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the monkey whisperers

22 Jul

The monkey story began with intrigue, speculation and a slap in the face. After ‘the slap’, we grew agitated with the monkey and would yell at it from the breezeway as we walked from the dining area to our rooms. The monkey still seemed a bit scared and would raise her eyes and open her mouth while lunging at us whenever we went outside. A couple of days into the taunting, Adam showed a sign of peace and offered the monkey a Skittle. I had no idea why he would do such a thing but I watched with delight as the monkey chewed on that little piece of processed sugar and didn’t lunge at him. Adam simply tossed the skittle into the circle near the tree, watched the monkey eat, and walked away. We grew increasingly fascinated with the joy of watching the monkey eat Skittles, Starburst, or Tootsie Rolls. The monkey became confused and we think she started to ponder our intentions. ‘Do they or do they not want to threaten me?’

A few minutes a day of tossing food (not just processed food) to the monkey, and Adam started to encourage me to try and hand the monkey some food.

We were still frightened by the monkey as she constantly seemed volatile. One moment she would be taking food from our hand and the next moment she would be jumping at us again. She grew especially agitated with a female present.

But with time and coaching from Chini and Aiden we mustered up the courage to get close enough to the monkey to maybe even touch her. In order to calm the monkey we found we had to walk with her as she paced and make a clicking/kissing noise with our mouths. This was particularly funny to watch because we would also pick through our own hair to show her, we were like her.

Sometimes we felt like National Geographic photographers who had spent time observing the animal and thought we understood her movements. Sometimes we felt like idiots who were trying to touch a wild monkey that had consistently tried to attack us.

So on the last day of our time in Nalerigu, Aiden again showed us we had nothing to fear by bending over and allowing the monkey to pick and bite through his hair.

I was standing there watching and Aiden quickly said, “She wants to pick through the hairs on your leg.” I thought, “Are you serious?” But with trepidation and fear, I stuck my leg out and sure enough she started picking through the hairs on my leg!

We gained so much confidence at this point and the monkey seemed to be in a very good mood. So we took our chances, started making the noises again, and she laid down for us to go through her hair!

I even had the audacity to show the local kids, who were attempting to calm to monkey, my new-found courage.

donkey polo

18 Jul

The alarm clock rang at 6:00 am.  I was tired, but fortunately yesterday’s rain had brought in a cold front that made sleep easier to find.  Aaron was already awake as I opened up the door to my room.  He was sitting on his door step, head down and eyes closed as if he was in the middle of his morning prayer.  I knew better.  He wasn’t praying.

“Are you ready?” I asked.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” he replied as he slowly came to a rise.   He looked taller this morning.  I knew he wasn’t, but he certainly looked it.

We grabbed our gear that we had laid out the night before and quietly walked out the front door.  Neither one of us said a word as we slowly made our way up the slight incline to BMC Park.  The sun was up, but even it was having trouble waking as the clouds hindered its ability to illuminate the field to its full potential.  They call it a park, but it’s not really a park.  It’s just a big, orange field of dirt with blue goals at either end.  Every day at 5:00 pm the field is covered with 22 Ghanaians playing football.  There would be no football today, at least not this morning.  This morning the field was reserved for something far greater, if not in renown than certainly in uniqueness.  Today this field was to host Nalerigu’s first annual – Donkey Polo Match.

We must have been late, as the game started immediately upon our arrival.  There was no time to warm up, an unfortunate turn of events which led to us conceding a goal early.  The Ghanaian team had put together an intimidating group of equestrians whose skill far surpassed all we had to offer, determination only excepted.

We struggled to control our donkeys early on.  At one point, Aaron’s inability to control his ass had led him out of the field of play, and left us a player down.

Things were looking bleak, as once again we had found ourselves unable to seize our God-ordained dominion over the animal kingdom. What happened next, however, was nothing short of miraculous.

