Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sierra Leone travel

As you heard from Victor, the Sierra Leone team is having some traveling challenges. Their initial flight out of Freetown was cancelled and they are still awaiting the next available flight. We will know more later tonight. In the interim, please join me in prayer for travel safety and energy as they continue a marathon of airport time.

It's About Time...

For a lot of things actually.
It’s time for our first (but not final) dep blog, time for us to say goodbye to Sierra Leone and our kids at the Banta Home, and also time for us to book it out of the Lungi Freetown Airport where we have at press time, been for the past 25 hours.
It’s crazy to us to try and explain our experience of the past two months here, so most of our stories and little details you will have to hear upon our arrival! But just so you have an idea of what us crazy college kids have been up to, here’s an overview:
• Living in the Banta Mohkelleh Bush in Upper Banta with 100 orphaned and destitute children who have been the loves of our lives as well as our neighbors the past eight weeks.
• Working with nine other teammates (6 Americans, 2 Sierra Leoneans, and 1 Irish man) through the Children of the Nations (COTN) program there.
• Working with COTN’s Village Partnership Program (VPP) in five nearby villages learning new skills such as grinding up cassava leaves, farming, carrying water on our heads, learning Mende (the local language) and Krio (the national language besides English), leading weekly bible studies, attending church, and loving our village kiddos. Victor was in Ngolala (Guah-la), Jessica was in Wondie (woon-day), and Emma was in Mogborie (Mog-bore-eeeee). We all had a partner and a national who came with us four times a week walking through the jungle to our village community. It was one of the best parts of the whole program.
• Spent two weeks running Bible/Community/Summer/Feeding Opportunity/Everything camps! Children’s camp was a huge success although very tiring! All 12 of us interns were split into four houses (red, green, blue, yellow) and were responsible for a total of 269 pekins! (for those of you who aren’t fluent in krio that means children..) Lots and lots of beautiful and hyper kids means lots of fun, not much sleep, planning on the fly, and a great week. The next week was youth camp for kids who were 12 years and older and was run by a team from Florida. We were all so thankful-we were exhausted and they did a great job!
• In the beginning of our trip, the first four weeks we spent afternoons tutoring the kids who needed the most help with English. Very frustrating, but also a great chance to learn the lessons of patience, and to learn about the kids. The school system here is crazy, nothing at all like we’ve grown up with and so we learned to value our education we’ve received and Victor and Emma are inspired to work harder this coming year! We spent a week teaching summer school before the teacher team from Colorado arrived, and that was quite the experience. Stories to come, and make sure to ask Jess her favorite memory verse from that week...(1st Sam. 18:1. But you need to hear her say it)
• We attempted to do personal ministries on a regular basis, but that was not always achievable (see below). When we did get to work in our assigned tasks, Victor was being a computer whiz as usual, and was teaching kids how to type, and how to handle computer class without a reliable electricity source. Jess and Emma were paired up in the clinic where they mostly observed the patients that came in, watched malaria medicine be overprescribed, watched placebo shots be given to every patient, and learned Mende songs! Yes, clinic time was pretty much like a medical day care. It was great!
• We experienced “Africa Time”! Aka, the time you give is not the time things start. For example, we were fortunate enough to experience the nursery and primary school graduations our second week in Banta. The ceremony technically began at 10:45 am and was printed on the “fliers” but when we eventually meandered up the hill to the school as we did each day (which is a half mile walk one way thank you very much) at 12 pm that the ceremony hadn’t started yet and began approximately at 12:45 pm, 2 hours later... So if we are late to coffee dates with you all when we are back, we’re sorry, we’re adjusting from Africa time to Seattle time.
• Finally, one of the best experience we had was a home take over. Each house (and there are 10 of them including the intern house) has an Aunty who looks over the 12-13 kids in each house. The Aunties needed a wee break as Mark would say, and so one Thursday through Sunday, we interns were partnered up and looked after houses. Our duties included getting the kids (but mostly ourselves up) for morning devotions at 6 am, handling morning chores of washing and eating, having meals prepared for the kids, getting them to school/church dressed (oh my goodness, crazier than you would think), cleaning the whole house top to bottom, having resting time, and playing with them. Way harder than we thought. Jess was with House 1 girls (sweetest things you’ll ever say good night to), Emma was with House 5 boys (Ahhh loves of her life), and Victor with House 6 boys (Uncle! Grease!). A fun couple of days but we were so tired by the end we felt like we needed a retreat!

