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Monday, April 09, 2012

It's great to be...

I should have posted this entry a day ago but, to be honest, have just been happily soaking up being home.

Yes, I'm  back at home. 

We traveled to the Bissau airport just after 9 pm on Friday night where I found the airport lit up and the parking lot fairly busy, unlike the day before when it was shutdown and pitch black.  Checking in was a new experience too, since we Americans are used to efficiency (there was only one line for everyone), computer (our boarding passes were hand written), security (barely a glance at our luggage and no personal checks), and smoking prohibited.  I was very happy to leave Guinea-Bissau, if only to get out of a waiting area after 3 hours of waiting, breathing cigarette smoke.

We passed through Lisbon where we had to grab our luggage and check it in with United Airlines.  I think we waited over an hour for 3 bags, each one coming down the shute separated by 25-30 miuntes.  Does that make any sense to you?  Anyways, we found ourselves with just about enough time to get to the gate to board the plane for Newark.

The flight to Newark was uneventful until we were within 30 minutes of landing.  From that point on the pilot stuggled to land the plane in severe turbulence.  Even I was getting airsick.  Several times we had to pull up and snake around the skies until we could try again.  The actual landing was tough, with a final jerk to the side as we hit the ground.  We applauded the pilot.

Again, our luggage seemed slow to arrive at the baggage claim area but we weren't concerned this time since we were expecting a 7 hour layover until our 8 pm flight.  Still, after passing through customs, Corey checked to see if there was an earlier flight.  God was very gracious because we had landed 30 minutes early and a plane to Charlotte scheduled for 3 pm was delayed an hour.  There were two (separate) seats left and we were able to arrive in Charlotte at 6 pm instead of almost 11 pm.

Our families were thrilled but not nearly as much as we were.  We could arrive home in daylight, relax and unpack a bit, and expect to be rested and ready for Easter services the next day.

And so ended a 25 hour flight trip.  So ended our 3 weeks in Guinea-Bissau.

We have some compensation time ahead of us because of our heavy work schedule (traveling and working on weekends, etc.).  Today (Monday) includes rest, a visit to the dentist, catching up on bills and email, and planning the rest of the week.  Corey and I will go to work tomorrow to return hardware and tools, file expense and trip reports, and deal with any high priority projects.

Perhaps it's time to finally paint the bedroom.  What do you think, Julie?

Bon voyage.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Farewell Bissau, for now

Today was Corey's and my last day in Bissau and it turned out to be long but not hard. Corey took care of some minor tasks, finishing connecting power to the guest apartment, testing and reviewing the battery system one last time, and training several of the national staff in the operation and maintenance of the power system. Oh, and Papa, the administrator, asked Corey to look at a solar powered lantern he'd purchased that wasn't working. You can always count on one more thing to be added to the list.

I finished fixing the new network cable to the wall in the guest house (added to the list after we got to Guinea-Bissau), installing a new network outlet in the administrative office for any visitors (added to the list just two days ago), and beginning to make sure that a spare piece of hardware exactly mirrors the setup of the one that is online right now. A pretty quiet day, capping off what we feel has been a very successful trip.

For the first time since beginning work in Bissau, Corey and I felt able to accept an offer to go to a late lunch (3 pm) with Sarah and Amy, two of the OneStory expats. We hopped into one of the many taxis (which are entirely and 100% made up of beat up Mercedes Benz painted blue with white tops) to get to the restaurant. Afterward we walked to a corner and began another not-to-be missed Bissau experience, riding a toca-toca (minivan outfitted with two benches running down the sides and able to normally carry12 people but sometimes crammed with 20). The taxi cost 800 cfa (local currency worth about $1.60). The toca-toca cost 600 cfa so the savings aren't the point. It's the fun cramming in with the locals and making frequent stops as the toca-toca tries to get more fares.

Estevao and Gloria picked Corey and me up quite late, after 7 pm. While Corey and I were still stuffed from the late lunch, there was no stopping Estevao from having dinner. All I had was a soda.

We ended up leaving Bissau at 8:30 pm so it was dark. The main road, 3 lanes in each direction, is swarming with people and therefore taxis and toca-tocas. And this major road is pitch black which surprises anyone who saw the road during the day. Every 20 yards or so is a lamppost with two lights each high and hanging over the road.  While some felt the lights were probably installed because the governor's mansion and other government buildings are located at points along this road, they think the city spent all the money buying and installing the lights but now can't afford to turn them on.

Which makes people all the harder to see when you're driving at 45-55 mph.

Another interesting observation is that there is never any activity (car, person, etc) at the “international airport” when we drive by it at 9 am every day. What is more notable is that there was not one single light on inside or outside the airport as we drove by it tonight at 9 pm. Very interesting considering that we'll be checking in at this same airport tomorrow at around that time.

So, Corey and I chatted for about 20 minutes tonight about lessons learned. On my part, much of the background about Lendem that I had been basing my plans on turned out to be wrong or incomplete. In Bissau, I had been concerned about being able to get a key network component in and interfacing with the Bissau Internet provider and overcoming a language barrier if/when I met with them. I thank God for the ability to adjust in Lendem and for quick progress in Bissau.

I am also tremendously thankful that, despite my inability to pick up the local language, God provided many people in Guinea-Bissau that extended much grace to me, and some nationals and expat missionaries who allowed their schedules to be interrupted to act as interpreters for me. I would have accomplished so much less and not enjoyed my time nearly as much.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

A change in plans

Today was supposed to be a day in Lendem, with tomorrow being our last day at the Bissau center. I had a healthy list of items to get done in Bissau and not much on today's Lendem agenda.
We normally have breakfast at 7:30 am. We have some kind of dry cereal (currently generic corn flakes), mixed with a flavored yogurt (banana today), some bread, and perhaps some fruit. We normally leave for Bissau (if we're going) as close to 8 am as possible. Estevao and Gloria have been going every day but Corey and I only went Tuesday and supposedly tomorrow.

It was 7:55 am when I got a bit nervous about leaving just one day for my Bissau to-do list. I suddenly decided to spend today as well as tomorrow in Bissau. Corey stayed behind (and found himself pretty busy most of the day).

My day was spent wrapping up my laser printer project (see yesterday's blog). In particular, rather than asking others including several national workers to try and follow my documented steps, I offered to make the change for them so that they could print directly over the network. I did this for about 7 computers. It was so cool and rewarding to see their expressions when they could simply print from their desk and then go pick up their printout on the other side of the room or even from another room. They had no idea this could be done.

