Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Foodie thoughts on Gabon

In each of the places we’ve lived we’ve picked up a number of things that have stayed with us long after we’ve moved - habits, ways of thinking, tastes for certain foods, recipes, even words from the language that seems to have replaced their English counterparts, and all of these things have woven themselves into the fabric of our lives. 

As we are beginning the process again somewhere new I wonder…what pieces of Gabon will attach themselves to us in the next 5 years?  After only 2 1/2 months here I find that I’m quick to respond in the affirmative with “oui” without thinking, even when speaking in English, although when I nearly bump into someone I still automatically want to say, “desculpa” (Portuguese).  But just as my Russian vocabulary slowly began to bow out to make room for the Portuguese, I know that French will eventually take it’s place too.  

I asked for some inspiration and got some.  I was asked about adapting the local foods into our daily lives.  and I can’t say whether “adapting” was meant to be “adopting” or whether adapt was the word chosen, but I’d say it’s most appropriate, because we aren’t Gabonese and I’ll probably never cook completely traditionally Gabonese meals at home on a regular basis.  But we’ve already begun to adapt things.  Substitute.  Change things.  Keep things.  Adapt to them and them to us.

Plantains.  It’s a good thing we both like them.   They are everywhere.  In Angola we had them on rare occasions when we were gifted some from Luanda, but never had much opportunity to cook them often.  Here they are one of our staples.  We boil them.  Fry them.  One day I decided to make plantain fritters and shared some with our Gabonese neighbor, Nesmy, who upon seeing them and having a bite said, “You know how to make these????”.  I said, “I do know how to make them, but what do you think they are?”  Then he turned to his wife and said, “beignets avec banane!”, which actually is exactly what they were, since “fritter” is the English word for beignet.  He had been joking with me that I owed him some “cuisine de Pennsylvanie” and so I told him that we make something similar in PA, but not with plantains.  He replied, “I’ve never had them with plantains either. It’s good!”  

Etangas.  When we first arrived in Gabon, any time we would pass a market stall I was intrigued by this small blue thing.  Everyone had them, and everyone seemed to be buying them.  Was it a fruit?  A vegetable? I mean, they are BLUE!  Other than blueberries I can’t think of any other blue fruits, and I certainly have never seen a blue vegetable before.  One day I ventured to ask the lady at the vegetable stand, “Que ce que c’est?”  (“what is it?”) and she replied with a somewhat bewildered look that sort of said “duh” she said, “Etanga”.  I asked, “C’est des fruit?  des legumes?”  she said, “c’est etanga.”  Clearly I wasn’t getting anywhere.  Later when I was able to ask Nesmy, he told me it was a vegetable and when I asked what it was like he said, “it’s like….. etanga" and laughed.  But he promised to make some for me to answer my questions.  

* (once cooked they appear more purple, but raw they really are quite blue!)

Several weeks later I was invited to go along with Nesmy and his wife, Andoo to visit a friend of theirs for his birthday.  To my surprise, the hosts had made etangas!  They had been baked and were accompanied by a good deal of salt.  I was quite excited to try one, so I chose a smaller one and watched the others to know how to eat it properly.  They each ate them, skin and all, avoiding the pit inside, which is kind of like a mango or avocado pit.  The flesh of the cooked etanga was quite soft, creamy - like the consistency of pureed pumpkin or a very soft overripe avocado, and as I took my first bite I thought, I could really like this, but after a second or two it was very sour, almost bitter.  It kind of took me by surprise.  I kept taking bites hoping that maybe it was just an odd bite, but each was accompanied by a rather strong flavour that i really find it hard to put into words.  I dutifully finished my etanga and prayed that I wouldn’t have to eat another one or get put on the spot to tell everyone what I thought of it.  I was offered another and I considered taking one, had there been another small one - just to see if perhaps i had gotten a bad one - but there were only 2 left and both were actually bigger than my first and I just couldn’t force myself to eat another one if it turned out to taste the same.  

