Friday, August 29, 2008

Some photos

In our pre-volunteer part of our trip, we did some travelling. We've finally got a decent internet connection at a hotel that graciously gives free time, so here are some photos. I apologize for the incorrect temporal ordering...blogger makes it difficult to manipulate images. These photos are from kilimanjaro. The hardest physical thing we've ever done. 5 days going up, 2 coming down.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First impressions

I didn't think I had any, but spending a day in a culturally diverse place has proven me wrong.

- Africa is hot
last night when we arrived in Kili airport, it was only 12-13 degrees.
- malaria is about
no mosquitos to note as of yet, possibly because of the dry season, possibly because of the cool climate
- tropical fruit is juicy and sweet
they are sour

First time experiences

-met friendly people from the UK and Egypt at the airport lounge in nairobi while waiting 12 hours for a 40 minute connecting flight that would have taken 4 hour by bus
- wearing a fleece in 20 degree weather to blend in with the locals
- Swahili phrases like 'jambo' [hello], 'asantei' [Thank you], 'mambo' [how are you]
- a ride in a car on a unlit one lane highway with cyclists and pedestrians just walking on the shoulder and cars passing each other on the opposite lanes.
- being woken up by roosters at 6am
- friendly kids saying hello, chasing after us practising their "how are you's" and "fine thank you"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

8 hours later...

The last two days have been a whir. We've been packing and confirming the financing for our trip. The only moments of non-packing have been attending a wedding, or eating. We've only gotten 7 hours of sleep in two days, and it's looking like it is 7 hours in three as I resign from attempts to sleep on the overnight flight to London. On Friday morning, we were up late enough to see the very impressive opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics (I probably went to bed around 6:30 am).

We've brought about 8 carloads of stuff to my parents' for storage, and each time we do we get a pungent reminder of a spill of rib water into the upholstry of Dora's car. Two weeks ago, we prepared ribs for a bbq, and in transport, what once was delicious rib juice spilled into the car. We sopped up what we could of the oily mess into paper towels, but much of it seeped in to provide a delicious breeding ground for a healthy colony of bacteria. Our thoughts and prayers are now with my parents and brother, who are currently tasked with entering this rancid environment and unloading our last carload.

In our final hours in Vancouver, our most loyal prayer supporters joined us at the chapel at YVR to pray for our safety and the success of the mission (Thanks Donald, Pastor Inho, Auntie Aida, Caleb, Noelle, Jayne, and Bob!) Their companionship with us to the very end was truly comforting, to know that through the next 8 months, we will have their (and your) prayer support.

Prayer items that have been answered:
- Dora's cell phone contract has found a new owner
- our apartment has been rented for just the length of time we want, to a friend
- I was in serious doubt that we'd be able to raise what to me was a lofty target of $10,000 to partially support our trip. In just over a month, we've now exceeded that (our total trip costs of the volunteer/missions part of the trip will be closer to $17,000)

Geek talk
- computer equipment I'm bringing down: two motherboards, about 3 gb worth of memory chips, network cards. I've tried to protect them by sandwiching them between foam and packing that into our checked in luggage
- got a Dell Axim X51v a few months back to replace my viewsonic. It locks up from time to time, and for the last 12 hours, unbeknownst to me, it ran the battery dry. Good thing I brought my trusty Viewsonic V37 on which I'm typing this now.

Our next stop is the apparently unimpressive Heathrow airport, where we will sit around for a good 6 hours, hopefully near a wifi access point where I can send out this update. It may be the last time I get an internet connection until September, when we arrive in Ghana to begin my gig as a teacher, and Dora's as a teacher of teachers.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Another day at home

In the story of Tom Sawyer (or was it Huckleberry Finn? I always get those mixed up), he and his buddy Huck Finn stage their own deaths in order to witness the earnest reactions of the townsfolk. During the funeral, endearing statements are made about the deceased, opinions that would not be shared if only they were still alive.

I think I've figured out how to get roughly the same sort of feedback without arranging an elaborate insurance-scam scheme. Thursday was my last day with the company I had spent 9 years getting to know, and during the last week, friends and colleagues that I had known for this time (some of them just people I had seen regularly in the hallways but never got to work with) shared my optimism about our upcoming trip to Africa. The feeling was bittersweet, as I worked alongside some great people, and I knew not when I'd see them next, if ever again (ignoring Facebook for a sec).

Just about every day since then, we've been meeting up with various other groups of friends and supporters for our final sendoffs, and it's a wonderful comfort to know our trip is built upon a foundation of your prayers and support.

I think this is the second public holiday in a row that I stayed at home. Canada Day was spent organizing our trip details, and today was the beginning of our frantic packing mode. Our personal items in our apartment are slowly being sifted into boxes to be packed away in storage, and suitcases that will accompany us. We called up our various banks and credit card companies to redirect mail and alert them of anticipated charges from Africa. Also got a 2gb SD card (which we'll need for photos) RMA'd with Crucial--they said they'd mail it out and we should get it within the week. Lifetime warranty is great, but I still have to mail in the dead card.

Todo (geek list):
- empty out remaining fish tanks of water and a few small cryptocoryne plants - transport all 7 tanks to parents'
- put male Aphyosemion killifish in with the females and see if they'll lay some eggs (their eggs incubate in air, and I'll hatch them when we return by adding water)
- take apart older computers to salvage them for their memory, motherboards, and CPU. See how much hardware I can actually bring without exceeding the measly 44lb baggage allowance.
- send outline of the courses I'll be teaching to Pastor Joshua, who runs the school in Ghana
- many other details a bit too boring for a blog
- keep on I only time for writing this now because the last 90 minutes tossing and turning in bed seemed pointless. I imagine that as we near our departure date, I'll have more and more trouble falling asleep as I anxiously await our trip and nervously recount what I could be forgetting to do.