I also installed a new network connection over by their copier so that the laser printer could sit on a proper table, freeing up floorspace in the crowded room. I finished the internet connection in the guest apartment, just needing to anchor the cable to the wall.

Because I was spreading one full days work over two days, I was able to catch an early ride back to Lendem with William, who was in Bissau picking up some construction materials. A Portuguese Christian who is part of another ministry was looking for a ride home so we detoured off our normal path, adding only about 20 extra minutes to the trip.

At one point we needed to slow down for one of the many speed bumps found in Guinea-Bissau. A number of children strategically positioned themselves there, hawking bags of roasted cashews. Here's a snapshot of their salesmanship as well as the product they were pushing.


Children selling roasted cashews
Said cashews... about $1 worth
I wouldn't like to be passed by us
At least half of this road home was dirt. We were kicking up quite a trail of dust behind us. Not bad for us (at least until we got caught behind another vehicle) but I did notice nationals riding bikes in the opposite direction that would cover their mouths and squint their eyes as they prepared to be assaulted by the dirt we were kicking up.

Devotions have been in 1 Peter. I was reading about Christ being the chief cornerstone. Some workers here at the Lendem center have been building a wall of cement blocks. I've been impressed on how straight it is, especially when all they do is by sight, no surveying equipment involved. I can only imagine how careful that first block must be laid, both in height and direction, for the rest of the wall to turn out true.  (The wall starts at the other end being 3 blocks high.  You can see what happens.)
Man's attempt to lay the cornerstone

And yet God was the perfect architect for our salvation, using the perfect cornerstone and placing it in exactly the right place at the right point of time and heading for the culmination of our salvation, the cross and the resurrection.

Sunday is Easter. Hallelujah! Christ died for me. His is risen!


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Implementation and Impact (and one missed impact)

Just a few days before Corey and I leave Guinea-Bissau.  I had some major items to accomplish at the Bissau center, each with the potential of major consequences, supposedly good, hopefully not negative. Though I had thought through and made a list of what needed to be done, I was a bit nervous on how the day would end.
We drove to Bissau, arriving just after 9 am. The bottom line is that I blinked and it was 11 am. I blinked again and it was 3:30 pm. A final blink revealed it was 6:30 pm, time to pack our gear, grab dinner and head home. What a short long day.

A technician from the local Internet provider was supposed to come to the center and log into their equipment so that we could disable some of their features and change settings so that the team at JAARS could remotely support our equipment, troubleshooting and making changes to meet their needs. When no one showed by 10 am, we called their office, only to learn that the technician hadn't come to work that day. Our administrator applied pressure and a guy showed up about noon.

I suspect this technician was a newbie... at least I hope so cause I was not impressed. Once logged in, he started hunting and pecking all round the menus as if it was his first time doing so. When asked to make several changes, he spent 10 minutes before coming back and saying that he couldn't. I switched to plan B and got some of our needs met but was not able to create an environment that would let us remotely manage the Bissau network.

At one point, he made a change and then wasn't able to get back into the system to keep looking around. I was concerned that the system was either broken or he was locked out for good. For a moment I thought they would have to replace their hardware because of a mistake he made. Then, like a good IT guy, I suggested he cycle the power on and off for his gear. Don't know why he didn't think of this but it worked. Whew!

While this was a disappointment, I can't say I was surprised after several meetings with the Internet provider the past two weeks. I'm praising God and very thankful that this was the only disappointment of the day.

By the end of the day I was able to move everyone from a network that had no security onto the system we had designed last year, complete with a network firewall (block bad stuff coming in), content filtering (block deliberate or accidental access of inappropriate content) and a highly secure wireless network.
(In Bissau, if a relative or a friend asks a worker at the center for the password, the worker feels obligated to give the password. That means many people are jumping on our network from nearby without our knowing, slowing it down. Our new system is using a list of known and approved computers. If the computer is not on the list, it isn't connected.)

The literacy, translation and OneStory teams all shared one HP laser printer. If someone wanted to print, they left their desk, walked to and plugged into the printer, printed, and then returned to work. Then I was told that any computer with Windows 7 wouldn't work with this older printer. That meant half the people couldn't print anything.
I attached the laser printer to the network to eliminate them having to go to the printer to print. I also downloaded software and created documentation to let all computers, including Windows 7, use the printer.
So, three blinks and the day is done.  I hardly saw Corey all day.  Most of his day was spent running the new power line along a building and into our guest apartment.  Since Derek was going to be spending the night there, Corey made sure that Derek had power.
Not a quarter pounder of beef.  Not even an eigth pounder.
I ordered a hamburger, appropriate spelled a different way in Portuguese, but also because it was different. The bun had a layer of french fries on the bottom, a thin, thin meat patty that tasted close to American beef, topped with a fried egg. Add ketchup and it was actually pretty good.

It's normal that I rest and even half-doze on the way back to Lendem. As mentioned in earlier blogs, we're traveling down dark and narrow roads, often with people walking, standing, bike riding along the sites. The driver has to be alert and beep the horn often to give a heads up to anyone ahead of us.

Gloria was driving and I was almost in la-la land.  A truck was coming toward us with its high beams on, making it hard to see ahead of us with the glare. I had closed my eyes. Almost immediately our car swerved and I learned that a cow had been standing directly ahead of our car. God was with Gloria because, at 50 mph, she was able to jerk the car left and then right (narrowly missing the truck as it passed) to dodge the cow.
So our prayers before each trip to/from Bissau and your prayers for our safety have been heard by God and he has been so gracious to us in many ways.









Monday, April 02, 2012

A short day turns long

We had a 2 hour meeting with Estevao Saturday evening, laying out issues, the work that yet needed to be done in Lendem and Bissau, and what would be left undone. My list had very few items for Lendem and a long list for Bissau. True to form, Estevao added new items to the list that we feel we might be able to do.

The plan is to spend two days in Bissau, the first being Tuesday (tomorrow). That meant that, as long as I was prepared for hitting the ground running tomorrow, then today's workload should have been very light, almost to the point of my twiddling my thumbs.

That was not to be...

There was a network device called a switch that the director thought was partially defective. I had replaced it with a larger switch over a week ago but wanted to determine if I should bring it back to the US for warranty replacement or just toss it. As I tested it more, I found that nothing was broken so now it is sitting on the shelf as a spare.