So that is a quick summary of our scheduled adventures... stay tuned for the unscheduled ones! God willing, we will be in Heathrow airport soon and be able to post again! Much love to you all!!! And keep the prayers coming, this travel thing has been a nightmare...
Uncle Teekeh (Victor)
Aunty Nyadavo (Jessica)
Aunty Seinya (Emma)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pray for travel safety

Hey Everyone,

Join me in prayer for each of the Deputation teams as they begin their travel home.

Team Bethlehem arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 4:45pm
Team Ecuador arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 7:56pm
Team Haiti arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 11:59pm
Team Dominican Republic arrives Thursday, August 12 at 12:04am
Team Kenya arrives Thursday, August 12 at 3:09pm
Team Sierra Leone arrives Thursday, August 12 at 8:43pm
Team India arrives Sunday, August 15 at 4:51pm

Sunday, August 08, 2010

We're off like a heard of turtles-Team Haiti

Our last blog post in Haite...dun dun!

This week started with three days of solid surveying. We continued our work along Canal Elmay, and each day got a little more difficult than the last. The areas along the canal we had to survey were overgrown with wasp-infested brush, and surrounded by endless banana gardens and swamps. We worked really long days and made a good amount of progress, but by Wednesday we had only gone about 1800 meters (a little over a mile). It took us a total of 5 days to get that far, but in Haiti it's about what you get done, not how fast you get done. Needless to say, we were all exhausted every day after being out in the sun all day. We're very glad to be done with surveying.

On Thursday, we spend the whole day doing data entry on AutoCAD with all the information from our survey. We then created a topographical map from the data we took, and Jeff helped with a report of our findings. On Friday, the report writing continued. Bruce wanted us to give presentations of our various projects, so people were scrambling to put their presentations together. In the morning, Adam and I (Jordan) went with Bruce to measure a reservoir and deliver some construction materials to the school in Foison. By the way, the school in Foison is being funded by the Sunday school children from UPC, and it is looking good so far. On Friday afternoon, a few of us continued working on the metal gate we're welding. This project has provided us with some great experience with welding. Then Friday night, we did presentations for Bruce and Deb.

And that brings us to Saturday...What a great day! We made our fourth and final trip to the beach. The water was perfectly calm and clear so we could see a really long ways underwater. We spend most of the time swimming, diving and exploring the reefs. We saw lots of bright tropical fish, coral, anemones, and schools of cuttlefish (they look like little squid). We also found a few lobsters hiding under rocks. Bruce said if we caught one, we could eat it for we spent a good amount of time trying to pry them out from their caves, but had no success. Other than that, we just soaked up the sun (too much sun for some of us) one last time before we leave.

Today we went to church in Moulin, which is a small town in the mountains Southwest of us. Pastor Bernex, who lives next door to us and works around the shop, is the pastor in Moulin. The whole congregation was very excited to have us visit their church. They thanked us for coming, and Pastor Bernex prayed for us. It was really cool to see how appreciative they were of us coming to Haiti to serve God with them, and they spent a lot of time praying for our trip, our work that we've been doing, and our families and churches back home. We also sang "Come Thou Fount" for them, which they recognized in Creole, and we did "Magnify the Lord" again and they loved it. It was just an all around great church experience. This afternoon we had our final lunch prepared by Madam Chrisbon. Once again, it was delicious.

