Sunday, July 25, 2010

Last Post

Our days in Ouagadougou have been good. You can see some typical scenes above that we've been seeing a lot. The weather has been about perfect; breezy and in the mid-80's. Saturday, we slept in for the first time in a month, then headed out to the Grand Market in the center of town for some (chaotic) shopping. White Americans cannot shop incognito here, nor can we window-shop without the assumption that we intend to buy. In the afternoon, we worked on report-writing and dealing with some luggage issues. Unfortunately, the 6-ft. water pump that I (Angela) brought out to Mahadaga on the bus didn't fix the problem at the school there, and now that pump plus the original one need to get back to the states to be returned. I'll have a strange assortment of luggage as I travel through Paris & Iceland on my way home.

We attended the International Church of Ouagadougou this morning; a 2.5 hour service in English with French translation. It was a full house of about 100 people, and although we expected to see white faces at an English-speaking church, we were the only ones. It was nice to worship in our native language and to hear a good sermon about treating each other well and avoiding gossip. We snacked instead of lunch and read, wrote, walked, and did laundry in the afternoon.

The last two nights we had dinner at the Verdoyante restaurant, a place that is frequented by international expatriates from all over the world and is known for excellent pizza, lasagna, and ice cream. Between the three of us and two visits, we tested it all and pronounced it delicious.

This will be our last blog post, assuming no significant travel delays. Bethany and Katie leave tomorrow (Monday) evening for the airport and I depart Tuesday night. By Wednesday evening, we should all be home!

Friday, July 23, 2010

On the road again

After an 8.5 hour van drive Bethany, Dr. Hare, and I are comfortably settling into Ouaga for a few days. The missionaries and some local Burkinabe students (even one of our kids at the Center who lives very far away, is blind, and walked by himself to our house with moments to spare) came to see us off this morning at 6AM. It was difficult to say good-bye and leave those we have grown to love, but we are encouraged that through prayer and e-mail we will continue to partner and say intouch with them. We are super thankful for the non-rain-filled but cool travel day!

For dinner, we headed over to the International School of Ouagadougou... so nice not to have to cook or clean a meal! So with Burkina stlye American food, including chocolate milk shakes, in our stomachs we are almost ready to call it a day. We all shared laughs as the waiter miss-understood Dr. Hare as he brought out double the food Dr. Hare ordered. Four plates and two drinks later, Dr. Hare announced that she had eaten tonight's dinner and tomorrow's breakfast. ;) Bethany and I did help her out a bit with the fries. ;)

Due to the incredibly slow and sporadic internet here, we plan to blog again either Sunday or Monday before we head to the airport Monday night (Bethany and I fly out in the early hours of Tuesday and Dr. Hare later on Tuesday). From now until then we will be walking around the city, possibly biking to a small park, working on our project documentations for future teams, exploring the Ouaga market, interacting with the missionaries here in Ouaga, and attending a church on Sunday. Although we will all miss not working with the kids tomorrow (they are use to a half day on Saturdays and we continued that schedule) we are looking forward to not setting an alarm to be ready by 6AM.

So thankful for each one of you! Praying that your evening is filled with God Sightings!

Katie :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Last Day in Mahadaga

Tomorrow we, the 'American whites', as the children call us, will leave Mahadaga and be replaced by a team of 13 'French whites' who will be refurbishing the school library and operating a summer program similar to ours but nonacademic.

At our closing party, the children saw their photos and heard themselves talking on the big screen, famous for a day. We must have shown our little 9-minute slideshow 5 or 6 times, once for the school director, Francoise, and a few parents who could make it. One mother cried as she heard her son, who does not like school because he can't yet read at 10, speak proudly about his life and plans. We watched the rest of our movie, ate popcorn, and took a short hike to the cliffs to play. The children were thrilled literally beyond words to receive our gifts to them; a pad of paper, one sticker, a ruler, pencil, bright eraser & sharpener, chalk and a sponge, one M&M each, an empty bottle, and a small photo of them at their home. Youmanli (the same boy who can't read) asked our translator, 'Why are they giving us gifts? They came to teach us; we should be giving something to them!' Abraham, our little singer and dancer, made plans on the walk home with me to come with me to the States. He spoke very seriously; he checked with both of his parents (but admitted he didn't ask his sister), and they gave him permission to come, as long as he is back here by Sunday :).

Tomorrow we leave bright and early, in a private van, for Ouagadougou, where we'll have a few days to type up our notes, do some shopping, and enjoy some local restaurants. The staff and residents here have prayed for our safety in our travels and in fact the van driver takes advantage of a military escort that is available for large vehicles. So we are quite confident that we'll be in good hands as we travel.

Next post from Ouaga - -


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Final days in Mahadaga ...

Yesterday morning, I (Bethany) went out with 2 of the physical therapists from the Center, Patricia and Diazibou(?). I was looking forward to the opportunity to see the work that the physical therapists do in the bush, but slightly sad about missing one of the last days with the kids. They have come to mean so much to us, and it is always good to have many hands on deck at the BSEP. However, Dr. Hare and Katie let me go out to the bush, so Meya and I went out bright and early.

