Travel Log – Day 5

I have been back from Senegal for more than two weeks.  I kind of went into a communication vacuum for a while.  I think it was because I wanted to think about my trip before I wrote any more.  Plus, work was busy and family was visiting.  It just gets difficult to work a blog into your life sometimes.

Here is a continuation of my travel log from Day 5….

Everyday life in the village

Let me tell you what it is like to sleep in a tent, in Africa, at the end of the rainy season.  It was warm all night long.  I slept well regardless, even though I did not even use a cover.  Before going to bed, I took some Tylenol and a Benadryl, so I slept pretty soundly without waking up until morning.  It’s never a fun feeling to wake up feeling sweaty and sticky.  But since it was only for two nights total I knew I could bear it.

We had a breakfast of eggs and bread.  The women of the village prepared it.  They are such hard workers and they are the heart of the culture.  They care for the children, they prepare all the meals FROM SCRATCH (which takes about four hours per meal), they do all laundry and the cleaning, and they even work in the fields alongside the men.  The men work in fields, either plowing or harvesting their crops of millet, beans, peanuts, and bisap.  Life is a challenge for all, but especially the women.  This is a universal truth.

Doing what I do

The rest of the day consisted of just going with the flow.  We didn’t know who we would be attending as we taught from the book of Genesis.  It could have been adult men or women, youth, or children.  However, it turned out God gave us a group of about 40 children.  If only we had someone with us who had a heart for kids and the unique ability to fly by the seat of his pants.  Oh yes, that was me!  I showed them the finger puppets.  Then I told a story about the Gospel using a magic change bag and some scarves.  The kids seemed to enjoy it.  I showed pastor Benoit how the trick worked and made sure that he understood it was just an illusion.  We had fun telling the story of Noah and his great big boat.  Brad did a great job acting out the part of Noah.  We made the sound of a rain storm by rubbing our hands, snapping our fingers, clapping our hands, then clapping on our legs.  After my story, Jeff told the kids that just like the ark provided safety and salvation, Jesus provides the same for us.

Kids come running for finger puppets

For lunch we had another traditional meal with fish as the protein.  There were also vegetables such as cabbages, tubers, and green tomatoes.  It was absolutely delicious.  It was starting to become second nature to share meals from the same dish.

Love this shot of my friend Thierno

I want to mention a special time I shared with my namesake, Thierno (pronounced “Chair-No”).  In the afternoon, we were able to meet with our namesakes and give our gifts.  I sat with him and a translator and asked him some questions.  I found out that he attends school and is in the equivalent of 6 to 7th grade.  That makes him about 12 or 13.  I asked him what he wanted to do more than anything.  He answered that he wants to learn how to play guitar.  When I asked him if there was a guitar anywhere close by.  He answered that there was a man in a neighboring village who had one (hours of walking).  Now, I’m pretty sure he mentioned guitar because he saw me playing it for the children, but I also noticed that he loves music very much.  He sang in the church choir and he also shared his radio headphones with me.  In my head, I started to see a vision of a young man, his father the pastor of the village church, and he the musician – leading the village congregation in music.  I now have it in my mind, that on my next visit to Senegal, I will be taking a guitar but I will not be returning with one.

I tried to teach him some chords

After dinner, when it was dark, I was sitting on a log in the village compound.  A special translator friend of mine, who called himself Charlie Brown, came to me and said that Thierno had asked him to translate for us.  So we sat on the log in the dark – me, Charlie, and Thierno and had a real conversation.  It seemed my shy friend felt more comfortable talking about personal matters in the darkness.  He asked me what I did for work.  I told him that I fixed computers.  He had given me a photo earlier in the day of his baptism.  He now explained to me that he wished for me to enlarge it and send it back to him, along with a picture of my family so he could pray for me.  Then he said the one thing that I will treasure more than anything else.  He told me that my coming to see him again made him feel that he was very important.  And he is.  He is so very important.

The late night movie was a double-header.  People from all over the village came to watch movies provided by the mission organization.  They projected on a large portable screen and they used a generator for power.  The movie was in French but was translated into Sereer by a live translator as the movie played.  The movie was about a village under the control of a witch doctor who used fear to rule the people.  Then, an African pastor was called by God to go to the village.  The pastor went and after a series of spiritual battles, helped to set the people free.  The basic message was, Jesus is more powerful than any other spirit.  I stayed awake for the first one but then went to bed.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, plus there was the allure of sweating myself to sleep!

Travel Log – Day 4

It is harvest time

This morning we got up early and headed to the village of N’Djemane.  It was a two hour bus ride that became quite bumpy after we tuned off the main road.  I noticed how much greener everything seemed to be and then remembered that it was the dry season during my last visit in Feb. 2011.

The village church

We arrived in time for a special service at the new church.  It was the official dedication of the building.  There were many special guests and dignitaries attending this big event.  There were also the village chief, and other church pastors from the region.  The service lasted around three hours and there was much translation between French, English, Wolof, and Serere.   We did have the unexpected surprise of singing a song for the congregation.  I try to be prepared for anything so I grabbed my guitar and we sang Amazing Grace.  We had some dignitaries of our own.  My beloved friend Robbi Fischer stood with all the pastors and prayed a wonderful prayer of blessing.  Later, our own “chief” Gene Toombs spoke to everyone present about what a blessing it has been for our church to be involved with the village.  He said WE have been the beneficiaries and WE have been the ones who have learned so much from the relationship with the village.

