and future situation of the family (particularly for their mother). We all made our best efforts to be involved and present with the people by showing our love and support.

For me it was also a chance to bond with Ali Bah who will me my closest friend upon Mike and Jon departure. After snacks a meal of coucous and boiled tree leaves Jon and Mike retired. Ali and I then helped prepare the meat for the following day’s lunch, drank ataiya and sat in front of the house for a couple hours talking and sharing life.

The African people often use the phrase “we move together” and even from this brief exposure this phrase came alive. With so much of your time devoted to maintaining life (making bricks, replacing thatched roofs, cracking peanuts for seed, milking goats, cooking, eating) there is little time, finance or energy left for leisure activities instead work becomes the leisure and everyone can be seen “moving together”.

We left in the late afternoon again to the setting sun, we arrived home to hear that our visit had lead to the reinstatement of Modu Bah as head of the town census a position which had been revoked on his conversion – a huge step.
Thanks for all your prayers and support.

Uncle Dudu

- New name!
- New survival skills
- New arrivals to the Gambia
- New Bacteria to the digestive track

January 20, 2009
11:27pm – to the sounds of Gambia Radio and Crickets

As there are now two Michaels on the compound the compound has assigned Gambian names. Mine has traditionally been Dudu (not by choice). Although a very noble name in Mandinka (great one), the name Dudu in Fulani means “un-hatched spoiled egg” (…and well you know what it means in English)

Never the less it stands - uncle Dudu (they might as well have a naming ceremony)

January 21, 2009
1:53pm – to the heat of the African Day

So a little bit of catch-up to do today…. :o)

As of Saturday we planned to start the garden on Monday. But this is Africa and well on Sunday at church a brief announcement about a naming ceremony to be held on Monday from 9-10am informed me we would be starting on Tuesday.

In Gambia and the majority of Abrabic influenced world babies are not given names until the 7th day (in keeping with Islamic tradition and for various other reasons). So when the name is announced it is also a big deal. Perhaps on the same scale as a simple wedding. Although the ceremony lasts for an hour, guest and dignitaries travel to stop by and present the couple with gifts and to enjoy good food.

As custom right after the naming a goat is slaughtered by the men, as a man this involved me. Although it took a half hour for my stomach to recover I definitely had a better appreciation for the meat when I did get around to eating.

The remainder of the day was spent enjoying Ataiya (super strong green tea), playing the dice game and listening to music turned-up a little too loud (I must be getting old).

January 24th – 5:36pm
On a cool overcast day.

With the arrival of good friends Jon and Mike from Canada on Tuesday came, fresh excitement, culturally understanding conversation, sicknesses, intimate living conditions and fun. It has been a joy to show them around and share in their new world adventures.

On Wednesday morning staying true to my Gambian name I went off in search of manure for the garden. My logic cows wander everywhere, particularly around the highway, so why go buy fertilizer. Being nobody else wanted this job and with my gimped arm I’m pretty useless in the garden this only added to my logic. So off through the streets I wandered with my wheel barrow and shovel.

The dropping were scarce, after 15 minutes I had little more than the interest of the locals who were new to the idea of a $%@ collecting toubab. But God will reward the faithful and on route to the highway an elderly man discovered my intentions and called me over. Unable to speak English he simply pointed at a compound. Unsure what to expect I marched into a cattle feed lot - jackpot. Greeting the owner’s son I soon left with a triumphant smile and a wheelbarrow brimming with crop producing nutrients.

On Thursday Mike and I ventured to the GIG farm to gather more insight into farming in the Gambia. Although not exactly what we expected we did gain some valuable insight while picking peppers and washing squash with Kelly the farm’s manager. On return we discovered Jon had received his first encounter with foreign bacteria on a trip to the Youth for Christ office with Alieu Bah and was passed out on the bed. Soon Michael was also there beside him and it was not long after I also began to feel my system deteriorate.

Although the sickness has failed to keep us from all adventure I’ve been in limbo ever since. Taking away much of my energy it has also made finding and appetite (particularly for the more foreign food a challenge.

This afternoon I’m taking some time off after having a morning jam session with a traditional Kora band the “Wuli Band” (Stand-up band). I met them on a taxi ride and took a chance that they were good and worth a listen. They are not only good they are also a lot of fun to jam with. I’m excited about some potential for some recording with them later on in the project.

Situka, Farming, Guitars and a Hot New Night Club

January 16, 2009
9:02pm – My new room in Sikuta

- Settled in to new room in Situka
- Started evening math tutoring
- 4 guitars in Africa?
- Farming, how hard can it be?
- Islamic – Christian scholars dialog
- And there is an outdoor night club just down block

Sikuta is alive – well at least outside my room. The constant bustle of activity parades in, out and by my door as I type. The days here are full of activity, curiosity and smiling faces. I have been well accepted and received a health balance of celebrity and outcast experiences.

