Ivory Coast, Cape Coast and other things

August 10, 2007 at 9:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hello friends,

It’s been six weeks or so since I was able to write my last blog update and I’ve experienced so much that it’s hard to know where to start. I feel caught between wanting to write about everything I’ve experienced and writing nothing at all. It’s hard to put into words the range of emotions one can experience when life is lived and worked intensely and busily in another’s culture.

I can start by saying that I’m in my third dwelling place in four months of life here in Accra. I’m now living at “Mommy’s Place” in Osu, a more touristy but still quite typically African neighborhood. My last place (above the bar whose loud Thursday nights I couldn’t sleep through, but now dance through) was also in Osu. “Mommy’s” hosts students, volunteers and less well-off expats that live in small bedroom or one bedroom places. All of Mommy’s children have moved to either Canada or the U.S and so she prides herself on taking care of all the surrogate Western children that land at her doorstep. She thus earns her name through the kind and devoted attention she shows them, as she runs a self-described “Christian home”, yet allows her residents to live as they freely choose to. Hugs are always obligatory and everyone seems to leave her place smiling.

There are also unwelcome guests there sharing my shared one-bedroom (kitchen and bathroom are shared) in the form of big red cockroaches, palm-sized (palms of a BIG hand that is) white rats. spiders (ugh) and ants, but unlike my old abode, my new one offers constant running water, even if it is cold, which is rather the norm here, and the ants aren’t quite as bad here as the last place. Now that the weather has cooled a bit and it’s winter (60’s to 80’s) I find myself doing bucket baths with water heated from a coil. When it’s “lights out” I have to brave the cold running water which actually feels quite cold when you’ve gotten acclimated to the temperatures, as I seem to have in these four months.

The ride in Ivory Coast, the last thing I spoke of in my blog was a challenging one for me. We worked six day weeks and mostly 11-13 hour days for a little over three weeks . I pretty much cracked a couple times in my hotel room, as the pace we had to keep was quite intense. It’s hard to shut down one’s brain after working at that pace so it became hard to get enough rest as the weeks went by. Not all rides are like this but sometimes there’s just a lot of work to do and it’s hard to know in terms of planning, how many refugees are going to show up. Obviously a work load is lighter if there are less people to process but the whole point is for everyone to show up so that they have their fair chance at processing. Many people were not able to make it down to Abidjan due to the police/gendarme checkpoints all over the country. Some Liberians were turned back to their camps or had to pay a lot of money to cross through each checkpoint just to get to us. They’re required to pay more than their Ivorian counterparts even though it’s difficult if not impossible for them get decent work in the country.

It was great to be in a francophone country again. One great blessing is that the nearest church, Saint Cecile was literally a three minute walk from my residence! I spent some very valuable prayer time there restoring my soul and mind. By the time the third mass came around I found that I was understanding every word the priest spoke; another wonderful blessing that lifted my spirits and tickled me, sending me into reveries about ideas on work in France as a next step for me. The adversity there produced some fruitful prayer and more reflections that I will post when I have a chance.

While I’m still, as time permits, looking for a place that is more “bug-less”, has a more decent kitchen and is more of a home, I can say that I’m enjoying being able to meet people outside of work that I can socialize and travel with. Currently I’m hanging out with a bunch of Dutch from the Netherlands, some Canadians and a Mexican who traded places with an English woman. And last week after four months of intense work and living in Accra I finally made it out of that congested city and traveled to Cape Coast for a four day trip! Oh, it was wonderful. Absolutely what I needed. After two days of R&R I found that my mood was stabilizing and that I was smiling and laughing again. Light bulb moment: Working hard means playing hard, and I think getting away to travel from time to time will be critical to my maintaining a healthy outlook and balance in my life and work here.

I was finally able to see the slave castles that Cape Coast is well-known for, where for hundreds of years human cargo wasted away, perished and was exported to South America, Europe and the New World as it was known, or America, as we know it now. Unfortunately I don’t have a good signal from the tower where I’m living so I haven’t been able to be online much and have to travel back to the internet cafe to be on-line. I took some great pictures that I’d like to share with you through this site, but will have to save that for when I have some more time and ease of connection.

With all the extra hours I worked I’ve been able to take another six days off of work and will travel with my international friends eastward to Ho, up to Hohoe and then up through the Volta river (a lush beautiful area), preferably on a yam boat or ferry if it’s running, otherwise we’ll have to improvise. Apparently you have to bribe the captain and fight the other passengers to get the one cabin aboard. It’s either that or sleep on the yams. Should be “live”.

I have to end things here for now. Please pray for our safety as we travel, for God to be glorified in all we say and do, for my light not to dim and for the refugees who struggle so each day.

pressing on,
your sister soldier

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