Sierra Leone part 8

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 – 9:25 pm

This week is much different than last week. I hardly had anything to do last week. I just had my sessions to prepare and present and took lots of pictures during the class time. Now, I am checking every story that’s completed to make sure that they have been composed within the parameters of the word and letter quotas. It feels like accounting work as there are so many details to keep track of. I am enjoying it and have already learned much about primer construction.

I finished reading the book of Esther again this evening. My talk for Sunday evening’s Gathering of Esthers is more obviously taking shape now. Though I started out preparing to talk about Esther, I am finding that the book is really about God. His character as revealed in the story of Esther is amazing. I am planning to go through the whole book while highlighting various lessons that the Lord is teaching me from it. It’s good for me to not have any additional materials here to help me prepare. As I only have my Bible, I am realizing more fully that it truly is sufficient.

Humidity really messes with printing, I’ve found out. I have to run paper through the printer a couple of times before actually printing on it so that the paper will be sufficiently dried to cause the toner to adhere to it. I’m trying to keep our paper in a plastic container while we aren’t printing, but still need to dry the paper by running it through the printer before printing.

Yesterday, the tailor came to get our fabric during breakfast. He got our measurements and style preferences and will get our finished outfits back to us by Saturday. I am looking forward to working on my African look. 😉

Tonight, there was some racket going on in the street. It didn’t sound like friendly commotion, but I wasn’t about to go find out what it was. Campaigning for the 2012 elections has started and I wonder if it had anything to do with that.

Mummy is good at remembering that I need to work on my Mende language skills. 🙂 Since she knows that we learned some on Saturday evening, she now speaks to me in Mende. It’s a good thing that I know “Kaeengoma” (Thanks be to God.) as I can say it in answer to anything. 🙂

For dinner we had a burrito-style sandwich that tasted like gyros. It was good, and the farthest we’ve gotten from the usual chicken and rice meal. Fried plantains were on the menu again. I really have to make those at home. They are really delicious.


Sierra Leone part 7

Monday, November 8 – 7:00 pm

I have 30 minutes before dinner starts. I’m sitting on my bed with the fan on and the balcony and hall door open so as to air out my room. When I come back in the evening, it needs it. There is quite a bit of mold in the building. Airing out the room as often as possible is helpful.

Oh, dinner is ready early. Be back later!

– – – –


Dinner was delicious fish and french fries. I’ll probably eat more fish during my time here than I have in my whole life previous.

On Saturday evening, Putsy braided all of Carey Jo’s hair. It took her five hours. We learned some Mende during that time.

We also learned some things about Putsy’s life. She is part of the team cooking for us these three weeks. Every day she has to do some laundry and the cooking for her family before she comes here to help get breakfast ready for us by 8am. So she gets up around 4. She only returns to her home after we have eaten dinner, which starts at 7:30pm. She does not live here in Bo. She is seeing her task of cooking for us as a ministry. These people’s concept of ministry is so different than mine. Often, I think first about accomplishing all I have to do and then with whatever time is leftover I can serve others. She is spending her day serving us and has to squeeze her other responsibilities around that. She will be doing my hair in braids while I am here, and that also is something she considers a ministry.

Yesterday, we visited Alfred’s church. It was a small congregation, but very passionate. I filmed some of the worship and took pictures. There were 3 offerings. The sermonette before the offering and Lord’s Supper were similar to what I would hear at home, but somehow the same type of message is intensified here. When they speak about giving to God primarily to honor Him, and worshipping Him for Who He is rather that what He does for them, I think of how little they have on this earth, and am challenged by their deep devotion to God. Perhaps we in the West are actually done a disservice by our wealth. Our desires are met in many material things that many times we don’t even perceive a need for God. Really, that’s what it is. At least for me.

In their worship I see souls so thirsty and hungry for and satisfied by God. Yesterday, they kept singing and dancing for a long time. Almost everyone was in action. The only musical accompaniment they had was a drumset. Their singing was beautiful. I think everyone here can sing well. During the offering, they kept on singing and dancing up the aisle to drop money in the baskets.

At the end of the service, Michael (one of the members) addressed our group and spoke about the history of their church and current situation. Their denomination has been discussing what steps to take to expand their reach to the interior. Literacy has been among the things they discussed, so us being here at this time is providential. Their congregation may be one of the first to make use of the primers to reach out to its neighbors. Hearing from coworkers about the relevance of literacy ministry is one thing. Hearing it from these people is quite another.

After exiting the building after the service, I took a picture of Carey Jo with a bunch of the children on the steps. The children then swarmed down to me to see the picture. They almost pushed me over as they crowded around my camera. I wished someone else had a camera to capture that moment.

