Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The hospital in Nalerigu has been running on a skeleton staff and only taking emergency cases since its pharmacist was shot and killed last Thursday night on his way home from work. The hospital staff and people throughout the village have been fearful because Nalerigu has always been such a peaceful village and because there were indications of ethnic motivation behind the shooting.

I’m happy to say that, though everything has not been completely resolved, the hospital will open for clinic again tomorrow. We had thought it would be next week or later before the hospital got up and running again, so this is very encouraging news. People have not stopped getting sick because of the problems in Nalerigu, so it is important that they be able to come to the hospital for help.

Please continue to pray for the community as it is still in mourning and awaiting the funeral. Pray for peace among the peoples and healing for the community as a whole.

A Sad Day

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Last night (November 12), the hospital suffered a terrible blow when its pharmacist, a man loved and respected throughout the community, was shot and killed outside his home in Nalerigu. He died soon after arriving at the hospital. Violent crime of this sort is practically unheard of in Nalerigu, so the entire community is in shock. The hospital staff is especially distraught. Please keep the village in your prayers during this time of mourning.

The Ants Are Marching In

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

There’s a short story called “Leiningen Versus the Ants” that Matt refers to often in the presence of African ants. Apparently, a horde of ants descends on a South American plantation, devouring crops and animals as its owner tries to fight them off. What I always think of is the scene from The Poisonwood Bible in which ants invade a Congo village, and everyone must flee to the river (with the crocodiles) lest they be devoured alive. The ants in Nalerigu aren’t that dramatic, but they are persistent and quite strong. We’ve tried all manner of poisons, sprays, and powders to keep them out, but they seem to think our house (which is only one room wide) is an excellent foraging ground and thoroughfare. They’ll hoist their crumbs or dead beetles from our front yard and carry them up our steps, under our door, through our living room and out the back door. If they happen to encounter a stray crumb or a plate left out, they lift whatever they can scavenge and continue.

As a side note, I need to mention that there are also a lot of geckos around Nalerigu, and they like to get into houses. They can be startling when they dart out, but aren’t a big deal. One gecko in our house had a stroke of bad luck last week when he was caught on a doorframe, just as the door (which won’t stay open without a book propping it) slammed shut. His body fell dead and mangled to the floor, where I discovered it. I know I said geckos aren’t a big deal, but I don’t actually want to touch one. So, I decided to wait for Matt to get home and just not look at it in the meantime. I was in our living room a few minutes later when I looked down and saw, to my horror, that ants had descended on the gecko. They had lifted its body and were carrying it across the floor and out the back door. By the time Matt returned, there was no sign that a gecko had ever died in our home. If only I hadn’t seen them carrying it, the ants might actually have done me a favor.


Friday, September 18th, 2009

Burkina Faso is the country directly to the north of Ghana, which means it’s closer to the Sahara and therefore drier and hotter. It’s still rainy season, though, so a good soaking rain comes through every so often to cool things down and let the farmers grow their crops. Matt and I just spent a few days in the capitol city of Ouagadougou, which recently had too much rain, flooding the city and leaving thousands homeless.

The main purpose of our trip was to renew our 60-day Ghana visa, which was about to expire. We could get a new one at the border. While we were at it, we decided to make a little vacation out of it and see the sights in the city. We stayed at the Mission Baptiste (as a former French colony, they speak French in Burkina), which is a three-story building with multiple apartments. We had a room and a bathroom and shared a den and kitchen with three other people staying in adjoining rooms. Unfortunately the water pressure in the city is not so good, and the water often had trouble making it up to our third-floor apartment. Apparently the best time to take a shower is the middle of the night.

The main thing I was interested in visiting in Ouaga was the grocery store. We don’t have real grocery stores in Nalerigu—just the market every third day and various stalls stocked with random dry goods and soap. But in Ouagadougou they have real grocery stores stocked with aisles of food, a refrigerated section, plenty of chocolate, and an entire counter devoted to cheese. Yes, I have greatly missed chocolate and cheese. The last time I spent such a long stretch abroad I was in France where I was well stocked with both of these items. So we went shopping. Our main limiting factor was that we had to take public transport back to the border and were worried about (1) fitting everything into our action packer and (2) being able to carry said action packer.

