Monday, May 7, 2012

Failure comes in an 8x8 pan

Background: vegan diet, ex-pat in Africa
Scene: cockroach kitchen, 3rd floor apartment
Characters: Adult-interaction deprived mother-Faith
      sous chef- Charlie

I miss baked goods, the ONE downfall of a vegan diet (other downfalls made include but are not limited to, missing:  ice cream, yogurt, grilled cheese, heavy whipping cream, cream cheese, Alfredo sauce)
So today I tried my hand at 97% vegan chocolate chip cookies. I ran out of white flour about a week ago, but I was not to be swayed. I am vegan hear me roar; I am also a woman who needs chocolate.  Ingenuity begin!
I saw on a vegan blog that one could make oat flour by simply grinding oatmeal. I have a blender and I have oatmeal, now I have oat flour. Moving on.  After my sous chef carefully measured out all our ingredients we began rolling the cookies.

 They were a bit oily. None the less who am I, a baby vegan, to know any better.
I should have known better.

Sad, so sad.

Alas, I can fix this, ingenuity continues.  What could be better than cookie bars?  All parts resembling cookie were mushed together and thrown into an 8 x8 pan. The result was not all that appetizing. 
Marshmallows?  I have marshmallows.  The fluffy white hero in this play.
Marshmallows, scattered over top to create, not chocolate chips cookies, nor cookie bars, but rocky road crumble.  Pop the pan back in the oven for 2 minutes and Voila!  Close curtain.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hello my name is Faith and I am a vegan

Kyle and I like documentaries, entertaining yet educational.

Three weeks ago we watched Forks over Knives. A documentary emphasizing the benefits of a plant-based diet (vegan).  If you like meat and dairy products then I do not suggest you watch it.  Point being, it is persuasive.   This prompted some vegan googling.  I came across a site that offered a 3 week vegan meal plan ( This sounded like a food challenge I was up for.
Bring on them beans!

One would think that being a vegan is a challenge and doubly challenging to be a vegan in Africa. Rest assured my friends it is not, especially when this is what the meat looks like. 

So the only challenge at this point is to cut out dairy. Much to my surprise and delight soy milk is sold here. This is quite a welcome site as we have only been using powdered milk and I was more than delighted to give that up.  So here I am 2 weeks into my vegan challenge. I would say I have about a 90% success rate. Chocolate is my downfall.
I have made some really yummy things
zucchini sandwich

Best surprise thus far has been chocolate avocado cake.  Scary looking, but oh so good.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's a small world after all...

Storyline #1:  So we've been doing an AWARENESS unit in my 12th grade class.  They have formed groups and researched a need in the world that God would desire change in and then highlight one ministry helping alleviate that need and making the change happen.  They created a posterboard with pertinent info and statistics on it, as well as action cards highlighting small, but significant ways people could help out the organizations.  Much time was put into it and they did a quality job (I think).  It culminated in "Awareness Day" this last Tuesday immediately after school, normally set aside for clubs.  Kids could come and interact with my students on the various issues, all the while hopefully being compelled to actively get involved and help out one of the ministries. Here's some of the posterboards.

International Justice Mission works to get at the root of the systemic injustices of the human and sex trafficking industry through changing the legal parameters in oppressive societies
Charity:Water    $20 can give someone access to clean, safe drinking water for life
-They also have a great website with pertinent info displaying the pressing need and loss of productivity that comes from not having access to clean, safe water

1 in 6 women have been sexually assaulted. RAINN seeks to be a resorative ministry to these women

Now...push PAUSE on these Awareness ideas...we'll come back to this storyline

BEGIN storyline #2:
So Faith and Therese (our house help) went to a market over spring break, a couple weeks back (yeah, this blog's not always top priority).  Thus, I was sole caretaker of the girls.  What do I do when this happens?  Get out of the house.  That day the girls plopped down into the stroller and we headed for the park.  Letting them zone out and seeing the sights and sounds of our neighborhood was the goal. Mission accomplished.  Stumbling upon a soccer game near the zoo was a bonus

