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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...