Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Circuit Assembly (#BWOOL)

Apologies for it being two weeks since the last blog post, but those two weeks have been among the busiest of my life. Here's a brief overview in pictures of what has been going on.

Hiking to the savanna to explore/watch sunset/get lost

Learning how to boil the cyanide out of cassava

Bubblegum bubble blowing contest

Fishing in the Courantyne river

Making dinner out of said fish

Circuit Pioneer Meeting

Settlers of Catan night

And of course, Circuit Assembly

So, now that we've gotten an overview, let's go through the specifics shall we?

This past week, it came to the attention of Brother Johnston and I that we had two people in our congregation who were leaving soon (Dustin Reynolds and Zandile) but who had not had a chance yet to preach in Siparuta, which in case I haven't specified before, is part of our assigned territory, but we can rarely get to it.
Around this same time, Micaiah and Jessica had two sisters from Ohio visiting them who expressed interest in visiting the interior, so we looked into having them along for the preaching trip.

Thus, it seemed we had a perfect setup for getting to Siparuta. Enough people to pay for the boat, the gas, etc, and also enough people to be able to cover the entire village of 800+ people in a single day. It took a while to put together, along with a small handful of delays and cancellations and switching the boats, but finally we had all the pieces in place.

When all was said and done, we had two Amerindian brothers (Dolan France and Rahoul Alpin), Dustin Reynolds, Zandile, the two sisters from Ohio (Olivia DuBois and Melanie Wilson, who are also the ones who brought me the phone that allows me to use internet here), a sister from England I had never met before named something that sounds like Charismatic, and then me.

The batch of three girls arrived early that morning (like, 1AM). We shipped them off to the places where they would be staying for the weekend, then ran back home to get what little sleep we could to get ready for later that day. Thus, 7:30 that morning, we were ready. We packed up our literature and headed out.

Oh wait, silly me. The boat was broken down.

We had to wait a while as they fixed the boat up, but that did give us time to take lots of group pictures.
 On the left is Rahoul. I just realized this is the only picture I have of him. Alas.

And the rest of the group, minus Dustin. L-R: Olivia, Zandile, me, Charismatic, Melanie, and Dolan.

Aside from the boat breaking, the plan went off without a hitch. You know, once we got to Siparuta. We split into four groups and covered the entire village in one go. Between us I believe we had the equivalent of about three boxes of literature, and it was almost completely gone by the end of the day.
Actually, we finished around 3:30 in the afternoon, so we managed a total blitz of the place. It went so well we're making plans to go back for the Memorial campaign.

The rest of the week was pretty much the silliness outlined at the beginning, at least until the Circuit Assembly came.

Which, I must say, was icing on the cake for an incredible week. After having been away from Guyana for two years (whoa.... two years? How can that be right?) it was weird suddenly jumping straight back into a Circuit Pioneer meeting, and immediately being surrounded by friends whom I hadn't seen in such a long time. I'm pretty sure I was hyperventilating from joy at one point...

Of course, I also got to stay with Mike and Lara Alston during the weekend, who are the ones that got me here in the first place, so that was awesome. Weirdest thing about that was that the last time I saw them, I was in the United States. Super weird.

Also saw some other old friends, plus new ones (I know y'all are reading this, so Hi!), but that's another story for another time.

And I must say, it was an amazing assembly. I don't like divulging details of assembly parts on the blog, if nothing else so I don't spoil it for everyone else, but ever spend an entire assembly (or more specifically, the pioneer meeting) feeling like it was written just for you?

Of course you do. Why'd I even bother asking?

Naturally though, the busy week was far from over. Monday was a Hindu holiday called Phagwah (or Holi, or the Festival of Colors), which essentially comprises of people running around spraying dye all over each other. I stayed inside most of the day at Micaiah's house, and thus was spared.


The bus ride home.

Then my busy week was almost over. The final hurdle came in the form of the boats not running on Monday because of the holiday, so I didn't leave the coast for Orealla until late Tuesday. The problem there is that our meeting is Wednesday, so come that morning Brother Johnston and I had to write the entire meeting for that night.

I'm not even joking about the "whole meeting" thing. From the Congregation Bible Study to the student talks to the Service meeting, everything. In a few hours. So that was rough, but it's amazing what holy spirit can make happen.