Alfred invited us to his home next-door where we were treated to a meal of cassava and fish. We piled into a vehicle and Michael drove us back to the hotel. I was squeezed in the front between Gregory and Michael, but from that position was able to capture a picture of all those in the back including me in the foreground.

In the afternoon, we went to the internet cafe. This time, I had more success with sending e-mails. Uploading pictures to Facebook, however, was a no-go. It was nice that because of the slowness of the connection, I was only charged for 45 minutes even though I was on for 1.5 hours.

This morning, Gregory spoke to us about numbering our days. It was a timely message, and Carey Jo followed it up with writing a timetable of our work for the next two weeks on the blackboard.

Then, we started the construction of the Themne and Mende primers. Carey Jo said that last week was play and this week is work. I am on the Mende team. Since I don’t know the language, I am doing word control, at least for now. It took me awhile to figure out how to work the custom dictionary in Microsoft Word, and I still am dissatisfied with how it functions, but came up with a system that should work. The goal for today was 6 lessons, but the team came up with 8. We have to revisit lesson 8 tomorrow, but so far progress is great. My task is to make sure that they aren’t using too many new words in the lessons. It was organized chaos today, but from my perspective it was more chaos because of my troubles with the computer program. It should be much more pleasant tomorrow.

Sierra Leone part 6

Saturday, November 6, 2010 – 10:13 pm – listening to Valley of Vision in my room with the lights off, window open, and fan on

Since I last wrote, the Pricer Construction Institute has ended. Well, not quite. The official class time has ended, but on Monday morning we delve into two weeks of putting it into practice by constructing the Themne and Mende primers.

On Thursday after lunch, I taught two sessions: Special Lessons and Finalizing the Primer. Carey Jo would have taken my preparation materials away from me during the lunch break if I hadn’t agreed to go take a rest. Days are very tiring here. On Friday morning, I felt like my head was spinning a bit during class. Not sure why, but nevertheless I stayed at the hotel for the rest of the day after lunch. Gregory and Carey Jo responded to my saying “It wasn’t bad.” with “You don’t want to wait to rest until it is.”

I enjoyed helping grade assignments of filling in the manuscript. I didn’t know what to do before I started, but by the end had learned more about constructing the primer.(I consulted the applicable section of the Primer Construction Manual as I graded.) Nothing like learning it for yourself by grading others’ work!

The pattern for the first few days of the week was clouds rolling in and a heavy rain starting right after we had finished class and returned to the hotel. The weather has gotten less predictable during the last few days. We haven’t had a really heavy rain for two days. Earlier today, the temperature in the hotel restaurant, which is covered but half open around the outside, was 92. Never have I experienced such humidity as here. I am dripping in sweat when I arrive at the training center after walking or riding a bike.

Isaac fixed my shower the other day. I now can fill my bucket with water without having to go to another room. I fill it every day to make sure that I have water to shower with in the morning. He also cleaned my room and replaced my sheets. I was going to move my things to Carey Jo’s room before giving him the key to work on the shower, but wasn’t fast enough. He knocked on the door before breakfast. Then I didn’t feel like I should move my things and didn’t think that it would be a problem with him. He did ask why I didn’t hang things in the closet, and I said that I wanted them to stay dry. He noticed my water pouch hanging from my backpack and I could tell he was really puzzled as to what it was, so I said it was for water. He asked if it was to keep it cool, to which I replied that it wasn’t but that I could carry more water that way. I didn’t want to mention that I have to purify their water before I can drink it. Later, Lori told me that they all understand that we have to have purified water, so I guess it wouldn’t have been a offensive to mention it.

On Thursday, when we were walking back to the hotel from class, I snapped a picture of a group of men pushing a car on the road. They were *not* happy. So I said that I would delete it (which I did, by the way). I need to remember to ask before taking pictures. I may forever be teased by my colleagues for “flirting with jail” or “almost getting us sent to prison” or “having an illegal picture” on account of my snapping pictures of the airport. It’s fun when people ask us to take their picture, which they often do when they see us with our cameras.

Something I’ve noticed here is that people want to hear your answer to “How are you?” One practice is to shake hands and ask how you slept in the morning. People are very cordial.

