A Neighborhood Walk

This afternoon we had a few errands to run in our Badalabougou neighborhood.  Here are some of the interesting things we saw as we wandered.

This stop sign is at the busiest intersection near our home.  There are practically no traffic rules, instructions or signs here.  Cars and motorcycles just come and go anywhere, first come, first served.  Oftentimes the busy intersections become a gridlock of cars and trucks and traffic comes to a dead stop until someone is willing to back out, which can be close to impossible.  Usually there is an eager bystander, who will jump in and help direct the traffic, by knocking on car windows and shouting at who needs to back out first to untangle the jam.  Sometimes that takes a long time because impatient drivers refuse to be the first to give way.  It’s an amazing thing to watch or to be stuck in.  This is one of very few stop signs I’ve seen since we’ve been here.

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Local market shops–clothing for sale.  Much of the clothing sold here comes from the USA, shipped over in bales or bundles.  Often it’s gently used or overstock from the garment districts.

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These ladies were making something like scones.

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I’m not exactly sure what these are used for.  Swatting something.  Flies?  Donkeys?

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Wood for sale for cooking fires.

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More clothing piles:

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This lady was cooking something like Poffertjes or Ebelskivers in her cast iron pan.  Smelled good!

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Dates from the date palms:

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Brooms for sale:

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The fruit here is fantastic!

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A coconut vendor:

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I bought some beautiful potatoes here–4 big ones for 500 cfa = 80 cents.

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We see car washes like this everywhere.  They usually have a cement floor and a hose and you pull up and can hose off your car or motorcycle.  Some of the car washes are self serve, others have boys to do the work for you with rags and buckets of soapy water.

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Everywhere we go, there are such interesting things to look at.  This is a colorful busy place full of industrious people.  I wish their lives were easier.  Everyone is just trying to get through the day and come out ahead.


Elder Sanvee Kodjovi, Bamako Missionary

2020-1-14 Saunvee in Abidjan airport heading to Mission

Sister Binene sent the photo above to me today.  Our Elder Sanvee from Bamako has arrived in Abidjan from the MTC in Accra today.  He’s on his way to the Ivory Coast Yamoussoukro Mission.

Brother Brent Belnap in Accra was at the airport there when this group, including Elder Sanvee left.  He posted this photo of this wonderful group of new missionaries going out in to the world.  Elder Sanvee is on the far left.

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A Cooking Lesson with the Elders

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Today after our District Meeting then French conversation lessons with the Elders, John spent a few hours working on the branch membership records with Bro Mbaya.  I smelled something good coming from the Elders’ apartment up the stairs from the church and I went to investigate.

For the next hour or more I had a fine lesson in West African cuisine!  These Elders are really good cooks!  They taught me step-by-step how to make 2 different dishes–what they call spaghetti with egg served with plantain, and fish and sauce to serve over rice.

I told them I was a journalist and these pictures were for a cooking article I’d write about them!  So here we go–let’s make some delicious African food!!

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I first asked where these dishes originated.  These Elders come from The DR Congo, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria.  They laughed and said, “it is all the same!  We all use the same ingredients to cook our food!”  There are variations from place to place, but not big ones.

We’ll begin with the fish stew, which they were preparing for tonight’s dinner.  The Elders buy frozen fish at the market.  They bring it home, cut the fish in half, and then freeze it in bags with 4 pieces–enough for one meal.  A kilo of fish costs 1,200 cfa or about $2.  The fish is fried first in hot oil (that’s what I was smelling).  Then chopped tomatoes, onions and red peppers are added until the vegetables are also cooked.

Tomatoes cost 1000 cfa / kilo (1.60).  Onion cost 600 cfa / kilo ($1.00).

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Next they added a bowl full of cut vegetables I could not identify.  Aubergine, they called it.  I had to look it up.  Eggplant.  600 cfa / kilo ($1.00).

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Water was added to cover the ingredients while they cooked.

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Next Elder Kouakou showed me a bag of paste he called arrachide.  Ground peanuts.  Many of the sauces we’ve had here have a peanut sauce base.  I small bag of peanut paste (about 1 cup) costs 500 cfa ($.80).  They used about half of the bag, and stirred it into some water.

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The peanut sauce was added to the pot, and the lid was put on for it to simmer.

