Equatorial Guinea

The following posts tell about my trip to Equatorial Guinea. Through words and photos I hope to succesfully share my experiences. I've decided to do this on a day by day basis. I hope you enjoy. If there's anything I may have missed, or something you'd like to know...please email me at michaelh@uwyo.edu. Thank you all for your unconditional support of me, both financially and spiritually. Without you, this trip wouldn't have happened. More on Africa here: http://53lat158long.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Day 1- We weren't really able to get to sleep until 3 or 4 the night before because of the traveling and when we slept. It also got really cold because of our sweat from the humidity, so that didn't help with getting to sleep at all either. We were planning on getting up at about 9, but ended up getting up at 7 because of all the racket outside. As it turned out, the church is located between two tire shops. At 7 every morning, we woke up to the sound of a pneumatic drill right below our window. This morning we didn't have a clue what it was, we thought someone just got the urge to jackhammer outside! With roosters cock-a-doodle-doing all night, cars honking their horns at the bend in the road outside the church, and the humidity, it made for a rough night. Fortunately, we got used to all that by the end of the trip, and it actually kind of helped us get to sleep...much like crickets in Wyoming. Believe it or not, but I actually had some trouble sleeping for about a week when I got back home because of the lack of noise.

There tends to be livestock running all over the place also. Mostly chickens, a few pigs, and some goats. The roosters love to cock-a-doodle-doo whenever they please. Not just at sunrise. It definitely took a little getting used to, but I ended up really enjoying it. I think the people "brand" their chickens by cutting off certain toes, but I'm not entirely sure. Stray dogs are also very common, and they usually have sores all over them. Petting a stray dog is something of a no-no...kinda sad.

I think I will try to introduce what we called "Africa time" now. In Africa most people show up as much as a few hours later than when they said they would. The culture here is so relaxed, and unlike America's busy hurry-up-and-wait style, that it's not considered really rude to not be on time. I like to think that it is because the people here are more concerned with building relationships and caring for the people around them than for being punctual.

This morning after we got up and ate breakfast we had a little Bible study before everyone else showed up. We studied John 15:1-17, about the vine and the branches. We studied the first 8 verses today, and continued to study it throughout our stay.

The first person to show up was the cook. She was going to start preparing our lunch, which takes a while because I think she had to boil all the water before using it. The water comes from a well where Carlos and his family sleep at the school they started. It isn't disinfected or filtered in any way that I saw, but other than the bottled water that we used to drink, it is a very good source. They refilled a couple of 50 gallon drums everyday for us to use for the cooking and bathroom facilities. Anyways, while the cook was getting things ready she sang the most beautiful songs. I have no idea what she was singing about, but she had quite the voice! Unfortunately, a few days before she had tripped on the stairs and cut up her shin pretty badly, and it got really infected. Later in the afternoon she somehow broke it open, and it was a puss-filled mess. I didn't actually witness any of this, but Garrett went to the hospital with her and Carlos and watched as they cut it open, cleaned it out, and stitched it up...all without anesthetic. Needless to say, he didn't have much of an appetite when he got back.

George and Kileto showed up shortly after the cook. George is the Director of Campus Crusades for Christ for this region of west Africa. Kileto is his translator. Both of them are living in Ghana working with CCC. George grew up in Nigeria, and Kileto in Ghana. They are both very knowledgeable men of God. They were only able to stay a short time, because they had to make a trip to the mainland to meet some people over there.

Even after the exchange rate, things on the island are very expensive. They have to import most everything. For example, a packet of Ramen was six US dollars, but I think that was considered a little more "high-class". Fortunately, instead of having to go to the market everyday and buy food and water on our own, we paid Carlos a lump sum and he and his family took care of all the meals and everything for us. This is just another example of how fortunate we were, and it gave us the opportunity to go out and about and recruit for the films and what not.