I seemed to attract small adventures, right about from the start. In the first minute of driving, Diazibou stopped at a "gas station" (table with clear glass bottles filled with a litre of gas) so I got off the back of the moped. I was NOT expecting him to pull away just as soon as I stepped off, though (apparently he didn't need gas after all...). As he started down the road I realized he didn't know I wasn't on the back, so I started laughing. There was another moped from the Center at the same "gas station" so they said they'd chase him down. He ended up coming back a minute or so later, though, after Patricia saw I wasn't on the moped. We all had a good little laugh together and set off. But before leaving Mahadaga Patricia needed to buy cold water so we stopped again, and this time Diazibou's moto wouldn't start (until someone nearby tinkered with it)! I told him it wasn't my day for moto's...but somehow we made it out of Mahadaga.

After a 20 minute moto ride, with a nice cool breeze, we made it to the first house. Palamanga, a 3 year old with a crippled right hand, was a happy boy when Patricia played with him to assess his motor skills and gave him a massage. Meya gave him her notebook and a pen to see if he could draw, which was cute. Our second home was to visit a 12 year old girl who also had a crippled hand. She lives with her 2 older brothers (who are both 20), and that is it. Patricia said their dad died and their mother, who is from Togo (a country to the south of Burkina), abandoned them. I was completely taken aback and impressed with these 3 youth. I didn't understand much of the conversation, but I caught one word "ligiendieli", which means church in Gourmanche. Afterward Patricia explained that the church was the last hope for these youth, since they (unlike many Burkinabe) do not have any extended family in the area to help support them.

We left in a little bit of a hurry since the sky and wind was threatening rain. I held on tight to the back of the moto as we drove toward Mahadaga. After a bit, the rain started. And suddenly I heard and felt "rrriiippp"! The left part of my skirt was "eaten" by the moto! Diazibou didn't realize anything, so we kept going for a bit. However, soon Patricia honked her horn to stop us. She had a second piece of fabric that she was wearing and she gave it to me to wrap up in! Yay mothers who are thoughtful, observant and prepared! I couldn't help but laughing as she untwisted the fabric from my skirt from the moto...quelle chance!

This time as we started off again the rain was coming down more heavily. Soon the road was quite slippery. All of a sudden, I felt the moto moving at a weird angle and I realized Diazibou and I were falling. It was slow and graceful, though, I basically just stepped off of the back of the moto. As I looked behind me, Meya and Patricia had just fallen too, though they got a little muddier in the fall/slide! Meya and I started laughing and running and sliding in the mud. I think this eased the physical therapists...maybe they thought we were worried after having fallen...

About 10 minutes later, my goosebump-covered self arrived at my home. I changed into my fleece jacket and made some hot chocolate. Soon Daniel, Katie and Dr. Hare arrived from the Center and we swapped stories about our mornings. One of the highlights of their morning was the success of the breakfast we brought for the kids: edible playdough! (1:1 ratio of PB and powdered milk!!)

Today was the last real day with the kids, which is kind of hard to believe. We have done so much with them, and gotten to know them all! Sometimes the bonding has been through hugs and holding hands as we walk along the road, or making fools of ourselves singing and dansing with them. In any case, it has been good. Even the ridiculous things they say, their requests for empty water bottles/watches/etc, and when they come peek in our windows in the afternoon will be missed!!

But we do have one more day. Tomorrow is the "fete" (party), including gifts. Not all of the gifts they have asked for, but of course we brought a little something for each of them. And we have been dutifully saving our plastic bottles to hand out too, since those are so special! We will also show them the culmination of the digital photo book project. After writing sentences in their spirals about their life at home, their favorite things to do and eat, and then visiting their homes to take photos, and recording their voice to provide sound, we have put together a digital photo album entitled "The children of Mahadaga" which will be shown for the first time tomorrow. Hooray!

As my power and internet allottment is about to end, I will bid you all a good night. Thank you again for your prayers and support during these past few weeks. If we don't get a chance to blog tomorrow, it's probably because we're having a great time packing up the house. We (everyone at the SIM station) also have a dinner with the French team that is arriving tomorrow from Ouaga. So we should be busy, which will hopefully keep us from being sad about saying goodbye to everyone. Please keep us in your prayers Friday as we travel by van to Ouaga, and then spend a few days (till middle of the night Monday-Tuesday) before flying back to the US.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Recording Studio

Today was a hot day; back to normal for Mahadaga after a cool spell. In school, the children came individually to our makeshift recording studio to record their voice saying the sentence they wrote about themselves. Each child was very excited; even the shy ones that we were afraid would clam up in front of a microphone did fine. The kids also spend about an hour of the schoolday filling planting bags to plant a line of hedge trees near the road of their school. We did some rather challenging math, chart, and map-reading activities, then gave the kids a break and saw twenty minutes of ‘Horton hears a Who’ with a French soundtrack. At our closing party Thursday, we’ll bring popcorn and watch the rest.

