One of the things we miss most about living in America is the availability of fast food. Stopping by Jack in the Box for a spicy chicken sandwich with curly fries and a chocolate shake is just not an option here. In fact, it is not even in the remotest of possibilities. Often when I am out running an errand and am late getting back for lunch, LaDawn will say, “I have you some lunch, because I know you did not stop and pick up a hamburger”. We both have a good laugh at that. But while there is no fast food here the way we understand that term back home, there is definitely food that one can get fast, prepared and ready to eat. Today I want to share just some of these choices with you.
This week as we were walking one morning we came across this woman selling these Yams. She indicated that they were cooked and that we could just take the outside peel off and eat it. Unfortunately, we did not have any money on us, but they looked pretty good and I will be looking for them again. Some people say these particular yams are sweeter than a potato, others say they are less sweet. I am eager to learn for myself which it is. It is not uncommon at all for women to cook some sort of food, put it on a container and then walk around with it on their head. Some will cook food, such as this woman and then go to a particular area where she knows there will be people who will come and purchase the food. Some will even bring dishes and utensils, so they can serve people, then rinse off the plate and fork and reuse it for the next customer. The woman was sitting outside the gate of an NGO, where apparently, a number of people come to work each day (or people who live in the compound come out to buy food).
In America and even more so in the Philippines, Krispy Kreme donuts have been very popular. Well we have our own version of donuts here. They remain nameless, but the process for making them is the same (well sort of). The woman in this picture sets up next to a primary school near the end of our road. They actually look pretty good. I would prefer some powdered sugar or glaze, personally…. When I asked her if I could take a “snap”, she indicated I should buy something if I am going to take a picture. I told her I would come back and buy some. Unfortunately, by the time I got back there she was gone, but I will redeem myself this week.. Because these have been cooked in boiling oil I consider them safe to eat. Generally anything that is cooked with minimal risk of contamination is okay to eat. We are still very choosy.
The most common fast food is rice and potato leaf, although there are other varieties such as rice with fish balls. Imagine a dumpling made out of fish. This woman has a food stand on a corner where workers from the nearby lumber yard often come to eat. It always smells delicious but, my desire for street food ends there. There is no “sweet” breakfast here. It is generally rice and some sort of topping, usually potato leaf cooked in palm oil.
My favorite fast food here in Kenema is grilled cassava root. In many places, this root is known as Yuca or Tapioca. There are different varieties and we have only eaten the one here, but I have to say that we find the flavor to be quite good. Tastes like a baked potato only a tad bit sweeter. A bit of butter on it with some salt and pepper or Tony Chachere’s seasoning and it is very good. On Friday I had the car worked on (more about that later) and I thought I was starving by the time I headed home, so I stopped and bought two of these and came home and had them both for lunch. To be honest they had been on the fire a tad too long so they were pretty dry, but with butter to soften them up, they were very much worth eating!
There is one other readily available fast food item. It is popcorn. We have seen at least two popcorn machines here on the streets. Those with the machines pop the popcorn and then bag it into plastic bags and sell it, often to resellers who walk around with a tub of popcorn in plastic bags. There is both a sweet version and a savory version. Not everyone who pops popcorn has these machines, but by far and away the best popcorn is popped using them.
On Monday we started our cycle of visiting young single adult family home evenings once again, starting back with the Simbeck Branch. This time the lesson was on the
atonement of Jesus Christ. We used the story of the brass serpent on a pole that Moses held up for the children of Israel to look upon and be saved from the sting of the fiery flying serpents. We didn’t have any molding clay, so we took a towel and did our best to make a snake. I think all of us were edified as we learned just how easy and simple the way to apply the atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. LaDawn made some delicious peanut butter cookies as a treat that everyone enjoyed.
On Tuesday we met with Mohamed Bockerie and helped him finish up his mission papers and get them submitted on-line. Later that afternoon, his Branch President,
Kenneth Lamina came by, and using our internet and computer did his part on the paperwork, making his comments and then submitting the application. While President Lamina was here, we discussed the training that he has planned for his branch council on November 17that 3:00 pm. The idea is to get all of the auxiliary leaders together and do individualized training and then come together at the end. We agreed to train the branch presidency first so they can help with the training. This will require us to work with district leadership to do some of the other training because we can’t be everywhere at the same time. We are looking forward to this opportunity to help a branch move forward quickly! Fortunately, Joseph Aruna, their district councilman also came by our apartment on another matter so we took that opportunity to discuss the training with him as well. We are always excited to work with him because he is such an amazing leader. We have much preparation to do!
One of the things we are trying to help with is finding ways for the young men preparing for missions to have enough money to buy their passport and visa as well as save money for the monthly cost of a mission. To do this, President Clawson has authorized these young men to clean the grounds inside the compounds of the missionary apartments. While some compounds, such as ours, is completely cement, others have significant areas were grass and weeds grow. Keeping these areas manicured so snakes and other critters do not make themselves at home is a priority. We have been working to both identify a priority list of young men based on recommendations from the Branch Presidents, as well as speaking with them and matching the work to the young man. We are fortunate to have another young single adult who is also preparing for a mission and who’s business partner is a returned missionary have a cleaning business so that we can pay them to arrange and supervise the work with the understanding that 2/3 of the money will go to the prospective missionaries. This week we spent quite a bit of time speaking with young men and the managers of the cleaning service to establish expectations and prioritize work. We had a few rough bumps getting started and my involvement was more than I had anticipated, but we are beginning to find our stride and things are starting to work as envisioned. This will be a blessing to everyone involved. The money we will give to the young men will be their tithing portion, the rest we will hold until they are ready to purchase their passports, that way, they will not be tempted to spend it or be convinced by other family members they must use their savings to pay for the needs of their families (which are always present).