The girls playing at a fountain in Dakar's only park, Hann Park near the school

On the way back from the park we passed by a blue metal shack on the side of the road, where it was selling food and advertised some sort of " (insert Senegalese sounding word here) Poulet".  It was called Chez Penda. I know poulet means chicken...and I know that I like chicken.  I also like trying new things, but it was on the opposite side of the road. Add to that the girls were getting  antsy...and hungry, so I  didn't know if it would be a good time to stop.  walk 10 more steps.  still intrigued.  pass the joint.  walk 10 more steps.  still feel for some reason that I should turn around and go check it out.  I do a U-turn and go check it out. It was basically a typical Senegalese eatery....small operation that fixes a rice dish with heavy oil and either fish or chicken meat with veggies and spices.  I order the dish in broken French.  She tells me something in French or Wolof.  I don't say anything back but she went back to being busy, and I assume she's getting it ready.  I take the girls out of the stroller, plop them down on her counter, and let the Senegalese get their kid toubab fix.  We wait and watch the 3 ladies in tight quarters talk and do their thing.  The time being 11:30, and me being a toubab (a white person), I was hungry.  However, the typical Senegalese don't eat lunch til 2 or 3.   We wait 5-10 more minutes.  I inquire as to what's going best I can.  She then gets somebody else, who passes on to me that it's going to be another 30 minutes til it's ready.  I say no thank you to the order, buy some small corn fritter looking things and 3 fatayas (meat and minced onions breaded and fried) and off we go back home to make a normal toubab lunch.


Storyline #3 (which relates to storyline #1):  In an attempt to broaden some of my student's worlds a bit, I had them play a fun, old school geography game online (on warn you it's addictive) and then highlighted a few areas (human trafficking, access to clean drinking water, microlending), as well as specific ministries within those areas that were doing phenomenal work.  One of the ministries was  It basically allows you or I to help fund small business ideas around the world with as little as $25.  It comes out of your bank, paypal, or credit card account and then is repaid over a period of 9-13 months.  At no cost to you.  And they have a 98.5% repayment rate.  Anyways, I think it's a great idea and blows my mind how easy it can be for those with "much" to help those with less.  Many people's $25 loan, coupled with a good idea and work ethic, can transform lives and not cost you a dime.  If you like youtube and want to see a video on kiva, check out here (3:39)and here(1:36)).
Anyways, so I thought this kiva idea was phenomenal.  I put it in my mental notebook to set aside one night over spring break and have it be a kiva night and look up people on kiva's website in Senegal who I could help.
Fast forward 10 days later (not over spring break, but hey, I did eventually do it).  I'm sitting on the couch and looking up those who applied for loans using different subsidiaries kiva has a relationship with.  I was curious how many people in Senegal have applied for loans from kiva subsidiaries.  There were 52 in Senegal alone.  3 pages worth!  I couldn't believe it.  On the third page I come across a lone restaurant operator applying for an $825 loan.  My jaw drops!  I couldn't believe it!   I'm sure you guessed it by now but Penda, the lady who owns the blue metal shack on the side of the road to the park, had applied for a loan through kiva.  I was floored.  I literally couldn't believe it.  Granted, 30% of Senegal's people live on .3% of the land, that land being the peninsula of Dakar, but still, what are the odds of her being on there and me being able to lend her money?  Needless to say, I decided to help fund her loan.  After that night, her $825 was 42% funded.  24 hours later she was fully funded and her loan was taken off. least I think.  Even more amazing when you think that her loan was only available to help fund for 48 hours or so and that it just so happened that is when I was online looking, and that I had just so happened to walk by her place for "some strange reason" a week earlier.  Kinda crazy...

Here is Penda's picture off Kiva:

So I of course had to go by again with the girls and say "Bon Jour" to Penda...and finally have a chance to try her grub.  Here's a pic of Penda's restaurant.  I brought the girls, too, as their presence is always appreciated. 

Penda and her help and some good looking toubabs with a steamy bowl of Thiebbou Wek

small world, huh?  The crazy thing is that you or I could help somebody just as tangibly in Bangladesh or Belgium from our very own computer.  I hope it's contagious....because it felt pretty darn neat being able to help somebody else out. 

Right before this pic, I printed out her pic and profile from and gave it to her to keep.  Her face lit up and now she's got it hanging on her wall at her boutique. 

Kiva's motto is "loans that change lives."  I agree

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring Break

The beauty of a missionary/boarding school is that breaks are long enough for kids to fly back and actually spend a decent amount of time with their families. for us it means 2 weeks of vacation! 5 of these days were spent in Saly(touristy beach area about 2 hours south of Dakar) with some friends.
Off we go!

Half the fun of taking a car trip is the amazing things you see on the sides of the road. Like this meat shop that obvioulsy values cleanliness...obvioulsy.

from the car window

Even though horse carts are quite common in Dakar, we never tire of seeing them and is something the girls and kyle and i will miss when we are back in the States.

from the car window

The 5 days were spent hanging out at the beach with the girls. The evenings involved coffee, hang time with friends and many games of Ticket to Ride.

