Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Things You Take Forgranted

Let's say you have a three-day weekend.  You'd like to visit some friends that live 193 miles away.  What do you need to do?  Fill up the tank, pack a suitcase, and hit the road, right?

Appreciate that freedom!

This weekend we have a three-day weekend and for several weeks we have been planning to use it to visit our friends at Cheshire Home in Freetown. 

Making a plan and carrying it out is more of a community effort here.  Decisions that in the U.S. I don't take much time to consider, here are complicated.

Let me explain:

To get 193 miles away will involve crossing an international border, changing languages, changing money,  passing through several military checkpoints on each side of the border where the soldiers could be looking for a "gift" to ensure our safe travel (i.e. bribe).  We will travel for at least six hours each direction on a road that supposedly is well-paved on the Sierra Leone side, a little less maintained on the Guinea side.

We need to figure out our transportation.  Do we take the bus?  The bus has a decent price, but only travels to Freetown on Tuesdays and Fridays.  It leaves at 11:00 (but sometimes as late as 1:00pm) and arrives well after dark.  We are not fans of traveling in the dark.  Do we take a taxi?  Who do we know that drives a taxi? What is a fair price?  What is a fair price for a "foday" (a white person) to pay, here in West Africa?  Will they take us all the way to Freetown, or leave us at the border?  How many people does the taxi hold?  While it might be a five seater sedan in the Western world, they might consider it a 6-8 person taxi.  Do we want to be squished in with eight people, or willing to pay for those "vacant" seats so they consider it full with only five of us?

What about food?  With the cholera outbreaks in Guinea and Sierra Leone, do we want to be eating food off the streets?  How much food gets you through a weekend- with no electricity, refrigeration, or methods of cooking?  Do I really want to eat a whole jar of peanut butter this weekend? 

What about water?  Bottled?  Camelback?  Buy purified water in the sachets on the streets?

Do we have enough money?  How much Guinea francs should we bring?  Leones for Sierra Leone?  US Dollars?  In a part of the world where everything is done by cash, what do you do for the "in case of emergency" plan?  I could pack a credit card in my pocket, but that doesn't do me any good for 9 out of 10 "what if" scenarios I can imagine.  In Guinea, 7100 francs equal ONE US dollar.  And the largest bill (yes, LARGEST) they have is 10000 francs (equal to about 1.30).  That means big stacks of money wherever you go.

about seven dollars

Do we bring our own mosquito nets or will the hotel have them?

Do we have a cell phone with a Sierra Leonean sim card? 

And the questions go on and on!
So, while we have a "plan," we hold this very loosely. 

We can very much relate to the verse:  Proverbs 16:9....
A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

We can plan and prepare (and pack like Boy Scouts - being prepared for anything!), but ultimately we find many times here that we must rely on the LORD to carry things about.  Things WILL happen and we can't really control many of the circumstances around it.  So we trust and remain flexible to the plans.

So, I hope to go to Freetown tomorrow.  I hope that our visas get approved from the Embassy and back to us today.  I hope that we find transport that is reliable, reasonable, and safe.  I hope that as the first group of "fodays" going across the border from Mercy Ships we won't get hassled or detained for hours on end at the border.  I hope to visit with our friends.  I hope that our transport back on Sunday goes smoothly as well. 

But I also recognize that This Is Africa, and sometimes things just don't work out how you imagined them.  And we embrace that truth and walk forward with a good attitude willing to embrace whatever comes our way this weekend.

Stay tuned for the report!

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