Sunday, September 30, 2012

PICTURE THIS - 002




PICTURE THIS - 002
La Douceur, my special treat for surviving this afternoon’s adventure, has dropped to second choice.  Still has the best atmosphere but seems like by 1900/2000 hrs. ”where’s the beef?” Not here.  Ordered some pork and will see what I get.
Bollywood on TV tonight.  Indian actors don’t speak or move about much.  He strikes a pose, she strikes a pose, and camera switches from one to the other.  Music plays and occasionally the narrator makes a comment.  Continues with minor changes in expression for several minutes and then the credits roll and the show is over.  Have to admit it is better than Steve Urkel……
Party of ten adults and five very well behaved children at the large table.  Three separate couples, one with young boy, occupy the tables to my left.  The rain has stopped and the night air is cool, almost cold.
Party of thirteen came in and only table available seats six.  By combining small round and my table with six and “Voila” we have table four fourteen.  I find that it is fascinating that it is not necessary to speak each other’s language to co-operate in solving a problem.  I move to another table and the dining room is now officially FULL.  If anyone else comes in they must sit with me or on me…..
BTW The table I moved to is the guest of honor table on a raised dais overlooking two thirds of the dining area.  The perfect place for a people watcher, I take full advantage of the opportunity. 
My reward for this day’s accomplishment.  About one in the afternoon I went for a ride on my 150cc Sanya moto-bike.  Having no real destination in mind, I headed south and continued about forty kilometers to what I call “the eye of the needle”, a narrow pass cut into the side of the mountain.  Going down the mountain you pass through with the mountain on your right and a thirty + foot column on your left separating you from the traffic coming up the mountain.  It very much resembles the eye of a needle and is so narrow that some of the trucks coming down the mountain cross over to the oncoming traffic lane in order to negotiate the pass.  A new road, stating about five kilometers further down the mountain, will eliminate this hazard someday.  Meanwhile it is a challenge to round the bend and there it is.  I had to turn around and come back up the mountain and thread it a second time in order to video tape it while riding one handed…
Often times when looking from my upper room I see clouds hung up on the mountain tops. Today I can feel the cold and wetness as one begins to settle on the mountain I am riding on.  A few kilometers later it becomes evident that prudence calls for me to make a u-turn and head home.  By the time I get back to the needle it appears that the mountain top has torn a hole in the bottom of this cloud and all of its water is leaking out on me. 
Between the darkening sky and the downpour I can no longer safely see the potholes and at times the road itself.  Ahead is a large area to the right of the road where truckers can pull over and park when they are tired or like now when visibility is nearing zero.  As I slow down to look for shelter I hear someone yelling off to my left.  Stopping by the side of the road I see that the call is coming from another “biker” parked under a one walled pole shelter about four meters square with a tin roof about six feet off the ground.  Turning about, crossing the road, down an embankment and riding wet into the shelter I am out of the rain.  Kind of.
In better weather this is someone’s booth in the market place.  For now it shelters a strange group in the time of storm.  The other occupants are an old man, a three-year old girl and two young Togolese with their moto-bike and me and mine. 
We soon establish that conversation is not how we will pass the time.  We share a bottle of water amidst the downpour and I take a couple of short videos of the rain and the encroaching flood waters at our feet.  Already soaked, the cold starts to seep in with the breeze off the mountain.  After half an hour the rain seems to have passed.  I say good-bye and ride out through the small pond that has enveloped our shelter and finding an embankment the moto can climb I am back on the road.
Less than two kilometers later the rain returns, only in a more tolerable quantity.  Already cold and wet I am determined to continue as long as I can see where I am going.  Only twenty five kilometers to the traffic circle in Kara and a few more to home.  I can do this. And, I do.
By the time I get to the circle the rain has stopped and even the muddy, potholed, washed out road to the house is a welcome ride at this point.
Home, hot shower, dry clothes, hot coffee and downloading pictures from wet but working camera.
The adventure continues.  Did I mention that I love this place?
In Ecclesiastes Solomon observes that life is short, less than a vapor, in the scheme of eternity and God wants us to L I V E it>  It is not to be wasted, but to be enjoyed as God’s gift to us.  Praise God that after all of the years I have wasted He is allowing me to LIVE and to do it here in Togo, a place that I have come to love.
BTW  Pictures and video of this day’s adventure should be on my blog by morning.  Oh, my supper was a rather large breaded piece of pork, French fries, two Tonics, a cup of very strong black coffee and a vanilla pineapple ice cream dessert.
Good night.