Sam had not been at the birthday celebration, and had missed out on the etangas.  The following day, Nesmy brought some to us.  These had been boiled this time, but were served in the same fashion as the one I had had the day before - with a hefty amount of salt.  I decided that this was my chance to see if the previous day was a fluke or not.  For some reason I really WANTED to like these strange bitter veggies with the blue skin.  I also decided that the key to eating them must be the salt, and made sure to get enough on my first bite.  To my surprise, it wasn’t so bad.  Perhaps it was because I knew what to expect, or because I had been expecting the worst - but this one, I actually kind of liked.  I am still at a loss to explain the flavour exactly, but it does somehow remind me a bit of strong salt and vinegar chips.  I can see now, though, why people were at a loss when explaining what they are like, because they really aren’t like anything I have ever had before.  I’m told that you either love ‘em or hate ‘em.  My first was a definitive hate.  But maybe they are an acquired taste - the second may have started to win me over, as I have a strange desire to have more.  Sam on the other hand, has no such compulsion and is strongly in the “hate” category.  

Manioc/Cassava.  This is something we ate in Angola as well.  Sam in particular loves it and often came home from work carrying some.  Generally we would boil it and then fry it.  Before having it in Gabon if I had been asked, “Do you like manioc?”  I would had said, “Yes.  of course.”  Now that I have had it here in Gabon, I wouldn’t be so quick with my answer.  I have discovered that my liking it has a lot to do with how it is prepared.  The way I have had it here - it is boiled and fermented and this seems to be the most popular preparation as far as I can tell.  It is sold this way, wrapped tightly in the manioc leaves, at all the little vendors and market stalls.  It has a rather spongy texture and with the fermented flavour and grey appearance it just doesn’t appeal much to me.  We  have actually only seen fresh cassava at the big market and we didn’t see any that looked really good enough to buy for making it ourselves at home our own way.  

Smoked fish is another popular food here.  We tried some in a peanut soup that Nesmy made for us.  The soup was decent, but I think I would have preferred it without the tough, smoked fish.  

Speaking of peanuts, that is another thing we’ve seen quite a lot of.  Many of the stalls sell home-roasted peanuts packed in salvaged glass bottles.  Some also sell jars of cooking “peanut butter” - for use in dishes like Nesmy’s soup, or cooked cassava leaves.  We buy the peanuts, but grind them ourselves.  I’ve made my own natural peanut butter with a little oil and honey and it was quite nice.  There’s a spicy peanut chicken stew of sorts that Sam learned how to make from a Nigerian friend he met in Russia that we make fairly often.  it will be even easier to make now that we can just buy the cooking peanut butter rather than having to grind the peanuts ourselves every time.  

French baguettes, of course!  One of the many hand-me-downs of colonisation - these are the daily bread of the Gabonese.  We get a fresh-baked baguette every morning at the little shop across the street.  The young vendor knows what we want when we step foot in the tiny shop and we don’t even have to ask anymore.  He just grabs a long baguette, slices it in half and puts it in it’s little bag.  We hand over the 125 Francs (about 25 cents) and that’s it.  He practices his English with Sam and Sam practices his French.  You can even purchase the bread with chocolate spread (a favourite with the kids in the neighborhood) or with spreadable cheese. Seems like it’s a popular breakfast on-the-go for school children and people on their way to work.  

Here in Libreville there is a lot of variety - a typical saturday trip to the market stalls for us yields plantains, sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini squash, red peppers, green peppers, red onions, garlic, ginger, mangoes, bananas, tangerines, tomatoes, avocados, basil, cilantro, lemons, oranges, and watermelon.  We’re preparing ourselves though for our move to Bongolo in January.  We’ve heard much about how there’s isn’t much to be had there fresh vegetable-wise.  So we’re enjoying the bounty while we can.  I hope to try my hand at a garden there, but i also know the task is daunting - many have tried but have failed for lack of the time and effort it takes to keep away the multitude of pests and the rot that can come from living in the rainforest.  I’m trying to do my research into tropical permaculture to make sure to choose plants that thrive in a hot, humid, wet climate.  We shall see….