In Haiti, we have this saying: "We're leaving like a herd of turtles" because it literally takes us at least a half an hour to leave the shop once we get ready to go. Hopefully that's not the case Wednesday morning...because WE'RE COMING HOME! We're all definitely ready to be home. It has been a wonderful, challenging, rewarding experience here, and we've all built relationships and done work that we'll never forget. But it's time for us to be home with our families and friends...and Adam might actually be going crazy. So hopefully there's not a storm, because he might try to swim home. We love you all, pray for our safe travels and we'll see you soon. Team Haiti out.

God's Grace,


The Sea of Death

[As originally posted by Alexander Halaszyn on Infinite God: Christ Without Bounds]
[Is it totally tool-ish of me to always make ^ this note ^ on my Dep blog posts? Guess it's a little late to be questioning my behavior at this point! Oh well, whatever]

Weirdest water experience of my life. Seriously.

The other day on Saturday, we had the opportunity as a group to go to the Dead Sea, not only the lowest point on earth but also one of the saltiest. There's actually a legend I was told that attempts to explain this saltiness, that it is the result of when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (It's actually due to all the run-off from the surrounding hills and from beneath where the lake now stands, from what I understand). This increased saltiness has some rather intriguing side effects. Buoyancy, is as you know, the action of stuff floating while submersed (at least partially) in the water. Or as Wikipedia puts it, "... is an upward acting force, caused by fluid pressure, that opposes an object's weight." In a way, it's very similar to Hot Air balloons floating through the air (but not "at the surface" of the air) because the hot air is less dense... there's more stuff in the air beneath the balloon than within or above the balloon.

In the Dead Sea, there is much much more in the water beneath you than you'd ever expect there to be in water: all that salt! As you're walking out into the water, past the rocks and that pricelessly cosmetic mud-slime beneath your feet, it becomes surprisingly difficult to walk, because you find that your legs no longer want to go down. Just as this realization and it's implications begin to hit, there's no longer anything beneath you, legs and body floating while completely upright. A subtle and nearly imperceptible muscle movement later, knees shoot up in front of you, back goes flat, floating on the surface. Buoyant beyond all reason. Inconceivable.

The mud was also pretty sweet, I guess it's the thing to do: cover one's self ridiculously with the nasty stuff and bake in the 107 degrees of sun for a while, rinse, and enjoy baby's-bottom-smooth skin. (I have to say, my Inner Child was quite pleased with this experience!) Upon the writing of this blog entry, my skin still feels like a good thing to be covering my body, more so than usual that is. Don't take me wrong, I'm generally pretty happy to have skin. But these days, when you're only showering once every 4 or so days... it can be nice to throw off the old man in a manor of speaking. ;)

Looking forward to daily showers when I get home... and church. I'll post more on that later, suffice it to say, I finally had the chance to go this morning. The Church of the Nativity. Pretty sweet.

Also, I would have pics from this adventure yesterday, but my camera is being all wonky, doesn't want to charge anymore. So much for pawn-shop treasures.

For now, Mas Salaama! See you all soon! (Such a very strange fact...)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Trains, Planes, and...Matatus

Well seeing how I have not written on the blog I thought it was due time for me to put something up. It also helped that we only have a week left!