Road Warrior - Togolese children love to see this rider on the road and this rider loves to see them.......
Eye of the needle from the down side.
Way to go.  One hand on the bike and one on the camera
You either make the bendsin the road or you .........
Going back up the mountain, this will be the by-pass that eliminates the needle.

No helmet and no fairing allows you to be intimate with nature.
Very intimate with nature.
Too intimate with nature..
Time to get "on the road again."

Did the thousand words first and then added the pictures anyway.

Monday, September 24, 2012

General Happenings


Just some activities that fill the days with joy.

Had some of the workers in the ministry over for diner and some games.  These guys are awesome.  They do everything from guard duty, evangelism, preaching, working with kids in Awana program and most anything you could ask of them.  They do not hesitate to put their own plans on hold in order to help when ever needed.
Bertine made rice and chicken, which was delicious. While I am not sure , I don't think they have a word for left overs.
Youngest child at Awana s  this Sunday, she is just one week old and absolutely p r e c i o u s ....
 Speaking of which, this young man is in charge of cuteness which he handles very well.
 Nice thing about my blog is that I post what interests me and if you are not interested........ Still want to get rid of another five or even ten pounds.  Some people brag of having a "six pack", I have a keg.  It is all potential muscle.  It is all potential muscle.  There are some that say if you tell it over and over it will become truth.
That is about as high as it gets.  I do pretty good with taking meds, although I sometimes skip a couple of days.  
 I find myself eating more native than ever before and enjoying it.  This lady in the market does not just peel the orange but does it in a decorative manner. The top is removed and by squeezing and sucking you get fresh juice.  It is called "lame" (lam) that's with a short a and is common everywhere.  Just the other day I sat in my Chiefs yard and ate five of them right from the tree.
 This one was a treat while walking around the market.
 competition gets pretty tough for "cute kid" title and these two are in the running.
Speaking of running, this is one of the most popular games.......  I was official score keeper and we had a tie for first place with Red and Yellow each scoring 350 point.s  Blue and Green each had 200 points.  Everyone had fun.....
Finished up with Bible message and cookie treat.  Even the adults have fun at Awanas.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

House Hunting in Tchandida

Sunday morning after church.


Trying to be inconspicuous. 
 Nice neighborhood to house hunt in.
 It should be on the right, just ahead.  This is what we call a "fixer upper".  It has tremendous potential in my mind.  
 Some years ago a brick making operation built this structure.  The total area under roof is about sixty feet by twenty five feet.  The open area is about 50X25 and the two rooms on the end are about 8or10X25 total.  This is more "living area" than my motor home offers.  One room would be sleeping area and the other living.  The kitchen would be under the open roof in the area closest to the bedroom.  Bath would also be mostly outside.  Four or five foot walls and screening would provide sufficient privacy and security for those areas.
 With this much space under roof it would be possible to let my imagination run wild with a huge kitchen, patio, lanai or whatever else I could want.  A 25o gallon water tank above the roof level.  Black plastic hose covering part of the roof would provide "hot" water.  A wind mill would bring water from a well.  Wind/solar power could handle 12 volt electrical system.  A 3000 watt generator for occasional needs.  Gas powered refrigerator, stove and if needed heat.

This is very do able and the basic structure is already there.  The land and building does not belong to the Chief but rather one of his friends.  I don't even know if his friend would be interested in selling it or if I could even begin to afford it.  Tchaa says we can ask his father to look into it this Sunday.  At this point I have no preconceived ideas of what the Lords will in this is.  I do know that I could be happy here.  

God says that of all things it is desirable to get W I S D O M.  Pray that I choose what God wants for me and not what I want.  Then again, there are some that would suggest that maybe my senses have taken leave of me.......

Of course I could rent an apartment or house in town very reasonably, or return to how I was living in the states.  One of which offers little challenge and the other little desirability.  
Cindy, you and Bruce probably understand better than most......  I'm just saying.



