Saturday, August 26, 2006

Yay weekend!

Myspace Mood: Relaxed

This week has been a really long one! I am glad for the weekend being here. One of my responsibilities here is to keep a typing lab up and running which is made up of some really old computers (several Pentium I 90MHz's). Old computers already, which would have been junked out in the States long ago, but when you can't get ahold of new ones without shipping them over on a boat, they're precious material here! Anyway, most of the week was spent repairing these machines without any spare parts, software, or internet connection to work with!

This week was also when Em and I started making all of our own food. Last week when we got here our teammate had us over for lunch, which is the biggest meal of the day. Since they've been here so long they've had a few "accessories" shipped over such as BBQ sauce and peanut butter which make cooking much tastier! So, we ate good last week. This week though, we were still trying to figure out how to make good stuff from what's available here. I love food and eating is fun at home, but it is much harder to prepare stuff here and there's much less variety than at home. I would say that 80% of the population here just eats seasoned rice every day. Don't get me wrong, they're happy to have it, but my point is that there isn't too much emphasis placed on food as a form of entertainment. Anyway, we're getting it figured out, but I have a new appreciation both for Walmart's convenience and variety!

The family that founded the school, Thomas (a Cedarville grad from Niceville, FL), Em, and I went to a little streetside restaurant for something called Shwarma's last night. They are good, but I was up sick half of the night. It's the weirdest combination ever. It's like a fajita, kind of... a wrap with beef, onions, spice, a mayo-ish sauce, and french fries. No, the fries aren't on the side, they're in the wrap too, haha. Tomorrow after church we're going to a restaurant Em and I haven't been to yet but that our teammates said is the best (safely prepared) authentic Guinean restaurant in the city, so that should be tasty!

I'm off to help out with kid's basketball. Soccer is by far the most popular sport here, with no distant second, so the only thing anyone here knows of basketball is what our teammate told them. So, it's a humerous irony to me to be the white guy who's the authority on basketball, haha...

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayer from home - we miss everyone!

Friday, August 25, 2006

I'll show you a rat!

Myspace Mood: Amused

Warning: If you don't like dead animals and/or vermin, don't look at the picture at the bottom of this blog entry. Now that all the guys are back from looking at the picture, let me explain it, haha...

I am preparing to start teaching an introduction to computers course in a few days. It's been fairly difficult since in the States that course would look a lot different. An example of this is that here I need to explain and show people how to use a rat. Yes, there is no word in Creole for "mouse" so when they were giving me the Creole terms for various computer parts "un rato" stuck out.

I found out yesterday why there is no Creole word for "mouse". The animals that we call mice don't exist over here, and what we call a rat, Guineans would hardly consider a cause for alarm. There was some commotion from the guard dog Maggie in the corner of the youth center by the generator yesterday and a few minutes later I found out what a rat really is.

Jeremiah is a big guy, the picture honestly doesn't do the rat justice.

The guys were pretty excited when they speared it and were planning to cook it later. We weren't around for dinner that night so we didn't get to try it, sadly... :) I know people who have cooked squirrels in the States, which seemed a little silly, if you're going to grill a varmint - at least go for one with some serious meat on it!

As a quick side note, I like lots of things about living here but am definately missing some things from the States. So, I've decided to start a running list of the reasons I like the States and the things I'm going to do (not necessarily in order) when we get back.

Thing to do #1: Go to Applebee's and order the biggest burger they serve. Man I could use some beef!

Thing to do #2: Pay a visit to Mr. Starbuck! Today was the first cool morning we've had since

we've been here. It rained all morning and it was the perfect day for a good coffee. I know I've complained frequently about how expensive Starbucks is, but when the nearest one is a long plane ride away, the $3.50 doesn't look so bad anymore. :)

Here's a picture down our street this morning.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

In a different world...

Myspace Mood: Confused

We live in the capital city of Guinea Bissau, which is Bissau. At last count, I think there are 400,000 people living in the city. It is interesting though, because it doesn't feel like a city we would expect. There is a downtown that has a few multi-story buildings and lots of stores, and also several other markets spread out through town. The 400,000 though is mainly made up of what I think of as "African Suburbs". The town feels much more like a bunch of seperate little villages all shoved right beside each other surrounding the downtown than one unit. Our street zig-zags from the main road, and kind of forms our own little village in Zone 7 of the city. I feel like I belong much more to my neighborhood than the city as a whole.

We had an interesting experience at the end of last week downtown. Our teammate drove us downtown to a few different stores to stock our kitchen. At one of the stops she stopped the truck by the curb and immediately a police woman came over and angrily demanded her documents. Our teammate pulled them out of the glove compartment and handed them to her at which point the police woman stormed across the street. A friend of our teammate's was walking by and told her to pull forward into the next "parking spot" which had just been vacated. The story should be prefaced by saying that there are no parking signs, markings, or even generally accepted rules for parking downtown. I've seen cars parked two rows deep at the curb.

Anyway, the woman came back and yelled at our teammate for a few minutes before telling her that if she wanted her documents back she'd have to come across the street to discuss it. Our teammate sent us into the grocery store and went over. The police woman had a partner there and they proceded to take turns arguing with and yelling at our teammate for the next 30 minutes. They asked here where she took driving school, how anyone could be dumb enough to park that close to the corner, etc. In the middle of the arguing our teammate's friend from earlier came over and told her she should give the lady a few thousand cfa ($5 or so) to take care of things. So during the next round of arguing our teammate told the police woman "A friend of mine tells me I should give you some money to clear this up, but that's not right!" The woman was totally indignant and yelled for the next several minutes about hwo she would never do something like that. She told our teammate that the ticket was going to cost about $70 (obviously not possible, it would be equivalent to a $1500 parking ticket in terms of the U.S. economy.) When police take your documents they have to give you a temporary license form in case you get stopped before you pay your ticket and get your license back.