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Taxis - The Gabon Edition

It’s that time again - time to describe how taxis work in our newest home.  If you hadn't noticed yet, I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about taxis in each of the countries we’ve lived in so far.  The reason - they are different everywhere!  Different colours & styles, different routes of operation and different ways to hail them, various ways to pay, when to pay, how to pay…I always make a point of asking a local how to hail and take a taxi before doing it (if possible) because if you assume you know how things are done and just do it whatever way you’re accustomed to, you could be very wrong.  
Here in Gabon as far as I can tell, there are taxi cars and taxi buses.  I’ll describe the cars since they are what I have experience with.  Stopping one works the way you probably expect - stick out your hand/arm, but here’s where things get a bit different than our previous homes.  When the taxi stops (or slows down and rolls slowly by) this is your time to negotiate price.  Apparently there’s no set taxi fare here in Libreville, so when the taxi stops you tell him what you want to pay and where you want to go.  

Example:  Taxi stops.  You say, “Trois cent, Mbolo” (price: 300 francs, destination: “Mbolo” - the big supermarket across from the French Institute where we have classes)

VERY IMPORTANT:  it’s price first, then destination.  I made the mistake of saying the destination first thinking that if a driver knew where I wanted to go and was going that direction, then I could tell him my price.  But this just resulted in 5 taxis driving away before I had the chance to tell my price, and me getting very very wet in the rain before finally just deciding to walk home, since I was already drenched.  Price first!  

If the driver agrees to your price, he will, in my experience, do one of the following things:
  1. beep the horn
  2. say ok or give some other verbal or non-verbal signal to you
  3. not say or do anything really, but also not drive away
if one of these things happens, you know that the driver has accepted your price and will take you where you want to go for that price.  
If the driver does not agree to your price, he’ll just drive away, unless you quickly up your price and offer more, in which case he may reconsider.  

If you successfully snag a cab, enjoy your ride to your destination and pay upon arrival.  You should get out the door on the curb-side only and if you are on the wrong side of the car and other passengers are in the backseat with you, they will get out to let you out the curb-side.  What I learned today is that if the taxi driver gets pulled over by the police while you are en route, it won’t take too long.  Though this particular driver after a few minutes with the policeman did come back to the taxi, grab some cash, disappear back to the cop, and return with license in hand and we were off.  So this may have expedited things a bit…..or maybe I just lived in Angola and Russia too long....

Friday, October 03, 2014

First impressions

        * It’s HUMID.  We’re thankful to have arrived at the end of the “cool”, “dry” season, though really, there's not going to be much change here on the Equator!  The quote of the first weekend we were here, in my opinion, was our first saturday while we sat by the side of the road along the coast, drinking coconut water…out of the blue and in all seriousness someone exclaimed, “It’s quite chilly today”.  I’m pretty sure both Sam and I laughed out loud.  

  • Gabon is quite expensive, like Angola.  So nothing new there.  We dropped $210 on a mediocre high chair for Isabella - the kind one could find at Walmart for less than $40.  

  • My high school French is coming back to me.  I must note for my Warwick High School French classmates that I found it extremely amusing when, on our first night in Gabon, we were invited for dinner with the managers of the guesthouse where we are staying and I drank “un Orangina”.  Yes, really.  

  • The bread.  We’ve moved from the land of Portuguese rolls to the land of French baguettes.  It is quite nice to have fresh baked baguettes every morning with just a few steps out the gate and across the street.  

  • We’ve already met several people from Bongolo Hospital, as they’ve passed through on their way to various places.  One of the 4th year residents and his family are staying here for a holiday in Libreville, so it’s been nice to spend a little time with some people we’ll be getting to know a lot better in the next year.  They have a little girl who is just about 2 weeks older than Isabella, so she already has a friend.  It’s really cute to see them together for all their similarity at this stage, and also their differences in personality.  

  • We’ve taken several walks already to explore our new neighbourhood.  We discovered that the Angolan Embassy is actually quite near where we’re staying.  And as we wandered further, we ended up at the coast, which is also not very far at all.    