And as I tested it, I found that the other three similar switches were not configured according to current documentation. I spent a couple of hours correcting this so that we should now be able to log into these from JAARS and change the network remotely without the time (which could be up to a year) and expense (thousands of dollars) of coming back to Lendem.

Access to our new wireless network was also causing some people problems, keeping them from connecting to the internet.  A workshop started today.  A consultant and several national workers were reading recently translated text and determining if it was accurate and understandable and wanted access to the internet. Unable to find the cause, I used a small device called MagicJack to make a call to a manufacturer's support team in California. It's always interesting to get a reaction when you start the call saying “I'm calling from west Africa.” With a couple of suggestions, I was able to work through the problems and get the workshop team back onto the internet.

Corey and I also spent time preparing to bring back items that are either no longer needed in Guinea-Bissau (because of upgrades) or need to be repaired back at JAARS. In my case, I'm bringing back relatively small components for the fiber optic system that isn't working and an outside wireless router that we've replaced. 
The black item is the inverter
Poor Corey, however, has to bring back an electrical device called an inverter (converts DC battery power to AC). It is shorter but wider than a sewing machine and weighs about 5 times as much. Since all we brought is soft-sided luggage, we have no idea how to get this home.

As I come closer to the end of this trip, my first to an area where English is hardly spoken and that reveals how bad I am learning a language, I read 1 Peter 1 in several versions the past two days. The Contemporary English Version says “To God's people who are scattered like foreigners in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” The word “foreigners” struck a cord with me. Foreigners almost invariably talk, dress, act, and think differently. They stick out. That's certainly me.

As Christians, we are supposed to talk, dress, act and think differently. On the other hand, a foreigner usually works very hard to not look like a foreigner.

I could never blend into another culture (especially where skin color comes into play) except perhaps Canada.

I would pray, though, that I would never succeed or even try blending into the world so that they would never see Christ in me.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

People need a license to drive like this?

I didn't know if William would get us home from Bissau yesterday.

He drove us to Bissau in his Nissan SUV. It's a pretty big vehicle, for Guinea-Bissau, plus it has a chrome bumper guard added on that you often see used on vehicles that might run into big animals or other immovable objects. The purpose is to protect the nose of the car from serious damage. This bumper guard sticks up as well as extends wider than the SUV.

I'm generally pretty tolerant of another person's driving style. I don't normally gasp or cringe like some passengers I know.

That has to be true even more so when you're driving in countries like Kenya, Papua New Guinea and now Guinea-Bissau. Even if there are lines defining lanes, they are suggestions at best. A two lane road can quickly become a three or four lane road. There are lots of people walking, crossing, bicycling, motorcycling. There are also many chickens, pigs, cows and donkeys along or crossing the road.





And that's even before we got deep into Bissau with vehicles double-parked on narrow roads and streets congested with people, some with carts and wheelbarrows overloaded amazingly creatively.

  




Here's a series of pictures of one intersection when a taxi broke down and was not pushed out of the way.  The taxis driving down our right side are basically driving on the "sidewalk" (where people walk).


William scares me. He drove in this wide SUV like he was an aggressive taxi driver. I saw people jump out of the way. One lady was crossing a divided road against a traffic light, carrying a loaded basket on top of her head. She never should have tried crossing but, once she began moving, she did not have too many options on stopping. William laid on the horn, startling the lady. He then swerved left into the left turn lane to pass behind her. Swiftly done but nerve wracking to at least the woman and to me.

I truly thought we were going to clip at least a dozen people yesterday and maybe squash one small chicken and one pig. 

And they require a drivers' license to be able to drive like this?


And when we stopped for petrol (and an ice cream bar), William's battery was too weak to start the SUV.  We needed help from four others to push so he could pop the clutch and get us going again.

I can't wait to get home.

Yesterday was another really hot day. It reached just over 100 degrees. Most of our work in Bissau involved spending time outdoors in the hot sun. Neither Corey nor I brought our hats. Corey has less hair than me and spent more time outdoors so he got some serious color up top. I think I did fine as I finished connecting the cables we ran in the trench on Thursday to the National Council's office and then strung the cable for our guest apartment up the outside wall, along the roof line, around the corner and into a hole into the apartment. I'll finish this job on our next trip to Bissau Tuesday or Wednesday.

The director of the National Church has been wanting internet access for his office for quite a while. Estevao had agreed to provide one connection off of our network but had stipulated that it should be only used by one computer at a time (to limit how big a drain would be placed on our slow internet connection). The director pressed me about wanting more than one connection and is still asking me to add a hub to multiply the number of computers he can use. I've declined citing Estevao's policy.



Aha! We have Internet access at last?  Let's watch a video!
Still, no sooner did I make the internet connection in the National Council's office live than a couple of his staff jumped onto a computer and began watching a video online, an event that will slow everyone else down. Estevao knows he'll have to deal with this problem in the future.
  
Today is Saturday but it's pretty much a work day for Estevao (who had a morning meeting and will be meeting with us for a project review) and Corey and me. We are reviewing our plan for next week and catching up on documentation.

We've also already had several people bring us computer problems here in Lendem. William just sold his older, normal sized laptop computer to a friend in Bissau who in turn sold William a netbook (very small, light computer) that was supposed to be new. Out of the box, it won't boot up because of bad installation of Microsoft Windows. I have tried to get around the problem but have told William there is nothing I can do here. How disappointing for him.

On the other hand, a Guinea-Bissau women who has been here for the OneStory workshop brought us 3 USB drives, claiming that they had a virus. Corey and I tested each one and found no viruses but that some virus had taken all her files and had hidden them and made them hard to restore. Fortunately, we were able to run a command that restored all her files (about 5 GB of documents and pictures), both for work and personal. We returned them to her just before she left Lendem to return home.

We're now two thirds through our time here in Guinea-Bissau. 

  • I should experience my first Guinea-Bissau church experience here tomorrow
  • Perhaps travel one day to one or two other SIL locations here in Guinea-Bissau (mostly to let Corey evaluate what can be done to provide power)
  • Two work days in Bissau to finish jobs there
  • And the rest will be here in Lendem
We fly from Bissau next Saturday morning at 2:20 am (!!) and, Lord willing, will be home around that same day around midnight (!!).

Please continue to pray for Estevao. While the symptoms for malaria are less right now, he is still experiencing frequent pain from the pinched nerve in his spine.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Now that's a scary thought!

I wasn't sure how today was going to turn out.

