Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting Here and The 1st Week

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Catel for a week already. After an almost 8 hour flight we landed in Dakar. Andre then began negotiating the rate for a “taxi” with doors that didn’t shut tight, rusted out holes in the floor and windows which require using the last remaining handle be unsnapped and moved from door to door to put the windows down. We piled our luggage in the truck, tied the piano (keyboard) to the roof, and piled more luggage on our laps.  The taxi took us to the ferry port on the other side of Dakar. By 9 or 10am (local time) we had our luggage checked at the ferry port and had several hours to get food, explore the city, and begin our African adventure!
                We started by having breakfast at a local woman’s business. She had a booth set up across the street from the ferry port. There we experienced our first African meal which consisted of fresh bread filled with mayonnaise, brown beans and a smashed hard-boiled egg. We were tired and hungry and these “breakfast sandwiches” hit the spot!
                Later, before boarding the ferry around 5 or 530pm we visited a few shops and found some roasted nuts, fried dough (which reminded me of the mandasi in Malawi), picked up the cheapest cell phones we could find, and found another booth restaurant. The woman who works there cooked a pot of rice with cabbage, carrots, and fish.  The entire dish smelled fishy and I had some trouble getting it down, especially after noticing the big pieces of fish at the bottom of the bowl.
                By the time we boarded the ferry we were all ready for some much needed rest. Other than getting up for dinner I think most of us slept the majority of the 18 hour ride from Dakar to Ziguinchor. There we spent a few hours finding our luggage and waiting for our visas. Then we took a taxi ride with several “pile outs” at checkpoints and border patrol areas. This ride also included the car stalling multiple times and at one point the driver stopping the car, turning and pointing to Pete and I, who were sitting in the middle seat, and telling us to get out and wait by the side of the road. No one really knew what was going on but Pete and I got out and there we were, the two blonde haired Amish-country kids on the side of the road in Senegal. In hindsight it wasn’t a big deal: the driver had to pay a smaller fee if there were less people in the car. We didn’t know that at the time and were hoping that the Spanish couple we’d seen on the ferry and then passed on our cab ride would happen upon us if we were there for a while.
                By afternoon we were in Catel and were greeted with immeasurable enthusiasm. The car was engulfed in a crowd of children yelling “Andre, Andre!” A few young men from the church helped us to unload and put all of our bags inside. What a journey! We were so excited to finally have reached our destination, but also still weary from travel.
                During our first week in Catel Alyssa and I spent two afternoons with Kinta, a local woman, learning to cook some African dishes. Sean and I were faced with two small girls with nasty burns, one of whom had already been treated with the traditional rabbit hair and was grossly infected, the team ate ankol fruit (nick named “snot fruit” for its visual and texture resemblance of snot), and other adventures which are too numerous recount in just one blog post.
                The team is doing well. We are learning to find our niches here. The team helped Sean and I to move the clinic supplies into the new building and they also began whitewashing the inside. We have been running the clinic Monday-Friday but people come to the house all the time for burns, machete wounds, and the routine aches and pains. So the clinic is basically as we expected… all of the unexpected!
                I’m so thankful for all who are keeping in contact. Your prayers and support mean the world to me! Please continue to pray for myself and the team as the guys labor in the orange orchard and machete cashew trees, the girls help in the school and give art/piano lessons, and Sean and I serve in the clinic.
For more updates on what the YES team is doing, please check out their blog at:
Sean and Alyssa also have their own blogs at:


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