So from where we left off, we all are still copying, grading those wonderful papers, helping the kids learn that 6 + 4 does not equal 11, and doing anything else that the Rafiki teachers can think of. Personally, I have had a lot of fun helping the teachers with the kids. It’s been such a life changing experience. I have to say some of the work can truly be boring at times but in the end we keep each other afloat with a laugh here and there or just hanging out. We also tutor some of the kids. Barclay tutors a great bunch of kids whose names are Moses, Morris, Steven, and Amos. He really helps them out and has done some pretty creative things to get their mind around math and reading. Megan works with two kids whose names are Stephen and then helps a cute girl named Grace on her reading skills. Drea is busy working on preparing lesson plans for preschool and kindergarten. She really has a knack for it. The boys that I am working with are Elijah who is deaf and Amos who is severely handicapped. Then I work with Victor and Hillary who struggle with math. I truly now know why god had me take ASL (American Sign Language). I work with Elijah on getting comfortable with more signs to Mathematics and then doing oral (he has enough hearing to the point where it’s helpful for him to vocalize thoughts). With Amos I work on building confidence in him, or at least that’s how I see it. He works on puzzles and really has made big strides on how much time it takes him to finish. It’s so hard for us to work with these boys and girls, knowing that there lives are going to be so difficult, but it is also so reassuring knowing that God will be with them every step of the way. Last weekend we took a matatu to Nairobi for some fun. It’s the local transportation, and man, was it roomy! From my head pushing on the ceiling to my knees cutting into the seat in front of me this made for a thoroughly enjoyable time. The feeling of getting off on our own (besides the fact that we had our local friend named Peter, who is awesome and works maintenance at Rafiki, with us) was a blast in a new place. We have a stone wall around us, so for us every time we get a weekend break it’s such a blessing. Not to say we haven’t absolutely loved our time with Rafiki, but it is nice to get out of the compound and experience the real Kenya. Nairobi was so worth it, getting to walk those streets and seeing what a local gets to see every day. We all had a great time with one another and in the end it will definitely be something that we all remember, and I hope that it will be for the others as well.

Sincerely the Kenya team,

Eric Kopicky

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Team India

The beginning of the blog post is from the first two weeks in July.

On Monday afternoon we rested, the all day trip to Mysore left us very tired. On Tuesday we decided it would be nice to make cookies for our host family. We decided to make chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies. As we began making the cookies we realized there wasn’t enough sugar on the shelf for the cookies. Our host mother, Rita gave us a bag of what appeared to be very large sugar crystals. Katie stirred it into the pan with the other ingredients. After several minutes of stirring the cookies weren’t turning into the delectable consistency Katie had made before, instead the sugar crystals were retaining the chocolate liquid and turning rock hard. Katie chose to taste the delicious concoction and ended up with a mouthful of rock salt. Katie grabbed the bag of “sugar” and saw in tiny letters on the label on the back of the bag it said “salt.” We remade the cookies with real sugar and they were quite tasty. On Wednesday we went to Mahatma Ghandi Road (There is one in each city in India) to buy sandals to wear with our Saris. On Thursday we hung out with Aneesha, a teacher in the prevocational class at Asha Kiran. She helped us drape our first Saris (quite complicated!). In the evening the accountant at the school, Subatra, came over and did henna on our left hands. On Friday we went to our first Indian Wedding. It was a Christian service and did not last three days like typical Hindu weddings. The service was similar to Christian weddings in the States. Several hundred people attended the wedding and about 2,000 attended the reception. There was so much food at the wedding! The non-veg line was endless. We decided to join the vegetarian queue, where there wasn’t a long line. A few differences between receptions in the States and in India—There isn’t any dancing. There was a live band which sung several American and Christian songs. The couple greets an endless line of well-wishers on an elaborately decorated stage, with a sign above them that said “Shirley weds Charles.” Our host family said they greeted guests for six hours at their wedding. Wedding cake is eaten by the family of the married couple, not by their guests.