We ended the trip by stopping at Bandia Game Park for lunch. An amazing site, eating brick oven pizza next to crocodiles, monkeys, and lizards. 

We were thankful for a time of rest and rejuvenation. Just what was needed to recharge us for our last 2 months in Senegal.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My very African day

This “very African day” actually occurred a couple weeks ago. 

 I woke up underneath my mosquito net; my false sense of security in this cockroach infested apartment. (Infestation may be slightly mellow dramatic, but we kill 3-4 a day; an infestation indeed, in my arachnophobia world).  I proceeded to get out of bed and stumble to the girls room as they call out, “mom, mom I’m up,” so far, an ordinary day. This day I decided to wear my Senegalese wrap skirt (pagne) that my house helper, Therese, made for me.

the girls and i in our matching pagnes

 I also carried my basket home from school on my head.  I did have to use one hand to steady it. Nonetheless, I did it! 

So what else did I do that was African??? I hissed at a cab driver. I know this sounds rude, but that is how you hail a cab or get ones attention. I cabbed it across town to an African language center and took a one-on-one French language course.  SO MUCH FUN!  Sadly, this was a one-time thing as I was supposed to be in a class with 2 others to lessen the cost and true to African style, things got miscommunicated and there will be no class for me at this time.  C’est la vie!  

On the way home I stopped  at a street vendor and ordered 40 nems (we were having kids over for dinner), stopped at the produce stand for mint, and finished my day watching the Dakar Academy boys beat a Senegalese futbol team. No small feat.  Well, some had small feet…

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So you want to see what missionary life is like, eh?

This blog site, and this blog specifically, would never be written by a Senegalese.  The Senegalese tend to be surfacey (?) and not always open up very easily.  They say things are OK even if they are not.  To them, it's impolite.  To me, it's inauthentic.  I just can't personally do it.  I don't like putting up a facade when things aren't going well.  I guess when it comes down to it I'm a soft, mushy Westerner.

Let me just drop the bomb:  I found out on Monday morning right before school that my Grandma Ruth (on my dad's side) passed away.  I got wind of her deteriorating condition on Sunday evening and it didn't sound good.  She would probably pass that night.  I fervently prayed against it.  I selfishly wanted to see her again, hug her small frame just once more, and see her smile...just once more.  That wasn't meant to be.  It's been a tough pill to swallow.

Don't get me wrong, I know death is a fact of life.  On top of that, I know she lived a good life...a very good life.  She was the typical Midwestern farm workhorse that put in a good day's work outside (and then some) and cooked well and looked after her own very, very well.  She was morally impeccable.  A woman of her word that couldn't fathom somebody saying they were going to do something and not doing it.  That type of behavior just wasn't on her radar screen.   And her death was a beautiful thing...she had her 2 loving sons at her bedside as she peacefully passed in the night...asleep.  If only all of us could be so lucky.  I could (and maybe should) be celebrating her life.  And I am to a certain degree.  She was a wonderful woman.

But something inside me stirs.  I never heard her mention the name of Jesus once, nor think she believed in Jesus at all and knew Him as her Lord and Savior.  She lived a good life.  She was a good person.  But I am unsettled.  I don't think "goodness" is sufficient.  Jesus said there is no way to the Father except through Him.  I believe that.  And I don't believe that is restrictive.  To me, the door is wide open to all who want to walk through it, and I also believe God willfully allows us to accept or reject that passageway of Christ.  That is what stirs me.  Don't get me wrong, I don't know where she is at.  She may be in our Creator's loving arms.  I don't know.  Thank goodness it's not my job.  Somebody has tried to console me saying, "God has got to love her."  And I believe that, too.  God loved my grandma so much He gave her all her gifts, talents, abilties, blessing her with a good family that had very good means.  And above all, He gave her Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross as payment for her sins.  All she had to do was believe.  Not just be good.  Being "good" is not good enough when you're looking at a holy God.

I don't know?  Maybe it's different...but this is what I can gather from God's written word He gave to us (John 14:6 and Matthew 7:13-23 stick out in my head).  I'd like to believe otherwise.  Maybe C.S. Lewis is on to something in "The Great Divorce" and that is a better picture of heaven/hell than "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (whatever that means) and singing songs all day.  Maybe Rob Bell is right with "Love Wins" and God would not allow one of His creations to choose against Him and He will overpower every person with His love.  I don't know.  It's tough to deal with.  I can tell you that.  And I do believe in a loving, merciful God.  But He is a God of justice as well.  We must hold them in tension.  And we must search out God's word to see what it says, not just what makes us comfortable. 

