Friday, September 9, 2011

life is not the same

I miss:

shaking hands with little kids as I walk down the road.
having hair stiff as hair spray because of dust
seeing my sandal tan line get worse
joining little kids in the mud puddles
exploring cliffs on sunday afternoons/settling arguments between goat herders and four-year-olds
getting my workout from making food
seeing the missionaries
listening to "white thing" being called out every time I go to market
seeing colorful clothes
being able to tell the difference between a married or single woman based on her skirt, not her finger
seeing compounds of families/knowing if I am visiting my friend, I am visiting my friend and ALL his or her relatives
having little kids laugh at my water-pumping technique (or lack thereof)
the missionaries and their much
the beautiful sound of the mixing of tribal languages
speaking French
riding a moto
food made from scratch. really.
greeting everyone I see.
the ladies outside the missionary compound who taught me Gourma
strangers trying their hardest to be matchmakers (well, not really that. but it was endearing)
and many other things. like not having homework to go back to.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

headed home...

Well, Dena and I are home safe and sound. Both slightly stressed at our last minute packing and overcrowded airport, and sad at the prospect of leaving for so long, we moved our tired selves through check-in. In the chaos, we lost Dale and had to leave without even really saying goodbye (sorry Dale!), and hastily ripped off massive amounts of duct-tape and rearranged books and tools to make our overweight bags light enough to be accepted. Once we finally got to the plane though, our flight to Paris was good. Poor Dena can't sleep, but I dozed a bit, and we both watched movies, I wrote PT school essays, and talked about our time together there. It's so great having such a good friend to debrief with on such a consistent basis, love it. We unfortunately didn't have enough time to leave the airport (only a 2 hour layover), but we amused ourselves with the fastest internet we've seen in a month and cartwheels - we may have gotten some weird looks, but we were tired and getting goofy at that point. We loaded on to the plane bound for NY and gratefully got seats next to each other, made friends with our seat buddy, and made the trip home. I excitedly went to meet my welcoming party, and we sent Dena on her continued journey home. We're both home safe and sound now. Thank you again for the prayers and following of many, we've been so blessed.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Last day in Burkina Faso

Neither of us slept well, so we decided to get up at 4:30 AM and start working on emails, blogs, and organization for the day. We ventured out to get baobab juice at the local market around 8:00. We were successful, so we returned to check in with the Johnsons before we went to visit Rebbecca (the nice lady who taught us to cook last time). Our ride was supposed to pick us up at 9:30, but she got wrapped up in family stuff and forgot about us until close to 11:00. When she remembered, she came straight over and apologized profusely. We were just happy to have the chance to see Rebbecca again and meet her son, Nathan, for the first time. She drove us out to the main road on her moto, one at a time. Then together, we took a taxi to Rebbecca's house.

We arrived in front of a large metal gate that was slowly opened for us so that we could see inside. Several families were cooking, doing laundry, and talking. Rebbecca, when she heard we were there, came bursting out of her home with a huge smile on her face. She welcomed us warmly into her two-bedroom apartment. She had already started cooking the tao and sauce. All we could do to help was play with Nathan and de-stem leaves, which we were more than happy to do. We talked about our lives for the past few weeks, our hopes for the future, and joked about life together. We met her family and ate the tao and leafy lamb sauce with her. She was convinced we would not like it, so to prove that we liked her food she insisted we eat more and more. We were stuffed after she brought out baobab juice and water sachets to drink, accompanied by peanuts. We discussed her ministry with Nathan and the challenges she has faced with him. We exchanged recipes and gave her the Messiah Na'an recipe in hopes she can use it to sell on the road served with various toppings. She was very excited about new recipes. For dessert she served finger potatoes. They were so sweet and delicious-the best potatoes Jo and I had ever tasted. We talked and prayed all afternoon until our driver picked us up around 4:30.

On arrival at the SIM guest house, we joined the Grace point team. They invited us out to dinner with them, but we emphatically refused. We were SO full. Instead, Flo and Liz accompanied us to the secondhand market. Jo purchased a comfortable pair of pants. The pair she had ordered from the tailor came back too small and looked like Michael Jackson bell-bottoms. We are afraid he mixed up the thigh measurement for the waist. Even the top was too small. In short, the tailor ensured that Jo would never, ever be able to wear pants made from Burkinabe fabric. It was rather unfortunate. He did offer to pay for the ruined fabric as an apology, but Jo decided to leave it as it was and take her fabric and try to salvage it somehow. Anyway, she found comfortable clothes, bargained for them, and purchased them. Everything was one or two dollars there! We all thought it was funny that we were shopping at a secondhand market in Burkina: the ultimate thrifters. It was quite fun, and we returned happy.

Upon our return, we were swarmed with craftsmen selling their wares. Bargaining, purchasing, and admiring occupied our time until about one hour before we were supposed to leave for the airport. Loaded with these extra souvenirs, we attacked our luggage in a frenzy, to repack our suitcases. We tried to take only one checked bag each.

