Check it out. Pictures from the Italy portion of our travels. God is so creative! We had a great time but are very glad to be staying in one place for more than 2 days! We are currently in Ontario visiting with Jason’s family and then we’re off to Vancouver and hopefully will be semi-permanent for awhile. Traveling is a blast, but all good things are best in their season. Glad to not have to pay for everything again too!
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Thank you to those of you who are continuing to keep us in your prayers and check up on how we are doing! After our time in Burkina Faso finished on April 26th, Shannon and I flew to Rome to travel through Europe for a few weeks before heading back to Canada. It didn’t cost extra on our flights to have the Europe stop-over, and we have wanted to see Europe for quite some time, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Our hope is that this will give us a chance to refresh and prepare for the transition back to life in Canada. It has also been a fascinating time of continuing to encounter new cultures and learn more about this incredibly diverse world God has created.
While we are travelling it is a little difficult to put pictures online, but we will be sure to post some when we are settled back into life in Canada. We’ll try to put some stories and highlights from our trip here too. We look forward to seeing all our friends and family in Canada when we arrive back soon!
There is one road in Mahadaga. It is name-less but everyone knows it well. The Burkinabe live their lives on it, near it, around it, beside it. They buy and sell and visit each other on it, work their fields beside it, and celebrate important events under the shade of the mango trees along it. To journey into the lives of the people here, we have needed to learn how to walk along this road. And we are learning. We’re becoming familiar with its rises and dips, its rough and smooth parts, its comings and goings, as our feet walk this road each and every day:
As the sun rises in the morning we can already hear the motorbikes traversing along it and the street vendors sweeping the dirt around their shops to prepare for their work day. From the road one can hear and see more than one woman pounding grain for the morning meal. Groups of children giggle and greet each other while kicking up clouds of dirt as they walk to school. There are the men we fondly call the “Burkina bike team” who make their way in the early light- a group of men carrying supplies strapped to their bicycles from one town to the next. The donkeys and pigs, guinea fowl and chickens, dogs and goats, sheep and roosters make their footprints too into the sandy turf below the rush hour traffic. They weave and meander, generally to the agitation of those trying to pass along the route.
People begin greeting everyone early in the day on this road. It doesn’t matter the time of day or if you saw someone five minutes earlier, you are never an outsider, never excluded on the Mahadaga road. Children run to wave and greet you, bicycling men and women smile and say hello, and street vendors never ignore you. You cannot walk this road alone as you are constantly surrounded by the hum of people who know you by name or appearance. When your bicycle breaks down there are 7 people to instantly come to your rescue. When you go for a walk along it people want to know where you are going or coming from. Or, they might even join you. One time we had a herd of children following along behind us. When we stopped to look at something, they all stopped and looked too, even though we couldn’t communicate what we were looking at.
At midday the hum continues. There is the sizzling sound of flour cakes being cooked in hot oil over open fires. There is the bartering and exchanging of coins for the local produce displayed on woven mats along the roadside. There is the whirring of motor bikes, the ringing of a cell phone or two, and the loud boisterous laughter, clucking of tongues, and slapping of hands as friends reunite. Kids take long sticks and tap, tap against the tall mango tree branches, hoping for a ripe mango to fall. Or one can hear the tap tapping of sticks against a donkey’s behind as the animal pulls a cart full of hand-made bricks, crops, or some sleeping kids. Large trucks are seen coming for a long distance with their large, straining loads of cotton or other merchandise. Even though work and school stops for over 2 hours when the sun is at its hottest, the road never sits quietly.
As the afternoon marches onwards the children return to school and the road lives on. Singing and reciting can be heard from the classrooms or the distant sound of drums for a funeral. The squeaking, turnstyle metal gate at the medical clinic continues constantly as people come and go. Newborn baby cries can be heard in the clinic not far from the road as well as the wailing of sick children receiving their unwelcomed treatments. Hand pumps for water wells are never left idle, nor are the mechanized mills for millet and corn (available for those who can afford it). Tailors have foot-controlled sewing machines that whirr and there are women gathering around a head or two, braiding hair. People walk carrying anything and everything on their heads, backs, bikes, and motos. Women are always heavy-laden with household finds, especially on Thursdays (market day). Babies are strapped to backs of older children and mothers, their heads neatly tucked into “tuques.” The pitter pattering of bare feet on hot, rocky sand is constant, and always a reminder of our weak feet and our inability to go unnoticed (as its usually a child or two running to say hello).