Corey and I were dropped off at the Bissau Center by Estevao where I was expecting to be busy extending our network into the national church council's offices. At the last minute yesterday, Estevao decided that we should also run a cable to a guest apartment about 250' away so that guests could have good internet connectivity during their visit. His last minute additions to our workload is a trademark of his and, while not really convenient, has become expected.

Boards for cars to drive over
A couple of men from the national council (including the director) had dug most of the trench yesterday. Because of adding the guest apartment cable to the project, these workers and I spent most of the morning waiting for someone from the translation office to purchase network cable that I would need. It was a slow morning. Most everything in Africa is slow.  The whole morning wasn't a loss because Corey finished upgrading the power system with new monitoring capabilities and spent time training a Guinea-Bissau man.

We finally had all the parts on hand so we laid the PVC pipe in the trench, ran a pair of network cables through it, drilled holes through the cement walls in both offices and were able to finish running wires from outside to the network gear. It was really dirty work and everything I was wearing will be washed tomorrow. I used my screwdriver to scrape off the moist red soil clogging my sneakers before I could walk inside or get into the car for the return trip. I wasn't even ready to be seen in a local place to eat dinner.

We finished the day around 7 pm. I will return to Bissau tomorrow and finish mounting a network plug (port) in the council's office and then finish running the other cable around the back of the same building to where our guest apartment is.

I had mentioned before that Estevao has been not feeling well. Initially diagnosed with kidney stones, he returned to Bissau a couple of days later for more testing and got a new diagnosis of colon problems. He had a fever through last night so decided to see the doctor (or maybe a different one) today. When he and Gloria picked us up around 8 pm, the new diagnosis is colon problems PLUS malaria. Wow! Since he was not well, we didn't have supper until we got back to Lendem where Gloria cooked a simple meal of scrambled eggs plus fruit. You can sure pray for this couple. They aren't sleeping well. Estevao needs to rest/sleep though he's in great demand.

Estevao made a statement about us driving ourselves to Bissau tomorrow morning. Corey looked over at me and asked how I felt about driving to Bissau.

Now that's a scary thought!  While driving is on the correct (right) side of the road and I have confidence I know which fork to take at various points along the way, I'd be concerned first because of all the pedestrian and taxi/van activity clogging the roads and second because I don't have an international license. 

Other than that... no worries. :^)

So William has been asked to take Corey and me to Bissau tomorrow morning. Aren't you relieved?

Remember, pray for Estevao and Gloria.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Urban Bissau

I was in Bissau today working on networking issues while Corey spent the day with his head in the clouds. Actually, it was our first cloudy day since arriving, at least until after lunch when the sky cleared. And actually, Corey was working in a small room on the 2nd floor of a tower (which held the water tank on the roof) which had been set aside to hold the 24 batteries and the charging equipment from the solar panels.

It was quite a change from yesterday where I had a quiet day in Lendem. The Bissau translation office is on a very busy street so most windows that face the street are closed to shut out the noise. This picture of the street may look like it is just lined with parked cars but these are actually vehicles trying to make a three lane road out of a two lane one, complete with extra pedestrians, motorbikes and animals.



Click to enlarge

What's even more impressive is Bissau when the day ends.  As we traveled to a place to grab a pizza, the main thoroughfares were crammed with people many times denser than I've ever seen in NYC or any other major city.  This place comes to life at dusk!  While we've not heard of any disruption because of political unrest, I can certainly see how things could ignite in such an environment.

One of today's projects was to visit the local Internet service provider's (ISP) office and learn what my options were to install the specialized network box (firewall, content filtering, power data collection system) in the office and keep it on line. During my mostly successful attempt Monday, I learned that the ISP was rejecting talking to our box anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.

What a blessing for me to discover that the man I met with spoke excellent English, making the meeting very productive and relatively short. The center will need to make an upgrade decision in order for us to provide every feature that we desire but, in the meantime, we can provide at least 85% of our plan. I returned to the translation office and reconfigured the network so that our network device will remain online.

The grounds that the translation center is on is co-habited with a couple of other Christian organizations. One is the national council of churches in Guinea-Bissau. They don't have Internet access; the translation office does. The national council approached Estevao about getting a connection to our network from their office on the other side of a courtyard. Estavao agreed to it on several conditions: that the national council purchase all the required parts, that the cable be run in PVC pipe underground (to avoid lightning strikes), and that the council limit their usage to two computers (so that their office didn't overwhelm our Internet capacity).

While Corey went with Francisco to do some electrical shopping, I was asked to go with one of the national council workers to help buy network cable. It was my first experience out on the busy road and using one of the many, many taxis (which are all beat up Mercedes Benz). We could have as many as five passengers crammed in.

Considering how slowly things can happen in Africa, I was really, really surprised to observe them not only buy the cable, but also to PVC pipe and have the 1' deep trench 90% dug by the time I left the center tonight. Now I know what my main project tomorrow is going to be.

Which brings me to an observation about Guinea-Bissau people, and probably most of Africa and other parts of the world. I remember the advertising campaign when I was a little tot to motivate people to not toss trash out their car windows. Any of you remember the image of an American Indian standing along a highway observing trash blowing around and a tear runs down his face?

Everywhere I travel in this country, I find trash surrounding every house, along every road. I was even more surprised with I shared a granola bar Sunday with William while fishing from the bridge. A few minutes later I noticed the wrapper drifting with the tide 30 feet below me.

And while the grounds that the Bissau translation is on is much better than just outside their walls, I am shocked at how much garbage and scrap parts are just laying around.

This lack of care for making things look nice hit me in another way too. The path that the national council workers were going to dig the trench passed through a small grassy area next to a walkway. Earlier today I notice that, apparently years ago, someone planted low shrubs in a way that spelled "Guinea-Bissau". It had not been well cared for since but you could still make out the letters.

Now you see them (the letters "G", "U", "I", "N")


Now you don't
Well, the guys dug the trench straight through this shrubbery bed, tearing up some of the "letters". What a shame, I thought. Did they not see what had been done? Even if not, did they even take a moment to consider how to not impact the effort to beautify the center?

Adam and Eve tended the Garden of Eden. And then came the fall.

Here's an example of "dustification"  (see two postings ago)  This was a car I found on the translation center's compound.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Unjoined at the Hip

The car going to Bissau can hold five people. I found out last night that six people (including me) wanted or needed to go. In the final analysis, I could find work to do here in Lendem so I volunteered to stay behind.   For the first time, Corey and I aren't working together.