Something that does console me is the fact that I loved them enough to have a tough talk with both my Grandma Ruth and Uncle James close to 6 years ago.  It wasn't easy, but I at least wanted to shoot them straight, and tell them what I believed was true....telling them the gospel and the necessity of Jesus.  I am not certain what kind of soil that seed fell on.  Maybe it was received and personalized and believed.  I don't know.  And for all of the people reading this, I would encourage you to have those conversations with loved ones.  They are hard.  It may not always be comfortable.  But in my case, I think both my grandma and uncle knew that it came from a loving heart and they respected that.  I respect them both greatly.  I realize it more now that I am away.

So...we wanted to see how missionary life is here in Africa during the year while we're here.  We're finding out:  It's tough.  Unbelievably tough.  The cross can sometimes be too heavy for me to carry.  One of my goals was to deepen my dependency and prayer life.  Well, I guess you get what you pray least I did in this case.  The missionaries that I have talked to say losing loved ones is one of the toughest things about being away from home.  I would wholeheartedly agree.  Unfortunately.

Now...I don't write this for sympathy or anything like that.  I write this to encourage.  To light a fire maybe.  Tough conversations are good.  Please have a gentle...respectful ...and always loving way!  Thank you for your prayers


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Is Africa (TIA)

so...long, rough days happen anywhere.  had one today.  this is part venting, part "typical Africa experience."  Let me explain...

First, flexibility is the name of the game out here.  It sure came in handy today. 

-11:15 -  4th hr.  class is almost finishing up.  the girls soccer coach comes and asks if I have a minute.  I say "sure," because really, who doesn't just have a minute.  she proceeds to tell me that the team that they were supposed to be playing in their senior night game after school at 4pm backed out (for the 2nd time) and they needed an opponent.  Input the middle school/Freshman boys soccer coach (that's me fyi).  She wants to know if we can field a team. I say, "Let's find out."
- I call an impromptu lunch meeting to see how many guys we have.  find out we have 5 "yes"s and 8 "no"s given the short notice.
- start asking kids around school at lunch who hang out near my room to see if they want to play.  we find 8 ready participants.  That makes 13. Game on! We can make this work.
- 3:05 I walk out of a meeting.  Find out that the girls' preferrred opponent just called our AD and backs into the game for the 3rd time. they are on their way.  Game over for the boys. (which was fine by I didn't want to have to put forth the effort to do this)
- 3:15 rolls around.  ding-a-ling!!!! school's out.  The guys are amped up to play the varsity girls.
- 3:20- I tell the eager boys as they are warming up we probably won't play despite the team saying they are on their way.  you never know, though. hang around and we'll find out.
- 3:24 - get wind of the team pulling up to the school.
- 3:25 - break it to the guys that the other team is here and it's for sure now we won't play.  much disappointment displayed but they go their separate ways.
- i put the jerseys and everything back.  get ready to head home to finally see faith, charlie, maeve.
- 3:30 - I run into the asst. coach.  he informs me the school sent their guys' team, not the girls team (which has happened 2 times already for them over the course of their 8-game season)...and yes, our AD speaks very good French.  anyways, you know what that on!
- 3:35 - I round up the boys, get the jerseys, game is back on.
- 3:38 - I check out a car, go home, get the girls so they can get outside a bit. drive back.
- 3:57 - I run onto the field.  Coach a game with a ragtag bunch of boys.
- 6:05 - I go home mentally and physically exhausted.  TIA

Sunday, February 12, 2012

another one bites the dust

thankfully 2nd semester has been steadier than the 1st semester.

the heat is gone.

 we know the area and how to get around.

we are involved but not overwhelmed.

stability is a breath of fresh air. 

fresh air, on the other hand has been hard to come by this week.

the harmattan winds are upon us.  what is harmattan you ask?  ...well let my good friend encyclopedia brittanica tell you:

harmattan, hot, dry wind that blows from the northeast or east in the western Sahara and is strongest in late fall and winter (late November to mid-March). It usually carries large amounts of dust, which it transports hundreds of kilometres out over the Atlantic Ocean.
harmattan. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

tuesday was to be a school 5k race but  it was post-poned. no one wants to run in a stagnant cloud of dust. good call administration.