Monday, September 17, 2012


Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days......


 and so the song goes and so go the days..... This is the sunrise over the very nice house being built across the road.  Later you will see the sunset over the poorer (not the poorest) homes to the West.  What a mixture of relative abundance with poverty and need next door.  Here the poor and the upper middle class live together and even the rich are not far from those who live from day to day.
While waiting to pick  up what I thought was the last school supplies we needed (turned out we missed about eight children) I bought first a "FanIce Choco" and then from a little girl a Ginger drink in a plastic bag. The flavored ice is hermetically sealed and so is the water dispensed in little plastic bags from the street vendors.  As I bit into the corner of the bag and squirted the contents into my mouth, I noticed that there was a knot in the bottom of the bag.  This drink was "homemade".  The water may have come from "city" water or an open well, or a stream or...... the flavoring may be from ginger root or....... It certainly was in no way filtered or treated.  Oh well, once started there was no need to turn back and it did taste pretty good.  I think maybe I am going native.  I'm just saying.
This is the road to one of the villages we visited with the "Jesus Film" a couple of months ago.  Pastor Moussa's church people have been holding services regularly and we are on the way with some school supply bags for the children.
 I feel quite sure that the last four wheel vehicle down this "road" was us two months ago.  BTW "To the right" was not the right answer.  A "house" here consists of several structures in a small compound.  The sleeping building is separate from the kitchen or storage or other living areas.  What we wound up in would be considered their "living room".  OK we back up and try going down the other path.
 With Christophe walking ahead, we blazed a trail to the school area.  The last time we were here we left late at night and made the reverse trip in the D A R K .
There were about twenty five of the children that attended church regular and they were excited to get these school supplies.  While school for the littlest ones is free, it is the parents responsibility to get their notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.
 Did I mention that I love these people?  When you are driving down the road and wave to them, young and old alike, they usually wave back VERY enthusiastically. So many smiles from those who have so little and yet seem LIVE each day.
 Raining on the way out was not a problem.  Several hours of rain and I would have needed Jon's four wheel drive.
 One of my favorite places is the market in Kara.  The picture is going to be hap-hazard because some might find it a bit offensive for someone to be filming them.  Others would gladly "pose" for you.
Having the camera waist high and not looking at it gives a different perspective from eyelevel viewing.
 Sounds. Sights. Smells.  Sometime I will try to put into words the experience of "market".  Some of the old Bogart and Bacall films of the old Africa portray much of what still exists today.  The merchandise may be different and motos are everywhere that the camels and donkeys used to be.  The people are much the same.  If you take the first price offered, I guarantee that someone will be laughing at you after you leave.
 End of the day and I watch the sunset from my "upper room".  Dwell in the corner of the housetop takes on a completely different perspective when you actually have a corner of the housetop to dwell in
 Following afternoon everyone gathers to "skype" with Jon.  They are always excited and very animated to see and talk to him and Heidi.  Seeing and hearing the  girls is the high point, followed closely by talking to Jon.  It is so neat to see the love and respect they have for my youngest son.  I'm just saying.
Coming to the close of another day, we have our late afternoon rain.  Again, from my favorite room.
Will try to get this to upload before the batteries go dead as the electricity is out once more.  Did I mention that I love this place.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Quick Praise Report

God is so good. We say this quite casually and we mean it on some level. In reality God is always good. His nature is such that He can only do right. Our perception is that when something goes as we would like it, God is good. What about when we don't like the event??? All that to say this, last night the electricity went out during a thunder storm. This is Togo, the electricity goes out when someone at the electric company sneezes. However, about 2130 hours the neighbors had some light and Tchalla hit the reset breaker on the main incoming with the result that we had a little electricity. I mean a little. Some lights came on dimly, some full bright and some not at all. Different parts of the house with different results. Here in Togo we have 220 volt four wires system. Reasoning that we only had three of the four powered, I waited for the electrician to respond in the morning. His diagnosis was that one of the four wires had no power and it was from either on the electric companies part or the actual main coming into the house. We would have to go physically to the electric company on MONDAY and ask if they would be so kind as to have someone check it out. BTW also lost internet modem while still having dial tone (yes it is dial up at 512 bps) another go to town and ask for help.....
Expecting twelve of my Togolese family for our quarterly diner at 1800hrs this evening I was ready to break out the flashlights and tape them to their forks so we could find fthe food in front of us.
God intervened in His own time. By two in the afternoon the electric company realizing that they had a problem, fixed it. Then, about the same time Christophe went to an internet cafe to email my children that i would not be in communication until next ?????? The internet came up with no help from me.
As a result you get this l o n g praise report.
Did I mention that I love this place....?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PICTURE THIS - 001