I should mention here that there is a propane gas strike going on right now in Bamako.  The Elders’ gas tank ran out, so they had to go buy traditional stoves called Brazeno.  I could tell they were comfortable cooking on these stoves, they are used everywhere.  Electric stoves are the exception.  A Brazeno costs 1,500 cfa ($2.50).  They had two.  They also had to purchase a large bag of coal to burn in their stoves.  The large bag was 4,500 cfa ($7.50)

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After the eggplant was cooked and soft, Elder Kouakou took it and the vegetables out with a slotted spoon and put them a smaller pot where he mashed them up.

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Then he returned the mashed vegetables to the big pot with the fish and sauce.

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Elder Kouakou and Elder Usoh said it was their turn to cook today, so they are the main chefs in the kitchen.  They Elders take turns preparing the food, and they always eat together.

While the fish stew cooked, they put a pot of water on to boil for spaghetti noodles.  They cooked an entire 500 g. package costing 400 cfa ($.65) with some salt.

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After the noodles were cooked, Elder Usoh fried some onions in oil then he added tomatoes,red peppers and some salt.

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To this he added some seasoning– a large Maggi cube (bullion), a packet of chili peppers, and one small bag of curry.

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That cooked and simmered, then he mashed it all up into a smooth sauce.

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The kitchen:

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Next, a few plantain were peeled and cut, and these were fried in about 1/2″ of oil.

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It all smells so good!!

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Next Elder Usoh beat 5 eggs in a cup and poured them into the hot skillet with the vegetables, stirring until the eggs were cooked.  He added a bit of water to this, maybe 1/2 cup.  It made a runny sauce.

Then the spaghetti noodles were added to the egg and curried vegetable sauce and it was all mixed together.  He added another cup or so of water, then put the lid on to let it steam and re-heat the noodles that had been waiting on the side.

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Voila!  Lunch is ready!  Oh, it smelled so good.  And it was really delicious!  The Elders told me this is a dish they make often for lunch.  They tend to have a big breakfast, a smaller lunch, and a big dinner.  There was enough here for 2 meals.

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The fish stew will be served until dinner tonight and served over rice, and the leftovers will be eaten for breakfast.   These Elders were impressive and efficient cooks.  And when I told them I was going to wash the dishes, all four of them jumped up to stop me.  “Oh no, Soeur Lewis, that would be an insult!  We will do the dishes!”

I just love these Elders.  They were fun to watch and learn from this afternoon.  I’m grateful to them for embracing the work and the challenges and for their happy spirits and today, for their delicious food!

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District Meeting and Farewells to Elder Sulu and Elder Usoh

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We had our last District Meeting with this set of 4 Elders this morning at the church.  We were all a bit sad to say good bye to Elder Sulu, our District Leader and Elder Usoh who makes everything so fun.

Last week at the market, we shopped for a thank you gift to give to the Elders who get to serve in Mali.  We found the perfect thing at the Artisan’s Market– Chiwara carvings.

Here’s the note we gave each of them with their Chiwara:

According to Bambara legend, Chiwara is the name of the antelope spirit that taught humans the fundamentals of agriculture. The Chiwara is an enduring symbol of Mali and represents hard work and excellence. Still today, the Chiwara society in Bambara culture gathers young-adult males to clear, sow, and harvest the fields when the greatest number of laborers is needed. The survival of the community depends upon the quality of their work.

Thank you for serving the Lord with hard work and excellence, doing your part to establish His Church in Mali. You have had a pioneer experience that few missionaries will ever have. You have cleared, planted, and harvested among these precious children of God. We will never forget you.

When you look at this Chiwara wood carving, remember that you are a Chiwara missionary. Remember.

We love you!

Elder et Soeur Lewis

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These Elders have been like sons to us.  We are so grateful to know them.  We wish them well as they return back to Cote d’Ivoire.

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Defying Ants

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I made some oatmeal cookies today.  I wanted to enjoy a couple of them while they were still warm as I studied.  I also wanted them to be safe.

Sometimes I forget and leave food out.  Once I left a little bowl of peanuts on this little table by my reading chair.  Within 15 minutes, there were dozens of ants in the bowl eating my peanuts.  I never see them from day to day, just when they find my food.

Mind you, we live on the top floor of an apartment building, 65 steps or more above the ground.  How do these tiny ants climb all the way up here, find a way into our apartment and know where my food is??  It’s beyond reason.  They must be really hungry.

A Visit to Rose’s Compound

My dear friend, Rose, lives in a village called Bankoni.  Today we stopped there to drop of her girls and to visit.  I love to visit my friends in their homes.  It helps me to know them and love them better.

Rose and her family moved into this compound about 5 months ago.  They have been busy making it their home.