I spent most of the day creating documents Lendem needed to have on hand to perform certain tasks as well as updating reference files our IT department keeps online so that anyone can retrieve information about the work done here and to provide accurate remote support.

It's also natural that the other missionaries that are here for the OneStory workshop would grab me to deal with problems on their laptops. I spent about 5 hours today looking at a national worker's small laptop trying to understand why it was starting up with some odd messages and then calling the manufacturer to identify some solutions.  I used my MagicJack to make that call over the Internet back to the US for free.  What a handy device!

Frankly, I didn't get any good information from the support technician that will solve the problem. I also found that, though the computer physically had a wireless network card inside (is this getting too deep? Hmmm... ), the computer itself didn't think it did. Unfortunately I also found a third software-related problem, know what needs to be done but don't know how to do it.

So I had to report to the worker that it would require manufacture repair to fix it. Since it was purchased by an American and given to her here in Africa, is over 2 years old and out of warranty, and would cost more than she can afford to fix. it's probably a goner. That is a real shame but one of the other US missionaries is going to try to find a source for another computer.

I was wondering why the people in Bissau hadn't gotten back at the normal time. They finally rolled in and I discovered that the car had overheated, causing a delay of at least 30 minutes, and then needed to have the clutch popped to start the car (a weak battery). Sure glad I wasn't out there on the road in the heat.

It was such a long day for Estevao (the director) and his wife that they went to bed almost as soon as they got home. His kidney stones are not traveling through his system as fast as he and the doctor had hoped and these long days traveling to/from Bissau are really hard on him.

If your prayer list isn't too long, add Estevao to the list as well as reliable and safe transport between here and Bissau the rest of the week.

I have some tricky technical issues to discuss with the Bissau Internet provider tomorrow before I can be sure that my network equipment in Bissau will stay on line. I will need a good translator to help convey my English into their Portuguese. Pray for someone to be in Bissau that can help me and pray that the Internet provider is willing to accommodate my needs.

Corey has been collecting parts some major work on the power systems in Bissau. He's hand manufactured some modules that he will begin installing tomorrow. Where he's working can be hot, dirty and sometimes risky/dangerous. Pray for his safety and productivity.

If I'm counting correctly, we have 10 more full days in Guinea-Bissau... almost half way.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pre-Dustination / Dustification

No posting yesterday because not a lot happened. Corey and I did go to the Bible study where 7 men and a couple of women listened to a study about living a pure life in their village language. Our missionary friend from Brazil, William, had given us each a Kriol Bible (not just the New Testament) and we were able to understand where the Scripture reference was coming from and I was then able to look it up in my Bible to understand what the passage was talking about.

After the study, William took us and a very nice young man a mile up the road to a bridge over a salt-water river/inlet for a couple hours of fishing. Fishermen had their dugout log boats nearby and their wives were laying out the fish in roadside stalls. Turns out that, while each of the four of us caught one or two fish, I snagged the biggest.

It's pretty ugly, looking something like a catfish.  It did give me a good fight though.  I gave it to the young man to enjoy for dinner.

We left about 7:30 am today for our first full day in Bissau, working at the center there. We hauled a bunch of hardware and tools with us and worked from around 9 am until 6 pm with only about 20 minutes for a lunch of trail mix, water and snack bars. Corey spent all his time evaluating the electrical system, uncovering reasons why the batteries that should power the center for half the day were not doing so. For example, he found the generator that would run the first half of the day was only running at 40 Hz, not the 50 Hz it should and needs to. As a result, the device that would accept this power and charge the batteries was rejecting the generated electricity. Thus, the batteries were only being charged by the solar panels which are so covered with dust that a full charge could not be reached.

Speaking of dust in Bissau (which I also did last week), we found that every item, every surface, every breath of air seems to have been installed at the beginning of time with dust already included. We decided to give this phenomenon a spiritual term, since we're missionaries. We're calling this either pre-dustination or dustification.

Overall I had a very successful day, although I had a few temporary setbacks that I hope are temporary. The #1 goal was to overcome a problem installing a network device on the center network that would provide security (called a firewall), block users from accessing inappropriate content (even accidentally) and to collect data from our power system and upload it daily to technical team back at JAARS for evaluation. For the last year we'd heard that several attempts had been made by local people to do this so.  What the solution might be was pretty much a mystery. After last week's quick visit to the internet provider here in Bissau, I thought we had a resonably good chance (I do believe in predestination) of succeeding.

By the end of the day we were able to accomplish this goal though there were one or two times when accessing the internet seemed to hiccup. I will stop by the vendor's office Wednesday to ask a couple of questions and hopefully tune the system for faster internet access than I experienced today. I also hope Wednesday to provide access to a laser printer for the office users and finish securing a new wireless system in the office. (The office is on a main street with lots of small shops and probably a hundred people within 50 yards at any time. We have to prevent unauthorized use of our system so that internet speed remains good for our workers.)

We had dinner at a local restaurant where I ordered a 4-cheese pizza. Being in Guinea-Bissau, the menu was in Portuguese and I think I knew in advance which four cheeses. Still, at least two of them were very pungent and a bit overpowering.

By the time we began the trip home, it was 7:45 pm and dark. Once we left the capital, we began long stretches of open road with small bushes and lots of tall, dry grasses growing right up to the edge of the two-car-wide road. (Notice I didn't say "two lanes". Except in the city, there are no lanes.) We were moving along at 90 km/hr (~55 mph), coming across nationals (who are black, often in dark clothing), walking along the side or riding bikes. Add a few bends in the road and you never know how quickly you need to react. We had two small townsvillage centers to pass through where night life was still active (people, kids, animals of all kinds) and you simply need to move slowly and honk about every 20 seconds to let people know you don't think they are moving out of the way quickly enough.

Well, we made it home about 9 pm. With the progress made today plus some preparations before the next trip to Bissau, I think I'll be staying in Lendem, catching up on documentation and doing some other research.

God has blessed us much these past 10 days. He is a faithful God and, having been reading James for devotions, hope I can rest in His faithfulness in the trials that we can expect.

Thanks for following this journey and following it up with prayer.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Different Day

It's Saturday and most people are not working ... but, since we have limited time here in Guinea-Bissau, Corey and I are taking advantage of every moment.

Estevao has been dealing with kidney stones since he has been a young man, sometimes several times a year. He started having another bout 3 days ago and has been dealing with the pain as best he could, hoping it would pass. (Was that a pun?)  Both he and his wife (Gloria) have not been sleeping well the past several days and decided it was time to go the hospital in the capital. They left about 9 am and returned about 4 pm. We are praising God that the doctors found the several kidney stones already beginning to move out of his system. With medication and one or two days, Estevao hopes to be well again.

