I know, I know: it's been a while since I have posted a blog...at least one that actually says something rather than only just barely hinting at my thoughts.
But I was thinking today of some of the things that have happened that are small enough in and of themselves, but that will give you some insight into what my life is like here.
For example, I have managed to electrocute myself while in Benin. Not exactly what I pictured my parents hearing from Mercy Ships before my remains were repatriated (my traveler's insurance covers this, did you know that?) back home to the States. The story is this: after my last string of night shifts, three other fellow night-nurses and I headed to a lovely resort called Awale Plage in a sleepy little town called Grand Popo not far from the Togolese border. (Both pictures in this post were taken at Awale Plage.) We spent three days and three nights in utter relaxation. The first day we breakfasted on ripe mangoes brought with us from the ship, read novels while listening to the rain run madly off the corrugated roof, and watched tiny little geckos stalk and eat ants. After the rain let up we walked on the beach discovering cuttlefish and sting rays and one lone green piece of perfect beachglass. The next morning the sultry African sun reappeared so we donned our togs (swimmers, bathers, swimsuits) and lay on woven reed mats to watch the waves crash on the steep shore. It was on the evening of the second day that I electrocuted myself while reaching to turn off the light over the bathroom sink. Turns out to have been a charged piece of metal posing as a power toggle. I gasped, removed my tingling index finger from the light, and promptly went out to tell the girls what happened to me. We laughed long and hard about the fact that of the assorted typical ways to die in Africa (zemidjan accident, various parasites, exotic diseases, sunstroke, etc.) electrocution didn't even make the list.
Speaking of zemidjans, in the interest of truth in reporting I fear I must confess that I have ridden a zemidjan...twice. I left that little tidbit out of my chronicles about vodun fetishes in the Dantokpa market, but the truth was that it would have been nearly impossible to walk the distance from the ship to the market and back in the heat of the day carrying heavy wooden drums. The other truth is that I couldn't help but love the wind in my hair even as I clenched my hands around the back of the bike and prayed for safety. That being said, I am not going to ride any more zemidjans. The risk is just too high.
The other little tidbit that illustrates a small portion of life on the ship comes from this past Saturday morning which found me queuing up for breakfast in the dining room status post night shift. You have no idea how ridiculously excited I was to have a pancake, and orange juice, and--get this!--pineapple flavored yogurt! It made my entire day. The food here is generally amazing, so don't misunderstand me. But breakfast typically consists of toast and cereal and some artificially flavored fruit drink. About once a week we also have a bitter-tart plain yogurt which I have not yet been able to render palatable. Food on the ship can be a strange mix of feast and famine: we may have smoked salmon for sandwiches, but we have not had cheese for the past two or three weeks and we don't know if/when more will be coming. But I will miss the sunflower seed bread, the tubs of mangoes in various stages of ripeness, green oranges, and ripe pineapple.
One other thing I will miss when I go back to the states will be the African greeting, which starts as a handshake and ends with a snap of the fingers as your joined hands separate. This happens anywhere from two to four or five times during the course of the interaction.
And finally, the most important part of this post: I have extended my time here by a couple months so I will come home sometime in mid-November rather than early September as originally planned. I just couldn't picture coming back in a scant three weeks. I am learning so much and growing so much, and despite some of the quirks of life here I am really thriving living in Christian community. And I love the work that I am doing on the wards and that Mercy Ships is doing in Benin. (Read the latest Mercy Ships newsletter here.)
It's not that I don't miss being home; I do. I miss camping and trips to Eva's sister's "cabin" and spontaneous ice cream excursions. I miss the farmer's market and weeding in the backyard. I miss canoeing in the river and biking to Pine Island.
But as wonderful as those things all are I want to be a part of what God is doing here in Benin for a little while longer. I have appreciated the many emails, cards, packages, phone conversations, and the knowledge that I am being prayed for continually. If you would also be interested in supporting me financially for my last couple months, you can take a look here.
Tout a l'heure, or until next time.