As the evening approaches, one may or may not be able to see the sun. The air is thick and heavy with dust. One can taste it and smell it. It lays heavy upon the horizon as the night approaches. People return to their homes after work and visiting. Roadside shops become emptier and bikes become less frequent. But as we take our evening stroll we continue to greet onlookers. The few lights of “torches” (flashlights) and small generator powered lights are seen from far off in the distance as there are few of them. Groups of people crowd around on benches near shops and listen to music blaring from radios. They talk and sit, and again we greet them. They tell us to have a “good sport” and we continue onwards only to return back the same way. The moon sometimes casts shadows it’s so bright and then the whole town is on the road with us- bike riding and eating, visiting and sharing their day with one another. But when the night is dark, one must strain to see the approaching biker or stray animal. The road is quiet, but not empty. Never empty. Life passes alongside it. Mosquitos whir in the air, and the sound of dogs and donkeys continue on as fires are lit and people head to their beds to sleep outside their houses where it is cooler.
Another day on the road in Mahadaga. At first light everyone is awake and out, traversing the same road again and again, day after day.
I like thinking about this road and all that it witnesses. It carries the weight of small children and large over-burdened trucks. It is a reminder to us of the simple things, the important things, and the normal things that make up life wherever you are: coming and going, working and playing, friends and fellowship, sickness and exercise, all that life brings can be found on this one road. It is so thick with sand you sink in it and you have to fight others who are biking or riding motos for the one route (a tire track) of hard enough sand to travel on. We must share the road with everyone: those with shoes and those without, those who are on two feet, or four. When you want to be ignored, you can’t be. You are always greeted, always smiled at, and never left alone. But we love it. We pray that wherever we live we will be reminded of this Mahadaga road and the simple, daily, important things that we are to be faithful to God in. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll come back here and find the road hasn’t changed one bit and then with a bit of time and practice, we’ll be able to run barefoot on the hot sand of this road like the kids do.
On our long bus ride to Ghana, Jason and I started reading a book that has started us reflecting on how we want to live differently when we get back to Canada. It talks about making choices based on values: choosing contentment over consumerism, stop and play over fast forward, talking over technology, so on and so forth. It seems especially relevant because the values it promotes are modeled for us here in the cultural nuances of Burkina. One choice in particular relates to the issue of time.
Jason and I recall the state in which we left Canada: hurried, harried, to-do lists, late nights, overworked and overtired, trying to get ourselves on that plane to come here. We had spent more time in a state of motion versus a state of rest. We had established a pattern of choices based on our value of productivity over process. Somehow this very notion was working itself into the way we were viewing relationships too. In fact, we have struggled with the notion of taking a Sabbath for awhile now.
It strikes us here in Burkina how un-hurried life seems to be. It is more about relationship and process than efficiency and product. Sure, inefficiencies in many areas of this culture are, to be blunt, irritating. And maybe the lack of development actually doesn’t give anyone a choice in the matter really. But, we can’t help but notice how much more it feels like acommunity here, when process and relationships are more important than productivity. For example: what does everyone do in the evenings? They sit outside and visit. The streets at night are humming with everyone out in their shops visiting with friends, sitting around, just being WITH other people. What about at midday? We take a 2-2.5 hour break from work for rest and relaxation. Sure, maybe people do this as a matter of necessity because it’s so hot…but even so, when do we do that in Canada? It takes a torn ligament for me to take that kind of rest!