So, at this point Em and I come back from the store and try not to stand close enough to aggrivate the police woman anymore. The problem is, the police woman is obviously asking for a bribe by saying the ticket is so much and our teammate should pay her right there. On the other side, if she doesn't pay and goes through the proper procedure of going to the station to pay the ticket and get her license back, odds are good that her license is not going to have been turned in by the officer because that would expose her as trying to get a bribe from our teammate. So, we pay an unfair bribe or our teammate never gets her license back - nice, huh? Our teammate's solution was to demand that the police woman get in our truck right then and there to go to the station and pay the ticket together. After some deliberating with her partner the police woman was understandably unwilling to go to the station so her "compromise" was that she would give our teammate back her documents, but if she did that she would need to be compensated for the "temporary license" form she had already written out. She tried to tell our teammate that each police officer was personally responsible for photocopying blank forms and that our teammate would need to pay $4 (still a decent amount of money here) to pay for photocopying the half sheet piece of paper! The woman had yelled for five minutes about how she would never accept a bribe 15 minutes before and now asked for two different ones in the space of 10 minutes!! Finally our teammate just refused to leave without her documents or a trip to the station with the officer, and the officer eventually gave up on getting anything out of us, gave back our teammate's license, and let us go.

Thus began our downtown experience! Exciting!

Thing I like about the States #1: Honest (or at least well managed) police force!

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Funny Language...

Myspace Mood: Curious

Kuma ku bu sta? (How are you, in Portugues Creole)

We have spent a good deal of the last few days trying to get a handle on the language here, and we are making good progress, so I thought I'd let you know a little blurb about it!
Portuguese Creole as nearly as I can tell is the language that the natives learned from the Portuguese colonists... so it's like portuguese lite, lol. It uses a slightly different pronounceation than portuguese, which is a bit different than spanish. Words that end in "o" are pronounced "oo". "S"'s are usually (but not always) pronounced as "sh". But a ton of the vocab is very similar to spanish. For example, the most common response to "how are you?" is "sta bon" (long o - I'm not sure of much spelling since we're really learning to speak it... and even if I was sure I'd be wrong since the language isn't defined anywhere, so no one can really argue that you're spelling it right or wrong, hahaha). Anyway, sta bon is just esta bien. The main greating also came straight from portuguese, but like the rest of the language has been "creolified". So the greeting is "kuma ku bu sta" - kuma is como, the k in ku is que, bu is tu, and sta (though it's pronounced shta) is esta! Interesting, huh??

But now, are you ready for the best part of the whole language??? NO CONJUGATION!!!! The verbs are never conjugated, and there is a simple prefix for past and future tense! So, the verb "to go" is bai. N is I. So, "n bai" is "I go". The prefix "na" makes it future and the suffix "ba" is past. So, to say I will go (or I am going, no difference), it's just "n na bai", and in that case you smash the "n" and "na" together and just pronounce it "na bai", holding the n longer - sweet, huh?? The language is very imprecise, it relies a ton on context. And, if you literally translated it word for word it would sound like a little kid talking, lol. But, all of this makes it easier to learn! We already know enough to greet people, take a taxi, and buy stuff!

Emily and I still have a ton to learn, but we're feeling more comfortable with it everyday. I get to teach my classes through a translator, and Em's classes are conducted totally in English, so we will be fine if we don't have the language perfected when class starts in a few weeks. We're interested to be able to talk to our neighbors though, so we're working on it!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Greetings from Guinea!

Myspace Mood: Excited

As my first official blog entry, I'd like to say hello from Guinea-Bissau! Apparently it's pronounced "be-sow", not "bih-saw" like I've been pronouncing it. We are settling in just fine - some things are as we expected and some things are going to take some getting used to.

Emily and I have been here for a little over 24 hours after a really long day of flying yesterday. We left Detroit Sunday morning and flew to New York for a 6 hour layover, then an 8 hour flight to Dakar, Senegal. We arrived in Africa at 5:55am local time (we're four hours ahead of Eastern here). It was still dark out, and it was already 81 and amazingly humid! We killed another six hours in the airport in Dakar (eating some very tasty rice cakes from our bags, haha) and then got on a smaller plane for the one hour flight to Bissau. We arrived after a bit of a bumpy flight and were glad to have no more flying for a while! The whole trip (despite being long) went extremely smoothly - no lost luggage, no hassle from customs (a few cassette tapes our teammate brought to the airport when they picked us up made things go smoothly, lol).

We got to our house after a short ride on roads similar to what you'd find in the Caribbean - lots of pedestrians and bicyclers darting in an out of traffic. The house is great, once we have a little more free time we'll get some pictures up. We ate dinner with our teammates and their kids.

We slept last night from 10 to 9 this morning, so I think we'll be through the jet lag by tomorrow. We had a few hours of Portuguese Creole lesson from our teammate this afternoon, after doing a little computer setup for me and English lesson planning for Em this morning. This afternoon we are taking our first trip to the market to change some money and pick up a few things. In a few days after we've had a little downtime we'll get a few pictures posted, they're always more fun than words, lol.

No good blog entry is complete without a funny story, so here's the one for today. Last night before we went to bed, I killed a cocroach in the bathroom by squishing it with a squegee (our bathroom has a shower that drops water into a hole in the bathroom floor, more on that next time, lol) and this morning, the cocroach was laying in the same spot, still squirming and trying to flip itself back over! Yucko! :)