PICTURE THIS

Let’s try something a little different.  Instead of a bunch of pictures, we are going to try a thousand words.  After all that is what a picture is supposed to be worth, is it not? 
While shopping in town I heard a rather loud commotion about a block away and progressing toward my location.  Across the intersection I could see a crowd swaying and dancing toward where I stood.  At the head of this multitude (over a hundred) was a casket held over the heads of the pallbearers and being turned from side to side as they moved to the music and progressed down the street.
A couple of young men with painted faces stepped into the intersection and rerouted traffic as the assembly prepared to go by.  Soon, they were on my side of the street and passing within a few feet of where I stood.  Everyone in the marketplace paused as they went by and gave their attention, if only for a moment, to the funeral.  There appeared to be a mix of friends, relatives and paid mourners all in some stage of emotional display of respect and honor for the deceased. 
Upon inquirery I was told that this type of display was reserved only for those over seventy years of age and respected in their community.  It was one of those moments that are best remembered in the mind’s eye rather than on a little piece of photograph.
Minutes after passing, the market was back to business as usual.
Another time and place:
As a special treat I am taking myself out for dinner at my favorite restaurant, La Douceur. This is a little place that Jon and Heidi introduced me to on my visit in 2010.  Had a little trouble finding it this trip and spent many trips up and down back alley ways on my moto trying to locate it.  Even after finding it once, finding it again was a challenge.  Now if I start at the “major” intersection in town I can find it readily and do so whenever I seek some special treat.
I call the street an alley as a courtesy as it barely qualifies for that definition.  La Douceur is a Hotel Restaurant that might be called a Bistro in France.  Come with me. As we enter from the street level we pass thru an area with four tables and a TV on the wall.  It is almost a terrace area, only not truly open to the street.  Descending several flagstone steps, we pass by a sitting room that leads to the “lodging” or hotel area.  A few more steps downward and on our right is a small bar with seating for half a dozen, although it is empty but for the one server on duty.  Curving to the left as we descend the final eight or ten steps we arrive at the dining area. 
Our table is ahead to your right, the second table from the entrance and about eight meters from the central source of entertainment (a small TV) on the far end of the room.   Look around you as we seat ourselves.  The room is about twelve meters square.  The quarter to our left as we entered is partially walled, behind which is the “kitchen” area.  There are three tables (four tops) in this area and where we are sitting three more. In the center area another table and at the far side a table that will seat fourteen or maybe sixteen.  To the left of that on a raised dais is a table for four that would be for guests of honor.
 Our table is for four and your seat faces toward what is the back wall, if there was a wall.  Two full sides and part of the other two walls are open to the garden surrounding the dining room.  The garden is about three meters deep and walled from the outside world.  From your seat, you could lean to your right and touch the plants that are moving in the gentle breeze.  Notice that they are still wet from the rain that has only a few minutes ago stopped falling. 
Here is our server.  “Bonsoir”.  Knowing that my French is less than limited, she has brought our menu and a small dish of shelled peanuts to munch on.  Selecting a small salad to start and an entrée of “bœuf bernaise” and “pommes frites” with  Tonic for me and bottled water for you, we are free to enjoy our own company for the next fifteen minutes as everything is prepared to order.
Notice the pillar in what would be the middle of the room.  It is about two feet in diameter and eight feet tall.  From the top radiate twenty eight 3X3 inch poles, like the ribs of an umbrella, they reach to the thatched roof that is at least twenty feet overhead.  Rain still drips from the edges and adds background to the chirps, peeps and sounds of the insect life in the garden.  With the sun setting the activity increases.  An iguana looking for his evening meal creeps along the wall nearest your side.  A chameleon doing what he does best is almost unnoticed as he blends with a colorful plant behind me.  Don’t be surprised if a small rat is among the visitors over the wall, he lives here too. 
What?  What are you looking at?  Oh, the TV behind me has what program??? OH, NO!  It is Urkel of “Family Matters” and he is speaking French.  That has got to go!  “Madame!”  “Madame, s'il vous plaît!!!”  “Ah, merci beaucoup!!” 
That is no way to spend our time together.  He was annoying in English.  In French he is how you say annoying.  This gentle African music makes a much nicer background. 
Ah, here is our meal.  “Bon appétit”, says our server as she places our plates before us.   I like the simple garnish of a small tomato sliced lengthwise and with the heart cut out only an outline remains.  The sauce is excellent in flavor and the beef itself is so tender you can cut it with your fork.  The French fries are not as greasy as we are used to in the states, but almost a baked crispness.  I find that with the salt clumping in the moist climate it works best for me to take the lid off and coax the salt out with the handle of a small spoon. 
…….and so it goes.
I have enjoyed your company and hope we can do this again soon.
This is my treat to myself and I wish you could be here to share it with me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

School Supplies Sunday

We have been able to provide school supplies for about 150 children from the church and our "extended" family.  At the lower grades the schooling is provided but not the materials.  At the higher level (our middle and senior high) education costs and you provide your own materials.  This keeps many children from being able to attend.  Sometimes only one or two children in a family are able to go to school.


Local seamstress brought some Awana blindfolds by and stayed to help pack school supplies.
What goes where???  Math tools with compass and protractor, colored pencils, pens, erasers, note books.....
Every bag is going to be another happy and thank full child.   Love this part of being here.
Sunday children's church.
After service everyone gathers for distribution of school material.
Christophe, Atiyodi, Tchaa and their team organize and handle passing out everything.
A list of all the children who are faithful in attendance is used to make sure no one is left out.
It is a joy to watch the children as they look through their "goody" bags to see what they contain.
reminds me of the excitement of opening Christmas presents.
Even the adults share in the joy.
Headed home to show their school stuff.
Thank you is obvious in the expressions of all.
These represent only about a third of all who received school supplies.
Official group photo.  I have never seen such a wide range of ages that are so willing to follow instructions.  They are easy to work with and eager to learn.  What a field ripe unto harvest.  What seed will be sown in their lives?  Will it be the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  What are YOU and I doing about it?

First Awana Program PART TWO (view ONE first)

First Awana Program PART TWO



Love these kids.  Wish I had the eloquence to describe the experience.  Even a video falls short of what it is like to experience the sounds and motion and excitement ........ Teams cheer for their color.
I am still amazed at how everyone from teen to tiny interact as a "team".
Some games are very physical and others are just noisy fun.
Four blind folded members of each team (Red, Yellow, Blue and Green) are given an animal sound and turned loose in the circle of kids calling out "meow" or "woof" or .... and trying to link up like Marco - Polo.  Noisy and fun for everyone with lots of action.
Guard dog.  What more can I say......
Our turn is coming..
These kids are not from the church and were attracted by the sounds of the others.  Maybe we will see them Sunday and at the next Awana........
Also attracted by the activities was this Muslim gentleman whom Tchaa got to talk to for about fifteen minutes.  Christian joined them and they were able to share the Gospel with him.  He is devote Muslim, but the fact that he would stand there and listen and talk with them is a "good" sign.  Not only children are reached  with the Word of God at Awanas......
Nearing the end of game time and ready to move back inside for a gospel message.
Two hour program has become three and everyone is enjoying.
finishing with a little candy treat and already looking forward to the fourth Sunday and the next Awana....
Less than a kilometer from church and excited to review the days activities.  Beautiful feet of those who bring the Word of God.

First Awana Program Sun 2Sep12 PART ONE

FIRST AWANA PROGRAM
PREMIERE EGLISE BAPTISTE de TCHANDIDA
Sunday  2Sep2012
(part ONE)



Children start to gather as the game area is made ready.
Inside the church the older children help the younger.  Even five year olds take care of their little brothers and sisters.
Dividing into groups by age and taking "attendance"
Christophe has some very eager young children.
Everyone pays attention and the patience of the little ones is awesome.
Even the "older" youth are attentive and excited to be part of Awanas.
Coloring a picture related to a Bible story keeps the little ones busy.
Phase two is moving outside for a very active game time.
How willing are the little ones to wait for a turn.  That is not a question, they are the most patient and cooperative children I have ever known.  Love their attitude.
Ages range from very very little ones to teenagers on each of the four teams.
Only four are "to small" and wind up as watchers with me.
Older kids get the most active part, yet by the end of the game time everyone will get to do something.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Out of sequence


OUT OF SEQUENCE


This is a little out of sequence and actually from Sunday the 26th of August and later in the week.
Taken after church Sunday morning it begs the question “What are they looking at?’….


The answer is:  EMMA!!!  Set up the computer to show everyone what Heidi had been hiding for so long.  They were all excited, especially the women who had children of their own. You would have loved to see their expressions and hear their laughter.

 During the week we went to the market to purchase more Awana and school supplies.  Moto-bike taxies are how people get their shopping done.  Women bring their children to market and carry everything home on a moto.
 
Even the young help support their family.   It is so awesome to see how industrious they are.  
Wish I could have captured two little ones on road from house to our neighborhood market.  Little boy about four with his two (doubt if three) year old brother in tow with left hand and carrying lunch pail with right hand walking alone down road to buy their lunch at market.
"It takes a village to raise a child." 
 
Babies go everywhere with their mothers and bond physically as well as emotionally.  Sometimes I think they must have velcro or glue them on.  Walking, riding a moto or working in the field baby stays with momma.
 
Back home in the “corner of the housetop” that I call my upper room I enjoy the afternoon rain.  I don’t know it at the time, but this same rain is destroying the road to church.  
Did I mention that i love Togo?????