We have been here just over a week now and are beginning to feel the rhythm of this place. The people, the activity, the daily cycle and the weather. We are making efforts to become a part of that rhythm and that cycle – with some success.
Morning starts early for most. The Muslim call to prayer begins about 5 am. We are far enough away from the closest mosque that it does not awaken us, for that we are grateful. By 7 am many are already beginning to setup for the daily market. Sweeping out stalls (most are first come first serve) and setting up their wares and their food. Most of the goods here sold on the street are very “cheap” products from China. Lots of plastic goods: Buckets, baskets, dust pans, hand fans, toys etc.. In fact, I am not sure we have found anything that is not from China. It is unusual to find any goods from the US. There is a variety of foods and vegetables for purchase on the street. Cucumbers, avocados, potatoes, onions, eggs. These seem to be most plentiful. Pineapple and Mango in season
are also common. Each morning a truck brings in “ice fish” from Freetown. Thus called because they come packed in ice. They consist of different varieties and have already been cooked. Tiny hot peppers are also very common. Did I mention the hot part? The staple of the diet here is rice, so it can also be purchased on the street or in the very limited number of more traditional stores, some small ones which are right next to the street vendors. Almost all of the bread is bought and sold from street vendors as well. There must be a common bakery because the consistency of the bread from vendor to vendor is identical. There are three major forms of bread: “machine bread” (small loafs of white bread), rolls (a package of 8 large rolls) and what I belive is called fallah (more like a stick of Italian bread). All are delicious!
There is another call to prayer at 1 pm, which attracts many. We noticed on Friday as we were driving about at 1:30 pm, that many people were walking away from the mosques, having just attended.
It begins to get dark here about 7 pm. By 7:30 most of the vendors are packed up and by 8 pm the markets are quiet. Because we are so close to the equator, there is little variance month to month in the amount of daylight we get. Dawn is at 6:30 – 7:00 and dusk is at 7:00-7:30.
The major sources of transportation is walking and motorcycle taxis. The motorcycles are called Okada’s. (prounounced Oh Cod Ah). The Okada’s are like flies at a picnic. They are everywhere. Cost is about $.25 for 10-15 min. The roads are bad, so that slows them down. There are also 3 wheeled motorcycle carriages called KeKe’s. These are especially popular when it rains. Most Okada drivers seek shelter from the rain so wherever there is an overhang that will keep them dry, that is where they huddle. The KeKe’s though thrive when it rains, as one can travel without the worry of rain…well sort of.
The roads here are absolutely horrible. Nearly every road is dirt that is filled with growing pot-holes. Rainy season makes it worse as water sits in them, then as they are driven through the hole grows deeper and wider. It is painful to drive anywhere because of these very bumpy roads. In most places where there is pavement, it too is deteriorating. We are the fortunate ones because we drive a truck with some clearance. What few vehicles are here are about 50% Small SUV’s (generally government or NGO vehicles) and the other half are
small cars that we believe may one day be completely swallowed up by the potholes!
We have noticed that recently men have been shoveling dirt into the potholes, but they often just leave the piles of dirt in the holes to be run over. Rarely do they smooth it out. We haven’t yet decided whether it helps or just makes it worse.
This week we managed to get around to see all of the church buildings (there are 9, although now only 8 are in use) as well as the missionary apartments. Even though the distance is not great between the buildings (western standards), the difficult roads make the distance seem further. Above are 7 of the 9 buildings in Kenema. You can “mouse over” each picture to see the caption.
Here are two of the five missionary apartments in Kenema. The IDA (the area is named IDA because at one point it was known as an International Development Area). These are both quite big and spacious. 6 Elders live in the IDA apartment and only two in Dauda Town (for now). You will notice there is no grass around the house, only concrete,
Highlights of the Week
On Tuesday night we decided to find the Dauda Town chapel. As we arrived we could see there were people there, so we went inside and met the beginnings of the branch choir who were there practicing for two special musical numbers to be sung at branch conference on Sunday. We had a great experience with them and came back both Thursday and Friday evenings to help them learn to sing with “One Voice”. LaDawn even became the branch conference choir pianist! This week I also started running again. We have worked out a schedule where I run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday (when we can) we go for 2 – 2.5 mile walk. This has been good for both of us. Here is a picture while we were out on our walk on Tuesday. I guess we are quite the spectacle!
On Saturday morning (today) we went over and helped clean the Kenema Branch building. This is an excellent way to begin to meet more of the members here. The building is certainly adequate, but about 20% of the chairs are broken and need to be replaced (something I will try to help with). There were many members who came to help. It was fun. One of the highlights from my perspective was meeting Emmanuel. We discovered quite randomly that we share the same date of birth (March 2). We immediately became friends. The middle picture is of Steven-David. He worked hard the whole time and never had to be asked to do anything. He was probably 7-8 years old. We could learn much from him.
After cleaning I took LaDawn back to the apartment, changed my clothes and met with the Kenema Branch Presidency for 45 minutes. I wanted to understand what concerns them and how I might help them. It was a wonderful meeting and again I am so impressed with the depth of testimony of these men. It is interesting that whether we are in Africa or Texas, the people issues and church government concerns are the same. The big difference is that in the USA and most of the western world we have means and infrastructure to solve many of these issues and concerns, and here, everything is much more difficult. Not impossible, just more difficult. Following the meeting with the branch presidency I went to the District Council Meeting. It is the equivalent of a stake high council. President Cobinah as I mentioned before is an extremely good leader. It was wonderful meeting these men, counseling together with them and all of us agreeing to work together to train the priesthood and auxiliary leaders in the branches.
So far, one week in, we are falling in love with the people and this place where the Lord has called us to labor.