We’re off to dinner at Francoise’s home after an afternoon of working on lesson-planning and matching photos to text and sound. A good workday, and I’m sure we’re off to a nice meal!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

A person's a person no matter how small!

This morning the three of us (Bethany, Dr. Hare, an I) went to church… Bethany and Dr. Hare to the French speaking church and I accompanied Francois to the Gourma church. It is strange to think that today was our last Sunday worshiping with our brothers and sisters here in Burkina.

After lunch we were greeted by some of the children from the summer program peeking their heads into our door. We planned on helping Daniel, a local Burkinabe student, who plays games with the children from the French church on Sunday afternoons and word got around fast! With children’s hands in ours (and a few extra leading and following), we hiked up the cliffs in our back yard and played various children’s games. What a joy it was to see all different ages jumping, singing, and swimming together!

This evening I headed over to the Walsh’s for the children’s movie night carrying in my arms a personal favorite from home… Horton Hears a Who (thanks mom for sending it as a surprise!). Although there were some suspenseful parts, in the end everyone walked away with smiles on their faces with the reminder that “A person’s a person no matter how small”. The kids here in Mahadaga have clearly grasped that concept, and I am so blessed to be learning constantly from their caring hearts!
Looking forward to another day with the children at the Summer Enrichment Program! Always an adventure as we learn new things about them each day!

Praying that your night is filled with God Sightings!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fun visits

This morning we arrived at the Center to an eager group of children, who squealed delightfully when we pulled into the school gate. They knew we were going for a ride (continuing to visit houses; this time to the “left” of the Center, which is more or less “north”). However we realized we had 4 adults (the 3 of us from Messiah plus Daniel, one of our aides, who was going to come and help us efficiently find the children’s homes) and 14 or more children! This was going to push the limits of even Matt Walsh’s rhino.

After a few obliging children who were willing to stay back with Dr. Hare to play in the library (some of the ones we visited yesterday), we set off. I (Bethany) drove to the Center but let Katie skillfully take the wheel as we headed off for our photo taking adventure. I perched somewhat precariously in the back and made sure everyone was okay. Only my shoe fell off…but it was retrieved :)

We visited many houses today (about 10 homes in 3.5 hours), and it was a great opportunity to see the kids’ families (often older siblings and parents came in from the field for a family photo) and where they live. It was interesting to see the range of animals (goats, chickens, dogs, occasionally a cat, and once, a monkey!), gardens/trees, and huts/houses. Sure, we could tell which of the families had more money than others. But there were some similarities between all the compounds (their home/compound was an enclosed circular-ish area with several small huts, benches/chairs out in the open, a fire pit and various pans for cooking, and huge plastic containers for water). The girls often posed by the cooking area or with an empty water jug for our photos.

Every child seemed happy to have us come and take photos at their house. But Abraham, our young comedian (often inadvertently) was the only to do the “happy dance” after we left his house. Katie even got a video, which was great, although Abraham’s “c’est bon! C’est bon!” was drowned out by our laughter!

Thanks to Daniel, we were able to convey our project to the families quite successfully. Many parents did not speak French, and Katie and I happily greeted the families in Gourmanche [“Good morning!” (n faanda) “How is your family?” (adem pote) “How is your work?” (a too na te)] but then we were out of things we could say. We very much appreciated Daniel’s help in communication, and also definitely in finding the homes. Some of the children live well off the road, so Katie and I were appreciative of the Rhino and quite impressed with the amount of walking these children do every day.

We don’t believe in abiding by the rhino’s recommendation/rules of 2 passengers and keeping all arms/legs inside the vehicle. Instead we gave the children a ride toward their houses at the end and then bid them adieu for the weekend.

Next (on Monday) we will be recording the children saying a few of the sentences they wrote about their life (i.e. their chores/work at home, what they like doing for fun) to put on the picture frame that will be left in the library this Thursday when we leave! As of right now, we have begun the images and sentence captions for the photo album.

This evening we were able to relax at the Walsh’s house. In celebration of Francoise’s birthday, we had a delicious chocolate cake. Julie cooks so well, and the lasagna for dinner was above and beyond what is expected in Mahadaga. After a few years of living here, Matt and Julie have figured out ways to adapt their favorite dishes to life in Mahadaga. Or, in the case of lasagna, how to cook a sauce and cheese (ricotta and mozzarella) to make a normal lasagna here in Mahadaga! We were well hosted this evening, and personally I was very excited for our Dutch Blitz game after dinner...a nice end to a good day!

Keep us and the children we are working with in your prayers. We (Katie, Dr. Hare and I) are still happy and healthy. After visiting the children's houses I have been thinking a lot about how different our lives are, and we know that some children in our program have very difficult lives (depending on how loving, helpful, etc. their parents are). So we would appreciate prayers for them, and for us as we live amongst them for such a short time and wonder what the future holds.

God bless you!