The clouds slowly began to exit left, in a belief no doubt that the game was all but over.  The sun, taking advantage of its newly found freedom, shone brightly onto the orange field, creating what appeared to be a path directly from Aaron to our goal.  Simultaneously, Aaron turned his ass left and trotted back onto the field.  The two were somehow so united now, that looking into the eyes of one was as if looking into the eyes of the other.  The two events took place as if in one moment, making it difficult to tell which was the cause and which the effect.  Determining the order was of little importance as Aaron rifled the equalizer directly between the two blue posts.

This turned out to be the kick start our instant coffee failed to deliver as I followed suit with another goal before the game-ending whistle.

Spectators went crazy as we both made one last pass through the middle of the field, a victory ride of sorts.

After our win we started down the hill, this time accompanied by a multitude of cheering fans.  Aaron walked a few steps ahead of me.  There was no doubt in my mind now that he was indeed taller today.  I think we both walked a little taller as we made our way back to the house.  Not only had we won the match, but we had successfully tamed an African Donkey.  Needless to say, we felt good, but if one had the ability to peer into our souls they would see that something was still missing.

“You think we are ready for the monkey now?” I asked as we now stood side by side.  Little in Aaron’s movements even acknowledged that he had heard my question.  His head was still perfectly straight, as if permanently locked into a target only he could see.  His eyes shifted, and a small crease formed in the middle of his cheek, one that no doubt could only be produced by a grin.  He didn’t say anything.  He didn’t have to.


*The story above is a fictional account of two idiots who thought it would be fun taking turns mounting a donkey with croquet mallets.

– Adam

interesting factoids about our watchman, chini…

16 Jul

We learned an interesting fact about Chini the other day from Pastor Rebecca, one of the chaplains at the hospital.  Apparently, Chini suffers from asthma and has an inhaler for relief.  His worst attacks occur when he is angry, which surprised us because Chini is never angry – always smiling and singing the wrong words to his favorite songs.  But Rebecca informed us that Chini likes to pray for Christians who he thinks are not living like Christians, especially, she said, women who wear short skirts and shorts.  And when he prays for these women in short skirts, he gets very angry and often has an asthma attack, requiring his inhaler.  Classic Chini (isn’t he the cutest thing?)!

Chini also likes to play the guitar… and we don’t mean a normal guitar.  He owns an African guitar, a four stringed instrument with no frets.  The boys were lucky enough to get a live performance and luckily captured the show on video for the girls to enjoy as well.  We will post the video once we have good enough internet to support video downloads.  It’s amazing.

– Rachel & Adam

happy birthday to mr. adams!

14 Jul

First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ADAM!!!  He turns 19 again today.  Here he is ready to celebrate (haha)!

And he got a motorcycle for his present! (just kidding, but he may be getting one when we get home.)

The other very important thing that happened today was a volleyball tournament in support of the nursing school.  The BMC put together a team made up of Aaron, Rachel, two peds nurses (Bruno and Maxwell), and two other Ghanians.  Aaron and Rachel were determined to teach them how to run a 5-1 (for those of you not familiar with volleyball, this means that there is one person who is always the setter).  It took awhile, but they finally convinced them that it is better than the current Ghanian system where whoever is in the middle on the front row is the setter.  We played against a team of six Ghanian men, all part of the nursing school.  We won the first game, they won the second game.  There were two other people from the BMC (both Ghanian) who wanted to play and so they substituted in for Rachel in the third game as well as one of the Ghanians.  Because of the substitutions, we had to switch back to the old way of playing and lost in the final game.  Despite the loss, we had a great time and provided some entertainment for the many people who came out to watch the tournament (probably about 60-70 people lined the court boundaries).  Everyone loved it when Rachel dove for a ball and rolled in the dirt, and people go crazy when Aaron spikes the ball for a kill.

We don’t have a lot of medical stuff to talk about for today, but one very exciting thing happened that we wanted to share… our comatose patient that Rachel has been following for the last several weeks who starting eating yesterday got to go home today.  His mom was smiling ear to ear and gave Rachel a huge hug before they left.  It made our day to see him leave.  Another good day.