We arrived at the airport around 8:30 and it was crazy. There were no parking places, so Dale just stopped, helped us out with our luggage, and sent us on our way. We meant to meet up again before heading off, but we were herded into the secure area before we could say goodbye. We quietly bid him goodbye, lamenting the loss of the hug as we converted our two heavy checked bags into four lighter ones. We passed through security, boarded the plane and left.

Please pray for safe travel and not too many emotions.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Travel, Part 1

We left Mahadaga today! So sad… Dena and I did an early morning hike again, wanting to one last time, enjoy/challenge ourselves in the cliffs, say goodbye to Mahadaga from up high, and try to memorize the beauty of that view. So good. We came back, ate our coffee-cake (props to Dena), and took the rest of our stuff out of our home, affectionately named Beatrice, and to the Johnsons. We had a long goodbye with the Walsh’s, including a last minute epidemic of blue and brown frog/dot disease with Thomas, and piled into the car, heading to Ouaga. It was so wonderful spending so much time with Dale and Flo, learning theories of leadership, sharing stories, and asking questions to hopefully gain some of their incredible wisdom. We stopped in Faada again for lunch, had some delicious meal (thank you Jen and Marcus), I can safely say I have no idea what was in it, but it was great, and continued on our way.
We arrived in Ouaga around dinner time, and hung out with Liz (a yearlong STA who left Mahadaga the day I arrived), went out to dinner, enjoyed some wonderful fraise milkshakes (strawberry), and came back for spa night. Where us girls (Flo, Liz, Dena and I) talked for hours while Dena graciously massaged their sore selves. It was wonderful sharing life, wisdom, fears and hopes with a bunch of women in different stages of life. It was a wonderful evening.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Last full day in Mahadaga

This morning, was so wonderful. Again, semi-freakishly early, but we woke up before 4:30 to head out to the cliffs with a couple of the Grace Point guys to watch the sunrise. We filled up with our “balls of wonderful goodness” which turned into “balls of semi-satisfactory okayness”. (Okay, so we had some delicious ingredients left, but not enough to actually make anything so we decided that adding things like peanut butter, chocolate, oats and milk would make some wonderful goodness, but instead, we’re pretty sure we maxed out our cooking successes, so it turned out to be rather bitter, and just okay, but they worked well as powerblobs, semi-resembling a cross between no-bake cookies and power/protein bars). Anyway, that was kind of unfortunate, but the hike in the dark, the long opportunity to watch the stars (we all saw a shooting star!), and the blessing of being able to watch how Mahadaga welcomes in the day from the vantage point of the cliffs was such a beautiful, incredible experience. The guys headed back but Dena and I stayed to do devo’s, talk about life, and enjoy the peace and beauty of the start to our last day in Mahadaga.
We headed back and packed up to go to the Center for the last time, to return the things we needed to, pick up other things, and print out our forms so that the Burkinabe animateurs are all ready to do the research testing when the time comes. Of course, because it’s Africa and us, it didn’t work out as planned, the pages got all mixed up and it took forever, but we had some wonderful, funny conversations with Dale, Pierre, and other Center employees, and played with this adorable little epileptic boy who recently fell into a fire and is recovering from really bad burns, but still loves to play. (My 5 French phrases that work with children are really coming in handy). We finally finished that up, and handed it over to Francoise, finally done stage 1 of research! WOOOHOOOOOOOO!
After boutique-ing it up, we said goodbye to the Center and headed home to eat lunch and pack up. I pretty much took a power-nap of death, while Dena was productive, but then we both pulled all of our energy together to take Caleb and Joel to the cliffs, accompanied by our porch-friend Diapaga, and were later joined by Amandine, a young girl we just met who pretty much is awesome. After trying and failing to find a good way up that was accessible to even the little ones, we found a way, but have to turn back as a native woman came and talked strongly with the Burkinabe kids in Gourma, who quickly turned around and started heading back. They explained to us that this place is known for having large amounts of snakes and scorpions, and we couldn’t go there. Something that we’ve learned is that when even the practically fear-less local kids decide something is too dangerous, don’t try it. So we headed back and found another way. It was so fun climbing all around, racing the kids, helping Joel climb over big rocks and just enjoying the beauty. At one point, we reached the top of a cliff, and Caleb paused, looking out over Mahadaga, he said in his little boy voice “Look at it! It’s magnificent… it’s so beautiful.” Ha, it was so incredibly cute, and really quite accurate. It was such a beautiful time.
While heading back, we were trying to find a good way down, and had to make the decision between taking the advice of the older, machete carrying herding boys, or the younger village children. Much to the annoyance of Amandine, we took the advice of the older kids for a good way to climb down for Joel, but made her laugh again in our mad race in getting back. We joined the Walsh kids and some other African kids in the Johnson’s yard for epic horse races, frog races, chasing games, tickle fights, and a bit of soccer (sorry, football). Rather physically tired (these kids look small but turn out to be rather heavy when you run while carrying them), Dena and I headed back to eat our last Mahadaga meal. We finished picking/packing up, made coffeecake for the next morning, and were so touched by Francoise, Nicholas, Yempabou and Borema all stopping by throughout the course of the evening to say goodbye to us. We ran into the Grace Point team on their way back from their CSPS completion party (that hard-working team completely rewired the whole CSPS, something they’ve been waiting for literally for years), and Dena used her wonderful therapeutic massage-skills to soothe Tom’s work/moto wrecked back. Also, because our camera’s been broken, she snagged all of their pictures so we’ll soon be adding photo’s to the blog! Photo credit to the Grace Point team (probably Katie). It was such a wonderful, full, beautiful day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CSPS Wednesday

