LAUNDRY: We really depend upon the sun for drying our clothes, but you have to stay close to home during the rainy season. Otherwise, you're liable to have a "pop-up" thunderstorm and come home to wet laundry. We've tried to set up an indoor drying rack with fans, but, with all the humidity, it's days befor you really get the level of dryness that you need. Oh- there's also the fun of "Mango Worms". They get into your clothes while they are hanging outside and then into your body when you put on said clothing. They're too small to be seen, so the only way that you know that they are not in your clothes is to wait 2 days to wear anything that was hanging outside or to pass a hot iron over every inch of the fabric. Joey actually was the first to get a Mango Worms... thankfully, the only one to this point. You get a pimple looking thing that won't go away. You then put some Vaseline on the pimple to cut off the air source of the worm that is living in you. Then, when the worm comes up for air, you pinch it out. Joey's was about a 1/2 an ich long. He was actually a little excited about the experience because a couple people had told him that his pimple looking thing was just a rash, but he was convinced it was a mango worm. He was happy to prove them wrong. So... laundry here can be exciting on a whole other level.
FLYING: I have flown the Beechcraft Baron for about 10 hours to 5 airstrips around Gabon. It's been a great experience. This is expanding my knowledge of flying twin engine airplanes, of flying in Africa, filing flight plans, paying for flights (it's free in the US... not here!), and more. This week there are two trips planned- one day trip and the other is an overnighter ( my first overnighter). The company that I'm flying for is SIAT- a Belgium agricultural company that is helping Gabon revitalize it's Palm Nut industry. They have many plantations across the country that were formerly run by the government. The gov't let the plantations tank, and SIAT is going in and getting them running again. To do this, they have had to bring in workers from other African countries like Nigeria and Cameroon. This is because Gabonese are not inclined to do physical labor- surprising. They are all holding out for the cushy government job behind a desk. In some towns, some of them rather large, SIAT is the largest employer, so they've created quite an "ex-patriot" community in these places.
CULTURE: We're getting used to new and different ways of doing things here. Periodically, there is a person or two that march down the street, at night, in an oversized "straw" outfit with a large head covering thing. They usually have a group of people that are marching with them that are holding sticks and branches. The ones in front brush the street with the braches in a sweeping motion, and the ones with the stick beat on gates, doors, and various things. They making a "wha" noise that starts low and ends high. Our night gaurd, Malik, told us that no one is supposed to be looking as this person goes by or else they get beat with the sticks. Our friend Arnie also believes that these guys are called in when someone on the street dies. It's a ritual or something. Malik suggested that we put our camera away, as this may lead to beatings. That seemed to make sense to us.
FINANCES: The currency here, the Central African Franq (CFA), is tied to the Euro. Since the dollar is gaining ground on the Euro, it's a good time to get out to the local ATM and make some withdrawals. I'm certain that there is money to be made in trading currency somehow, but, with the heat, I'm not smart enough to figure out how that would work. Arnie tells me that there are Lebanese businessmen here that like to buy US dollars from him every now and then. This is good because the local banks never honor the going rates of exchange and they pile on the fees on top of that. When we first got here, I could withdraw 200,000 CFA from the ATM for $435. Now, it's down to $395. That's pretty good. I'm sure missionary agencies are thankful for the stronger dollar, but biting their nails about the "economic crisis" in the US and elsewhere. We are praying for everyone back home about this. Must be a little scary. It's hard not to feel removed from it all here.
HOMESCHOOLING: Homeschool is going great. All 6 students of "The Palm Forest Academy" are passing and enjoying things. Alace and Cheryl are doing an amazing job of teaching. The schedule is Monday through Thursday, 7:45am to 12:30pm for their "regular classes". Tuesday and Thursday from 2pm to 4:30pm, they have back to back gym classes held at the housing compound for US embassy workers. They started the year with volleyball then swimming. They now do basketball then swimming. On Friday's, they have "study hall" from 9-11am (the ladies do some grocery shopping), then they have fencing (that's right, I said "fencing") then time at the beach from 2pm to 5pm-ish. The fencing is taught by Wendy- her husband is a worker at the US embassy and they live right on the beach. So, the kids get a treat being in some AC in her house when they are fencing, then they are happy to have fun in the beach afterward. What a life.
FUND RAISING: The director of Air Calvary, Brock, has suggested that we come back to the states around the holidays for some presentations. We are really trying to wrap up the funding on the airplane and I think that he feels the holidays are the time to find people in the giving mood. Our concern is that many people have such a busy holiday schedule and that churches are often maxed out in terms of schedule then. We are praying about this and looking for clear confirmation. If we were to travel in this manner, we'd only do so with some rock-solid dates with individuals and donors. We have some possibilities in the Chicago area and California, but nothing definite. If you know of anyone connections that we could make, let us know.
AIRPLANE: We stay in close contact with the seller of the Cessna 207 in the state of Washington. He tells us that there is no one seriously interested in the aircraft other than us, so we're not feeling the pinch to do anything super fast. However, this is a unique aircraft that we know others are looking for, so it could get snatched up at any moment. We're still standing at a need just under $180,000.
FLYING- PART II: I failed to mention before that I had a meeting at the offices of "Aviation Civile" on Friday. A gentleman in the office had received my paperwork from SIAT requesting that I get my Gabonese flight permit and they now wanted to see my original documents as well as milk me for 100,000 CFA ($200). This all went well and I should have my permit tomorrow (Monday). When I got to the large building, home to the Aviation Civile and the Department de Sante (health dept.), I decided to go to the office of someone that I had met about a month ago. He is the director of the the Aviation Civile as well as a worshipper at one of the C&MA churches in town. I thought I could explain to him why I was there and see if he "smelled" anything fishy with this other guy asking for money. However, he seemed to think everything was in order and helped me find the office of the guy I needed to see. When we were getting our things out of port, there was a demand for extra money that seemed fishy, so I thought this may be one of those situations where someone wanted their palm "greased". But my pilot friend, Egmont, said that 100,000 CFA seemed right, so everything is cool, I guess.
CHURCHES: We're still making the rounds to various churches to do some respectful "meet and greet" stuff. It will be a month or two 'til were done with this. Kind of a bummer since we're used to settling in to a church and worshipping with the same people week in and week out.