Carlos is quite the guy. Imagine moving your entire family from Mexico to a small Spanish speaking country in Africa. His two daughter were somewhere around the age of 10 when this happened...probably not the easiest of tasks, but if God calls you to do something you put your faith in him and do it. He has a church back in Mexico that supports him. He is the pastor of the church we stayed above, and has been training younger pastors to go out and make disciples of others and start churches of their own. He has done a lot of work with these pastors, and just about everywhere we went we saw them. He is also devoted to bringing up the youth of Africa in a healthy Christian environment. He owns some land outside the city where he and his family now stay at a small school they built. The teachers there teach the kids reading and writing in both English and Spanish using a Sunday school type curriculum. They also give them a taste of mathematics and sciences. He has plans to build an orphanage, a larger school, and a bunch of other stuff on the land. Unfortunately, workers who know what they're doing are hard to come by, and the whole organization of projects like that is hard for him to manage given his schedule and even his history in Mexico. He just isn't constantly around building projects like we are here in the states. He and his family are amazing men and women of God.

Today, Garrett and Stokes went with Abram to do some errands...pick up some groceries at the markets and stuff like that. The rest of us did a few errands with Carlos around the city and then headed out to the school. Driving around in Africa is an adventure on its own. To start off, most of the cars are models I've never heard of, and a good majority of them wouldn't even come close to passing an emissions test in the states...probably due in part to the fact theat they run on gasoil instead of regular gasoline. In other parts of Africa there's a lot of motorcycles running around, but we saw very few here. The van we rode in most of the time was a little Nissan. The engine was located beneath the front seat between the driver and the passenger, so the front of the car ended right where the drivers feet are. That way you can get inches away from other cars while. The drivers are constantly honking around bends, and obstacles...to tell pedestrians and other vehicles where they are. They hardly ever slow down for any of these either, but it seems to work very efficiently. We never saw any sort of accident, just breakdowns, and there was never any sort of traffic signs or laws...or at least none that were paid attention to.

The school was far enough out of the city that it was alright for us to take some pictures. When all those kids saw us pull out the cameras they would charge at us like wild animals. It was great, all of them wanting to be in our pictures. We had arrived at a recess of sorts, so we got to kinda play with the kids, and take a few pictures of them and the jungle. After the recess, we all went in and helped them with their studies. We either helped them with reading English or Spanish, and checked off their papers when they were done. Our Spanish is good enough that we were able to at least tell if they were pronouncing words wrong. The kids were very bright, and very willing to learn. After each session they would have a short bible study type of thing, where they read a parable or a short story out of the bible and asked a few questions...much like Sunday school. You could tell a lot of these kids were sick, they had sores on their arms or complained of stomach aches. When we were leaving, they all got a little baggy of some medicine to help them out with their illnesses. Then, about 25 of them, were all piled into the sweat wagon to be dropped off around the city at their homes. Jill and I got to ride along for a few stops with them, before we got back to the church and were dropped off there for some lunch. It was the middle of the afternoon by this point. After seeing these kids play and study, and then seeing where some of them lived, your heart would have to be made of stone for it not to go out to them.

Lunch was amazing. It was a huge Mexican meal. Throughout our stay we pretty much just got the one big meal a day, and the rest of the time was just snacking with some cereal and bread and stuff. I'm not sure but I think that this is more of the Mexican culture than the African. I still probably ate better with that one meal than I usually do at school. We were so very fortunate.

After lunch, we were allowed some time to catch up on our sleep and take some naps and journal. Late in the evening a bunch of younger people, about our age, came to the church to hang out and practice what they called a drama. The drama was a series of short acts that they acted out to music like mimes. It was a lot of fun watching them practice, and we got to see that despite how easy it looked, it was actually quite difficult to time things right with the music and dialogue. They ended up acting out some of these scenes at the film showing when we were swapping out the reels. It was a very effective way of showing how Christ works in your daily life.

Possibly one of my favorite parts of the trip was building relationships with the kids on the dram team. They were all our age, and very easy to get along with. I wish that we had more time with them. We had a lot of trouble trying to explain the climate and nature of Wyoming to them. If I ever go over there again, I'm going to take some pictures of Wyoming with me to show the people I meet. Wyoming is so different from anything they've seen growing up in the jungle on an island. Maybe I can get some video footage of the landscape and different seasons and send it to them.

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