  • Our new friends here at the guesthouse have taken us around a bit - introducing us to Mbolo - the big supermarket nearby.  It’s bigger and more diverse than Shoprite in Lubango.  It reminds me a lot of OKEY in Saint Petersburg.  One just has to be careful when choosing products.  Some things are reasonably priced, while others are CRAZY.  For example I was in an isle of kitchen items looking at salad spinners.  Since we’re new here and haven’t quite gotten the exchange rate pricing in our heads yet, I was using my calculator to get an idea of what things cost.  Something as inconsequential as salad spinners ranged anywhere from 12,000 to 38,000 CFA anywhere from $24 to $78! 

  • TIA as far as things beginning “on time”.  We’ve been here two weeks now and French lessons still haven't begun.  We were supposed to received an email confirmation about starting today, which we never got, so we decided to go there anyway.  There were 4 other students who had also come, having not received confirmation, thinking that class might begin today.  But as it turns out, we were supposed to come today, but it was just for us to meet and decide what the real schedule for class would be and when we would begin.  All things point to us actually having a class on Monday at 11:30.  Alors!  Nous allons voir!  Entao!  Vamos ver!  Well, we’ll see….

  • Libreville is a lot smaller than I imagined.  I thought, as the capitol city, size-wise it would be something like Luanda or Saint Peterburg, but as it turns out it’s probably similar in size to Lubango.  It’s really not that difficult to find your way around.  We’ve taken a few walks around and have already figured out our area pretty well.  I asked about the city population and was told it’s around 600,000.  And yes, the majority of the country’s people do live in this city.  Gabon is apparently pretty tiny. 
  • Sometimes Sam and I have a conversation about something and afterwards I realise what a different world I live in compared to 10 years ago when I still lived in the US.   For example, how many of you stateside have agreed with your spouse that neither of you knows what lizard poop looks like so neither of you is certain whether it is in fact the mouse or the lizard in your house that is pooping on your dishes in the drying rack?  

more later….

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The journey to Gabon:

We were blessed right from the beginning at the Lubango airport of all places, when the ticketing agent checking us in decided to give Isabella 30kgs of free baggage too, instead of the 10kgs she should have gotten as an infant.  Perhaps it helps that she's cute.  ; )  We had an extremely expensive breakfast to kill time in the airport restaurant while waiting for our flight to use up some Kwanzas, then crossed through security without any problems, right on time for boarding.

In Lubango, when you walk outside to board the plane, you also need to identify your checked luggage and make sure it gets loaded, as well as pass your hand luggage through another x-Ray machine.  I could never figure out why, since you already did it when going through security before the gate - but I digress.  The phrase, "Check your logic at the border" comes to mind.  The x-Ray on the Tarmac is positioned so that you approach it from one side and must walk around the back I of it to retrieve your bags.  So, we put our hand luggage on the short conveyor belt and watch it disappear into the machine, walk around the back, and there are our bags on the ground in a heap, having just dropped right off the back side of the machine as the dutiful TAAG (Think Again About Going) staff look on.  (I'm sure that's really good for the electronics and laptops that people have in their carry-ons).  The flight went well - Bella's first time flying - she she filled her belly with milk upon take off and subsequently slept for the next 30 mins or so.  She woke up happy and had fun playing with the safety instructions card and greeting and smiling at the other passengers.  We arrived in Windhoek and although another plane had just arrived from Europe, were first in line for customs - THANK YOU SADAC! (Every now and then there is an advantage to being married to an Angolan citizen.) We collected all our bags and picked up our rental car.  After some pretty masterful packing by Sam, all our luggage managed to fit in our little Ford Figo - though finding Isabella was a little bit "Where's Waldo".  We had lunch in Windhoek, met Sam's mom to get the house key and picked up some food to cook for dinner.
The evening was fairly uneventful, except for the fact that the internet didn't work and the water went out - an irony that is not lost on my friends reading this in Angola.