We dedicated this day to learning about and spending time with the staff at the CSPS, the medical center. We spent the morning learning how to do pregnancy check-ups. Two women were already training to do this work, so we were just included in the training. Both Jo and I were able to listen to a baby's heartbeat. It was precious. Since there were no births happening, we decided to tour the rest of the CSPS. We watched a dehydrated boy with malaria get treatment, visited the nutrition center, and then decided to cheer up by visiting the preventative medicine building. Their charts of how many people they are helping and how many villages they visit are so encouraging. The state only pays for vaccines for children up to one year of age, so the staff tracks pregnancy and population statistics to ensure that they are vaccinating all of those children. Diminished from a staff of five to two, they expressed how difficult it was to go out in the bush with their ice packs and vaccines and cover everyone. In addition to vaccinations, they taught mothers and families the importance of hygiene, finding drinkable water, and proper medical care. Their tasks were huge, but it seemed that they were shouldering them well. Since it was not market day, the staff engaged us with a little more conversation so that we could end on a lighter note. We left laughing after having been teased for getting sunburns, half set up for marriage, and getting a side-by-side comparison of hazards of life in the US to Burkina. Burkina, of course, was found to be much safer and superior to the US in so many ways.

departments of the medical center

chart in the preventative medicine department tracking populations for goal vaccination numbers

maternity clinic

Our afternoon was filled with interviews, hot pad buying, boutiques, and preparations for prayer meeting. All of our endeavors went well and we came to prayer meeting only just making it before habitually late missionary family. We had prepared for communion by baking na'an and diluting this really sugary fruit cocktail mix for juice.

At prayer meeting, Mary from the Grace Point team shared how she heard God's call to come. It was moving to hear how God works in people's lives in such intimate ways and how God is faithful when we act in faith. Having seen and experienced the ministry she has given to the people and to Jo and I, I was really glad she came. It was really a privilege to hear the story behind her coming. Having her reminder that God called each of us to be here serving together for God our Father brought a new feeling of unity to the group. The communion elements we prepared only enhanced the mood. It somehow worked out not tasting too bad, God must have blessed it well. We followed it with foot washing. It was the first time the water got dirty after the first foot wash. I cherished the sense of unity shared by the group as we served each other and remembered how Jesus served us. I felt so humbled and undeserving as Francoise, the missionary of 25 years who developed the CSPS, school, and CAH knelt down and washed my feet.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Last Sortie and Trike Finishing

With a dark and early 4:30 AM start, we woke up and hit the ground running. Opening and closing our refrigerator quickly because its gas ran out, dashing out of our porch quickly so that the bees attracted to our lights would not sting us, and racing to disassemble and reassemble a tricycle before our sortie started, we were grateful we were morning people. As everyone arrived for work at a more reasonable hour, they greeted us with tuon tuoni, good work and thank you. We graciously accepted their encouragement as we put our stuff away and eagerly readied ourselves for our last sortie with Patricia, the only female animateur.

We visited Timothee, a boy with cerebral palsy who completed the GMFM with such drive and persistence that we could not get over how cute he was.

We played with a boy with mental retardation that seemed so hungry for love. We approached him at the beginning and in response he attached himself to each one of us, hugging us around the waist. He ran after us when we had to leave, and we had to unlatch each of his fingers from ours. It was heartbreaking to see how attention-starved he was. After him, we visited a little girl who was blind because her parents used traditional medicine for her eyes when they were oozing when she was born. Jo succeeded at making her stand almost on her own by distracting her with humming and bouncing, keeping her from realizing that she was no longer supported by a lap underneath. The last boy we saw was completely functional despite cerebral palsy, and he gave us a dance performance to cell phone music. We half moto raced home and collapsed in bed for a lengthy nap upon arrival. Waking up just in time for dinner, we were blessed to have a delicious meal of olive bread, potato cheese casserole, ratatouille, cucumber salad, applesauce yogurt, and cornbread cakes provided by Francoise. The meal and conversation was wonderful, and we promptly returned to bed afterward.

Francoise with the Walsh kids at the BBQ