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Rose and her family attend the Group in N’Gomi.  Rose and her girls have been  members of the church since 2017.  Her husband, Ibrahima was baptized in 2018.

When we arrived, Rose put out a big meal for all of us.  What a kindness!  She served us maize balls with okra sauce or rice with a green leaf sauce.

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Rose’s modern kitchen was in a separate building in the compound.

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After dinner, Pres Sekou and Elder Lewis met with Rose and her husband for a couple of hours.  Elder Usoh and I had a nice long visit and we took a few walks around the neighborhood.

Here is Rose’s store, just a few minutes away:

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Before we left, Rose came to show us inside:

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Family pictures:  Amissetou, Ame, Michou, Rose, Princess and Ibrahima

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And a farewell shot with Elder Usoh:

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Thank you, Rose and your beautiful family, for a lovely afternoon!

Sunday Afternoon in N’Gomi

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While Pres Sekou and Elder Lewis met with the members and friends here in N’Gomi this afternoon, I waited with these three beautiful young women in the school courtyard.  We spent the first hour getting acquainted.  Michou (16), Amissetou (17) and Ame (17) helped me practice my French by asking me lots and lots of questions.  And I learned a lot about them.

Michou wants to study biology and medicine when she goes to the university.  Amissetou also wants to study medicine.  Ame want to be an airline pilot.  The two older girls are cousins.  They’re in their last year at a private high school, preparing for their final big exams in a few months.  They study hard.

The private school these girls attend is about a 1 hour walk from their compound.  It’s expensive to go there–about $400/year.  They all work to help pay for the school fees.  They said they don’t mind wearing school uniforms.

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I asked them about their beautiful hair and hair extensions.  They do each other’s hair every 2-3 weeks.  Extenions are usually added for a fete, or celebration of some sort, otherwise they wear more traditional braids or plaits.

That’s when the clip came out of my hair and they all jumped up to plait mine!  That was fun for them and for me too!

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For the rest of the afternoon I was a proper traditional African woman!

After siting for such a long time, we decided to go take a walk.  Across the street and down the hill is the large mango grove where we had the celebration in November.  We walked down to this shady cool grove and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees.  It was cool and shady and we watched 2 young boys with their sisters trying to find green mangoes in the huge trees.  They had a long bamboo pole with a wire loop on the end.  When they spotted a mango, they’d pull it down, and the sisters would catch it in a cloth held between them.

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They’d found about a dozen green mangoes and were searching for more.  I asked what they did with the green ones.  They told me they soak them overnight in something (?) that helps take the acid (?) out of them.  Then they put them in a big bucket with a lid on it for a few days.  Then they peel and chop the mangoes into small pieces and cook them with some seasonings and peppers and they sell this to the school children when they come home at lunch time.

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Then the girls spotted a very high limb on a very high tree that had dozens of mangoes on it very high up in the top of the tree.  Before I knew it, the two younger boys, probably 10 and 12 years old, scampered up the tree like little monkeys!  I called them back and took a picture before they scurried right back up, higher and higher.  I was glad their mother couldn’t see them

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The smaller of the two boys went the highest.  He weighed less and the branch thinned at the top.  He had the pole and would grab the branches the mangoes were on and pull them close enough to pick the fruit.  Then he’d toss the fruit down 10-15 feet to his brother, who then tossed them down to the girls on the ground.  Team work!

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By the time they’d picked every last mango in sight, there were more than 50 just from that one limb!  These boys were amazing!

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These kids were pretty happy with their findings–I’m sure their mom will be thrilled.  Then we walked back to the school to see how things were going.  Looked like we’d have another hour or more to wait, so we went out into the road to find some kids to play with.  They came.  They came with their little toys and sticks and rocks and wheels.

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All you really need in life to be happy is a stick, a nail, some inner tube rubber bands, and a couple of bottle lids.

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These kids make all their own toys. They play with rocks and clods and sticks and old bike tires. They spit in the dirt to make mud. They fill old pods or used bottles with rocks and shake them. They always have their hands in the dirt doing something. They make do. It’s fascinating to watch them, never bored.  When I was a kid my Dad built us a sand box to play in.  These kids live in a sand box and they are happy.

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Finally the men came out and I thought we were finished. Then Chiaka came by–he wasn’t at church, so they went to interview him. That took another hour. We were really getting hungry. It was about 3:00 when they finally finished. Then we finally got in the car and waved goodbye to all our street friends and we drove to Rose’s compound, about 20-30 min away for our next adventures.