Other examples: one of our friends here invited us over for dinner. While there, the rest of his family was still awake, but were just sitting outside in their compound, in the dark- just being with one another. In all of life’s circumstances this restful, relaxed and unhurried characteristic of the culture is evident. Even when a bus stops unexpectedly, making us now 5 instead of 4 hours late, and everyone has to sit on the side of the road in the hot sun, no one is irate about the loss of time. No one is yelling and screaming, shaking their heads. People just sit there and well, seem to handle this whole notion of being stillquite well.
Everything takes time here and for that, in so many ways, I am thankful. It’s a daily reminder that most things shouldn’t be and can’t be rushed (like making leavened bread or learning languages).
One quote in particular cuts straight to the heart of the matter:
“We’ve [our culture] sanctified a rushed pace as having a sort of inherent virtue, as if going someplace fast is naturally good. But the question lost in our almost panic driven pursuit is this: just where are we trying to get? It’s as if where we are going becomes insignificant. What’s important is that we just go, go, go. And so, lemming-like, that’s what we do. In a world of fast-forward, we desperately need to hit “pause” and “play.” There are some things which cannot be rushed: time with God, time with family, time with friends, time with ourselves.”
God help us recognize taking short cuts is not always better. God help us rejoice in processes and relationships for the characteristics they produce in us. God remind us that some of the best things are etched with time.
Shannon put a bunch more pictures from our Ghana trip on Facebook – check out the photo album here:
So what DOES one do on a 30 hour bus trip anyways?
Jason and I just arrived back from a mini-Ghana excursion. We had a bit of time to take a “break” and put on our adventurous travel backpacks and hit the road. SO we started with a 16 hour bus ride from Ouagadougou to Kumasi in Ghana. We did most things you can imagine to pass the time: read books, did crosswords, cross-stitching, exercise band (no joke), ipod….and watched some interested Ghana soap operas with Christian themes (it’s an incredibly Christian nation). Here’s some bus trip pictures for your viewing delight:
We’re back in Ouagadougou right now, preparing for a little vacation down to Ghana. So, we’ve been able to upload some more pictures to the web. Check them out here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=64394&id=502659080&l=2860e.
Funny how two words mean so much. “Knock knock,” “Hi, I’ve stopped for a visit,” “Give me a sticker,” “Would you like to buy some mangoes, bananas, cakes, chickens, papayas….” “Just in the area, thought I’d say hello,” “Anybody there?”
In a culture devoid of front doors, this is the greeting one most definitely gets to know. It can instill fear (quick- change from some shorts to a pair of pants), excitement (they’re here!), curiosity (that’s not the night guard’s voice…so who IS it?) or there is always the unfortunate sense of annoyance one may feel when another vendor is at the front door and you have already bought all the bananas you can possibly eat.
We’ve had the privilege, however, of hosting many new friends over the past number of weeks, which we have been enjoying immensely. This is an aspect of African culture we have come to love and wish was more of a reality back in Canada. Whenever anyone comes anywhere near your house, they will most always stop by, just to say hello. The pastor makes frequent visits, as well as some of our coworkers from the Centre or the clinic. A local farmer we met one day at the market has made visits as well as a myriad of children with the regular requests: “Je demand le ballon (soccer ball), je demand un bon-bon (candy).” Some young people at the church have stopped by as well as a familiar face: Daniel (in the orange shirt in the picture). He works on the station, and is a mature young man who takes us on hikes, helps us locate items from the market, and has become our friend. He also translates for the kids program that we run now on Sunday afternoons. He has a real gifting with kids and is amazing at putting order to the chaos of 70 kids trying to vie for attention and participate in the games.
It’s amazing how much you feel connected to the world around you with all these visitors. Every day after work one of the young men at the handicapped centre rides by on his motorized tricycle and says “bon soir”. There’s the night guard Luona, whose voice we can recognize quicker than his face because of his ritual of saying “Et la journee?” (and the day…how was it?), at the beginning of his night shift. And then there’s Djibo, our trusted Fulani day guard who most often is dropping off and picking up keys to our food co-op which I run. (He’s the one wearing the hat that a visiting elderly Georgian lady gave him!)
