As the summer months draw near to their close, so too our time here in West Africa is winding down. It’s crazy to think that we will leave soon – our time here has gone by so quickly!
The past few weeks have been a bit of a slower pace for us than normal. After completing the big projects we discussed in our last blog post, we have been working on several smaller tasks – some translation, helping with some internal assessments, doing some elementary English lessons for our co-workers, etc. As well, a lot of people within our community here have left for furlough or for vacation – leaving us with a bit more time on our hands! This has turned out to have a bright side, since we have been intentionally trying to do some things we have wanted to do for a while but didn’t have time for between work and social life! Biking to the Niger River, going for hikes, and hopefully having a day trip later on this week.
As our departure creeps ever closer, we have been reflecting a lot on what we have seen and learned here. We’ve learned a LOT of French and a little bit of the local tribal language. We have learned about a totally different culture, and in so doing have realized that many rules we thought were universal (e.g. “Even if my husband has a mild flu, I am still supposed to go to work”) are not necessarily always true! We’ve seen the wonderful, welcoming, friendliest-people-you’ll-ever-meet side of the culture here, and the harmful, oppressive side that restricts women and blames abuse on the victim, and have compared it to our own culture, itself with both negative and positive aspects. We have learned about how NGOs tick, what their work looks like on the ground, and how people can be empowered through both word and deed missions. We have learned about how it feels to be an outsider, a part of a very small minority, a newcomer to a country without any idea of how to do anything. These lessons have broadened our understanding of God’s good world, deepened our appreciation for its diversity, and spurred us on in our pursuit of justice, no matter what culture we find ourselves in.
We’ll miss a lot of things here: the raging thunderstorms every few days during the rainy season, the authentic West African food, the French pastries available everywhere for super cheap prices, beautiful bougainvillea flowers, the colourful clothing everywhere and every day, cutie baby heads poking out from a cloth wrapped around their mother’s back, enthusiastic choirs singing every Sunday at church, delicious tropical fruit, and most of all, the friends we have made here. But we are excited to go home too, to see our family and friends, to eat blueberries and drink fresh milk, to bike on perfectly smooth roads, and to never feel hot again!
We are preparing for culture shock, but at least we know what we are heading into this time! Thank you all for all of your support over the last little while – financially, in prayer, in words of encouragement. We look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks!