Saturday, September 27, 2008
All Kinds of Visitors
For dinner last night, I had tomatoes, beef, and cheese spread on tortillas. As I was thinking about how absolutely fantastic it was, I also thought about how it was totally worth the three hours it took to prepare. But then I realized it actually took longer than three hours. The tortillas alone took two and a half hours to roll out and cook, and that with two people working steadily. The cheese spread came from an ethnic store in Tamale. The tomatoes came from the Market in our village. Sarah bought the beef in the village last week and pressure cooked it into a form chewable by human teeth. And then we made tortillas for three hours.
I spent the last two weeks in Tamale, first at the Tamale Institute of Cross-Cultural Studies (TICCS) for an introduction to Ghanaian culture class, and then at Missionary Ali’s house for a teacher/teacher conference.
The TICCS course was fabulous. My class had 20 students: 18 Roman Catholic clergy members, one anthropology student, and me. We spent the mornings in class discussing cultural differences—delightful, especially since we were from 9 different countries (students from America, Poland, Brazil, Uganda, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Bulgaria, and India, and teachers from Ghana, naturally). We spent the afternoons on fieldtrips in Tamale—to see cloth being woven, pots made from clay, and animal skins turned into leather belts; to meet the chief in Tamale; to see a traditional African diviner; and to drink pito. It was huge fun, and I liked all of my classmates and teachers immensely. TICCS is such a caring place. The Guy From Ethiopia mentioned Ethiopian New Year (which was September 11th), so of course we all gave him New Year’s greetings at breakfast. But the TICCS director found out about it, and he had a cake served after supper, at which point all the Indians led us in a heartfelt chorus of Happy New Year to You—to the tune of Happy Birthday and in about 7 different keys. The Guy From Ethiopia had been looking a little homesick, as if he was missing a holiday and his mother’s cooking, but after cake and Happy New Year to You, he looked more like his holiday had been properly acknowledged.
Missionary Ali and I enjoyed incredible productivity during my week at her house. We went over the plans for Karissa’s fourth grade education, which has somewhat begun but will begin in earnest on Wednesday. We also did some shopping and some baking and tried our hand at potty training Hannah Ali’s Firstborn, all with encouraging if limited results. We also saw a seamstress and were measured for suits; I have high hopes that I might attend classy events (church, for example) more appropriately dressed in the future.
I returned to Nasuan with Nathan and his parents, Grammy and Poppa, who had spent the week in Accra. Grammy and Poppa were the first and most beloved of this week’s visitors, and they were the inspiration for exciting activities such as a treasure hunt, sing along night, and a poetry reading.
Our second arrival is the inspiration for my prayers of thanksgiving to Jesus for his gift of a ferocious attack kitten. Bernice the Cat arrived Monday, courtesy of Missionary Valerie and Family. Karissa and I spent hours pouring over the girl section of Sarah’s name-your-baby book before settling on “Bernice,” which means “bringer of victory.” That meaning, I believe, may be Bernice’s only consolation, as it turns out he is a boy kitty. Who knew? I mean, I investigated, sure, and I was 95% sure he was a girl when we named him. But the next morning he was attacking his Happy Face Sponge (a gift from Karissa) with unprecedented vigor, and from that angle he suddenly looked a lot less feminine, my certainty dropping to 45%. Karissa promptly took him to the Good Guard Abulai for a definitive answer, and, well, there you have it. A boy kitty named Bernice. He is fortunate to have also been given the nickname “Berni,” which sounds a little more masculine (regardless of on which side of the name book we found it).
Aside from our gender and naming issues, Bernice and I are getting along fine. I’m busily learning what cats eat when they’re too little to hunt in a world without cat food (this morning, he had eggs), and Bernice is diligently trying to learn the house rules: 1. Pee in the sandbox, and 2. Don’t bite my feet. He is much better with rule one, which will hopefully change to “Pee EXCLUSIVELY in the sandbox” in the near future. Eventually, we will add 3. Go outside, and 4. Kill mice, but for now we are taking baby steps.
Despite Bernice’s arrival, and bringing us to the end of this week’s list of visitors, this week’s Mouse Count is two. Sadly, only one died politely in the trap. Also sadly, this means you get to hear about the other one. I was in the shower. As I reached out to turn on the water, my right foot descended on something warm and soft and wriggly. My bathroom light does not penetrate the depths of my shower, see, so how was I to know what awaited me? More bad news, the Stepstool of Doom was in the kitchen. I threw on my towel, bolted into the kitchen, and returned wielding my Stepstool toward the vile fiend. Half-maimed and squealing, Shower Mouse maneuvered himself into the corner between shower wall and floor, where my stepstool could not fit to pursue. I returned to the kitchen for the broom, with which I swished Shower Mouse out into the open, switching back to Stepstool to finish the job. Highly traumatized (my foot touched a mouse body, and I was naked), I re-dressed in my dirty clothes and went to the Esalas’ house for cleaning cloths and pity. I related my tale of woe to Sarah, Grammy, and Poppa, who responded with all appropriate horror and sympathy. A major downside to killing Shower Mouse in the dark depths of the shower is that I couldn’t see to tell when the job was finished and so kept bludgeoning away—throwing in a few extra hits just to be sure. Thus, when I did go in with a flashlight and cleaning supplies, my recent victory proved far grizzlier than those past.
Today’s Suggested Prayer Topics are:
1. Everybody is always traveling. This time, The Esalas Limited are taking Grammy and Poppa to Tamale, as they are returning to America this week (possibly on Monday). At the end of October, I will also be traveling to America.
2. Everybody is always at risk for malaria. Since our internet access is so limited, I can’t generally tell you when people are actually sick, so I’m suggesting you just pray for everybody all the time. In the past few weeks, Sarah and Karissa both had malaria, and both are fine now. Nathan and Karissa had some kind of fever before that (Esala Fever, if you will. Sarah narrowed their illness down to about four fevers, all of which have the same treatment: Treat for malaria just in case, then just be sick until you feel better), and they also have recovered from that. Annaka doesn’t feel well today, so she’s being treated for malaria too (again, just in case). Aili and I, as far as I know, are still feeling pretty good.
3. And thank you, Jesus, for my cat.