Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And the stories begin.

My first night spent in the African bush (as opposed to a hotel or house) found me unprepared for what I was about to experience. I was in Burkina Faso, West Africa with a group of about 25 other college students from all over the US. We were there to travel to remote villages with the young adults ( called Journeymen) who were living there for 2ish years and build relationships with the Marense people. That's the short of it anyway. Shortly before our teams were to leave the hotel where we had been training to head to our respective villages, a great majority of the team got sick. I was one of the few that didn't. Instead of just hanging out at the hotel waiting for everyone to get well enough to go out, one of the Journeymen girls (Kara) offered to take about 5 of us that were healthy to her "home" village for the night. We said sure since we were anxious to dive into the culture and experience the real Africa. Ha.

What she failed to mention was that she was ONLY going to drop us off - without a translator, means of transportation, or anything but basically a change of clothes, our water bottles and the promise that she would return the next day to pick us up.

I found out very quickly that while speaking the same language is quite beneficial, the language of hospitality and love is universal. The village we were in was called Louda and the people were amazing. They cooked a delicious meal of chicken stew served over rice and I found out later that THAT was a treat. They gave us the very best that they had. We spent the afternoon playing soccer with the kids and trying to help the women prepare the meal, and the evening singing songs around a campfire. We taught them to sing the children's song, "Hallelu, hallu, hallelu, hallelujah - Praise ye the Lord" and hearing them sing in their rich accents and clap and dance is forever ingrained in my memory. They sang their songs for us too and up until it was time to go to bed it was a magical evening.

Since Kara lived in that village we had access to her little hut and a couple of cots. It was HOT (between 100 and 120 degress F while we were there) so we decided to sleep outside in hopes of there being a breeze. This turned out to be a terrible idea. The guys opted to give me and the other girl with us the cots and we slept just outside of the entrance to Kara's hut. I can confidently say that that was the worst night of sleep I have ever had. EVER. We didn't have a mosquito net and the flies buzzed and landed on my head all night long. I tried covering up with my extra clothes, but then I would get too hot. It was LOUD - there were animals of all sorts walking around us all night, babies crying, fire crackling...it just wasn't conducive to a good nights sleep. Once I finally did fall asleep I was awakened at about 4am by the women of Louda preparing things for the day. When I opened my eyes there was a cow with it's face about 12 inches from mine. It was sniffing me. Lovely. :)

Kara did return to pick us up and I got one night of half decent sleep before we headed out to our own villages.

My village was Sagtambilia and I kid you not, when we were on our way there the driver literally turned off of the dirt road and just started driving into the middle of nowhere. There was no sign, no road, no sign whatsoever that we were headed towards any type of civilization. I asked how he knew where we were going and he said he was guessing - and that he hoped once we got closer that we'd see someone we could ask. This is Africa. :)

My little team was made up of one Journeyman (Tiffany) and 6 students - 3 guys and 3 girls. We brought tents to live in and we set up camp just outside of one of the compounds (a compound is a group of huts where a big extended family lives and it is generally enclosed by a fence of some sort) under a big baobab tree.

The first night in the village the people wanted to have a celebration dance to welcome us. We stayed up late dancing and having a good time. Well, everyone seemed to be having a good time. I was quite nervous about how the night was going to go having already experienced trying to sleep in a village. And I was also nervous about the fact that we saw a scorpion while we were setting up our tents but lost track of it before we could kill it.

When it was time to get ready for bed, I headed into my tent to change clothes and grab the necessary items required for bathroom breaks in the bush - tp and a flashlight. :)

I had brought with me a little battery powered lantern that I was hanging from the ceiling of my tent. While I was changing clothes I noticed that there were things moving near the bottom of the outside of my tent. And then they started moving UP the sides of my tent - about 5 or 6 of them.


These were the biggest spiders I had ever seen that weren't tarantulas. Because I didn't want to be the chicken little white girl, I just flicked them off and grimaced as they weighed enough to make a "thud" sound when they hit the ground. As calmly as I could I called for Tiffany and she explained that they were camel spiders ("gottemgottemas" in Marense) and that though their bites were extremely painful, they were not deadly. She said this as if to suggest that I should not be concerned about them.

Au contraire my friends.

From that moment on I was in a constant state of paranoia and spent a ridiculous amount of time looking for and killing them all around our camp. It was my personal mission to rid Sagtambilia of camel spiders. :)

I also found out that night that camel spiders are very much attracted to light and that they are the fastest arachnid. This caused a great deal of panic for me since it was now night time and I was about to have to walk into the bush to use the restroom and in order to do that I had to use a flashlight so that 1- I wouldn't step on any scorpions and 2- I wouldn't sit on any prickly bushes because there is an abundance of those. As I was walking to the restroom and shining the light in front of me back and forth, I kid you not I could see the spiders running as fast as they could from all directions towards the beam of light.

Let's just say that I learned to pee really really quickly on that trip. :)

I eventually fell asleep after checking under everything in my tent a crazy amount to times to make sure no gottemgottemas had snuck in only to be awakened sometime between 3 and 4 by a flock? gaggle? bunch of guinea fowl running through our camp making the most God-awful noise I have ever heard. They would do this almost every night for the remainder of the trip. I now have a great disdain for guinea fowl.

Here's a video of what guineas sound like - take a listen but then imagine that times 6 or 7 as they were all making this noise at the same time.


And I was going to show a picture of a camel spider, but just looking them up gave me so much anxiety that I couldn't do it. Just google camel spider and look at the images. And then be afraid, be very afraid.

I hope you don't get the impression that I hate Africa or that any of this was necessarily bad - it wasn't. I just don't do well with little sleep or strange creatures and so looking back I find all of this terribly funny. Hopefully I haven't scared you away from Africa. :)

More stories to come - with less scary bugs and stuff. :)

P.S. Silas just woke up and I am not going back to proof read this so please excuse my mistakes. :)


  1. why did you tell me to google that! those things are white and red and gross and blend in with sand and blend in with my skin and just gave me a nightmare in the middle of the day.


  2. This is a great recap of intro to village life. I am one of the former journeymen who led groups of you brave summer missionaries into the bush for a couple weeks at a time. I happened to Google marense tonight because I do that sometimes when I miss them and our team. Your entry came up. I emailed it to tiffany because she will love it. Wow I completely forgot about Kara dropping you in louda without a translator. She should have given you earplugs...sleep was so hard to get. Blessings on your trip to Uganda. My husband and are planning to adopt from there and it is great to see other hearts burdened for orphans there. Praying for God to "give us the road" to visit there soon.

    Katie (boren) rayburn


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