On Friday, Gregory assigned one biker the task of transporting all of us one-by-one to the center. When it was my turn, he was stopped by what looked to me like a mob. I couldn’t understand what the problem was, but one of them had taken the keys out of the bike. I sternly said “Let him go!” to one of them. Then, another biker with a passenger drove up and appeared to be taking something (money?) out of a bag. Then, the “mob” let us go. When my chauffeur let me off at the center, I asked if he was going to be okay or if they were going to stop him again. He said he would be back. I knew he was going to go get others, but the answer didn’t satisfy. I went to Agnes in the classroom and told her what happened. She said that the bikers have to pay a tax to their organization. How it works I still don’t know, but I hope I don’t have to travel on a bike solo again.

During part of Patty’s desktop publishing session on Friday, I wrote the steps she was explaining on the chalkboard. It seemed to be a help to students who wanted to take notes. We had about 6 computers in the class, so they were able to practice what she was teaching.

This morning, we 5 white people went with Agnes and Stephen to the market. It was unlike any other stressful shopping trip I’ve experienced. The combination of riding motorbikes, dodging vehicles, making sure we stayed together, keeping my bag close, navigating narrow pathways, saying that I wasn’t interested or ignoring shop owners who wanted to sell me something, and sweating profusely was…exhilarating. There was so much western clothing and items being sold. It’s amazing to see the many items that have “Obama” printed on them. I declined the suggestion to buy a jeans skirt with that imprint.

There is a supermarket here that is air-conditioned and carries many of the comforts of home. Interestingly, there are Kit Kats that I’ve never seen elsewhere. They are large candy bars and one kind has a caramel addition and the other has nuts in it. They’re good. We’ve had a couple of evening chocolate meetings in Carey Jo’s room. 🙂 We walked by a cocoa bean shop and the owner broke open a bean for us to taste the inside. It tasted quite good. It was great to have Stephen and Agnes with us because they knew how to deal with the market shop owners. Agnes bargained with the seller of the fabric that I liked to get the price down to 40,000 Leones instead of 45,000. Now we just need to meet with a tailor to decide on a style and then I will have an African outfit!

On Friday, I spent some time in the kitchen talking with some of the ladies. I found out that Mummy’s birthday is on Sunday and that she is a muslim.

This afternoon, we visited the internet cafe. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do very much because the power went out while we were there. The power had gone off at the hotel early today, but came back on this evening.

Sierra Leone part 5

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 – 9:38 pm

I am late getting settled for the night today. After class ended at 5:35, Gregory took us to the internet cafe. I paid a total of 8,000 Leones for 1 hour of internet. The exchange rate for us was 4,200 per US Dollar. $2 for an hour of internet usage? Yeah! The hotel owner came with a car to pick us up when we were done. At that point it was raining heavily. We stuffed into his SUV, and two of us were sitting on people’s laps. It was a memorable adventure.

We arrived late to dinner, and stayed chatting later than usual. Then, we (minus Patty) met in Carey Jo’s room for the “good stuff” — Kit-Kats that Kenyon had purchased at the supermarket. They were large bars. He had gotten a caramel kind and a crunchy kind. The four of us talked for bit before retiring. I filled up my bucket with water in Carey Jo’s bathroom since my shower has not been fixed. I am going to leave my key with Isaac (the manager of maintenance and such) tomorrow so that he can fix it at his convenience during the day. I feel really bad for neglecting to let him know yesterday when I was finished with lunch so that the plumber could fix it. He told me later that the plumber waited five hours for me. Meanwhile, I was enjoying sending updates from the internet cafe. The Lord is teaching me about being kind rather than uneasy. I wish I had learned such lessons earlier. The people here are so gracious and kind. Again, I have a lot to learn from them.

On Tuesday morning, I taught the letter count finalization, Advance Preparations, and electronic letter count sessions. Unfortunately, the electronic letter count did not work properly, so we are contacting our tech guy (aka my brother) to see if he can fix it.

A girl named Mummy (said “Moomee”) introduced herself to me. She works here from 7am to 10pm. I spoke with her a little but want to get to know her better and plan to invite her to the Gathering of Esthers meeting (if Gregory thinks it’s a good idea). Speaking of which…I think I am getting somewhere with my talk preparations. I tried to access a webpage of the commentary on Esther by Spurgeon at the internet cafe but was unable to do so. My decision now is to just see where the Lord takes me in Scripture to expound on the book of Esther. It seems that He wants to teach me what He wants to teach me and not just what He taught Spurgeon before I speak to the girls.

Yesterday after breakfast we brought our laundry down to Susan who arranged for a lady from one of the churches to wash it for us. This evening, Susan notified us that our laundry will be ironed tomorrow. I’m still trying to dry my clothes that I washed by hand yesterday before dinner. Kenyon said that the temperature is 90(ish) but the humidity is at least 75%. Right now I have the fan blowing on the clothes to try to dry them as much as possible. I would prefer to not have them get musty and have to wash them again before wearing them.