- The other five missionaries took off for a regional prayer meeting, also returning late afternoon. They were concerned Corey and I would be alone at the center so left a cell phone with us that had phone numbers of the rest of the team, just in case an emergency occurred.

Estevao's right hand man (pronounced toolima) was also gone for a funeral. I think I saw a handful of local people walk by/through the center... that's all.

Corey tweaked the solar/generator/battery system through much of the day, continuing to evaluate the efficiency and capacity of the entire system. He finally got it all put back together and operating normally about 6:30 pm. He asked me to help at the end because he needed someone to help at a point where serious sparking might happen when reconnecting some cables. I guess he thinks I'm expendable. (Just kidding, Corey.)

When Estevao and Gloria returned to Lendem, she met with several deaf children, teaching them sign language.  Her heart is to learn/teach sign language and also to record Bible stories in sign language to distribute to those who can't hear God's word spoken out loud.

I completed three tasks today:


  • First: I finished mounting the exterior wireless system on the end of the main building, aiming it towards the apartments. Besides these being at a distance, there are several trees in the way, killing the signal more that I'd like. Still, this will help visitors be able to check email and update their computers from where they're staying.

  • Second, I finished wiring the new internet room in the men's dorm/classroom that Guinea-Bissau nationals will be able to use when here for training and workshops. There are now 12 stations where they can connect into the internet for email and to access translation resources. I'm glad I got this done today because the week-long OneStory workshop starts Monday.

  • Third, I ran network cable in the main office so that a new laser printer located in the hallway can be printed to by any of the staff from their individual offices. I first drilled a whole through the hallway ceiling and then got to crawl into the attick through a hole designed for a small Africa. Ceilings are mostly made with chicken-wire with plaster/concrete stuck to it so I had to carefully walk on only the top of the concrete walls or on the 3" wide palm beams that spanned these walls. Once In located the drilled hole, I could poke the cable down in the hallway and back in the network room. The printer is easy to set up, though I still need to write up the step-by-step instructions. The printer even has it's own web page for status and control that can be displayed in Portuguese.

The OneStory staff arrived today. They invited Corey and I to join them for homemade pizza, salad and homemade cookies. There were 12 of us in all, most from the US but one Australia and one from Brazil. We began eating outside (no mosquitos!! so no malaria threat) under a mango tree. While that sounds ideal, several of the others described the disadvantage of having such a tree next to your (tin-roofed) house. When the fruit starts dropping, "thwaaaaak" any time of the day, including at night. Talk about a rude awakening.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we might have gone to a church just a mile or so down the road. I hear, though, that the small building will be full of both the normal 100 plus 100 women here for a women's conference (duh).  William, a Portuguese staffer, has invited Corey and me to join him for a Bible study he teaches closer to Bissau and then spend an hour or two fishing.  The study will almost certainly be in "Kriol", a Portuguese-based criol dialect so I don't think much will be clear to me.  Still, he's been nice to offer and it will be a different part of Guinea-Bissau than what we've seen.

It's that or hang around the center where the rest of the missionaries will probably hold their own service (in English).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Can you say "thirty"?

Yesterday was a full day, getting to bed some time after 12:30 am.

Which reminds me of the fun we're having with Estevao, the director, whose heart language is Portuguese. As I'd mentioned, he and his wife have done a great job with their English to communicate with us. Of course there are words in English that they mis-pronounce; it's just to be expected. Some are quite funny. One that gets us all laughing is words that start with "th", for example saying 8:30 (as in AM/PM). Estevao just can't get it out and we have a lot of fun with it. In fact, Corey was trying to pronounce a Portuguese word that Estavao used at dinner, stumbled over it four times, and then said "thirty" instead. Estevao roared.

So, because we were so tired after yesterday (plus Corey woke up in the night, unable to get back to sleep), we took the day to work on minor projects or "housekeeping" tasks. I swapped out some defective hardware with new equipment that also had more capacity. Because lightning is quite frequent and very severe in Africa, much more than most places in the US, I also installed a lightning protection device for the external wireless device, connecting it to the ground rod in the.... ground... of course. This will help keep the wireless access to the internet working for those guests (translation consultants, teachers, etc) who stay in the small apartments.

And then, contrary to all previous days, we actually didn't work through the heat of the day but took an hour or so for a brief nap during the hottest part of the day. I later spent time installing network connections in a new "Internet Room" that is being prepared for nationals coming for training. It will offer power and internet for up to 10 people who wouldn't normally have access for email, updating their computers, or other common tasks that we just take for granted. I should finish this project tomorrow (yes, that's Saturday) and will include a picture of what the room and equipment looks like.

Tonight's brief project was to help Corey record voltages for the battery bank that is charged during the day by solar power and optionally by the generator and which then carries us through the night. Corey is concerned that some batteries are under-performing, causing the whole system to not run as efficiently/long as it should. He will decide if any of the batteries are too weak and should be removed/replaced.

So now it's 10 pm, perhaps not early by normal standards but a whole 2 hours earlier than I normally get this update prepared. Whoo Whee!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Africa and politics often don't go well together

Another full day in Lendem. I hadn't figured out where we were in Guinea-Bissau in relation to the capital (other than 63 km) and discovered yesterday that it's because mapping systems know Lendem as Lendene. So I found a map to show where I am.




The marker is Lendem.  Click for a larger view.


It's a very small and quiet place but it does seem to offer some ease of access for the various national translators to come for work and training. The OneStory actually starts Monday. Yesterday through tomorrow is actually training for 4 translation project groups.

One of the guys here at the center walked up with a fruit I had never seen before. Do you imagine what it is?



It's the fruit of a cashew tree. The fruit was very sweet and juicy somewhat acidic but, on the variety pictured here, you would not eat the nut (on top of the fruit). I discovered that it came from a very large tree on the property, closer to the road.

I finished getting the new wireless system installed in the building that is half the main office and half the director's home. He stopped by later in the afternoon and said how happy he was with the strong signal. At this point we have wireless to all the center's buildings. I've While I got up on the roof and removed the older, weaker wireless equipment and ran network cable from the network room to the location for the new outside wireless system, I have not finished mounting it high on the peak nor installed lightning protection equipment. (Africa is known for it's severe, severe lightning storms.)

