Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Day in the Life of...

I found this blog post that I had written a little while ago in my saved documents, and I was like "YES! A free blog post!"  It's almost like finding $20 in your sweatshirt pocket.  Too bad it doesn't have pictures to go with it - I've been really lazy in the "taking pictures" department.

It’s an interesting time here in Catel (when is it ever NOT?)  The team here in Catel is in a time of transition again as the YES team has left us, and we are expecting new additions (a family!) to our team in August.  It’s not the first time that the mission team here has been in transition; many people have come and gone already in the (almost) year’s time that I’ve been here.  It’s exciting and sad at the same time, but I’ve found that I am more and more able to relate to the locals through our team transitions.  They are used to having people come and go in their lives, and I am learning too what it looks like to invest deeply, but be able to let go when the time comes.

One of the most common questions I get asked is “What is a ‘normal’ day like for you?”  My first response is usually “What’s ‘normal’?  Everyday holds its surprises.”  That was one of the harder things for me at the beginning of my time here in Guinea Bissau; there seemed to be no semblance of a routine.  Now, I’ve come to expect it.  If I were to define a typical day these days, this is what it would look like:

Wake up 6:18 with roosters crowing, birds singing, and crickets…. doing what they do
Warm up hot water (for instant coffee with a scoop of powdered milk and a pinch of sugar) on the 2 burner gas stove and figure out what I’m going to eat for breakfast.  It’ll either be couscous with natural pb (no sugar added – it’s literally JUST ground peanuts) and fresh smoked honey (smoked because to harvest honey, they burn the hive) or ½ of a French bread from yesterday with said pb and said honey. If it’s a Thursday morning, I will be in the process of making pancakes for our team meeting of pancakes over Bible Study, which starts at 7am.

By the time I’m finished with breakfast, the rest of the team is starting their day.  If it’s a Tuesday morning, the team will be gathering at the big mission house for our time of prayer to kick start our prayer and fasting day. Otherwise, people will be scrounging the kitchen to scare up something that volunteers itself for breakfast (likely some bread from yesterday).

Before I start garden work, I help my friends get water from our well here at the house.  This involves several full, heavy tubs on my head (one at a time, of course) and some very skillful, careful walking.
When I get back, I sweep our veranda and dirt yard with a local broom.  Yes, I sweep our dirt – everybody does here.  It really does make a difference – I promise.

Recently, I’ve been looking for grass to mulch my garden with.  I’m pretty excited to start working in the soil again.  I’ve planned out what it will look like this season, and have some ideas about how to involve the community in the demo plot.  My students from the agricultural seminar who live in Catel will start work in the garden they made – that should be exciting as well!  I’ve just recently made a trip to the capital (Bissau) to pick out some corn and bean seeds.  Okra, cucumber, peanut, and a local green called “bajik” (bah-JEEK … it looks like what English calls “sorrel” I think) seeds were graciously given to me by some of my friends in the village (I didn’t even ask for them!).  The remainder of the seeds that I would like to plant will come from an organization called ECHO, a US based organization established to help missionaries working in ag development (

If it gets too hot to be working outside or if I get distracted by an interruption (it’s amazing the work that actually gets FINISHED with how many people come to the house asking about stuff, looking for the clinic, asking for water, etc), I usually end up either cleaning our house or going over to my friend’s house to help them finish up their housework. 

After cleaning or working outside, I come in and make lunch for us – usually rice with some kind of bean sauce.  Vegetables and fruits are pretty rare and expensive during the rainy season, so we “make do” with what we have.  There is a great leafy vegetable called “chaya” that we often add to sauces to supplement nutrients (to learn about chaya, click here  Fish are super common around here because of the tidal rivers very close to Catel, and most people eat fish every day.

Because the afternoons are much too hot to do intense manual labor, afternoons are generally saved for more indoor activities such as writing an occasional blog post or newsletter, planning gardening plots, organizing agricultural development events, making lesson plans for the English class I will start this rainy season, preparing for Bible study, doing pig project visits, having quiet time, or hanging out with friends.
Everybody on the mission team comes together for supper at 7:30.  If it was my turn to make supper, I will have started preparations at 6:00ish for a rice dish.  One of my favorite dishes to make, especially when we are limited on the vegetables we have is a curry/tomato/peanut sauce over rice. 

