Sunday, August 23, 2009

Standing Out

I almost didn't make it to Hosanna church this morning because I thought I would be late and I hate being a bad example. Plus it's not easy to slip in because everyone's facing the entrance when you come in, so everyones sees you. But I still went and there were no seats on the outer edges of the congregation, so I had to walk in the middle. Once I found and open seat and went to sit down, Mariama (the lady I'm going to help with her English and her daughter's in my class) grabbed me and was trying to tell me something something was wrong with the way I was dressed, but I couldn't understand what she was saying. So, she took my hand and guided me out (through all the people mind you!) I kept checking, making sure my skirt wasn't backwards since it has a split. But it was fine and I just didn't know what I did wrong. Finally we get out and her and her friend directed my attention to my zipper. It was completely open! It must have popped! So her friend kept messing with it, trying to get it to zip right and Mariama was offering to go get me extra cloth to wrap around me. Somehow her friend was able to fix it and I just made sure my shirt covered it in case it decided to pop again.
Talk about embaressing! And all those people I walked in front saw my zipper wide open! I'm just sooooo thankful I knew Mariama and she took care of me :) I just love how people take care of one another here.
After I went back in and sat where I was originally going to sit, I realized that I wasn't late and that the other M's that usually go there weren't there yet. So this made me feel a lot better. But since I was the first one, I sat in between 2 Africans, and one asked me if I could understand. I said no, that I speak English only. He said he only knew English "small, small", so looked around and got the translator to come sit next to me. Another big production! I just can't blend in here at all! And then the translator has a loud voice, so I felt bad making all the people around me have to bare with my not knowing French and need for a translation.
At the beginning of the church, the pastor has everyone sing a song by people group and I continue to be amazed at the great diversity. At least 10, probably more, different types of people and languages spoken. It's all the tongues coming together to worship, I love it! The other Americans finally trickled in, and as the pastor was urging us to get up in front, my translator was talking to the guy next to him so I didn't know. Otherwise I would've gotten up. However, I kept watching to see if they were going to go up front and then I was going to follow them. But no one ever got up. Next time I plan on having something prepared in advance and will jump up when no one else is up there.
So this morning was very interesting to say the least.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rest of the Ghana Story