Most of my paper items are damp because of the humidity. Now I am wishing I didn’t bring my journal because I’m typing it anyway. It’s faster this way. The two booklets I brought as witnessing tools/tracts to hand out are also damp. Ah! Maybe I should give them to Mummy. I’ll have to think about that.

A frequent question in the last couple of days has been “Do you have water?” (running water in the bathroom) That question is never asked at home. How spoiled we are in the States.

Today the students delved into desktop publishing with Patty. Since the projector wasn’t working, there were four groups gathered around four participants’ laptops. It is exciting to anticipate that more entering of the primers into the computer will be happening on site as we do the primer construction rather than the whole thing having to wait for Patty in Tulsa to type it up. She is doing a great job with her teaching.

I have now seen a grand total of 5 white-skinned people outside of our group here in Bo. A missionary from South Africa at church, a lady who looked like she could be a nurse on a motorbike, and three ladies from Finland at the internet cafe who are here to record stories about health issues and literacy. I feel quite conspicuous wherever we go. And as Carey Jo said, that’s because I am. Kenyon had to adjust the exposure on his camera just because of me when I was sitting between Gregory and Daniel in front of a village dwelling. I look *very* white. I am happy about tanning a bit while everyone at home is probably wearing sweaters all the time now.

It’s time to shut down for the night and try to get sufficient rest for a change. These are long days, and it’s hard to go the whole day without a nap. Today I wanted to take a nap after lunch, but had to go directly back to the classroom since I wouldn’t have had anyone to walk back with otherwise.

Despite all the living challenges, I am loving this time.

Sierra Leone part 4

Monday, November 1, 2010 – 8:50 pm – In my hotel room in Bo

The water is off. Thankfully Carey Jo filled a bucket slightly more than half full for me because she has water in her bathroom. I need to wash my hair in the morning, but am not sure if I can without additional water. I plan to tell Gregory when I see him about it. Perhaps he can mention it to the hotel staff.

Well, I didn’t finish telling about church yet. What really struck me about the service was the great enthusiasm of the congregation. One of the leaders spoke about how God was gracious to bring them all safely through another month. It was convicting to see all those people dancing for joy and praising the Lord for a long time. They have so little materially compared to me, but they are rich. They are rich in thanksgiving to the Lord. They are rich in joy. They know God as the One Who provides. Really and truly. I have much to learn from these people.

Another thing that really struck me during the service happened at the beginning when they started the singing. The singing leader exhorted the people to praise God because of Who He is and not what He has done for them. Wow. Although I hear that at home, too, it was very striking when stated in that context.

In the afternoon, I rested instead of going with some of the men to the Cybercafe. The report I heard made me partly wish I had gone. Apparently, the wi-fi is free, and it is a very westernized establishment. I had wanted to go today, but there wasn’t an ideal opportunity. Walking over there in the dark even accompanied doesn’t appeal to me.

I just mentioned the water issue to Agnes. I can let the Susan (the cook) know in the morning if I don’t have water then. Well, let the creativity in taking an entire shower with only a half bucket of water begin! This is good for me. (no sarcasm intended)

Before dinner, we instructors met at the compound where classes will be taking place and reviewed the schedule for the week. A few more participants arrived during our meeting, including those who worked on the Advance Preparations for the Themne and Mende primer construction. In the evening, I worked on more teaching preparation and journaling.

This morning, the Primer Construction Institute began. To the center, I rode behind one of the participants on his motorbike. He drove slowly, which was really nice for me. Later, after lunch, Agnes hired bike drivers to take some of us ladies down the road to the center. This time, the driver drove a bit too fast. Maybe he was excited about carrying a white person.

At the beginning of classtime, Gregory explained how vital it is to be able to read because, like the king in Esther’s time, God has written a decree for all the provinces of His kingdom. It is necessary to read it. That is why all of us are here.

I finished creating my powerpoint presentation during Carey Jo, Patty, and Daniel’s teaching sessions. However, later when I was teaching, the projector wasn’t working. Patty helped me out greatly by writing page numbers and headings on the chalkboard as I spoke. It was also helpful for the students to have a visual in addition to my speaking. The topics I covered were Primer Characteristics, Walk Through the Primer, and Letter Count. We had to move the Advance Preparation session to the next morning. At the beginning of my teaching, I passed out highlighters and sticky notes. Using them in my book has been very helpful in mapping it out for easy use. I thought the students might enjoy using them for marking up their books as well. I think at least a couple of them liked it. I think my session on Walk Through the Primer in which I had them flip to many different parts of the book kept them engaged and awake.