I have begun teaching/tutoring (aka. lion taming) during the evenings. The students are eager to learn so far I have been focusing on Math which I have been informed is the weakness amongst most Gambian students. Based on the change I tend to receive when buying things it is easy to believe. It takes some unwind from a sessions worth of frustrations – there are only so many ways to teach that zero times anything is zero.

In the next weeks there are plans to add an English and eventually a guitar class. Since arriving I have had three broken guitars brought to my room all of which I’ve been able to repair to a playable condition. When I start teaching I’ll have 4 guitars to work with.

During the day most adults are working and the kids are in school so to fill my time I have drove head on into an agricultural project. The compound owns ~3 hectors of land most of which is growing wild. So there is a huge potential if I can inspire the community to take interest.

I immediately booked a few meetings with a few key players in the region and after two days of very productive meetings with NGOs (non government organizations), foreign business men and agricultural scholars my mind is exploding with ideas.

Gathering a fair amount of curiosity from the locals I wander around the compound collecting “junk”. Old tires, buckets, rice bags, cans, water sacs and old bug nets all potential tools and supplies. I have also starting some composting buckets in the kitchen or outdoor cooking areas.

Taking stock of the tool/s situation (nothing) I made my way to Kanifing and put some money down to buy the best tools I could find (not saying a lot). A student of Kodak’s 5 “S” program I immediately involved some of the interested in setting up a tool rack for their proper storage.

It is exciting to see the interest from many of the young men. On yesterday’s visit to the Gambia is Good (or GIG farm) run by Concern Universal I had 5 guys come along – one of which is Musa Fatty. Granted we will see how many show up to dig the 8’ x 8’ x 4’ composting pit on Monday.

I have received a tremendous amount of support from Pastor Modu and his wife Mariama. We have spent a number of meals and car rides discussing vision. They have had the desire to start something (shown in their foresight to buy land) but their timetable are typically well booked time and energy to invest in such projects are limited.
It has been fascinating sharing ideas, Modu is fast becoming a leader in the dialog between the Islamic and Christian faiths. Holding a weekly dialog with prominent Islamic scholars from the area, he is bridging the gaps and offering a olive branch to the surrounding community. I have much to learn in this area and it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes of global new to understand the relevance and important of these discussions. Self taught and no credentials to his name, his desk is littered with letters to inviting him to speak international conferences in Africa and Europe. I’m humbled to be in such close proximity.

Anyways, my legs have just gone to sleep from sitting here and I should really go grab a bite to eat before bed. It could be a long night the local dance hall has just started up for the night and one might think they just invested in a new high powered PA (apparently it sometimes goes to 5-6am).

Thanks for reading and all your prayers.

Changing Worlds


- life has been full meeting with old and new friends; lots of great possibilities

- Beginning to set out plans for the next month

- Learning Mandinka with the Fattys in Latracounda

- Toubab NGO party a culture shock

- A new type of church

- Looking ahead to the coming week of settling in to my new accommodations in Sikuta.

- Will sleep well tonight :o)

January 10, 2009

8:48am – CVM mission house

This morning’s entertainment included Tijan beating a 3 inch cockroach to death with a straw broom and Musa chasing the spider sitting on the wall between the two clocks which hang above where I’m sitting. One clock is for Gambia time, the other for Saskatchewan time… perhaps I’ll get around to installing one for Vancouver.

Yesterday was full of meetings; Toni and Rita (Brazilian missionaries with YWAM), Mariatu (my African mother), Habib and Alagie (members of the Holy Family Band – Islamic Senegambian Reggae I have done recordings with –, Paul and Sandi, (youth workers from New York) and Eric and Elly (long term missionaries living up country in Basse whom I am planning to visit). I spent most of my time listening, watching and scribbling in my book; repair projects, things to teach, technologies to explore and experiment with, there are so many great opportunities here to contribute if one is willing to seek them out. (doing them is another thing)

However, the meeting that excited me the most was with Pastor Modu Camara. A modest sized property in the suburbs of the Kombos, the community runs a store/restaraut/tea shop, a hair salon, welding shop and a tailor shop. Spending little time with accommodations, food and financial arrangements (knowing we could each be trusted to work things out) we instead explored possibilities and talked about the people of the community and their needs.

I woke up around 6am this morning my mind racing with possibilities and never did get back to sleep. The thoughts of inspiring and equipping creativity here in the Gambia would not let me return to sleep. I’ll explain more in the days to come but now it is time to help with the morning chores and tending the garden.

January 11, 2009

4:17pm – CVM mission house – finished post @ 9:01pm

It was a slow start to the day today. I had spend most of yesterday with Jo and his family after doing some gardening and cleaning up a massive unorganized pile of donations, tools and junk under the stairs.