Tonight, we had dinner with all the volunteers and career missionaries here at station meeting, a weekly gathering on Thursday nights that involves dinner, dessert, prayer time, worship music, and a message delivered by one of the volunteers.  Evan, one of the missionary kids, played guitar and led worship for us – it was so wonderful to sing praise to God together, especially after having such hard times this last week where God was our only strength.  After singing, Adam gave us a message out of the book of Mark that encouraged us all to share our faith more openly (see the blog titled “keeping secrets” for details).  Many people came up to him after to tell him how much they appreciated the discussion, making his wife so proud of him.  We then had mango cobbler with ice cream to celebrate Adam’s birthday after singing to him – so amazingly delicious!

– Rachel

seminga (white girl)

11 Jul

i was in the maternity ward the other day, examining a baby, when a young man (who is a nurse) greeted me.  i smiled, and replied to his greeting, then continued to examine the little one.

a couple minutes later, he looked over to me again, as he prepared a bath for one of the newborns.

“how do you bathe?” he asked.

“you mean, how do i bathe the babies?” i responded.

“no, i mean, how do you bathe yourself?”

“well, i shower usually.”

“with soap? with a big fluffy sponge?” he questioned.

“yes, with soap.  i just rub it on,” i replied, quite confused at where this conversation was going.

“well, then… how do you get your skin so white?”



things we miss…

11 Jul

things we miss…

  • our families.
  • turkey sandwiches.
  • cold milk (or any milk other than powdered, for that matter).
  • cereal with cold milk.
  • normal bowel patterns.
  • reliable plumbing.
  • clean feet.
  • mexican food and guacamole.
  • cuddling with our husbands (it’s usually too hot for that here).
  • fresh strawberries, peaches, salad, bell peppers, corn on the cob, tomatoes, and all those other delicious fruits and veggies in season (hello, canned peas and mushrooms).
  • ice cream (blue bell, if you want specifics).
  • looking (and smelling) nice.
  • whole foods pizza.
  • a clean shower (i.e. one not filled with red dirt).
  • paved roads.
  • our own comfy beds (queen-size with soft sheets and fluffy pillows — instead of two twin-size beds pushed together).


don’t worry, we don’t miss candy… we brought it all with us.

so, there’s this monkey…

6 Jul

…tied to a tree behind our house. Adam and I have been intrigued by the monkey since our arrival and have asked many questions regarding the monkey. We were first informed that the monkey did not like women, so we thought we had a chance to become ‘friends’ with the monkey. Some of the local missionary kids have even showed us how the monkey will pick through their hair.

All of our attempts to befriend the monkey have ended in frustration, but today was the best example of the vain ‘acts of kindness’ that we try to show the monkey and are promptly dismissed.

Here is a typical interaction with the monkey. We go out behind the house quietly, making a kissing noise with our mouths, and not making eye contact. (This is what the missionary kids told us to do.) The monkey sees us and gets these big eyes, opens her mouth, and then circles the tree. When we get close enough the monkey does this:

and this is what we see…

Yesterday was particularly hilarious. The missionary kids again informed us that if we took food out to the monkey and sat quietly holding a banana the monkey would take the food out of our hand. Adam and I sat down with our bananas and waited patiently as the monkey moved slowly closer to us and then retreated. Moved a little closer and retreated. Closer… closer…. finally the monkey moved close to Adam and took the banana out of his hand. YES, I thought! But before we had the chance to celebrate our small victory, literally the instant that the monkey took the banana from Adam’s hand it reached up and in one motion, slapped him in the face. Adam yelled and fell backwards in disbelief. I started laughing uncontrollably as Adam, now furious, taunted the monkey and threatened to slap it in the face. I laughed until I cried and now knew we had a slim to no chance at taming the monkey.

Aaron & Adam