Something I miss because of being in the rainy season is baking.  We do have a solar oven, that is much like a child – one has to babysit it all day to make sure the sun beam is still on it.  Unfortunately, on cloudy overcast days such as we have every day in the rainy season, banana bread, baked fish, etc cannot bake very well, as one can imagine. 

In the evenings, our house is usually bouncing with activity.  Many of our friends not only frequent our house for supper, but many stay on later into the evening to hang out.  Some nights, our hang out times just include talking or telling lively stories.  Other nights though, they include card games, checker games or watching an occasional movie (if there had been enough sun that day to charge my laptop).  Sometimes my child (otherwise known as my ukulele) wakes up from its slumber and joins the party.

The day ends with hand-drawing up water from the well in our front yard and taking a cold bucket shower (which is often very refreshing after a humid day in the 100’s). Lock the room, scramble into bed, pull down the mosquito net and fan yourself until you fall asleep.  You start to sweat just as soon as you leave the shower, so you pray that sleep comes faster than the yucky, gross, sweaty feeling.

The next morning will start a beautiful, new day with new life and new conversations and new things to learn here in Catel!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On the Shores of Bambadinca

After my weekend trip with my friend Di, I became convinced that “Adrianne” must mean “adventure” in some other language.  It seems like I can’t go anywhere without some kind of excitement following me.  Please excuse the sea of words as I relay to you the story of my trip to Bambadinca (Bahm-bah-DIHN-kah).

Two weekends ago, I went to Bambadinca with Di (Bambadinca is a fishing town about a five hour drive east of where we live).  I had an incredible time and learned a lot first-hand about Guinensi hospitality.  

While we were there, we stayed at Di's friend's house.  Upon arrival, Sonsinha (Sohn-ZEEN-yah), Di's friend, presented us each with a tie-dye dress that she had bought.  She ended up killing two chickens for us also over the weekend.

You know, I used to not be a huge fan of tie-dye, but it's really popular here, and the style has grown on me.  On of my favorite things about this dress is that it has pockets!  Di and I like to wear our coordinating dresses on the same day.

There are too many details to write of my adventures in this post, but it included narrow, pot-holey rods with ravines on either side, walking to a deep bush village through some cashew orchards and over a rice field, a funeral, and breakfasts of goat meat and mayonnaise.  If the trip to Bambadinca was interesting, the travels home were even more so!  I traveled home by myself (which is not an uncommon thing for me to do - it's very safe here).  Unfortunately, my phone had run out of charge because we had used it as a flashlight the night before.  Di had been sick the entire night, which was one of the reasons why she didn't come back with me.  I said goodbye to my new friends in Bambadinca and left with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and a new tie-dyed dress in hand.

Di and Sonsinha as we trek over the rice fields and through the cashew orchards to get to a bush village where Sonsinha's twin sister lives.

When I got to a town called Safim (near Bissau, about halfway home), it was 6:30ish in the evening... I was trying to get a public transport car back going towards home, but the ones that were passing were full.  I had made conversation with a woman waiting next to me who was traveling the same way.  We decided that since the full cars were coming from Bissau, we would go to Bissau to try and get a car.  We got to the car garage in Bissau only to find out that all the cars that would pass our villages had left already... What to do?

We waited at the entrance of the garage and literally flagged down like every single car that passed us on the road... whether it was a big dump truck or a personal vehicle... We flagged it down (Getting public transport here is kind of like flagging down a taxi in a big city).  It finally got dark and we didn't have a way back.  This woman (Emilia was her name) asked if I had a place to stay.  I racked my brain.  We have missionary friends in Bissau, but I've never been to their house... Augustu (see previous blog posts to learn who Augustu is) also has family who live in Bissau that I know quite well, but I didn't know where their house was either (don't forget that my phone didn't have charge... I couldn't call anyone).  I only had enough money for transport home (youth hostels were therefore not an option), and all the banks were closed at that hour. I did NOT want to stay with this woman!  I didn't know here from Eve!  It seemed as though I didn't have a choice.  