I was quickly greeted by little (but now bigger Fatu) as she ran down the landway. Musa handed me a painting he had prepared for me and Issa soon brought out a feast of Jolfa rice and fish. I felt like royalty.

We sat under the mango tree and drank Attaiya (strong green tea laden with sugar). True to my plans to learn Mandinka, I began taking notes as we discussed some ideas for drying fruit as a supply of food and source of income for the family. Ebrima Jollow the elder of the family shared much wisdom in thought and language, including some deep Mandinka expressions that took a few minutes of deep concentration to wrap my mind around. Quite amazing really.

On the way home I ran across an American peace corp speaking Mandinka and soon was invited to a going away party. Wanting to make some connections I decided to go so after dinner and a quick jam session with Martin I left home for the adventurous evening trek across town.

Expecting a quaint gathering at a restaurant I arrived at a beautiful beach front residence packed with 60 odd inebriated westerners in full swing. Although it was nice to converse in some familiar cultural context, it was a little overwhelming to say the least. Since I had made the journey I decided to stick it out. It was interesting to see the view points of salaried relief workers and hear their stories and frustrations there are many good things going on – but it is a different mentality from the volunteer or faith based projects. I made a few friends and contacts but left glad I was leaving.

Jumping off the other end of the culture platform was the House of Wisdom Sunday morning church service. There are a number of differences from your average western church first it is held in a round hut with Islamic prayer mats scattered over the floor everyone sitting in a circle with the children in the center. Secondly, I have never seen so many breasts in church – babies get hungry and there is little need for modesty or a nursery; it is just part of life.

I will no doubt have my work cut out for me: learning names, creating understanding and developing trust. These things will take patience, humility and love. Although the people are very hospitable, there are expectations I will fail to be and preconceived notions I will need to clear both in my mind and theirs. Tomorrow I will be moving in your prayers are greatly appreciated.

To end the day Jo stopped by and went to play some soccer on the beach before enjoying a meal together. It was the perfect end to the day and I will sleep well tonight.

Chicken or an Egg?

January 9, 2009 :

9:27 Gambia Time..

CVM residence in Senegambia

I made it! … and almost as importantly so did my luggage. The only lost was my pack cover which never showed up in Madrid.

The trip to the Gambia has lost its special enchantment and seemed much more of a routine journey. That said there was fair share excitement, adventure and frustration. Madrid was more of a challenge than I would have anticipated. I had little time to research accommodations and staying in the airport alone for 16 hours seemed unappealing after already being on 3 planes.

I soon discovered how little Spanish I knew (even less than I thought) and I had never been so happy for my French later bailed me out of a few situations. Eventually I found a room for a reasonable rate and fell asleep later to wake up to explore the city for dinner.

I was blessed to have no trouble at the Gambian airport, due to my length of stay and the amount of electronics I was carrying with me I had anticipated trouble. Martin (CVM staff), Jo and Musa (Jo and Musa are friends I have been help Musa with his schooling over the last two years) were there to welcome me and give me a ride from the airport to a mission home in Senegambia (touristy part of town) where I will get my bearings straightened out.

There are new surprises and many things to relearn. New prices on everything and my language skills are as bad as I remembered them. While trying to get breakfast this morning I discovered there is an egg shortage due to some conflicts with street egg sandwich vendors and the government. (kind of like North American squeegee kids vs the government) After visiting 9 shacks (corner stores) I finally was able to buy 3 eggs but when I returned to make my sandwich I found one had already decided to become a chicken. So much for my appetite.

Fortunately, Martin and the two boys Musa and Tijan are here to help me navigate this all and help with teaching some Mandinka which will be a good project for the time I am here. Anyways, Martin is ready to go and the day is flying by and there is much to do and people to catch up with. More to come soon...

T minus 11hrs12min

The hallway upstairs is lined in mesh bags. One for pants, shirts, drugs (the medical ones), a guitar and a week's worth of underwear. I guess I'll find out what I forgot when I'm there - and of course realize what I could have left at home.

The final days have been mostly details although, not finding my good shoes after moving houses triggered an emergency shoe purchasing expedition 30mins before mall closing (quite possible every girl's dream situation). Admits the chaos were great moments of peace, encouragement and fun. Notables included Sunday's the snow shoveling team to scrape the ice off the driveway, time with my grandma and the streams of visits, emails and phone calls filled prayers and heart felt words which provided repose between errands. Thank you.

A huge thanks to Mark for taking up valuable holiday time to get the web site up and running on such short notice. As well I am so thankful for my parents who have been called up to pinch hit many times this week and being so understanding.

From here planes take me the Minneapolis, Amsterdam and Madrid before I'll touch down in Yundon International Airport (home of Africa's only NASA approved space shuttle landing strip) mid day on the 8th.

Anyways, enough typing asd the morning comes fast and those mesh bag will not pack themselves...