Woke up Friday morning with a headache and nausea - not a promising feeling when you know you have a full day of travel ahead of you.  Vomited and felt much better.  Praise The Lord.  We were running behind schedule but made it to the airport with just enough time to return the rental car, wrap our bags and check in.  Even with 6 checked bags, we still were pleasantly surprised that the excess baggage fees weren't that bad, and happily paid them, thankful that we were able to take at least a bit of "home" with us.

Isabella did great in flight number two, playing and pointing to the guy behind us who pointed right back and had fun interacting with her.  She didn't sleep at all and I thought for sure she'd be dead to the world during our layover.  But she surprised us both by only taking a 20 min power nap.  By the time our last flight was taking off, she was exhausted.  I spent the first 20 mins of cruising altitude standing by my seat rocking her in the sling.  Finally she konked out and slept for probably more than half the flight to Libreville.  (Thanks for the prayers, Dad!)

The plane descended into thick grey cloud cover and finally we could green, lots of green.  We disembarked into a wall of humidity and bonjours.  We're in a new world now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Countdown...T minus ????

The countdown has begun.  The problem is, I'm not sure at what number to begin the countdown!  We have a reservation (not a booking) for a flight on Friday, but we still have no word about our immigration documents for Gabon.  Yes, today is Tuesday.

I've been sorting and packing, planning and organizing, while Isabella crawls all over unsorting, unpacking, and disorganizing.  Yes, SHE is on the move too, quite literally, and with quite a lot of determination and speed.  She took to crawling quickly and shortly after decided that standing and walking are definitely the preferred mode of ambulation, and she keeps trying with true grit and persistence.  So, often my packing takes a backseat to picking up and dusting off after a tumble, cuddling after one of many self-inflicted bumps on the head, or playing referee between Isabella and Koshka (our cat), whom Bella follows around relentlessly.  For her part, Koshka has been a feline saint - putting up with numerous yanks, grabs, and all too-excited pats, accompanied by ear-piercing shrieks of delight.  She has never snapped or taken out the claws, and more often than not, rather than running away or jumping up out of reach, she just stands her ground or lays there and takes it.  Which, if you ask me, should probably be chalked up to either stubbornness or stupidity, rather than saintliness.

And so, we wait.  We wait for word from our contact in Gabon about whether or not our immigration documents are ready for our planned departure IN FOUR DAYS.  We pack up and put away, and tie up loose ends, with the expectation that we will not be here this weekend.  Yet, because of this uncertainty, in the back of my mind there lingers the feeling that, "we're not REALLY leaving" yet.  Saying our goodbyes haven't been true goodbyes, but "goodbye in case we don't see you again before we go".

We wait, as I savour wearing a fleece on the chilly mornings and evenings while checking the forecast for Libreville and mentally preparing for THIS.

So who knows?  Next time you hear from me I could be writing from just north of the Equator.  Or....maybe not.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Here we go again.  Another adventure.  Another country.  Another language.  This time: Gabon.  So, here I am again - the prodigal blogger - coming back to writing.  I've realised that my blogging apparently seems to have a direct correlation to the amount of time it takes me to adjust to the new country, for things to stop seeming foreign/really different/interesting and for the place to become home, where, "that's just the way it is".  I suppose I process culture shock through writing.  Once I'm through it, my writing takes a dive.

Hmmm....is it any wonder that I blogged most consistently in Russia?  

So....Gabon!.  This will be my second move to a country I've never even visited before.  Sam was accepted to a surgical residency program there, and when we got the word where we'd be going, honestly, I had to check the map to see exactly where on the continent it was.  So not only have I never been there, but I really knew nothing about it, other than it's a French-speaking country.

Hard to believe, but we've been in Angola for more than two and a half years already.  So much has happened here; most notedly, the addition of this little lady:

We've made some GREAT friends.  Seen some beautiful places.  We've lived in 6 different houses.
It'll be hard to go.  But new adventures await - HERE.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Isabella is now 2 months old. And finally I think I may have time to sit down and record a bit of background and the events of her coming into the world.