Wild Man Ted plays some Hacky Sack with the kids

After the service, there was a special lunch and then we played some games with the children.  We also handed out some treats.  Finally we went to Benoit Kama’s compound and set up our tents there.  A huge part of the trip is participating in the namesake ceremony.  There in the dark, under the stars and the Milky Way, Our first timers connected in spirit to someone specially picked for them from the village.  It was a late night, but all of us danced together to the drums.  We were just one great family enjoying each other.

I was able to find my namesake, Theirno Kama, shortly after arriving.  I saw some young teens headed to the church and called out, ”Theirno!  Theirno!”  It turned out that he was right there.  He pointed to himself and said, “Theirno”.  It made me so happy to see him again.

This is my namesake

We just came back to the hotel and I wanted to write this and get it on the blog as soon as possible.  More is coming soon!

Travel Log – Day 3

Greetings from Theis!  It has been another day of training and cultural immersion.  After breakfast, we piled into the bus for a visit to Bartimee Hospital, a medical facility that provides affordable care by local physicians to the Senegal people.  Within this relatively small hospital, people receive dental care, deliver children, and have surgical procedures.  The hospital is especially known in the region for cleft pallet surgeries.  A major reason why I’m so excited about this place is the fact that back in 2008 this hospital had only 2 floors.  My church, Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, took up a special offering during Christmas that year and was able to donate $250,000 so they could add 2 additional floors.

So, those floors in the photo above would not exist were it not for generous giving.  It’s just cool to actually walk through, and touch something that your church did for someone on the other side of the world.  Sometimes, when we give we don’t see the results and we think the money goes into someone’s pockets or evaporates into the atmosphere – but there are good people in this world doing some good things.

It was neat to see the city from the roof of the hospital, one of the tallest points in the region.  From there we went to some markets.  I was very glad to have guides and translators because being in a new environment like that can be intimidating.  We saw everything under the sun from jewelry to cell phones to groceries – including witnessing a delivery of 3 skinned goats to a butcher shop – they were just sitting in the trunk of his car.  There was also section in the market dedicated to fabric which reminded me of my wife and her sewing/knitting friends.   I was going to try to buy some but was a little intimidated by the buying process and by the possibility of choosing something that was unattractive.

I took this photo of the fabric district but I had to do it quickly.  It is possible to offend someone by taking a photo without their permission.  Then we had some lunch.  I have to say so far that the food here has been absolutely delicious.  Today I had a Royal Hamburger – beef, cheese, French fries, and fried egg all on a bun – it was really good.  Tonight we ate at a restaurant and I had a au gratin fish dish.

We actually ate this dish of rice, meat, and vegetables the day before but I wanted to show you the traditional way of eating.  We have one large platter or bowl and everyone shares.  You basically think in your mind that it’s like a pizza and you have a “slice” – you just stay in your section.  We used spoons although when we are in the village they will use their fingers. 

Tomorrow we will head to Djmane.  I finally will see my namesake, Theirno, again!  I will not have internet access until Tuesday so I will have to sign off for a few days.  Much love to everyone who has been following along.

Travel Log – Day 2

In flight gaming entertainment

I never thought I’d be reviewing video games while at 30,000 feet but South African Airlines gave each passenger their own screen.  You could watch movies or TV shows.  They also had some video games!  I played some Bejeweled, Golf, Solitaire, Sudoko, but my favorite by far was Texas Hold’Em Poker.

Solitaire stands alone as great entertainment!

All of those games were of late 90’s graphic quality but they really did help pass the time.  I give the South African Game Collection an 8 out of 10 review score!  That’s it.  I’m done with video games.

After an eight hour flight over the Atlantic headed for the city of Dakar.  My sleep schedule is already pretty messed up.  I slept for about an hour on a floor pad after we finally arrived at Beacon of Hope.  The place is pretty cool because it is located beside this little light house on a hill – hence the name Beacon of Hope.

See the lighthouse on the hill?

They provide a place for missionaries to get support.  I met two missionaries today – a husband and wife team who recently had a child.  They are staying here while getting US paperwork completed for their new boy.  I played with their children, Ollie and Ruby and hopefully I can upload a picture.

Ollie and Ruby

Ollie and I must have spent 45 minutes playing in the dirt with some toy dump trucks.  Imagine that, children actually still play outside somewhere in the world.

Usually the first day is rest and recovery as well as some cultural training but instead we headed for the city of Theis.  It was a two hour drive.  The rainy season recently ended here so things are looking much greener than the last time I was here.  We checked into a small hotel that is going to be our “base”.  More to come tomorrow.

Travel Log – Day 1

I’m sitting at Dulles airport during a six hour layover.  The next flight will take me to Dakar, Senegal.  I know I usually use my blog to talk about video games, theology, or both – but for the next seven days it’s going to function as my travel log so you can know what’s going on.  I was going to attach a thrilling photo of me typing at Starbucks but the wifi security won’t let me upload.  I should have internet connection a several points during my trip.  I also promised myself that I will take more pictures on this trip.

I did recently purchase a Microsoft purchase to use as my computer during this trip.  This device definitely has some strengths and weaknesses.  I am seriously wishing that I had purchased the higher end keyboard cover with the raised keys.  The membrane cover that I’m using is better than typing on a tablet screen but I miss a lot of keys sometimes.  I also look forward to the store having more apps available.  Well, that’s my mini review of the product.  I’m going to play a game I purchased called Radiant.  It’s an old school shooter that works well on a touch screen.  I’ve played it before on my Kindle fire.  I may download some kind of adventure or RPG if I can find one at the store!  Oh yeah!  I was supposed to be “unplugging” and going to Africa!  Hey, it let the picture upload.  Cool.

Ted at Dulles Airport, Washington DC

Well, I’ll go to Africa but I’m not going to stop gaming!