Dust taken on Monday last week (thanks, Stan, for the pics)

same vantage point taken on Friday last week

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ile de Ngor

Kyle had no school last Monday, not because of MLK, but because of a softball tournament. We, however, did not participate in either. Plus I am unsure of what exactly to do to celebrate MLK day...

so, we took the time to head to an island off the coast of Dakar. Ile de Ngor.

we took our very own tour guide, therese. really, our house-helper. not much of a tour guide considering the language barrier, however it was fun to have her join us and have an extra set of eyes on the girls

to get to the island you pay approximately $1 and take a pirogue (boat) across.

the island was clean (a welcome sight indeed!) and had beautiful architecture and flora. we meandered all through the island and admired the sites and scenery.


the island was also spotted with random art/graffiti. even the concrete benches were beautiful.

Ile de Ngor is home to the infamous surf breaks, Ngor right and Ngor left, from Endless Summer.

somebody's pet pelican, true story

and this was the view of the mainland from the island. you can even make out the $27 million bronze statue in the background. quite a worthwhile investment by the current president....ya know...given the 40% unemployment rate and all.

we made it back home exhausted. every new outing is always bit stressful. however, we look forward to another trip back to the island now that we know what to expect. 



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Leaps and Bounds

Going to the grocery store was such a tough excursion.
 How much money to take?
 How do we greet people…we don’t want to look like foreigners when we first walk in? (even though we are)
 Where is everything?
 Does it really cost that much? 
What do we really need? 
This looks sketch…should we try it? people actually eat this here?  (usually in that order)

All these thoughts used to come into our minds all too frequently.  We’ve been here over 5 months now.  We’re on the downhill slope of this mountain called Africa (bad analogy…it’s actually very flat here).  …But things are getting easier. 

I laugh at the idea of going to the grocery store being such a tough thing.  It was so draining.  But I’m glad to say…not anymore.

Over Christmas break we tried to get out and about once a day in Dakar, whether it be to go get crepes near the beach, to go to a bigger grocery store only 10 minutes away, to go spend the morning away at the beach, go shopping downtown, whatever it may be.  And we’re actually doing it on our own.  Looking back at the beginning, Faith’s goal was to hail a cab on her own by the time we left here.  Well, she did that in the first 2 months, as she wanted to help out at the talibe center across town and needed to get there on her own.  I had only sparingly driven a manual before coming here (the school has 5 different vehicles staff can check out…all manual transmissions).  Now I can hold my own driving a stick (even in the congested, “make up your own lanes as you go” streets of Dakar).  We’ve grown by leaps and bounds since we first came here.  The little things seem like little things and the big things don’t seem as big.  We’ll see if the next 5 months hold more of the same. 


Friday, January 6, 2012

No matter where you go, there you'll always be

Yeah, I know, pretty darn profound.  But I hope the point still gets across:  you will still be you no matter where you go.  Did Africa change that?  Heck no.  Do I still procrastinate?  Yes.  Do I still have trouble focusing on getting one message across rather than trying to get multiple points across in the classroom and sometimes wonder if I even got anywhere?  Yes.  Do I still have poor personal hygiene habits that lead my wife to looks of disgust?  Yes (I know that one came out of nowhere, but that’s what came into my mind next).  Do I still struggle with reading my Bible and praying?(praying for others back home and in the states has been especially I feel so detached from everything there) ...still a struggle..Yes.  Do I still like to control things, whether it be a conversation or outcome of things?  Yep. Am I still not as organized as I would like to be? Yep.  If I’m honest with myself, do I still look after me, myself, and I too much and not live as selflessly as I think I should?  Yeah. Does my wife still wish I was more romantic?  Yep.  And is this guy still searching for a way to make his 5-year anniversary special for his beloved wife who is exhausted and in bed right now?   Maybe?..   Do I still have trouble relaxing and being OK with not doing something or being busy? (which definitely has reared its ugly head on Christmas break!)  You guessed it…yep. 

A wise man once said that the common denominator in all the broken relationships you have is you.  That’s unnerving to hear…and own up to.  Me, myself and I have an uncanny ability to get in the way.

And I know that’s a pessimistic way of looking at things.  But it’s true.  Africa I’m sure has changed some things in both myself and Faith (and maybe the girls too).  It’s hard to always tell, though…at least while you’re in the midst of it.   Some things always seem to stay the same.  God, not Africa, will have to change those.

I think we’ll see more looking back on Africa in the rear view mirror. 


Fyi…5 more months.  We are over the hump and on the downward slope!