As most of you know, Sam is a doctor at the mission hospital here in Lubango, Angola. And although many babies are born there, and we trust and love the doctors there, the hospital just doesn't have the equipment and resources it needs to provide for anything that might go wrong, especially concerning the baby's aftercare, etc. so when we learned we were going to be parents, we knew that we would plan on having the baby at a hospital in Namibia.

In mid October Sam and I made the +/- 16 hour drive (with an overnight partway there) down to Windhoek. The drive was good – the 30 or 40 kms of off-roading went OK considering my big watermelon belly, even the border crossing was fairly straightforward this time and didn't take too long. We spent some time together in Windhoek until Sam had to return to Angola for a few weeks, while I waited things out in Namibia. I prayed often during that time of separation that Isabella would hang in there and not arrive before he could return. She did, and we were both VERY grateful, especially considering how things unfolded when she did decide to make her appearance.

Flash forward to November 18th - a day after my due date. My best friend, Amber, had flown in to be with me with the hopes of being there when baby arrived. [It's helpful to note that, in addition to being my best friend, she is also a doula (labour coach), a labour and delivery nurse, AND she is in her final semester of mid-wifery training.] This girl LOVES all things mother and baby! She had been there for a week and was nearing the end of her stay – with a return flight on the 20th November. I think both of us were starting to get nervous that she might have to leave without greeting our little one. So what did we do? We went on safari of course. Even though she had been to Namibia before and her main purpose in coming was baby-related, you simply can't come to Namibia without doing a game drive! So the three of us went to Okapuka and climbed up into the back of this lovely vehicle: (not the easiest thing to do at 9 months pregnant, I might add!) and we commenced bouncing and bumping and taking in the wonder that is the Namibian outdoors and wildlife. I think that both Sam and Amber were secretly hoping the terrain would get baby moving and yet hoping she wouldn't get moving while actually ON the game drive.

On our drive back to Okahandja (where we were staying) we made a stop at Monkey Mountain for a photo op. Because what else should you be doing at 9 months pregnant, a day past your due date, and in flip flops and a skirt? Scrambling up and over rocks! We had not had any maternity photos taken yet and it was dusk and the Namibian sunset was at it's finest. And it didn't hurt that Amber also happens to be an amazing amateur photographer. The Result:

Well, no baby that night, but I did wake up around 3am with some slight cramps thinking, “I wonder...” The next morning the cramps were still there, but no big deal – not even as bad as some menstrual cramps – and we had plans in the city. We ran errands in Windhoek and had a nice lunch – returning to Okahandja in the late afternoon. As we made and ate dinner I noted that the cramps were getting a little stronger and decided that my hunch was correct and that we would finally be meeting our baby girl. We finished dinner around 9:30 and we sat down to watch sitcoms as a distraction from what I now could decidedly call “contractions”. I remember thinking that the pains seemed to be much closer together and more intense than I imagined they would be at the start of things. I also clearly remember Amber saying, “on a scale of 1-10 think of these beginning contractions as like a 1 or 2.” and I remember thinking to myself, “If that is the case....I am in trouble.” A few more contractions after hearing this I could no longer be distracted by or pay any attention to the show were were watching, and I decided to take a warm shower.
The flat we were staying in is part of the Christ's Hope International center. This is the organization that Sam worked for and I volunteered with when I took my first mission trip to Namibia. It is where he and I first met. The flat we were staying in has a tub, but no shower, and the flat where Amber was staying does have a shower, so I was planning to go use the shower there. As I collected my things and headed to the door Amber asked, “Do you want me to come down with you and hang out there, just in case?” Considering how I was feeling I decided that would be a good idea so we headed downstairs together. I took a shower and realized that it was rather difficult to stand up straight during contractions and in my mind I kept hearing Amber say, “think of these like a 1 or 2....”

