Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An eventful weekend

   This weekend brought more activity than we're used to, a welcome change from sitting around wondering what to do with a Saturday.  It started off early when Julie woke me at 7:15 on Saturday morning.  Truthfully, I don't think we've slept past 8:30 any weekend because it's so bright and noisy outside in the mornings.  The guards start raking the gravel around 7:00 and the goats, dogs, cows, zebu (yes, like in the Silly Songs with Larry song only spelled differently), roosters, and/or other creatures outside the compound get going right away too.  The sun rises and sets early here, and it's often bright by 6:30 and dark by 6:00 in the evenings.

Baby update
33 weeks

   We started the day with an early trip to the hospital to check Julie's fasting blood sugar.  It has to be tested before breakfast, so there's no waiting around.  Thanks to a family history of diabetes, the doctor wants to keep tabs on Julie's blood sugar - so far she's doing great and staying within the range the doctor wants.  Little Baby O'Neill is 34 weeks now, and growing fast!  He moves and responds to noises and likes to play jungle gym on Mom's ribs.  
   Julie has been healthy but is feeling the energy drain of the little guy.  We're thankful for a job situation that is very flexible and where she doesn't have to be on her feet the whole day.  
   The baby is yet unnamed, but we've gotten some pretty helpful suggestions from the students, including "Batman" or "Jedi."  

Hospital dedication

   After our quick morning run to the lab, we returned to the hospital at 10:30 to attend a dedication ceremony.  The brand new third building is nearing completion and there is a team visiting from Christ Community Church in Omaha, NE, which has nearly single-handedly financed the construction of the hospital from its inception.  The dedication was scheduled to allow those team members to participate, to the confusion of many Malians who only dedicate buildings after they're open.
Dignitaries in the front row
   It was quite a production, and many honored and distinguished guests made an appearance, including the Mayor of Koutiala and the Minister of Health of Mali.  A choir of women provided some lively music before the ceremony while we waited for all the dignitaries to arrive.  As word came of the Minister's arrival, we all lined up in a tunnel and he greeted down the line.  There were speeches and a ribbon-cutting, followed by a mass tour of the facilities and Malian-style lunch: a communal bowl of rice and meat shared amongst every five or six people.  After we'd eaten our fill people milled about and things slowed down.  We got home in time for a little rest before...

The soccer match

   Soccer is pretty big here in Mali and I have been playing with a team of staff members from the hospital.  Our local rivals -- the team from the other hospital, associated with Doctors Without Borders -- challenged us to a match.  It was scheduled to coincide with all the dedication festivities, and plenty of friends and coworkers came out to watch.  Unbelievably, there is an incredibly nice stadium with full stadium seating and a beautiful grass pitch!  Contrasted with the bumpy, weedy, anthill-covered field we play on at the hospital, this was sheer heaven.
   The guys on the team are incredible players, and it's my goal just not to screw up and embarrass myself.  It's hard not being able to communicate with them (French is the second language here, not English) but I'm glad they let me get involved and play, and they call me "Gerrard," which is half welcoming and half daunting.
Post-game team picture


   Sunday morning we went to church up the road at Bethel, an evangelical seminary.  The pastor visiting from Christ Community Church (aforementioned) was preaching, so we jumped at the opportunity to go hear a sermon that's not in French or Bambara.  Usually Julie and I have home church, which is always conducted in English.  The service was a great mix of Malian and American singing, and Pastor Mark gave a very powerful message that was challenging and encouraging.

A Pastor shows us one classroom.  The tin roofs were
not galvanized properly and leak after only a few years.
   After church, we were given a tour of the facilities at Bethel.  There are currently twenty-three students in the seminary.  I was amazed and humbled at the simplicity and the physical needs of so many of their facilities.  Due to a lightning strike in June, all electricity was out for three months.  Their internet access has not yet been  repaired.  The library consists of four standing book racks half-full of books, of which more than half are English.

   We saw the dormitories where students live during the school year (usually with their wife and children), the "chicken project," which is currently feeding 400+ chickens that will soon begin laying eggs.

   After the tour at Bethel, we returned home and everybody gathered at the Mission (the compound where we live: there are three staff houses and a large guest house) for a potluck lunch with the two visiting teams.  There are actually lots of visitors currently in Koutiala: A visiting team from Christ Community Church has come to help lead Field Forum next week (Field Forum is a retreat for all Mali CMA missionaries.); a team cryptically known as "Jack's team" has come to do construction at the hospital; and most of the CMA missionaries from the capital city of Bamako came down for the dedication and are traveling with us to Field Forum tomorrow.
Our friends Jake and Jason enjoying the potluck
and November sunshine (it was 95 or so)
   Tomorrow afternoon we'll head off to the city of Sikasso for our Field Forum.  We are looking forward to a change of scenery and the opportunity to get to interact with some of our friends and coworkers in a non-professional context.

We'll post links to facebook photos anytime there's a new album.  For the time being, if you want to see some pictures of the baby bump, check out our most recent album:

Brian and Julie