I told her I'd go with her and from then on, I was her guest!  She paid for everything for me... transport from the garage to her house, etc.  She said that once we got to her family's place, she would charge my phone, and I could use her brother's phone to call Andrew to let him know of my whereabouts. She led me down a very very dark alley to a part of Bissau I didn't know, and the only people at "her house" were men.  She set up the bed in the common area of her brother's house (her brother wasn't there when we got there, by the way).

Talk about being nervous!  She said we would get up early the next day and travel back together.  The brother eventually came back really late, and I made a short call to Andrew to tell him where I was.   I didn't know whether or not to sleep or what I should do.   Was I going to get robbed or was I safe?  Sleep eventually took over, and I woke up early the next morning.  It took a little while for Emilia to wake up and I wondered what I should do in the mean time (I am an early riser).  Because we had arrived so late the night before, they hadn't shown me the bathroom, and the door was locked, so I couldn't leave to look for breakfast.  Eventually she woke up, we took showers, and she sent one of the guys at the house to go look for bread and butter for us. She made me lemonade, and we set off.  

We got to the garage again just as a full transport car to Sao Domingo was pulling away, which would have taken us where we each needed to go without any stops.  Emilia got on a car to Ingore with me (which meant that we would have to make a stop in Ingore before heading home) and we made our way toward Catel.   As we were leaving Ingore, I thanked her for her hospitality and she said something to the effect that it was no problem, she'd make sure to return the visit.... She wanted to meet my husband.  I had let her think the night before that Andrew, my teammate, was my husband.  It seemed safer at the time, in a house full of just guys that I didn’t know to let her think that I was a married and not a single woman traveling all alone. Oh man! Well, if she does actually make it here to Catel, I'll be sure to set the record straight that I am NOT married.

Poor Di learned of my travel excitement the night that she got back and was so distraught by it that she couldn't eat supper and couldn't sleep (she was supposed to have accompanied me back, and if she had, I wouldn't have slept in the house of someone I didn't know).  She came to see me first thing the next morning and apologized profusely for leaving me go by myself.  I assured her that I was okay and that nothing had happened. :)  
Dear Sonsinha had sent Di back with two chickens... one for me and one for Di.  Here is my new chicken, Irene (named after Irene Adler from Sherlock Holmes)... She has quite the spirit!  
I arrived at our house with chicken in hand, and the boys immediately asked me when we were going to eat it.  I informed them that the day we eat my chicken is the day that we will also eat their cat.  Problem solved.

I will never forget the incredible hospitality I was shown this weekend in Bambadinca!  
Me with my new friend Sonsinha, and Di (along with some of the many children that flocked to the camera).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hello London!

Last month, a dear friend of mine from America met up with me in London for a much needed week-long break before the craziness here (rainy season/YES team leaving/pig project) got into full swing and before Julia (my friend) left for East Asia.  That week was an incredible blessing to me; not only did I get to spend a week with a good friend of mine, but I got some much needed rest after some bouts of busyness and sickness.  My deep thanks and appreciation go out to a very special couple who made it financially possible for me to do so!

I thought you would share some pictures from the trip!  Enjoy!

Selfie!  One of the first things I did when I got to London was find some granola.

 Because of some traveling snafus, Julia and I were able to stay in this amazing hotel room for two nights.

Bedroom and kitchen.  Look!  There's the granola and some Earl Grey just waiting to be consumed!

A hot shower (WITH RUNNING WATER!) was sure a treat.  So was the flushable toilet.  The bathroom was even indoors (a change from my home in Guinea Bissau)!

The rest of the pictures are from Julia's camera.  Thanks for taking pictures, Jules!  NOTE:  I did not include pictures of the places we went sight seeing because if you really wanted to know what Windsor Castle, the London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, etc looks like.... I'm sure you can Google it.

Julia and me in front of Buckingham Palace.

We went out for afternoon tea a few times.  This place was listed as a "secret of London".  It surely was secretive!  I'm not sure how many times we walked around the block until we found it above a pub.  Anyone who knows me well knows just how much I love tea.  Afternoon tea with a good friend in a cute place like this was just perfect.

I was really really hungry for rice (it's hard for me to go a day without rice - rice has become such a staple in my diet)... So we went to Chinatown and had some Chinese. Mmmm!