So now I'm catching up with stuff (translation: gobs of laundry). As such, I have nothing further to add, beyond a picture of me and the three girls looking sad because the Assembly is over.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

(Note To Self: Come Up With Snappy Title For This Blog Entry Later On, Because For Some Reason No Good Title Springs to Mind Immediately, and I Certainly Can't Leave It as Long as This)

Between the comments I've received on this blog and the e-mails I've received, it seems there are four specific things people are mostly wondering about. I'll tackle these one by one, in order of how much people ask about them.

1. What kind of food do you eat?

Awesome food, that's what. Between the mix of Guyanese versions of food I'm familiar with and the stuff that exists nowhere else, I rarely will find food in Guyana I don't like.

The building blocks of the Guyana diet are rice and variations of bread, mostly roti and bake. For example, here's what I'm currently eating.

The rice is fried with onions and garlic, okra, and a super hot pepper called Wiri (pronounced 'weary'). The thing that looks like a burrito with a birth mark is Roti, which is made by mixing together flour, baking powder and a hint of salt. Ask you mix it together you slowly pour in water and a touch of oil. Knead it all together, roll in into a couple pieces, and cook each one separately with butter. The amount of butter is left to the chef's personal taste.

And yes, I made this. Just sayin'....

One thing that's rather unfortunate is there's some food I've learned to make here that is quite impossible for me to make elsewhere, due to there being some foods that grow here that don't grow in in the States, and which I can't even think of something similar. For example, there's...

Sorel! This thing is cool, because it's all leaves growing around a seed in the middle. It's also known as 'Bitter' by some people because of how when you bite it first, there's a bitter taste, but then it slowly becomes sweet in your mouth.

This is what it looks like if you peel off some of the leaves to reveal the seed inside.
Actually, one great thing to do with the sorel is yoink off the leaves and toss them in a tea kettle. Sorel tea. Awesome stuff.

There also happens to be a crazy assortment of fruits and things here. One of my personal favorites which sadly just went out of season is called Padoo.

This thing is small (as you can see) but the way you eat it is tons of fun. See, first you bite the outer skin/shell open a little bit...

Then you suck out a little gooey piece that's inside.

But hands down my favorite food in Guyana is Bake. It's like their version of a doughnut. And one of the sisters who lives here makes the best Bake ever!

Time to move on, I'm drooling now.

2. How are your studies going? How many do you have?

I have quite a few. In fact, starting studies is not the difficult thing here. The hard thing is finding them home regularly. Many of the people in Orealla work on the river, or off in the jungle, so they'll be gone for days or a week on end with no warning, and no idea when they'll be leaving or coming back or whatever.

However, the two calls I have that I'm most excited about are named Alistair and Charles. To speak of Alistair first...

I met a woman at the Kingdom Hall dedication a few weeks ago who had just begun studying, and she said she wished someone could study with her husband. So she asked me to go, I went, I set up a study with the man, and asked when I should come back to start it. He says "Well, I'm busy today. How about tomorrow?"

So I did. Next day after he got off work (school teacher, so fairly easy schedule to keep up with) I went over and found him on his porch reading the Teach book. So we chat for a moment and then begin the study. But here's what really impressed me - we read the paragraph, I ask the question, and he closes the book, looks up, thinks for about 30 seconds, then answers. In his own words.

Next paragraph, same thing. Close the book, look up, think, answer. So we go through this for nine paragraphs in chapter one, at which point we reach that little segment that references chapter 11, "Why Does God Allow Suffering?" and Alistair stops me and says "Actually, could we jump ahead and look at that one?"

So we jump ahead and cover fourteen paragraphs of that. I especially loved covering that with him since it uses the illustration of a schoolteacher watching a rebellious student, so that seemed to go well with him.

In fact, during the first study as we were covering that segment, the sister who studies with his wife showed up. I ask her what she's doing there, and she says she's there to study with the wife. I was honestly a little surprised she was there, since she knew I was going to be studying with him. So I ask why she's come if she knew I was coming at 3 PM.

She replies "Well, it's 4:45 now...."

