Friday, May 27, 2016

Customs in Equatorial Guinea - chalk anyone?

An interesting custom that can be found in Equatorial Guinea is the eating of chalk.  I observed it when I went to the market for the first time and found it for sale at more than half the stands.  When I asked the woman who was selling it what it was for,  she didn't really have an answer for me.  She did tell me that it helps the digestive tract, and is really good for pregnant women.  She also said it can be ground up into a powder and applied to the skin to make it healthier.  Several other times I have asked nationals about this interesting custom, and no one really has a definitive answer.  So, I've determined that it is just a cultural event.

I then was determined to try and do some research on it and find out more information.  This is what I found:

The term is called geophagia or geophagy.  It is the practice of eating earth or soil-like substrates such as clay or chalk.  It can be found most often in rural or preindustrial societies among children and pregnant women.  There is also a mental disorder that involves the ingesting of dirt or other non-edible items – this is not what this is. 

I also found that geophagia is nearly universal around the world in tribal and traditional rural societies – although it has not been documented in Japan and Korea.

In Africa, this custom is found in Gabon and Cameroon and is known as kalaba.  In Equatorial Guinea it is known as calabachop.  It is said (according to my source) to be eaten for pleasure or to suppress hunger. 

An interesting note is, clay minerals have been reported to have beneficial microbiological effects such as protecting the stomach against toxins, parasites and pathogens.  

So I bought some, and we all tried it.  It is an interesting experience indeed.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Health of a Nation

The World Health Organization (WHO) regularly gets together with leaders around the world to discuss global health issues.  They are the impotence behind the eradication efforts of Small pox, for example.  Part of their goals are to establish health-related targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are then adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. This not only helps evaluate the "health" of a nation, but help develop achievable methods of combating some of these major social injustices and serious health issues around the world.

I always look at these to help gauge what kind of maladies I will be dealing with in the area I am working in, and also ways to try and help community development.  So...if you are bored already, feel free to stop reading, but if you want a little more information - stay tuned...

 I will be comparing the three countries I have worked in, and many of you have visited (Honduras/U.S.) to better assess and know what each statistic is saying. 

Life Expectancy at birth (years)
U.S. - 79.3
Honduras - 74.6
Equatorial Guinea - 58.2 (#12 lowest in the world)
Globally - 71.4

Healthy Life Expectancy (years)
U.S. -  69.1
Honduras - 64.9
Equatorial Guinea - 51.2
Globally - 63.1

Maternal Mortality Rate  (per 100,000)
U.S. - 14
Honduras - 129
Equatorial  Guinea - 342
Globally - 216

Children less than 5 years old - mortality rate (per 1,000)
U.S. - 6.5
Honduras - 20.4
Equatorial Guinea  94.1
Globally - 42.5

Births Attended by skilled personnel (percentage%)
U.S. - 99%
Honduras - 83%
Equatorial Guinea - 68%
Globally - 73%

Neonatal mortality Rate (per 1,000 live births)
U.S. - 3.6
Honduras - 11.0
Equatorial Guinea - 33.1 (#15th lowest in the world)
Globally - 19.2

Malaria (per 1,000)
U.S. - not statistically relevant
Honduras - 3.2
Equatorial Guinea - 211.1
Globally - 98.6

Proportion of married or in-union women of reproductive  age who have their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods (percentage %)
U.S.- 83.4
Honduras - 76.0
Equatorial Guinea - 20.5
Globally - 76.0

Adolescent Birth Rate, 15-19 years old (per 1,000)
U.S. - 26.6
Honduras - 101.0
Equatorial Guinea - 176
Globally - 44.1

As you can see, Equatorial Guinea falls way underneath Honduras, the United States, and the global statistics in every category.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that Honduras was considerably above the global statistics in almost every category.  Bottom line - I have my work cut out for me, and the need is great!  I thought I was much needed in Honduras, the statistics here show I am even more in need here.  I am praying that I can make a difference, however small it may be.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Odyssey of washing

Psalm 51:2 - Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 

"You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.” - See more at:
 John 4:14 - But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Isaiah 12:3 - Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

Proverbs 5:15 - Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.