Riding "the Underground" (London's subway) became an everyday thing.  This day, we were heading out to see Windsor Castle.  I had never seen a castle before and it was very awe-inspiring.  In case you were wondering why I was wearing a coat in pretty much every single picture...  50-60 degrees Fahrenheit feels extremely cold when your body is used to temperatures in the 100's.  The first day, we actually went out and bought me shoes because my toes were turning purple and I couldn't stop shivering.  I was SO thankful that Julia had thought about bringing me a jacket because tank tops and skirts are all I wear here in Guinea Bissau.

We took a picture with a guard at Windsor Castle.  The poor guy has to stand still for hours and endure people taking pictures with him.  Smile!

Now that I'm back, my time has been consumed with preparing the land for planting, weekend trips with 
my Guinensi friends, finishing our jumbai (hangout) bungalow, and preparations for the departure of the YES team.

May God bless you with an extra measure of his rest today!


Monday, July 8, 2013

This little piggy went to Africa...

Me:  What does Weaverland Mennonite Church's Vacation Bible School (VBS) and the Guinea Bissau Pig Project have in common?

You:  I don't know, Adrianne.  Tell me!

Me:  They are both being featured in this blog post!  Woot!

There are so many things to tell you, it seems, but so little time to write everything (and I feel like the longer I'm here, the harder it is for me to communicate in English, so you'll have to pardon me if my syntax is a little off).  Recently though, I've been hit with the generosity of the kids from Weaverland's VBS.  Every summer, Weaverland puts on a themed week where kids can come in the evening and learn about the Bible.  It often starts off with singing and a fun skit.  Later, kids break up into age groups for Bible lessons, crafts and snacks.  VBS kids also adopt a project and raise money for it during the week.  This year, they raised money for the Guinea Bissau's pig project.  I was absolutely blown away by how much they raised (enough to start 2 1/2 more pig projects)!

I know many of you reading this blog have also donated to the pig project, and I'm sad that I can't do a blog post on each one of you.  Each and every little bit has helped to better the lives of families here in Catel.  My many thanks goes out to Sheila Martin of Sheila Martin Photography ( for the following pictures and to the VBS Planning team for putting it all together!

Some of the kids and teachers during song time.

Steve Martin leads the kids in singing with the help of some mascots who might prefer to be left nameless.

I absolutely had to include this picture of my brother playing the part of the sheriff during skit time.

This mascot is also related to me, but he/she will remain nameless.  It looks like everyone had fun there, and I'm very grateful for their help in raising funds for the pig project!  Good work guys!

While we're on the subject of the pig project, I thought I would give you an update on how the projects that have already begun are going.  Honestly, I feel like sometimes I'm in a real-life story of the parable of the talents (if you are unfamiliar with this story, you can read Matthew 25:14-30 or click on the link

I have renamed the guys as "Guy 1," "Guy 2," and "Guy 3" to protect their integrity.

Guy 1: Guy 1 is doing an amazing job!  Every time I go over there, I am absolutely impressed.  He is really serious about keeping his pigs on the actual pig feed ration and cleans the pens and gives clean water every day.

Guy 2: Guy 2 seems like he's doing the best he can, juggling all the other responsibilities that he has.   He has also been supplementing the pig ration that we suggested with left over  rice, and his pigs have grown accustomed to rice to the point that they prefer it (though it has little nutritional value) over their vitamin-complete feed mill food.  They are still growing fine, but are not as big as I think they could be.

Guy 3: Over the last few months, Guy 3 has disappeared and has stopped coming to church.  I mean, he's around, but other stuff seems more important to him.  His barn is STILL unfinished, and since April, he's been keeping his pigs in one room of an abandoned house.  I haven't been able to get a hold of him to vaccinate his pigs either, nor have I seen his pigs since April.

Though we carefully chose three church leaders who we saw as responsible men, this stuff happens in business sometimes.  They were each given a loan agreement (the money raised for the pig project is a micro-loan, not a gift), and must pay the loan back regardless of how successful or unsuccessful their pig business becomes.  The way it is set up, each participant of the pig project borrows a huge sum of money at the beginning of the project (to build the barn, buy the pigs, etc), but gradually pays it back with the proceeds from each litter of pigs sold.  This way, the pig project as a whole can be sustainable, and many more families in Catel can benefit from it.

If you have any questions about the pig project, feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment on this blog (email:

Hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July!  Until later!