We didn’t spend all our time at the grocery stores. We also ate out at a number of lovely restaurants. (Yes, this post will talk extensively about food.) The first night we went out with two other couples to a French restaurant. It was decorated in African art, with fabric-draped ceilings, low tables and benches, and white sand covering the floor. I ordered lamb, and it was tender and delicious. The next day another missionary couple took us to lunch at a Lebanese restaurant where we dined on platters of hummus, pita, vegetables, beef, and chicken and finished it all with a lemon sorbet. Our last evening we took ourselves out to another French restaurant with lovely crusty warm bread and tasty boeuf bourguignon.

OK. I’ve finished with the food for now. We also explored the city’s Grand Marché, a two-story, semi–open-air market which was recently rebuilt after it burned down one dry season. The city just didn’t have enough water to put the fire out. Matt remembered the old one from his first trip to Burkina is 2002, but this was my first look. The sellers were persistent. I let it slip in one stall that I was interested in animal batiks in blues or greens, and the next thing I knew, men with piles of batiks in their arms were following us through the market and holding up their wares. They seemed a little confused by my insistence that I like blue and green and kept holding up bright orange ones for me to see. “I don’t like orange,” I finally told one man. “But orange is the color of Africa,” he replied. And he’s right. It’s also the color of Tennessee, so evidently I’m doomed to be plagued by the color wherever I go. Nevermind. I still don’t like it. I finally found a nice large batik of elephants and gazelles in mostly blues and greens, and we shook off the rest of the sellers and made it out of there.

I should pause here to say that you never buy at the price you’re given at one of these markets. It’s the kind of place where you have to bargain. In Burkina you have to bargain in French. This trip served as a reminder of just how much French I’ve forgotten. Matt loves bargaining. I really don’t. I speak French. Matt really doesn’t. That means that he bargained, and I translated, but I couldn’t remember how to say all the nuanced things that went into his bargaining technique. I’m afraid we didn’t do so well in the beginning, but we’d worked out a rough strategy by the end and were able to come around to better prices.

My favorite non-food site was the Artisan’s Village. It’s a large open-air compound with covered walkways alongside artists’ shops where they make and sell their wares. They had everything from weavers to painters to sculptors. There were blue-turbaned Tuareg with their elaborately decorated camel-leather boxes. There were brass sculptures in all shapes, hand-made children’s toys, and baskets like we’d found in Bolga. And all around you could watch the people making more. It was a pleasant place, without the harassment of the vendors at the Grand Marché, and we found some beautiful things.

Ouagadougou was a good change of pace, but the noise and pollution reminded me that I don’t really like big cities, African or otherwise, for more than a few days. When it was time to go back to Nalerigu, we were ready.

The Internet Cafe

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Until recently, all the missionaries and volunteers at the Baptist Medical Centre have been blessed with satellite internet service at the schoolhouse located on the compound. It was never fast (as the scarcity of photos on this blog illustrates), but it was available and nearby. It might take an hour to download a podcast, but I could always leave my computer there downloading while I left to pursue other activities. Alas, that luxury is no more. The satellite is broken and the replacement piece sent up last week was the wrong one. They’re working on it and have reordered the piece, but there isn’t exactly a shop nearby.

So, now we have arrived at the topic of this post: the Nalerigu internet café. It doesn’t actually serve coffee, but it is an air-conditioned room with about seven computers and a large printer/copier. It’s the only internet access available to most of the community, and for 50 peswas (about 35¢) you can have a half-hour of internet time. The drawback? It’s a long, hot walk on the other side of town. Also, it doesn’t like my computer, so I have to use theirs, which are slow, and the keys on the keyboards stick. The @ symbol is also inexplicably in the wrong location. All this has combined to prevent me from posting to my blog for nearly two weeks. I’ve barely answered emails from my mother. How am I posting now, you ask? It just so happens that I’m not in the Nalerigu internet café. I’m at the Baptist Mission House in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso. More on that in my next post.