The director informed Corey and me that, because of some serious political unrest because of probable presidential voting fraud, we will not be staying in Bissau at night from Monday through Friday. Instead we will leave Lendem at 7 am and get back here after 8 am. He says that the worst problems and conflicts would only happen in the capital and only after sunset. Knowing the director, a Brazilian so everything takes longer, we will get back even later. That is a concern since we have so much work to do in Bissau.

Anyways, there doesn't seem to be a chance to wind down early around here. Corey had some new instrumentation to install on the solar power/battery system to collect data and I helped and also acted as a safety watch while he worked on the raw power system. We finished that at 11 pm and talked over the plan for tomorrow.

It's just getting to midnight now. Corey's taking his shower first.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grime and Dust, Grime and Dust

Today was our trip to the capital, Bissau, to scope out the work to be done at the translation center there. Actually, the center is used by two organizations, the national church council and SIL. That in itself adds complications on who decides what work gets done, how it gets paid for, and who decides how, in this specific instance, the network and power systems are managed.

We left at 9:30 am and drove just over an hour into the city. Most of the trip was on open road, periodically driving by a few mud brick homes (with thatch or tin roofs) and twice through small towns with many more people walking around.

We drove past the airport we had arrived at 3 am on Monday and I was now able to confirm how small and simple a building it is. We finally road on a 3-lane each way into the city but it shortly ended at a roundabout that then went down to a single lane each way (at best).

The bottom line is that, as we drove around with the director as he shopped for construction materials and for some repair parts that Corey needed, I got a big taste for what Bissau is like. I never, never saw the ocean, even though it is on the ocean. In fact, the closest I saw of salt water was a wide inlet from a toll bridge we drove across 17 km outside the city.

What the city was like, however, is dust. There is dust on the sides of the road. There is dust on the people walking or sitting along the roads. There is dust on all vehicles. There is dust in the air. And it was on me and in me. Mix that with the smell of diesel engines and burning whatever that you'll find foreign countries. Can you empathize? And then there is the constant noise of people talking and vehicles moving.

That all aside and in the past (because I took a shower after we got home at 10:15 pm and because this is the place where God wants me to be right now), God blessed us with much good news.

First, a network device (specifically a security firewall we call "IPCop"), which we had sent over last year but didn't get installed, seemed to have disappeared several months ago. Where was it? We found it sitting on the shelf in the Bissau office. Was it broken or working? We plugged it in, turned it on, and found that it was working just as we wanted it to.

The other major problem we'd had last year was working with the Internet company in Bissau, called "Orange". They had installed special equipment in the office a couple of years ago and no one last year seemed to be able to get our equipment to work with theirs. I was convinced I could get the answer if I could talk to their technical team.

God provided a person at the center who had spent two years in England learning English. We grabbed him and went to see Orange. The second blessing was that the technician (Herman), who had spoken Portuguese for the first 10 minutes, all of a sudden stopped talking to the other guy and began talking to me in English!! The bottom line is that we have enough detailed information, freely provided by Herman, two different ways we believe will get our IPCop onto the internet and function as designed.

Corey spent time looking over the power systems (both solar and generator) and, though there is lots of work yet to be done, believes he has enough time to get the work done. If my network jobs get done quickly, as I now hope will be the case, I can be Watson to his Sherlock.

Isn't God good? Actually, he's also great!

Now that we're back in Lendem, I will work to get the exterior wireless permanently mounted on the building and then install the final wireless device in the main office. Corey needs to abandon me (just kidding) and get on to his power projects here in Lendem.

Once again, it's midnight before we get to bed but are looking forward to tomorrow.

Are you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Communicating in Guinea-Bissau

Today began when it was cooler, only 80 degrees.  Of course, it got into the 90s pretty quickly but, except for moving between the buildings here at the translation center, we were inside and had fans if needed.

On the work side, we got much of what we wanted/needed to get done in the building where a 3-day"OneStory" workshop will start tomorrow.  OneStory (onestory.org) works with mother-tongue speakers to develop and record chronological Bible “story sets” - typically 40 to 60 stories in a two-year period. Mother-tongue speakers spread the stories to others. These story sets form the beginnings of an “oral Bible” to be told and retold for generations.  Since the department Julie is part of focuses on oral and visual tools, Julie had taken OneStory training at JAARS in the past.


While the goal today was to install more computer connections near the classroom as well as install a wireless system to cover that building, Corey and I discovered that the fiber optic cables that were installed underground to connect all the buildings with a computer network two years ago (and which we thought were working) were down. 

After a couple of Skype calls to our co-workers at JAARS and getting some hardware documentation and great encouragement, we spent hours trying to determine if any of this network could be repaired.  While we didn't get the fiber optic equipment working, we did find that an extra standard (copper) network wire had also been run between the buildings.  It had never been terminated (sounds violent, doesn't it) so I finished the hookup and we were thrilled to have a working backup network connection to the classroom building.  I then finished the wireless installation and secured it so only the instructor could use it.

All of our meals have been eaten so far with the director and his wife.  They have been picking up English for a while and are making a wonderful gesture in both using what vocabulary they know and trying to teach some Portuguese words.  Corey, who has been here before plus seems to be really good at picking up new words, is able to interact with this couple (and others) well.  Me?  Well, not only do I have hearing problems but I can't roll an rrrrrr and am severley language-disabled.

So how does one communicate with someone in a language you (aka me) have no knowledge of?  I remember that in the original Star Trek series, Captain Kirk and Spock had hand-held universal translators.  Flash forward 30 or so years and what do we have?  We have Google Translate on the internet, accessed via a netbook (a really small laptop computer, probably 10" wide and weighing about 2 lbs).  Corey normally brings it to the meal table and is typing a Portuguese word just spoken by the Director so he knows what has been said and sometimes types a sentence in English so that the computer can tell him what words to speak in Portuguese.  Sometimes the director grabs the computer to do the reverse.

And this is how we're resolving problems and planning the next task.  I just sit back and think, "How cool!" 

(Actually, I was using Google Translate when sending emails to the director over the past several months. It would fun to share some of the odd results. Sometimes a hoot and sometimes a puzzler about what was meant.)

What was also interesting was to discover that the meat in the dish we were served (always with rice) was gazelle.  Find any of that in your local grocery store?

We started the day shortly after 8 am and worked until 7:30 pm, finally eating and talking until about 9:30 pm.  Tomorrow, after the OneStory class starts and we know the instructors are able to use the Internet, the director will take Corey and me to the capital, Bissau, on the coast for a little shopping for materials and repair parts plus a tour of the other translation center.  We return tomorrow late for several more days in Lendem.

