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 (www.echonet.org).
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 http://www.echonet.org/content/100underutilized/717/chaya_cnidoscolus_aconitifolius_ssp_aconitifolius). 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!