On Thursday, we attended the Kenema Zone Council meeting. It was good to have all of the missionaries except those in Kailahun together. Now that the Preach My Gospel challenge is over, the mission has announced a Book of Mormon challenge. This is focusing on the scriptures from the Book of Mormon highlighted in each lesson. The goal is to understand the doctrines from the Book of Mormon that support each of the 5 lessons taught to investigators and new members. My only regret is that I forgot to snap a picture!
On Friday I spent the day at the mechanics shop again. Once again, the seal on the right rear tire was broken and I had lost the gear oil in the differential. Not good. I also had
them change the oil while they were at it. Interesting that the recommended oil is not even available in Kenema. The only thing available is oil that meets specifications that are no longer accepted by the manufacturer. But if the right oil isn’t available, you use the next best thing. I suspect this is not the first Toyota Hilux without the oil type being recommended by Toyota. I got there about 9:40 am and let just after 3:00 pm. 5 ½ hours for an oil change and seal repair. They had trouble getting the oil filter off because they didn’t have an oil filter wrench. Instead they took a strong fabric strap, wrapped it around the filter and then used a wrench to tighten the strap and turn the filter. It was actually quite ingenious. Unfortunately, the filter was in a place that made this method of removal extremely difficult. One of the guys needed to stand on a couple of tires to be tall enough to put leverage on the filter. I gave them a standing ovation when it finally came off! As always, replacing the seal is a pretty arduous process, and it didn’t help that the first seal did not fit. In any case, I am very happy to have the seal fixed and the oil changed.
On the way home I picked up a couple of Cassava roots and ate them for my lunch and then we were off to Simbeck Branch to participate in a missionary activity. It was supposed to start at 4 pm, but did not get underway until 5:20 pm. Something for us all to work on. There were two talks given and then a question and answer period. There was also some fun time where people got up and told jokes. At the end, President Foday said a few words and the meeting was closed. We finished about 6:45 pm. Food was provided, and man was it ever spicy! We took our portion home and ate as much as we could as it was already dark by then.
The first Saturday of every month is cleaning day. This means from 6 am – 12 noon, you can do nothing except be at your residence, cleaning up around your home.
Unfortunately, the weeds get all of the attention, but the trash does not. At 2 pm we traveled to the District Center where the IDA Branch held a baptism for three wonderful men: Gabriel Kamara, Joseph. Kaitebe and David Nabieu. You may have recalled in our blog post titled “The Pain of Poverty” where I mentioned visiting with Joseph and his wife in their home. The power had been out and we were sitting in a room that was nearly dark with only the light from Joseph’s flashlight. We have come to love this good man who is so excited about being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We did not know Gabriel or David, but they are equally impressive men who came to the church because they have come to know for themselves that it is true. Both were very active in their prior churches and in fact, both had become assistant pastors in their respective faiths. David is a cousin to the IDA Branch President, Christopher Dennis Samai. President Samai is a gentle man with great leadership abilities. He has been a wonderful missionary his entire life.
After leaving IDA we traveled to the Hangha Road branch where we attended a
missionary fireside where the 6 Elders in the airfield apartment (nowhere close to an airfield so still not sure how it got its name) formed a panel where they answered questions from the members in attendance as well as the one investigator. Elders Allen, Bledsoe, Serano, Gray, Holi and Abad all participated. Well, Elder Abad is a brand new missionary from the Philippines and didn’t hardly say a word, but he added his wonderful spirit to the event. Overall it was well done and I think the woman who was being taught by the missionaries, and her two small boys, were especially grateful for the activity. I am also confident that members in attendance also appreciated the answers to the gospel questions posed to the missionaries.
On Sunday we attended the Kpayama Branch. We had agreed with President Lamina when he was at our home that we would come to their branch council meeting, so we decided we would attend the entire block of meetings. I have to say that the Kpayama Branch loves to sing. We thoroughly enjoyed the enthusiasm and melodious vigor with which they sang. Battle Hymn of the Republic is a favorite here and as we sang it for the closing hymn yesterday it warmed our hearts to feel the love these saints have for the wonderful message of this historic and traditional hymn of the second coming of Jesus
Christ. For Sunday school we attended the youth Sunday school class. We were very impressed with the Emmanuel Tommy who taught the class. He involved everyone in the discussion about repentance and did a nice job teaching the doctrine and leaving room for the spirit to testify to the class of the truths being taught.
President Lamina did a great job leading the branch council. He was clear on the 4-5 items he wanted to discuss and he invited participation from everyone. Some good ideas were raised and discussed and some excellent notes were taken. Now the key will be to follow thru on the agreed actions.
One thing about serving a mission here in Sierra Leone as a “Member-Leader Support” couple is the variety of things we get involved in keeps us on our toes and makes this both interesting and challenging. We love the people here. There are so many who are trying to be so good and so many who are diligently sharing the gospel with their friends and neighbors. I love to see how the rock cut out of a mountain without hands as prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 2:44-45) continues to roll forth here in Sierra Leone!