I’ve slept in 15 beds since Easter, not to mention the two nights I spent in airplanes. It’s been a whirlwind of a trip, from a big Senegalese city, to the pristine beaches of Guinea, to the tropical forest of Guinea-Bissau, to the fashionable streets of Paris. Since I can’t share everything in this post, let me just re-cap a few highlights for you (with “highlight” meaning “memorable thing,” not necessarily “favorite part”):
- Walking along miles of untouched, pristine, “private” beaches. During some of these walks we had to carry our suitcases on our heads. 🙂
- Boat rides through mangrove trees, from island to island, and from the country of Guinea to the country of Guinea-Bissau and back. We’d catch glimpses of amazing birds from the boats! Only once were we warned that the waters we were going through had sharks, and only once did our boat run out of gas for a while. They were not in the same place, though.
- Riding on motorcycles through tropical forests in Guinea-Bissau. The trees rose to the sky, giving us welcome shade, and there were vines criss-crossing over our heads. The sand under our tires was often loose and soft, and I’m glad that MY motorcycle wasn’t the one that fell 5 times in the loose sand. Three times the motorcycles were also given passage on the boats, but those were usually the smaller boats, carved out of the huge trees in the forest (kapok trees).
- Meeting with village chiefs and elders in 14 different villages of the N people group. One of our main goals on this PGA (People Group Assessment) trip was to find out if the N language was dying, and though in some villages they still say that the children speak it as their first language, there are many villages where they said that the children can’t speak the language anymore.
- In each village, when we asked if there were any Christians in that village, they said that no, there weren’t any. So sad to see the darkness that these people live in every day!
- In one of the villages, someone found a chameleon in a tree! But when they knocked it to the ground (and it changed from a light green to black and bright green striped right away!) and I picked it up, they were terrified. I enjoyed finding a chameleon in the wild, though!
- Though it was hot, it was a great time to visit Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. It was the season for mangos, coconuts, etc. Sitting in a hammock sipping a coconut was hard work! It was also cashew season – did you know that cashews are poisonous before they’re cooked, but that each cashew grows on the end of a juicy fruit that was wonderful made into a juice?
- In Senegal, I was able to meet with representatives of our Field Leadership Team. Though we don’t know what will happen in the days/months/years to come, it was encouraging to get to actually see them after more than a year, and to hear that they are hoping that we’ll be able to return to My Country sometime. We talked about some ideas/plans for this “in between” time as well.
- I got to play tourist in Paris for two days. Mais oui! And they didn’t even laugh at me for my funny American-West African accent. Did you hear about the day last week that the Eiffel Tower was closed because someone tried to climb up the outside of it? That’s the day I was there. 🙂
- I then had a conference on linguistics in West African languages in Paris. Much of it was way over my head (logophoric pronouns, deictic shift, defenestrated reported speech, etc.), but I understood the three presentations about languages related to Jula and made some connections that God may use in the days to come.
There is so much more I could share, but this is the main point: through it all, God was faithful. We had the translators we needed, we were healthy, we came back safely, Leah killed the big spiders for me, I was too tired to be kept up by the mice eating my peanuts out of my bag all night so got good sleep anyway, we got food even during the month of fasting, we were able to accomplish everything we were sent to do, etc. And we were able to revel in God’s beautiful creation at the same time.
As I go to bed in my own bed in Wisconsin tonight, I know that my nights here are limited, as this weekend I head out on my next adventure. I will be returning to North Dakota for the months of June and July, like I did last summer. There, I will be taking linguistics classes with SIL, which should almost complete my coursework for my master’s in linguistics. And I may be able to use some of the things I learned at the conference in Paris last week as I write my thesis, probably on discourse analysis in Jula. The goal isn’t to get a master’s degree, but to use parts of this “in-between” time to be better equipped for whatever God may have for me in the years to come.