So we wrapped up the study fairly quickly, and then I ask Alistair when I can come back. He says "Same time tomorrow?"

And it's gone pretty much like that since then. Moving on to Charles now....

I was going door to door with Lennox Johnston and Zandile (who I have now learned is being nice and just giving us a nickname. The full name is pronounced something along the lines of Ntombezandile Mlityehlwa) when we came across a man named Charles. He listens through the presentation quietly, and as I'm wrapping up he says "I have one of your books, but there's something I'm wondering about it. Something I don't understand in it." So I tell him bring the book and we'll talk about it.

He comes down a minute later with a Live Forever book. Like, that one from the 80's or whenever that was.
He opens to a page about Armageddon and says "There's this thing in here about Generations...."


"...and it says the people who were alive during 1914 would live to see the end. But now it's 2014, a hundred years later! There can't be too many people still alive from 1914. Am I misunderstanding something or is this just wrong?"

So I say "Basically, it's wrong. Let me come back in a few days and explain..."

I came back that Sunday and explained generations as best I could. Wasn't easy. And so I finish explaining it to the best of my ability, after which he pauses and asks "Okay, so how did you arrive at 1914? It never specifically says 1914 in the Bible."

So I say "Let me come back in a few days and explain..."

We've now gone through generations, 1914, Tartarus, and why demons were still allowed in heaven even after sinning and misleading and marrying human women and etc etc etc. I keep telling him things will be easier to explain if we just go through a book or something bit by bit, but so far no success. But if nothing else, it's a really really great call for getting research projects.

3. You said something about you have another brother with you. Who?

For my first three weeks in Orealla there was a special pioneer brother named Kojo Burgan who's lived here for two years now, but he got accepted to the Bible School for Single Brothers in Trinidad (which is actually the reason I got assigned here, so there wouldn't just be one appointed brother in the congregation). After Kojo left, which was the day after the Dedication, then I was alone for a few more weeks, at which point a brother in Brighton came to give a talk, but loved it here so much he decided to stay for a little while longer. He'll be here until our Circuit Assembly, which is March 15-16, after which he'll be somewhere else for a little while.

His name is Dustin Reynolds and he hails from some dinky town in Oregon USA. He's a former Bethelite, MTS grad, and now Guyana need-greater. Impressive resume. We've bonded over Bethel stories, sharing tales of our own first few days in Guyana, and a mutual love for totally random topics of conversation.

Recent conversations have been hobo culture and music during the Great Depression, how centrifugal force cannot be used to harness energy, emergency helicopter repair, the history of the Arawak language, and how to build nose flutes out of bamboo. So yeah, we're getting along peachy.

Dustin in our first bamboo nose flute attempt.

4.  Is there some way I could get an awesome souvenir from Orealla, while also somehow helping a sister there to be able to get a new concrete job done on her house? And while we're at it, have any small children taken a picture of you singing a passionate rendition of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots??

I am pleased to say the answers are yes and yes! In regard to the souvenirs things...

The Amerindians are actually the ones who invented the hammock, and they way they did it is way more awesome than any other method. But unlike many old-timey arts, the original art of Amerindian hammock making is very much alive. Even here in Orealla, they'll make genuine handmade hammocks out of handpicked cotton. It's an incredible sight to see.

They begin with the cotton...

They roll it into super super fine threads....

Which they then have to stretch out onto a loom. This of course takes lots and lots of cotton...

After working with this and weaving with this stuff, eventually over time they'll have a fully formed, all cotton hammock.

The whole process is quite labor intensive and can take up to or even over a year.

The reason I bring this up is that there's a sister here who does this pretty much professionally, and currently has three hammocks available for sale. Due to the amount of labor, they cost anywhere between $200-400 US. Now, I'm not trying to use this blog to hock stuff, but this is just such a neat item I wanted to go ahead and toss this one thing out to see if anyone wanted one. These things are ridiculously comfortable.

Now finally, you'll be very happy to hear that yes indeed, a small child has taken a photo of me passionately singing Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

And on that note I'm done. This coming week has lots of cool stuff to look forward to though! On Saturday we're doing a boat preaching trip up the river, and supposedly having a few more visitors (MORE??!), so there shall be an abundance of cool pics and stuff with that!