Indian Culture: We have learned a lot about the Indian culture this summer. The following are our findings. We have been pleasantly surprised with the hospitality we have received here. Multiple teachers have asked us to tea and dinner in their homes. We have met several of the locals wherever we go, they are always so welcoming and interested in where we are from and what we are doing in Bangalore. Everyone always asks how we like the spicy Indian food and are pleased to see us wearing Saris and Indian clothes. We can see the delight in the locals as we adopt Indian dress, culture, and customs like making Indian chai tea and the Indian head wobble. Every Sunday at church women comment on our ability to walk in Saris, they are surprised to see white women walking gracefully in them. People aren’t as verbal, or direct in conversation as those in the States. When we have communicated in a direct manner some people are a bit taken aback. Additionally, a month ago we realized how much Americans are afraid of awkward silences in conversations, perhaps it goes hand –in-hand with our chattiness. When our host family has guests over there are always awkward silences intermixed in conversations and a conversation ends after about a minute of silence. Americans are constantly aware of preventing such silences, we have an array of conversation topics in mind and always leave a conversation before an awkward silence occurs. Here awkward silences aren’t “awkward” Indians don’t worry about awkwardness. Life is slower paced and more relaxing here. Afternoon naps are common. Our host family was shocked at the typical work weeks of the careers we are pursuing (business and law). Teachers at Asha Kiran work 25 hours a week. We found that Americans’ emphasize building a career more. Note: we observe this as University students that are constantly confronted with thoughts and questions of what are major will be, what internships to apply for, and assessing future careers. In India there is a stronger emphasis on family (womens’ role as homemaker). Community is valued, there is a small shop down the road from our house, we have the option of paying whenever we shop there, or putting it on the tab of our host family. There is a share the wealth mentality. In the house we live in there is a person who cleans, ironing is sent out, person who waters the potted plants, and a person who cooks. This mentality implies employing friends to do the work they don’t enjoy. Most Americans value independence and self sufficiency. Here instead of having to do everything yourself, they glorify the individual talents of people and try to make use of those talents to benefit all.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers this summer. We have enjoyed our time in India and are looking forward to going home in ten days.
Much love,

Katie and Sarah

Sunday, August 01, 2010

One Moto, Two Moto, Red Moto, Blue Moto (Team Haiti)

For us this week, the return to engineering work meant a return to surveying. We spent a day surveying Canal Elmay which is near Pastor Chrisbon’s church in Poste Metier. There are some problems with this canal, and our job is to determine those problems and find solutions through surveying. This particular canal serves the farmland of nearly 500 Haitians. It will be a very big deal to get this functioning again. The part Bruce is mostly concerned with is about 5km long, which is about 3 miles. Last week we surveyed about 1km of Canal Elmay, and this week we’re going back to do more. The eventual goal of this project is make the canal again out of concrete-right now it’s just dirt.

On Saturday, we all got a lesson on welding from Bruce. Some of us have been bugging him to teach us welding the whole time we’ve been here. He finally gave in and let us get some welding experience. We played around with some scrap metal for a little while, and then we were given a job that requires us to us our new skills. Bruce wants us to make a metal gate out of rebar. So we spent most of the morning Saturday straightening the rebar to weld together to make the gate. We’ll weld it all together if we get any time this week after the surveying gets done.

Also this week, we finally got to use our awesome, stylish motorcycle helmets. There is a lot of stuff going on around the shop right now, so we opted to take moto-taxis to get around rather than having Bruce chauffer us. It’s a very interesting experience sharing a big dirt bike with a driver and another passenger for a total of 3 riders. Motorcycles have turned out to be the fastest way of getting around though. And it only costs $2.50 per ride! (100 gourds) Ok, so it’s not the cheapest way to travel, but it’s fast and we don’t have many other options.

At church today we performed two songs for the congregation with Josh playing guitar. The first was “Grace Like Rain” and the Haitians liked that one. Then, before the sermon, they always do a “wake up” song to make sure everyone is paying attention while the pastor speaks. So we got to do the “wake up” song this week. We did the children’s song “Magnify the Lord” complete with clapping, shouting and hand motions. It was a huge hit! It pretty much woke everyone up.

We have 9 days left, and we’re all ready to be home. This is our last full work week and there’s still a lot to do. We’ll do surveying, write reports, come up with designs, finish up various jobs around the shop, and we’ll be counting down the days until we get to come home and see our families and friends again. We miss you all very much and can’t wait to see you.

God’s grace,