Gortoh Laioru (One Month)

Scholarship...

Attention teachers and all people who believe good education is fundamental for positive change in society. With the recent passing away of a long time missionary to the Gambia there are a number of scholarships which are coming to close leaving a large gap with-in the local community.



Under the mentorship of a long time missionary, I’m in the works of setting up a scholarship program to sponsor children from the community. I’m in the process of working out the logistics but the goal would be to have enough to sponsor 10-12 children balanced on needs and performance.

There is possibility to connect children to classes and other such thing but I’m not making any promises at this time. However, I’m in wondering who would be interested in being involved in sponsoring or recruiting sponsors.

If all goes well I will personally be interviewing the children and/or parents before I leave and making some selections. If you are interested in being involved please let me know by email.


Eyes on the Clock…

In one month from now I will be on a plane en route home. I feel a bit like the student’s crisis as he sits in the exam room periodically glancing up at the clock, both panicked to finish all the questions yet longing to hear the freedom of “time’s up”.



As a result my intensity and intentionality has increased over the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately there are a number of problems this can cause in this culture. After a couple of encounters some which resulted in more serious meetings, I had to remind myself people over lists but sometimes people means lists.

People is the list of a pilot’s pre-flight check. People is cutting enough firewood and storing enough food for the winter. People is gaining knowledge so you can understand how and why. However, coming to understand the culture I’m living in the pilot’s list has little value when no one cares to fly and food is only good if people will trust you enough to eat it.

So at the end of it all I’m left in my room eyes on the clock. My prayer is to know which questions to answer, bluff or just draw a smiley face and hope for the best.

Bitten…

So I was bitten by a snake the other day. It is possible I set the world record for high jump. Fortunately I remembered everything television documentaries had taught me about snake and I was able to relax my heart rate and calmly call over some locals to check it out.

I wasn’t sure at first if it was a snake as I was in some grass and only heard it but the double puncture confirmed my suspicion. The sake wasn’t too big the marks were around 5mm apart. There were no signs of poison but we bought a razor to the cut open the wound just in case.



I am now far more cautious about walking thought the grass.



A day in the Life…


It has been a popular question – Mike what does an average day look like for you? The word average makes it hard to answer but do the popular demand I had decide to create choose your own adventure African missionary day.

*note* I take no responsibility if you pick a bad day.



1. The first part of any day is waking up
a) wake up call to prayer go to 2
b) wake up to alarm clock go to 3
c) sleep through alarm go to 4
d) Wake up in a panic go to 5

2. The Arabic chant of “Pray is better than sleeping” reminds you just how lazy Christians can be and that you drank too much tea before bed last night but since you are now up you might as well …
a) Pray for a bit before falling back to sleep go to 1 don’t pick a
b) get up and go the squat pray you aren’t bitten by a snake go to 6
c) Roll over in a sweaty mess and listen to the cat fight outside your window go to 7

3. It is a beautiful day outside but you were up too late trying to figure out why you are missing 625 Dalasi. You decide to…
a) Hit snooze – 10 more minutes go to 9
b) Wake up anyways because you really have to pee and you slept thought the call to prayer. (not an option if you have been to 2)



4. It is Sunday morning your alarm didn’t go off because you forgot to set it as only the weekday alarm is automatic. Fortunately the church starts at 9:45 and you have 15mins before its time…
a) I should shower Go to 10
b) I should eat Go to 10

5. shouldn’t have had the Keh-keh (fresh milk from the market) you got 30 seconds to find you toilet paper and dash to the far side of the compound. After many trips experience you are an old pro and gracefully glide across the compound greeting the locals in stride. In a few fluid moments it is all over. A swig from the pink bottle and you ready to face the day. Jump to 8

6. You made it safely to the toilet. Relieved yourself and had a good couple hours sleep before the alarm rang out. You wake up put on some clothes and get ready for the day. Go to 8

7. You regret your decision – you really need to pee. Go to 6

8. After breakfast (Tapa-lapa peanut butter and banana) with a cup of unsweetened tea. The sun is out and there is work to be done. …
a) go to En Gessa Go to 11
b) work on a special project Go to 12



9. You have now hit snooze five times and the kids have now taken notice and began calling your name from outside. Fortunately no one else seem to be up to anything much. You can spend some time enjoying a bit of music, check your email and pray before heading out to check of the projects.
a) go to En Gessa Go to 11
b) work on a special project Go to 12

10. The line for the bucket shower was 3 girls deep and the shop is closed. You hope to guy beside you will understand put on your best and head off to church. Held in a round building, prayer mats on the floor and chair in a circle the service is like no other I’ve heard of. With 30-40 people the service includes some form of translation and often there is singing in 4 different languages. The speaker is different every week and typically engaging. The service finishes with a liturgical prayer similar to what one might see in a Mosque. After church you get really hungry and lunch isn’t until ~3pm so you will typically sneak some quick snacks before you sit under the mango tree. The beach is a favourite retreat you grab a couple of locals and head off on the motorbike. The water is warm and the air temperature is perfect. You thank God for Upon return you shower and
Prepare to go play at the Sheraton (see next topic) before making a list preparing for the week ahead. Go to End.