I dried off, got dressed and figured that Amber and I would go back upstairs...but the contractions seemed to be so close together and I couldn't imagine trying to walk up the steps. So I just sat there facing Amber, sort of bowing my head, closing my eyes and trying not to hold my breath as she encouraged and talked me through contractions. We talked about, “should head to the hospital?” I remember her saying it was really up to me, about what I felt comfortable with – how long to wait before going – because, you see, we had a 45 minute drive from where we were to where the hospital was. I remember saying, “I just don't want to go too early.” for several reasons – 1) if we were too early and they turned us away, where would we go? 2) if they admitted me, Amber wouldn't be allowed in and I was really appreciating her encouragement and knowledge through the contractions. A few more contractions and I decided that it was time to go to the hospital – mostly because I was having a hard time imagining what that 45 minute car ride was going to be like if I waited any longer.

Amber went upstairs to tell Sam to put the bags in the car. I'm not sure what time it was at this point – probably after 11 - it had been maybe an hour, hour and a half since I had come down stairs for the shower. Amber was gone maybe 5 minutes, and in that time...my water broke. When she came back and asked how I was I remember tell her, “I think my water broke” and I remember her asking me where I wanted to be, if I wanted to change positions, etc....and I said, “I don't know!” Ha. I just remember feeling like whatever place and position I was in I didn't want to move. At this point Amber decided to check my progress and Sam had the car ready and had just come in the room where I was. Amber checked me and there was a moment – this was the “I feel like I'm in a movie” moment. I felt like it got very quiet....as Amber announced, “Uh.... you are complete. You're having this baby now.” and then the classic line that I will never forget – she looked at Sam and said, “get towels and boil some water!” I may have even laughed out loud. I don't know if I actually did, or just felt like it. It just felt so surreal.

So Sam was sent off to gather everything needed to deliver a baby – his baby. He will be the first to tell you that it's a lot easier at the hospital where they have everything you need lined up for you, rather than running all over trying to find everything. I vividly remember Amber telling him they'd need something to clamp and then cut the cord with. And there was some discussion about sewing thread and then Sam remembering he had some suture he could use to tie, and as for cutting the cord, “Well....I have my Leatherman!” Wouldn't that make for a nice commercial? (in the end they decided on boiling the scissors instead).

So with Sam gathering things, Amber kept encouraging and helping me through the contractions, which I have to mention were way beyond a 1 or 2 at this point! ; ) She asked if I felt the need to push - which I did – and so it began. Sam did come back at some point around here and helped. I don't know how many times I pushed, but it really wasn't many, till Amber said she could see the top of her head - and she had lots of hair. I pushed again and there she was – all of her at once! Amber caught her and placed her on my chest. And I looked into my beautiful baby's eyes. Such a flood of emotions. Sam tied the cord off with suture thread and cut it with the boiled kitchen scissors.
Holding Isabella for the first time was surprisingly so completely normal – as if this was exactly where she belonged – so natural and at the same time it was so completely strange – is this really happening?? I was a mix of relief, excitement, love and an immediate sense that I needed to protect her. I didn't want to stop holding her and looking at her sweet face.

Logistically speaking though, I had to. Sam took her and cleaned her up and got her dressed while I did the same for myself, taking a lot of care to hold on to things and move slowly, as I had lost/was losing a fair amount of blood and was feeling pretty light headed. Soon we were all ready, and we climbed in the truck for that 45 minutes drive to the hospital. Once there, I waited while Sam got to continue playing his role in my movie as he walked into the hospital and proclaimed, “My wife just had a baby. We need a wheelchair.”

Here is where I'd like to share just how Isabella's birth was so beautifully orchestrated by God. How His fingerprints were all over it. Months before making the trip to Namibia for the birth, Sam and I had been discussing where we would stay during our time there. Although we planned to stay in Okahandja, I was nervous about how far away from the hospital we would be. I spent a number of weeks with my ladies praying about it. And then, somehow I just got a peace about it and felt that no matter what, God would provide, whatever happened would be part of His plan, and it would be fine. And it was. It so was. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

And that, dear friends is how our little Isabella made her debut. For us, life has always been an adventure. And we wouldn't have it any other way.