Thursday, September 26, 2013

My rain forest house

I've lived in many places: lots of American places, an English place, a French Alps place, a Gabon sea-side place and now a rain forest place.  We live in a large house with 7 bedrooms, a study room and craft room, 6 bathrooms, several screened terraces, a large living/dining room with golden wooded ceilings and a kitchen, bright with light and views to the house next door and forest beyond.  This house is shared by 14 souls (that's pilot talk for people).  14 people from far flung places converging for this year in this place.  Some of us were little more than strangers when we moved in just over 8 weeks ago.
UBAC Hostel

God has nestled us here in a rainforest filled with wild night sounds.  A chorus of singing crickets and deep-throated croaking toads and hyraxes screaming like banshees slip in through open windows.  Hyraxes are often mistaken for rodents but are actually more closely related to elephants.  It's like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.  They scream all through the night with an eerie cry that sounds sometimes like a child and sometimes like a woman.  Recently I heard a distant drumming rhythmically sounding out a dramatic scene somewhere hidden within the dense trees.  My favorite soundtrack to fall asleep to is African rain falling heavy and loud on the tin roof.  
Looks like an elephant right?!

There is also our beloved African Grey Parrot named Kojak.  He has a home on our front porch where he can greet all with either exuberance or indifference.  He is known to say all sorts of things.  He refuses to repeat any of my offerings but sticks to calling various students names and can often be heard saying, "My name is Barack Obama... haa haa haa"  He also calls out a hopeful "co-co-co" which translates to "knock knock knock"  One of these days we should welcome him in just to see what he will do!  He plucks out his feathers neurotically and often will swivel his head around and bite the unsuspecting soul petting his head!
This rain forest place has quickly become home.  I am amazed at the way God has drawn us all together.  Each year is different as life as a missionary/international worker is transient.  Our days begin early with breakfast prep at about 5:45 and unfolds from there.  Our kids must be at school by 7:30 and they go till 3:20 with sports and small groups and various clubs often going until 5:30 or 6:00 many evenings.  I set the table for 14 to have dinner around 6:30 and have house devotions and dish team clean-up before they can even begin their homework.  We have a wonderful cook, Conelia, who prepares wonderful food for us!  Our middle schoolers have a study hour on the back terrace 5 or 6 times a week.  Our weekends quickly fill up with sports and other activities.

Yesterday I stood on a soggy green soccer field holding an umbrella bending with the wind and weight of driving rain.  I braved the weather to watch Sam, Eric, Tim and Lyle play soccer.  Before long my little umbrella was sheltering 8 giggling cheering girls.  They leaned in and huddled up.  I felt very protective and motherly sharing my flimsy shelter with them.  When the thunder boomed and the lightning split a white jagged line across the sky I took shelter. However unlikely I was concerned and wondered aloud if the games should be cancelled as those kiddos were exposed on the green, vulnerable to great big fiery bolts of death shooting out of the sky.  No one else seemed concerned and since clear skies were moving in I kept my hysterical rant internal.

Steve and I have begun walk/jogging most mornings after the kids head to school.  We do a 3 kilometer circuitous route around the campus of RFIS.  It's great to simply walk next door and exercise.  In LBV we lived in a crowded quartier in the sweltering humidity of our sea-side city.  Here we live at a higher elevation and the temps have been much cooler thus far.  Steve is so kind to match my pace.  He could run circles around me!  I made a reference to him about my cramping his style and he quoted an African proverb to me, "I can go faster alone but we can go farther together."  My goal is to jog the whole 3ks by Christmas.

One morning we were walking around the soccer field while a PE class was playing softball.  Just as we hit the straightaway someone yelled out to us.  We turned and saw that our dog Tozer was trotting towards us in a happy loping gait with a silly grin on his canine face as if to say, "Hey guys I made it to the other side of the fence, aren't you proud?!"  We called to him and took a couple of steps when Doria the dog that lives on the RFIS campus came out of nowhere and charged Tozer with great menacing growls.  Suddenly our goofy dog who runs away from dogs half his size, even cats for goodness sake, became a raging fighting machine before our very eyes.  

The PE class froze as did I while Steve ran for the dogs shouting their names.  He got close and began using his feet to try and separate the snarling, biting, wrestling, growling dogs.  I was completely shocked and made no movement to help Steve as he alone tried to pull the dogs apart.  He finally got Tozer down and yelled for someone to get Doria away.  I kind of snapped out of my stunned stupor and moved forward to help.  By then the guardian from our house had come up and grabbed Tozer.  

It turns out that Tozer was running away from another much smaller dog in our yard just as one of the workers from RFIS was going through the gate separating our property from the school's.  Tozer barreled past the worker, through the door, and headed our way.  He got out of our gate 4 times total that day.  We are working with everyone using the gate between our house and the school to make sure Tozer is kept away.  He hasn't gotten out recently.  It was quite alarming to see our very docile dog go postal!    

Tozer the wonder dog!

We are having all kinds of adventures this year being dorm parents, or hostel parents as they say here.  No, not hostile parents! Not usually!  I don't have many photos of our entire hostel family but I did snap a shot of most of us during our excursion to buy street food called soya ("chop-chop" in Gabon) about a month ago.  The woman, Margaret, starting this venture is well known to our team here and wanted to branch out to a street-side bbq business.  Our next door neighbor hostel CMF helped get the business started.  We were happy to support this delicious new soya place. 

We are just 2 weeks away from our fall break.  It will be great to relax a bit before diving back into the routine of our very full house!

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