11. At en gessa there is always lots of work to do, grasshoppers to kill, weeds to pull, living fences to plant, stumps to dig out, fruit trees to plant. The challenge is knowing how much to do yourself and what should be left for the locals. Communication is often a problem although I’m sure it is selective hearing. All said it has been a productive morning and today everyone was there and you enjoyed the day’s work. You are called to lunch you sit down and eat around the bowl with your hands because there are no spoons. You return on the motor bike to the compound and prepare for the second lunch. Go to 13

12. You start working on that project and you suddenly called to go to a naming ceremony. The work will be there tomorrow. Quickly you go inside try to find some clothes that look ironed and clean. The rest of the day is spent socializing eating and drinking tea. Baby decides to pee when you are holding him - no worries just keep smiling it is all about the complete experience. Go to 14




13. This afternoon is along with spending time drinking Ataiya it is
a) Monday – There is lots of work to do at En Gessa at 4 you prepare to head back.
b) Tuesday – Today you meet with Omar to discuss recording techniques and learn about African Music. No cars on the road. Get delay getting pulled into the police station for a drug search. Play guitar for the officers while they search your bag.
c) Wednesday – Today you drive through Serekunda, get a shave visit your friend’s restaurant and the pick up some trees to bring back and plant in the field. They are working on the market road loose balance on motorcycle had to put foot down in a mud puddle, left leg now covered in red mud.
d) Thursday – Take some time to write some emails or work on studying your Fula - none of that actually happens. You are interrupted by an emergency meeting.
e) Friday – If the other two members of the Sukuta Trio appear (they are often off playing for the president) spend the afternoon jamming. Otherwise time to follow up on those projects you've been neglecting. Remember to take time an just sit with the locals.
f) Saturday – "Free time" – visit a village? Work? Visit friends? OR maybe head in to the market to find some limes or baobab so you can get one of the girls to make fresh juice for you.
Go to 14



14. The night has come. Monday finances and Fula lessons, Tuesday computer lessons. Wednesday, Fula and music, Thursday is bible study, Friday there is typically a special event. Each night you will typically eat at 10pm at one to of the two shops. Beans, eggs and potato is usually the best option. If you are having a really good night there may even be some salad available at a toubab price.

Through out he evening there will be 4-5 visitors with various request such as wanting to say hi, borrow (take) sugar, discuss an issue, or use the internet.






End. You have successfully completed your African day.
n = n – 1
do while (n > 1)


Sunday Nights at the Sheraton…


Every second Sunday night I sneak off the compound and head over the Gambia’s five star hotel. I don’t go as a guest but as a musician. I had been offered a chance to join my friend’s band a few months ago and haven’t looked back ever since. The music is a mix of Senegambian and afro-cuban traditionals; the chords are generally easy but the rhythms aren’t.



Fortunately being the off season the hotels is fairly empty (if not completely) regardless we have a good time end it is a great way to wind of a week of work.


The Importance of Civil Engineers and City Planning…


With the building of the new road into Sukuta there has been a lot of development over the past couple years. Granted this culture is not prone to planning everyone tends to fend for themselves and then sells the lowest piece of land to a toubab who doesn’t know any better. So I don’t need to write much more the photos really tell the story.

This is after a typical rain fall, the water from the new road runs down the street to the place in front of our compound.


The water eventually drains down a small passage way.


Water ends up here...


Then enters this compound...

href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_W7BtL49TtNU/TFgWv6J0ASI/AAAAAAAAAHo/-Kap009_rFI/s1600/flood+5.JPG">
And floods the compound they sold to the unsuspecting Toubab... but it is ok he only comes during the dry season.



The Lazy Farmer


The Lazy farmer works harder for less. I’m sure it is a adage in some African language but I may not have made it into the local circles. After a week’s break from En Gessa I decided to take a visit. It was obvious something has not happened there for sometime and that was weeding. The grass had completely overcome the peanut field.



There were not a lot of questions asked and not a lot was said say but the lazy farmers soon were awoken from their slumber and went to work.

There is obviously a level of disappointment and the early negligence will no doubt impact the end harvest. However, it was encouraging to see the response and see the community take the initiative seriously instead of giving up hope (which is not far from a typical local response)



Now things are much better.


Father Abraham…


Pastor came in the room late last night.
“I’d you to drive the boys to Brikama tomorrow.”
Harmless, right? Nope.

In the Hebrew scripture God is very clear in a covenant that Abraham will be a great nation and all people would be blessed through him. Part of this was a covenantal seal – and let me assure you the seal is not the blessing itself.

This morning four young unsuspecting boys were taken to visit a man with few strange tools and make shift operating room. I’ll be honest it was not easy to be with-in earshot never mind in the room itself not to mention I myself I’m not “under the law” (Thanks Galatians 5:6 among many other references) it crossed my mind it may have been a trap for me as well. But I quickly counted the four small robes and number of sterile blades and I was safe.



After the threat of emesis had subsided, I spend the rest of the morning fanning poor traumatized boys while singing father Abraham - chalk up another 4. But on a serious note, it did give a new perspective to Genesis 17:23 and begged the question if it was required would I volunteer?




Like any good African circumcision the Kankuran soon showed up – now I know why most of the boy run when he is out and about. Naturally, I myself prefer Santa Clause, the tooth ferry, Punxsutawney Phil or Mr. Floaty compared to the hairy rice bag wielding two machetes,
but when in Rome…


Bookends…


We are used to endings – clean, complete tidy endings. Particularly in the West we will organize and plan out our lives over nice clean concise arks. We dissect and isolate focusing on an issue in hopes of putting it to rest. I can see why no one likes to have things hanging over their head. Unfinished business often implies lack of peace unable to put things to rest.

This fear of unfinished work often this keeps us from being involved with messy issues and complex problems. They are untouched or patched with superficial solutions. I am aware that this trip will finish with many loose ends. I’m knee deep in too many things for it all to end well and when there is nothing solid to stand on you often have to learn to swim. There is a constant tension living at peace with the unresolved. The wheat will grow with the weeds – there is no way to separate them.



My hope is the miracle that one day all things will be sorted made right and somehow my decision to be a part of it all makes a difference that I can only imagine.

God Speed.
Mike

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