Prayer and Praise:
- Praise that we've been able to overcome the surprises so far
- Praise that the entire center now has very good wireless Internet coverage
- Praise that we've not experienced any problems with food, water, heat or bugs
- Prayer for safety to/in/from Bissau.  The head of Guinea-Bissau intelligence was killed yesterday, the day after elections.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hit the ground good and..... tired

Corey and I arrived in Guinea-Bissau around 3 am on a pretty full plane. Would never have thought so many people would be going to Guinea-Bissau. Of course it was dark so a quick look around didn't reveal much. A step inside the terminal and things got interesting.

First, the man picking us spoke to an official who grabbed our passports, visa forms, and the $120/ea fee and had us through customs before anyone else. We found ourselves standing in a relatively large but empty one-room terminal waiting for our bags. I noticed at least one person leaning through the opening where bags would appear, seeming to ask the worker to pass his bags through first. I also noticed that there were two workers for each (huge) cart, pulling and pushing it from the plane to the unloading area.

We drove from the airport towards Lendem, where we have one of our Bible translation centers. Almost no lights as we drove (unless someone had solar-charged batteries, there was no other electricity), a number of serious speed bumps, and even a police checkpoint. We arrived "home" at around 4 am. We are staying in a guest bedroom of the director, whose concrete wall and tin roofed home consists of two bedrooms, a kitchen and open area, a cold-water only shower and a flush toilet. All in all, comfortable and welcome at that hour, though it was still warm both in and outside.

We agreed to sleep in and have breakfast at around 9. We woke up at 11 am! Whoops... and we hoped to get a jump on the work.

After a breakfast of bread, cheese, fruit drink and optional yogurt, I was given a tour of the site, making note of where the computer network components were. Corey had been here last year working on the electrical system so knew much more than I did and greeted many friends warmly.

Without going into great detail of the rest of the day, we were advised to adopt the local practice of not working from 1:30 to 3:30 pm because of the heat. Corey and I then proceeded to talk to the director through that time, planning our work for the rest of the day and tomorrow. We also talked about how to get work done and not interrupt any workshops.

Today's big project for me was to begin setting up an exterior heat and weatherproof wireless network that would reach from the main office building to 3 separate sets of guesthouses at least 100' away. (It can get to 115 degrees in the hot season and this device is good to 122 degrees.) I found myself walking and balancing as I walked the edge of the roof to where I hoped to swap out another wireless device installed several years ago that wasn't doing the job. Since there was fragile tin roof on one side and hard ground 20' below on the other side, I had just one thing to say to myself... "What is a 60+ man doing up here?"

Obviously I survived and am happy to report that the new system was sending out ~twice as strong a signal. Tomorrow's job will hopefully include another test to see if I can find a better/closer place to mount the wireless system to deliver an even stronger signal.

So day #1 ends at 11:30 pm (local time) with this update and appreciation for the many prayers for safety and the projects going well. There were many times when I thought there were major problems (like when I thought my wallet had been pick-pocketed yesterday or when I though I wouldn't get the wireless system back on line by tonight), but God has been walking ahead of Corey and me.

And I haven't seen a mosquito yet! God is good... all the time.

Blessings from Africa...
Jon

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Today's the day

As the song from my teenage days goes, "my bags are packed, I'm ready to go."  The JAARS airport shuttle will be picking me up in 2 hours.  Corey and I will leave Charlotte, NC, stop for several hours in Newark, NJ, then overnight travel to Lisbon, Portugal where we will have about 14 hours before our overnight flight to Guinea-Bissau.  We will probably find a place to park our luggage in Lisbon so that we're free to walk, tour, and eat.  Corey's been to Lisbon once (on a trip to G-B last year) so he knows more than me... in other words, he's the expert.  :^)


And we arrive in Guinea-Bissau at 1:40 am (!!) where Estevao (aka Stephen, a Brazilian assigned as the SIL director for Guinea-Bissau) will pick us up and immediately head travel 50 miles (~ 2 hours) to Lendem, where a Bible translation center is.


Not having left yet, I don't have much insight on Guinea-Bissau other than what I've gleaned from the web, Corey and a few other people here at JAARS that have been there.


Guinea-Bissau is bordered by Senegal to the north, Guinea (yes, a separate country) to the south and east, and the Atlantic to the west.  It has the a population of 1.6 million and is a little larger than the state of Maryland.  This is a small tropical country with it's highest point at 984/.  The interior is savanna and the coastline has many swamps of Guinean mangroves.  The climate alternates between a monsoon-like rainy season (June through September/October) and periods of hot, dry winds blowing from the Sahara.


Satellite Image of Guinea-Bissau


Guinea-Bissau is warm all year round with little fluctuation in temperature.  The average is 79 degrees.  The hot season begins in June, peaks in August, and becomes cooler in October.  As I compose this blog entry, it is 90 degrees at the airport in Bissau, the capital (and I don't like hot weather which is why I lived in New England for 30 years).


14 percent speak the official language (Portuguese), 44% speak Kriol which is a Portuguese-based creole language, and the remainder speak native African languages.  The main religions are African animistic religions and Islam, with a small, mostly Catholic, Christian minority.  The country's per-capita gross domestic product is one of the lowest in the world.


European explorers (mostly the Portuguese) began colonizing the coastline in the 16th century.  Though not that large a country, the interior was not explored until the 19th century.  It became an independent country in 1973, controlled by a revolutionary council.  Though multi-party elections were held in 1994, much of their governing has involved military uprisings and oustings.  Over the past 10 years, every election seems to be followed within  a year or two with more military intervention, as recent at 2008.  Interestingly, we arrive in Guinea-Bissau one day after a presidential election and we don't know if there will be celebration or unrest.


So, my bags are packed.  The larger one, that can be checked in, weighs exactly 50 lb and is mostly hardware for the computer network projects I'll be working on.  My "overhead compartment" bag is half full of project hardware.  Since more than half of what's going east will stay in Guinea-Bissau, I expect to stuff the smaller bag in the larger and only have a backpack to carry on the plane when we return home.


My next posting will describe our trip there, at least to Lisbon.


I once said, before God called me into missions with Wycliffe, that I didn't want to travel any place where they didn't speak English and I couldn't drive home.  Under God's care, I've been to Dubai, Kenya, Australia (they speak English... kind of), Papua New Guinea, Singapore and now...


:^)