Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Africa: Part 1

I’ve been trying to write this blog since the day I got home. I just don’t know how to start. It’s going to be a long one, or a series of long ones. But bear with me and I’ll try to highlight important parts.

How was Africa? I keep getting asked that question. And so many thoughts come to mind. Humbling. Incredible. Intense. Hard. Life changing. Crazy. Enlightening.

I’m just gonna start with day 1 and see what happens.

Monday, July 25th. We left Franklin together, the team of 11, on a bus headed to the Atlanta airport. Our flight was at like 5 or 6, leaving ATL and headed to Paris. I was mostly excited, a little nervous. As I sent my last texts for the next 12 days, I realized how much I would miss everyone. But I was too excited to care too much.

We got to Paris at like 8 am Paris time. Our flight left after a couple hours and we stopped in Niger on the way to Burkina. Flying over the Sahara desert was really cool. I have always been fascinated by deserts.

The airport in Burkina was crazy. The plane doors opened to the outdoors, to stairs leading straight down to the landing strip. A little bus took us the 500 feet to the airport. It was crazy in the airport, especially coming from Atlanta and Paris. There were ceiling tiles out, not much air flowing, not really terminals, no stores of any kind. We met up with the missionary who would be with us for our trip, Larry. He lead us outside where a bunch of Burkniabe (people from Burkina) were trying to sell us hotel reservations, eggs, all sorts of things. All French speaking, very overwhelming.

We get in the van and head to the guesthouse where we would be staying for most of the trip. The guesthouse is the upstairs of Larry’s house. Larry lives with his wife and 17 year old son. They have been in Burkina for 7 years.

The roads were absolutely insane. There were women in dresses and heels riding around on motos and bicycles right next to the car, like 2 feet from our windows! It was insane. There were markets set up all over the streets. People everywhere, so many people! The clothes were very diverse. People would walk up to the car to try to sell us stuff.

We made it to the guesthouse and introduced ourselves to Larry. We met our cook, Sam. He spoke English and French and cooked the most amazing food. He made American stuff for us but it was so different since it was made with products that weren’t processed like American food. We had tacos the first night.

There were 6 girls in the room I stayed in. Thankfully, we had air conditioning which we were allowed to use at night. We had a sink and a shower, but no hot water, which we didn’t need anyways. We had to brush our teeth with filtered water from our water bottles/cups and we couldn’t open our mouths in the shower. This was sometimes tricky to remember. One night, one of the girls put her toothbrush under the faucet twice! We had to boil water to clean it in.

The sun went down at 6 and we were all tired from flying so soon after dinner and introductions, we went to bed.

The next few days we stayed in Ouagadougou, which is the capitol of Burkina. (Call it Ouaga for short). We worked at an Elementary School that had been established by the church. We only worked half days and that’s really all I could work. The sun was so intense and I am apparently super weak. That was one thing I realized on this trip—I don’t do manual labor enough. I can pay people to mow my lawn and other things like that so all this outdoor labor was difficult. Which is ridiculous of me.

And the kids. They worked so hard. It was incredible. Who knows how much they had to eat that day but they were out there, taking our tools and working way harder than us. It was crazy and very humbling.

They also chased our vans in and out of their villages. Every time we drove up, they would chase us. I sat in the back most of the time and there was a ladder on the back of the van. The kids would try to climb it and I had to tell them not to. Heartbreaking.

On one of the days in Ouaga, we took a tour of the city. We went and saw the rich parts of town, which exist. Embassy members, government officials, business men and their families live here. The presidents house had four street lanes as his driveway. We then went to Sector 30, where people were living in huts. There was a giant hole of trash and mud. And so many children. All just running around, no parents in sight most of the time. This just blew my mind. I kept thinking, what are they doing all day? But what else were they to do but run around and play and try to find food to eat. They have no toys, no tv, no school some of them.

Their houses were the size of a dorm room. No bathrooms for some people, just holes.

I think that's all I can do right now. Part 1 of the trip. Saturday of the trip, it gets crazy. That's going to be a whole blog in itself, those few days in the Bush.

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