I feel like Homer would have enjoyed my Odyssey in washing...I feel like a character in his work - although I certainly hope I don't encounter any cyclops, but the adventure continues....

After my last washing blog, a few things have changed...

We are not authorized to use the tank well water, we MUST hand collect our water from the lower well water.  This is definitely a 2-person job - took us four trips to get enough water to use for the wash cycle, and then the rinse cycle.

Headed down to the well...

However, this was not before I needed to hand scrub some clothing I knew would not come clean in my simple washing machine - so I took  my soap (specifically made for this process) to the scrub board which is conveniently located next to the well.  I hand scrubbed the item of clothing, then moved up to washing my clothes.

We were then informed about the huge cost of electricity (nice to know after the almost month of being here), so our clothes will be line dried as much as possible (baring rain, etc.) then thrown in the dry cycle for at least 10 minutes to kill off any lurking bot fly larvae.

"You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.” - See more at:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Washing my clothes with my "semi-automatic" washing machine

So...I purchased my washing machine...opened up the box...and had NO idea what to do.  The instructions, as rudimentary as they were didn't offer that great of information - so I had  to go ask my team mate to give me a lesson on doing my wash.  Here is what is involved:

The well (in the foreground) has water pumped up to the tower (in the back ground) - that is of course only when we have electricity.  The water is then gravity fed to the water source at my house...

This is where I tap into the water with my hose...
Then I run the hose to my washing machine to fill..

This is assuming we have electricity, or water in the well.  If neither is the case, then I have to take my very large bucket and walk down to the end of the property...

To this well - where I lower a bucket, and fill my very large bucket (takes about 4 times of lowering the bucket to fill enough water for a wash cycle...

THEN...I add my clothing...

Set the timer...

 Set my other dial to wash...

 when the timer goes off, I select the switch to drain - and the water drains out of the tub...

Then I refill the tub for the rinse cycle...

Set the tub to rinse...

re-set the timer...let it run it's cycle...

then set the knob to drain again...

then I wring out my clothes, and put them in the spin container....

After all that is done - I have semi-clean clothes.  Water coming from a well is tainted with dirt afterall, so you are washing clothes in dirty water...As you can see, this process does not allow me to go very far from my washing machine as it requires constant attention.  I guess I can now see how the machine is labeled "semi-automatic" - still not so sure what part is the automatic part!  HA!

Goes without saying, this is all assuming we have electricity - no electricity, no washing machine, no dryer - all our clothes go in our dryer so we don't get those pesky bot flies in our clothing, and then into our bodies...(and this was the LEAST  offensive picture of a bot fly larvae emerging from someone) time you throw your clothes in your washing machine and return 45 minutes later, think of us, say a prayer for our ministry, and add your Downy dryer sheets to the dryer.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The market

Went to the market today for my fresh vegetables.  The grocery store has barely passable fruits and vegetables because most people do not buy them at the grocery store, they buy them in the outdoor market.  So - if you don't want veggies that are already starting to rot - you head to the market.

One of my finds is a leafy vegetable called Endung.  They use it to make a spinach like side dish for dinner.

Another treat was fresh avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, lemons, papaya and carrots.