You feel connected, loved, and well, honoured. We wish we could be so spontaneous back at home or that we lived closer to all our friends so that it was more possible. We’ve been thinking a lot about how we can make that sort of relational lifestyle more of a reality at home.
Besides drop in visitors, we’ve been able to host our new neighbor (short termer Anita from New Zealand), the head of the CSPS and his family, my language trainer, and a visiting opthamologist and his eye surgeon team for dinners. How fun (but also stressful) to navigate hosting those from a different culture in your home! At a typical African meal, people don’t usually sit around a table to eat, they eat with their hands, and they usually get served a full plate rather than serving themselves. You also never know if the visitors will like our strange North American food or not! But, in spite of the differences, hosting has been a great way to get to know people.
Shannon and I are in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso for a week right now. One of the missionary couples from Mahadaga, the village we’re stationed at, makes a trip here to the city each month to pick up supplies that are hard to find out in the village. Since we were part way here already for a missionary conference last weekend, we decided to come along into the city as well.
While we’re here, we’ve been able to have access to the internet, which is really nice! We were able to use that to put a bunch of pictures online. To check them out, click here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=57828&l=e58df&id=502659080
The CSPS: The clinic where I (Shannon) work, ?called the CSPS, has been busy over ?this last month. It started with a team of ?surgeons who came to restore sight to ?the near blind. Performed under local ?anesthesia only, I was astonished at ?how quickly the surgeries made a difference. A day later and many of them ?could already see again! ? After the surgeries, the coming of ?“winter” brought with it the cool, dusty ?winds of the Harmatan (a seasonal wind ?blown in from the desert) causing many ?to become sick with bronchitis. Cooler ?weather also means more fires which ?has resulted in many badly burned children coming to the clinic. Every week I ?spend a lot of time doing dressings with ?meager supplies. Many wounds are ?terribly infected and often complex such ?as one young boy, Antoine, who has a ?wound of unknown origin from hip to ?foot and a man with gangrene on his ?face. Pray for wisdom! ?
The CSPS services 26,000 people a ?year with few supplies and even fewer ?staff. The director of the clinic works 7 ?days a week and since there are no ?doctors, the nurses must diagnose and ?treat. The closest hospital is 60 km ?away (on bad roads) and there are few ?ways to transport patients. ?However, despite discouraging ?odds, the staff have great camaraderie ?and meet three times a week for prayer ?and Bible study. As well, the clinic pas?tor shares the Word of God with those ?who stay overnight in the clinic and he ?has seen many conversions! Many ?people travel far to come to this CSPS ?because of how they are treated. Also, ?unlike other clinics, if they cannot afford ?the treatment, they are not turned away ?here. Pray that this CSPS continues ?to be salt and light to the world ?around it!
Noel in Mahadaga –
?How Christmas was NOT like home: ?
-Africans don’t decorate (we put snow- ?flakes on our door with pictures of snow ?in Canada and the children were per- ?plexed and mesmerized!) ?
-Everyone goes to Church on Christmas ?day, for the WHOLE day (including us) ?-Everyone lights firecrackers
?-People have rice and sauce with meat ?for a change– (eaten without cutlery) ?
-Instead of Turkey dinner at the mission ?station, we had curry (on Christmas Eve)
?-Literally, NO advertising whatsoever ?-No boxing day shopping (bummer eh!?) ?
How Christmas was kinda like at home: ?
-We sang Christmas carols! (although– ?while riding on top of a truck during a ?safari and looking for elephants!) ?
-It was “freezing” on Christmas (at 30 ?degrees everyone wears jackets and ?tuques and has the sniffles!)
Pray for Antoine’s healing! Pray also
for more clinic staff to help the very
overworked director, Mambagari.
Pray against famine– they are afraid
another one is coming this year. We
are trying to decide as a mission what
we should do in advance.
Pray for our SIM Burkina missionary
conference coming up in mid-January.
Pray also (of course) for Jason as he
continues his work on the database.
He is making good progress, but pray
he completes it in time!