July 6, 2016 – North Africa
We’ve been here for nine days and there’s so much to share about our experiences! I will focus on some of the adjustments we’ve made as a group as we’ve made this place our home.
From the little kids calling to each other in the street, to friends and family greeting each other from the 3rd floor of their homes, we’ve experienced the shock of being fully immersed in a language very different from English. This has motivated us to fully invest in learning as much local Arabic as much as we can. From signs on the wall of our home to drilling one other on basic phrases, as a whole, we’ve come a long way.
The street is a narrow dirt road that’s shared by vehicles orchestrating the chaos with honks, donkeys pulling carts of organized garbage to be recycled, people milling around selling and buying things or walking to different parts of the village, little kids walking around in pairs or small groups, playing with baby goats around the cars or helping their parents with the family business, sorting garbage. Vehicles speak the language that narrates the scene. Honks of different sounds and loudness warn people of cars or motorbikes in front of and behind them. Men, women, and children fill the streets as they sit sorting through piles of garbage, trying to recycle almost everything. They sit in their stores, which are one-room, doorless, windowless places, where you can buy convenience store kind of things; or they are selling or buying fruit and vegetables from their carts. Donkeys pull carts of sorted and packed garbage that will be recycled.
Walking through the streets, people, but especially children, come up to us and greet us with “hello,” which sounds more like “alo!” There is a huge desperation from the people here to learn English. The kids are starting to learn it in schools. English is important for many reasons. For example, medical and engineering schools are taught in English. There is such a yearning to learn and practice English. To respond to this need, we’ve started holding English classes two days a week, where people from the community come to the school where we’re living, and we teach them English based on their level of proficiency.
The place we’re staying in is hands down the best accommodations in the entire village. With 6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a large dining room, a large common space, and a full kitchen, we are benefiting so much from the generosity of the people in this community. Also, the other day a group of us were going grocery shopping at the different carts, and a woman waved us over and invited us into her store, and gave us each a soda and told us that she’s cooked for past groups and wanted to cook for us. We’ve had to learn how to say thank you when people offer their hospitality because it is very offensive to them to continue protesting their generosity.
The village we live in is predominantly made up of Coptic Christians, and the church year is about to start. To prepare for the start, there is a fast from meat and dairy for 22 days, which ends on July 12th. As a Trek team, we’ve decided to respect and follow that fast as well, especially since many of our friends who’ve been facilitating our transition into the community stay with us for most of the day.
The sounds of the village are neverending. From the man who drives down the street asking through a megaphone for items that people don’t need any more so that he can sell them, to the constant chorus of honks, to the songs in Arabic and dubstep all day on Sundays, because that’s the day that all the brides who have their weddings the next week move their things into the new apartment that their husband built.
Nine days in, and we already have seen God in so many places! As we continue to pray to enter fully be present here, our home, we look forward to the many places and people we’ll be led to see and meet. As a Trek team, we continue to ask for prayers of perseverance, strength, and health, and we look forward to sharing more about our experiences in the coming weeks!
Written by Colette