I have now been in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa for almost a month and half. Time sure flies! It feels as if I only just got here. I guess, in the grand scheme of things, I did just get here since I have at least another 10 1/2 months here (Lord-willing, I may add another year onto that).
These past few weeks have been interesting. I’ve been living primarily out of Bouaké (in the central part of the country), but have stayed for a week in Korhogo and for a weekend in Niakaramadougou (both north of Bouaké by a couple of hours).
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far is that Mefloquine has been black-boxed for a reason. For those of you who don’t know what Mefloquine is, it is a weekly malaria prophylaxis, and from my understanding, being black-boxed means that the FDA has found frequent potentially dangerous side-effects for the medicine in question. In this case, it has been found that Mefloquine has the side-effect of making people kinda lose their minds. I’m okay *twitch*. However, when I started having weird dreams about people being burned alive and very vivid dreams of corporate conspiracy, I decided it was high time to switch over to once-a-day doxycycline. Haha. On a more serious note, I have been doing a lot of training here in West Africa. About a week ago, I learned that starting at the beginning of October, I would be living on my own in a host family in the small town of Kong. Kong is about 7 hours away from Bouaké (assuming there aren’t issues like buses breaking down, which always happens) to the northeast via a roundabout route through Niakaramadougou, Korhogo, and Ferkessedougou, all of which will have at least two members of my team here in Côte d’Ivoire. Kong is well known for their practices in mystic medicines and is also where the current president’s grandparents lived. They have a small church there, comprised mostly of foreigners who speak their native tongues and French. The rest of the people in this town are mostly Dioula people who do not speak much French and are mainly Muslim with animistic influences.
All this to say, I have been working pretty hard at learning French in hopes that I can slightly master it and move on to learning Dioula, so I can speak with the people of my town. We have also been studying up on our African and Ivoirian culture and history so we can not only better understand the people, but be able to act in an Ivoirian manner when we go into our homes.
All this training has led to several hands-on experiences in Bouaké druing which we were paired up with different people of the team. Because of my weak French, I’m relatively confident that I am assumed to be currently married to two different girls on my team. Oops.
Additionally, my weekend trip to Niakara was quite eye-opening. Niakaramadougou (Niakara, for short, obviously) is another small town just a couple hours north of Bouaké. This was the home town of Emily, one of our team leaders, who has lived in Côte d’Ivoire for over a year now. She took 4 of us with her to go see her family and meet some of her friends there in addition to getting some much-needed experience in what it might be like to live in one of our villages.
Stephan and I, being the only two guys on the entire team of 12 (14 if you include our two team leaders and 15 if you include our Ivoirian resident), stayed in a house by ourselves. The pastor of the Baptist church in Niakara had a guest house attached to his home in which he allowed us to stay overnight on Saturday.
This guest home was basically the size of two cubicles put together with a tall ceiling. We were right next to the restroom (merely a hole in the floor of a tiny closet) and shower (very similar to the restroom minus the hole). The front of the house and the back of the house were separated by a makeshift wooden wall. In front of this wall were two chair and a small table to imitate a living room which stared out of our front door and only window. Behind the wall was a dresser, a fan, and a mattress on the floor – the mattress we were not expecting exactly, and were very grateful for it.
We covered the bed with mosquito netting and called it an early night after a day of walking around the village in the African sun. When all the lights were turned off, it was completely pitch black – I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. But going outside, the stars were brilliant. It was quite a peaceful way to fall asleep.
Waking up was not so peaceful. Stephan was throwing pebbles at my face for some reason. As I came out of my dreary sleep, my thought process was as follows:
Why is Stephan throwing pebbles at me?
Wait, how can he throw pebbles at me if the mosquito net is over the bed?
Hmm…this mosquito net has holes in it.
Wait, that pebble on my nose had legs.
All of this thinking occurred over half a second. Of course, my first thought when it comes to bugs out here is “scorpion” because those can cause some extreme pain over the course of 12 hours. Thankfully, it was not a scorpion that scurried across my face that morning. It was merely our friendly neighborhood cockroach.
I didn’t sleep anymore after that.
The church there was pretty awesome though. The church on Sunday was split into two different services. The first service was French and the second service was Senufo. The French service was not as populated as the Senufo service, though it was a full room. It was amazing to me that they managed to fit so many people into such a small room for the Senufo service. And the songs sung during these services entice a very interesting kind of dance. I noticed that these dances have a lot to do with everyday life.
For one dance, the girls will bend over at the waist and move their butts around a bit (which was kinda weird to me, but whatever) while making a stirring/digging motion with their hands. The action imitates the work they do in the fields – pulling weeds, plowing, and reaping crops. Another dance, done by everyone is a simple stepping move to the beat of the music that imitates walking in place. Just in case you didn’t know, life here involves a LOT of walking.
As I watched these dances and foolishly tried to imitate them myself (not the butt-moving one), I thought about where they came from – how they originated. I realized that it could very easily be that these dances originated in the functions that they imitated. Which would make sense, right? The Bible says, “In everything you do, give glory to God” (Richie Paraphrase Version)! These dances shine a new light on this idea. Imagine the people here working in the fields with their backs straining against the sun for 7 hours, 7 days a week, worshiping God and working to the beat of their own worship. And walking – such a trivial task, yet imagine them doing it while giving glory to God.
It’s a great reminder to make sure that we do follow this passage of the Bible (Colossians 3:17). In every small thing, we should give glory to God, because He is the only one who gives us the ability to do these things.
Alright, well that’s all I have for you today. I will let you know that I am currently working on a blog series on Job. There are a lot of things I wanted to talk about concerning Job in my last blog series, but I didn’t have time to so I decided to devote a whole different series to the subject. So keep a look out for that later this month.
Anyway, if you don’t receive my update letter and would like to, send me a message, email me, or comment below and I will be happy to get you on that list. Basically, I send out one letter a month which briefly summarizes things I’m learning in Côte d’Ivoire, keeps everyone up-to-date on what is going on here, and states prayer requests I have.
Until next time, I hope God continues to bless you immensely, and in ways you may not recognize. Keep your eyes open.