One of the sweet Guinean women made me a very special dish called Bambucha.  It's typically made for weddings or other special events as it takes all day to make.  It's made with yucca leaves and palm nut oil which is ground from fresh palm nuts.  I absolutely LOVE it!  Hoping it is a good source of iron as I am extremely anemic!
Pine nuts are ground in a pestle and mortar.  In Honduras this common nut was used as a bio-fuel, but here it is used as a common/everyday oil to cook with.
yucca plants - typically the root is used but in this delicious dish, the leaves are ground up and cook for a day

End result - super, delicious bambucha

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Feeling alone

That moment when you feel like you are all alone.  People speaking a language you don't understand, eating food you don't know, wearing clothes that don't feel natural.  You don't have a car, take showers with a hose, cook on a stove you don't get, and with food you aren't sure about.  Only wear dresses or skirts, eat and breath sweat, with electricity that is questionable at best.  Can't even figure out where to throw your trash, how to get rid of the flying cockroaches, and the deadly mosquitoes.  Water is deadly, snakes that can kill, and microbes that want to invade your body.  No transportation, 6-8 time zones away from those you love, stores that are closed for half the day, and food that costs more than in the States. 

The reality of missions.  We read books and watch movies, and it all seems so glamorous.  Even our time in Honduras seemed like it was "easy."  But reality has struck...the honeymoon is over...we have been told more than once, "Equatorial Guinea chews up missionaries and spits them out."  No one stays.  Africa is no joke.   

Galadriel:   “You are a ring-bearer, Frodo. To bear a ring of power is to be alone. This task was appointed to you. And if you do not find a way, no one will.”—The Fellowship of the Ring

When Frodo says he cannot accomplish his task on his own, Galadriel responds with the quotation above. She means to encourage him but also to let him know that his journey has just begun. The fellowship has given him a start, but the task ahead is his and his alone. He no longer needs the others, and, indeed, he separates from them at the end of the film. These words also serve as a warning for Frodo, alerting him to the solitude he’ll struggle with as long as he has the ring. Frodo will wrestle with solitude even after he’s destroyed the ring and returned to the Shire.

We left Honduras.  We started it from scratch, created a team, ministry and a family...and then we left it...and we left those behind, and haven't heard from them since.  They have moved on...I guess we have too.

I left my family behind as well.  My mother passed away almost 5 years ago, and my dad so recently (less than six weeks ago), my daughter is in college pursuing her dream, and my in-laws are in Sacramento.  My best friends are continents and huge time zones away.... 

My husband and I travel this path alone...

And at times it feels so very alone... let's face it - we cling to what we know.  We cling to our church friends, our best friends, heck - even our favorite coffee shops.  But remove ALL that you know - and when you are left with nothing familiar, not even the language or food or the "comfort" of reliable electricity and a hot shower that you can step into, you are left with what you cling to.  And so I cling to my savior.  He is sufficient for me in my spirit.  In this I know.  But in my flesh I am human, and so I long for things I don't have. 

I am weak, and in that, He is strong.  I know that this is a Season, and that He will meet me where my needs are most.  I cry out to Him, and He responds in kind. 

Please be patient with me as I find the balance in my the life of a the life of trying to be obedient to Him who has sent me...

Friday, April 15, 2016


When EVERY DAY you feel like a kindergartner, learning something new, and kind of feeling dumb...when everything / everyday is pure frustration...when the small victories come - you celebrate them without question!

Today was that kind of day.  We successfully directed someone to our house to deliver our bed ( more small bed) - granted, it's still on the floor, but that will come another day.

I successfully hired a guy, gave him a drawing and dimensions for my island, and it arrived today - so I now have a place to prepare my food and store some thing!!!!

Same guy who built my island made the table, so now our bucket-to-bucket water station is set up and already filtering water!

And no ice trays?!?!? Check out what I found!  One-time use ice bags....just fill with water and they go in their own little sections - tie off at the top and put in freezer.

AND...I caught a taxi down town - got to the internet office, purchased a ridiculously expensive wi-fi hub (so now our USB chip goes into this hub and Mike and I can both use wi-fi at the same time!)...THEN I actually recognized where I was,  and walked to the grocery store, and found boneless/skinless chicken breast!  I can home on a high!  I know it seems silly and small, but trust me - after 2 weeks of feeling lost/in a daze/dumb - I really needed today!