Monday, January 26, 2009

Total Savings: 3 Pounds

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Total Savings: 3 Pounds

Dear Everyone,

Greetings. Did you miss me?

If you didn’t, and you wish you weren’t hearing from me now, you can email and ask me to take you off my email list. And I’ll do it, probably even without being mad. Otherwise, you’re in for another year of lengthy epistles.

Also, thanks so much to everyone who contributed financially last year. I know all money comes from God, but I appreciate your participation. My budget this year is similar to last year’s—$8,000—but I’m not sure how much of that I still need. If you’d like to send financial support, please write “Christina Riddle Ministry” in the memo line of your check and send it to:

Peter Slayton
Lutheran Bible Translators303 N Lake St
Aurora, IL 60506

If you write “Christina Riddle Ministry” in the memo line of your check, your contribution will be tax-deductible and will be spent on my basic ministry needs, such as travel expenses and food. I also need approximately $2,000 marked “Christina Riddle, personal gift.” This money will be spent on my health insurance and insurance for my car in America. Checks marked “personal gift” will NOT be tax-deductible; LBT will just hand me the money. Apparently, tax-deductible contributions cannot be used on this insurance because of something about my official status as a volunteer and the IRS. I don’t really understand it, but there it is.

Business done; on to the email.

I’ve spent the last few weeks in The City Accra after spending most of October in Nasuan the Village and both November and December in The Motherland. For your reading enjoyment, I’ll just run through the highlights quickly [read: at great, long-winded length].

Leaving the village was a little rough due to my unpleasant medical state. I’d had a headache for about four days and also some diarrhea, so I started taking a malaria treatment, just in case. It’s a take-twice-a-day-with-food medication—with breakfast and dinner, preferably—and that’s when I realized I’d been skipping those meals for rather awhile and existing on just small helpings of lunch. Guess I was sicker than I thought. I finished my malaria treatment the Friday we left the village, and though my headache was gone, I still wasn’t better. I was reheating leftover yams for breakfast, feeling lousy in general, and thinking about how I still had to clean out the fridge and wash the dishes before I was ready to go when Bernice the Cat jumped up onto my kitchen table and knocked my ketchup bottle vase onto the concrete floor, which shattered the bottle and added one more thing to my list. Sigh. I threw Bernice outside and put my shoes on. One problem at a time. Sarah found me sitting in the spray of glass, painfully force-feeding myself yams. Sarah, you know, is a problem-focused coper. She cleaned out my fridge and brought Asala the House Girl for my broken glass and dirty dishes and brought a new medication—this one specialized in giardia and other buggies of that nature—for my diarrhea.

She put Annaka and Aili on the same new medication because they had diarrhea too. And then we all went to The City Tamale, where Missionary Ali and Paul Her Husband live.

Paul and Ali were in The City Accra, so we had their house to ourselves. This was fortunate because it meant I had one bathroom all to myself, Annaka had one bathroom all to herself, and, since Aili was new to the whole toilet system and had brought along her own personal potty chair, one bathroom remaining for Nathan, Sarah, and Karissa to share.

On Saturday, Nathan, Sarah, and Karissa went to run errands and Annaka, Aili, and I stayed home to have diarrhea. We didn’t actually feel too sick, so this was a practical arrangement. The downside was that both Annaka and Aili needed help wiping, so they just had to wait until my diarrhea was finished before I could come help them. I was mildly distressed a couple times when I was busy stuck in the bathroom and I heard Aili’s sweet baby voice calling, “‘Stina! ‘Stina, stinky poop!” Fortunately, she was pretty good at getting most of it into the toilet, Missionary Ali has tile floors, and Sarah had had the foresight to leave behind a spray bottle of disinfectant.

It was a hot day, so Sarah put Annaka and Aili in the bathtubs to play in the water and stay cool. After the power went out, I moved the bathtubs to the veranda, which I think made them swimming pools. No electricity means no fans and no opening the fridge, which means limited air flow and lots of very warm water to drink. But I think that’s all I have to complain about (three months later—gee, Christina, get a grip).

I flew from The City Tamale to The City Accra. I wore my new African suit, which is a very flattering blue print with light blue lace trim and looks quite classy, and my height-of-fashion black high heeled flip flops—the ones with the large gold and black shiny plastic jewelry-things on the toe. So basically, I looked amazing. The flight from Tamale to Accra had been cancelled the day before; when Nathan called the airline to confirm my ticket, they wouldn’t give him any assurances or information beyond “come early.” Oy. So we did and were informed that passengers scheduled to fly the day before would be given first priority, and people with tickets for that morning’s flight would be taken as there was room. Nathan suggested I be put at the top of the list for available seats since I was there first. The Airline Guy agreed, found some scrap paper, and dutifully wrote my name on it. Then Nathan stood watch over the Airline Guy and the scrap paper—a sort of hovering vigilance, if you will. Apparently, if Nathan had abandoned the scrap paper, it would’ve lost its power and I would’ve lost my seat to the very aggressive woman breathing fire at the Airline Guy. But since Nathan was there, the scrap of paper remained enough to sustain the Airline Guy, and I flew out as scheduled, even as many others did not.

Missionary Ali, Paul Her Husband, Hannah is Two and Baby Levi met me at the airport in The City Accra on their way to church. I hung out with them for a day or so before flying to Ohio by way of London and Chicago.

The best part of my trip was going through customs, which was truly a delight. The Passport-Stamping Guy in Ghana asked me to marry him, so that’s always a treat. And I had a nice chat with the Customs Guy in Chicago about why I checked four boxes on my declaration form; it involved him saying things like “So, I guess there were animals all over the place,” and me saying things like “I only held the chickens, honest.”

In America, I tried to play my favorite grocery store game: Which Cereal is the Most Expensive? In Accra, the winner is usually somewhere around $13.00. In Ohio, the winner was $4.50. Other highlights include usurping a Mennonite Bible study—they asked me to speak 5 or 10 minutes, and I spoke 2 hours—and spending a few days in South Carolina with my church friends there. The weather was too cold for me to eat as much ice cream as I wanted, but I still managed to gain 14 pounds, which is respectable if not quite impressive. And then my parents got me a small ice cream maker for Christmas, so having carted it back to Africa, now I’m all set.

And speaking of stuff I carted back to Africa, my total luggage weight came to two suitcases of 52.5 pounds each, a carry on of just over 30 pounds, and a “personal item” (containing two laptops—mine and Sarah’s) weighing a bit over 20 pounds for a total of approximately 160 pounds. In the interest of saving space, I removed all unnecessary packaging before I packed things—for a savings of 3 pounds. Oy.

In other news, the Esalas’ new baby boy was born on December 5th in Accra—Isaac Emmanuel. Probably this is the part where I should include his weight and stuff, but perhaps you’ll settle for a link to the pictures his parents have posted. Go to and click the “photos” link on the right hand side of the page. Or, just trust me. He’s cute. And little. And very baby-like.

So everything is going pretty okay. We left Accra a couple days ago and are stopped briefly in Tamale, well on our way to Nasuan. Today’s excitement involved Missionary Ali’s dog dragging a baby goat into the yard and chewing its head off. It was quite dreadful. I was home by myself and I didn’t know what to do. So I called Ali, and she, of course, had the perfect solution: Call Paul. Brilliant. If any situation had “man work” written all over it, this was the one. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Your dog just killed a goat.”
Him: “What?”
Me: “A small one.”
Him: “I’m coming.”

Hope you are well and enjoying your January. Please feel welcome to write back and tell me all about it. Sorry for ending with the bit about the goat.


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