During my summer break I had two plans: 1. Go to Ghana 2. Go to Kollo. It was obvious that I was going to Ghana to help with a VBS and then to have some vacation time and rest. Not only did I need rest physically, but also mentally and spiritually. Well I had a fun time and all, but I stayed very busy the whole time and never felt fully refreshed. By the time it was all over, I was ready to get back “home”. I never knew I’d get homesick for Niger, but I did. Little did I know that once I got on the plane to go home, God had other plans in mind.
Already I had experienced some tragedies during my trip to Ghana. I forgot my computer cord at home (which I had anticipated catching up with friends and such, I really needed my computer and was devastated!), then I noticed my watch start to slow down until it finally quit (I just got the thing last Christmas! I need a watch! Not that it always helps since I’m often late places, but still, I depend on it), then I left my phone in a taxi (I thought I lost all of my contacts and definitely lost the ability contact or be contacted. I need my phone!), then the final straw broke. While I was sitting on the beach watching the tides go in and out and reading a book, a huge tide came up to me and I stood up quickly (forgetting that my camera was in my lap!) My camera fell and the wave took it away but left it on the shore. It was broken. At first I was in denial, but after I tried everything to save it I had to face the hard truth. My camera was a goner.
So my trip to Ghana was fun, but I suffered many loses of material possessions that I treasured and relied upon a great deal. Now back to the plane. I was so impressed that my bag wasn’t too heavy to check-in carrying the prized items that I bought in Ghana. The lady then told me that the next time I’d see my bag again, it’d be in Niger. I was okay with that. I went through customs, took care of business, did a little last minute shopping (got so Toblerone chocolate J ), waited to board the plane, then got on. I had the whole side row to myself, things were going good. We touched down in Cote d’ Ivore to drop off and load up people, then off we went to Burkina Faso where I had an hour to get on another plane. Do you see the red flags?!
As we’re getting ready to land, the flight attendant told everyone in French and then African English what to expect. Somehow I had it stuck in my head that I would have to go back through customs since I didn’t have a ticket to board the other plane and missed whatever she said. I filled out the customs form and got on a bus to take me to the terminal where I would go through customs and get my ticket and then get on the plane home J. Everyone around me spoke French, and I was hit once again with the realization that I was once again in a place where I can’t understand or talk to people. It was so nice being in a country that spoke English J. But now I was lost. So I went through customs, passed up the luggage belt (since I was told mine would meet me in Niamey), left the terminal and went into the area to check baggage and get tickets. “Wait a minute, there’s a family standing in line from my flight with their checked luggage. Did I not hear the woman right?” I asked the woman if she spoke English, she said her son did. I asked him if I needed my luggage and he said, “Yes.” I ran back out and to the luggage claim. No bag. I asked a guy if he understood English and he did a little. I asked about my bag and he said that it’s on the plane and that I needed to hurry because the plane was about to leave! I ran back to the ticket counter and the family and everyone else that was in line was still there! They were all a bit fit to be tied and speaking loudly in French. “Oh I wish I knew what was going on and why they aren’t letting us on the plane!” I waited a long time, then finally the family started to leave. I asked them why they were leaving, and they said that there was no room left on the plane. They asked if I had a place to stay, and I said that I did. I went up to the counter, feeling very flustered because I had a reserved space on that plane!! Why did I not do this before, I don’t know. I was being considerate of the others waiting I guess. I bumped my way up and showed the guy my itinerary. He asked me, “Why aren’t you on that plane?” I didn’t know what to say, I wanted to be on that plane. Come to find out, all of those people were waiting standby. So when I did see one guy get through wearing a huge grin on his face, he probably got my spot. So now, I’m stuck in an airport by myself, unable to speak the language, without any money, no phone, and really having to visit the Lady’s room bad.
The story gets better I promise, just hang in there.
I went to the Air Burkina counter to see how I could get on another flight. Thankfully the lady spoke a little English. I asked her how I could transfer my ticket to the next outgoing flight to Niamey. She looked it up and the next flight I would be standby (3 days away), otherwise I’d have to wait a week. There are only 2 flights a week that go into Niamey. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Now I’m thinking, I need to call Shelley who’s waiting for me at the airport and I need to call the guest house, but I have no phone and this isn’t America where there are payphones. Even if there was, all I had was a couple of coins in cfa. At least I had the number for the guesthouse, but I knew that the guy in charge is in Ghana (I vacationed with him and another friend) and it was a Saturday. I asked the lady if she knew where I could find a phone. She advised that I go outside and I’d find one. Great.
As I left the ticket area, I stopped by the Lady’s room. Thankfully I had just enough money to be able to use it. I thought you only had to pay in European countries! Still, I paid and found a place of refuge. I wept and I prayed. I had been stripped of everything. Now I don’t even have a bag. All I have are the clothes on my back and my backpack. I had nothing to depend upon but God.
“Wait a minute, I have a $20 bill. Everyone loves American money.” I went back to the lady and traded it in for cfa. Not much, but enough to get by. Then, feeling totally reliant of the mercy of those around me, I trekked out to find a phone. The first guy I met was a taxi driver wanting to give me a ride. I told him that I might but that I needed a phone. He took me to a phone card booth where I bought a SIM card and asked him if I could borrow his phone. I called the numbers I had been given before leaving Niamey. I thought they were my friend’s but it turned out to be the worker at the guest house who JUST got back from vacation himselfJ. He told me that if I could get a ride to the guesthouse, he’d meet me there. I used the services of the helpful taxi driver and arrived with great relief at my destination. My rescuer was in his office and let me use his computer to e-mail Niamey and try to contact Shelley. I felt horrible that she’s standing at the airport waiting for me, but I had no way to get a hold of her. I was then given the key to my room and an invitation to go shopping for necessities. I went up to my room, in a quiet place where for the first time in weeks I was all by myself. It was kinda nice.
Then the phone rang. It was my supervisor who lives in Burkina Faso. She told me that I had people all over West Africa worried about me and that she was so relieved to hear my voice. I was glad to hear hers. She told me that she’d call Shelley for me and then take me shopping. I got all that I needed and later reflected on how in the midst of great trial, God took care of everything. And the time I so wanted in Ghana to get spiritually refreshed, I would now have since I have nothing at all to distract me. Also, the fact that the guest house was empty and had room for me was unique because it had been completely packed the week before. I can’t help but think that God set this all up so that He would have my undivided attention. No computer, no watch, no phone, no camera, no bag, no extras, just me and Him. And we did have some precious moments together. I hadn’t felt that close to God in a long time.
James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

Friday, July 3, 2009

End of the School Year

I have not been keeping up with my blog because I get discouraged by trying to upload photos and then having them not come up in order, so I will continue to post most of my photos on Facebook and then do most of my writings on here. I've been here 6 months, and just now finding a system that works.
A lot has happened that I haven't been able to share with you, but now I realize that I can share little things that happen here and there on here instead of waiting for a newsletter. Sorry this is all just now coming clear to me.
So I shared in my last posting that I had the opportunity to visit Maradi, and major city that's 10 hours from here. This was a tremendous trip as it offered me an opportunity to get away and reprioritize life. It was a time of great spiritual revival and I was ready to take on the world when I came back to Niamey! While I was there, I also had the opportunity to visit a leprosy hospital and crop planting project. Both were very neat, as both are meeting the needs of the people and there's many opportunities to share stories and the plan of salvation.
After coming back, the school year continued in full swing. All went well for the most part. A sad moment was when my student from Norway had to return home. I had spent a lot of extra time with her, teaching her english, so as to form a special bond. It was very hard to see her go, but I will see her again this coming school year. So then I got a taste of what it's like to say final goodbyes. Being in this type of ministry requires many goodbyes, as teachers and students come and go quite frequently. It's bitter sweet and you just learn to treasure each and every moment you have with each person.
At the end of the year, I had the opportunity to assist my friend Ruth with icing the graduation cake! It was so much fun and turned out really beautiful in my opinion. We were a little late to the graduation, but that's okay. It was a lovely ceremony. Being that it's a small school, I also had the privilage of attending their banquet as well (which is like their prom). Even though I didn't have any special connections with any of the students, I still enjoyed this very much :) Next year I hope to seek out more opportunities to hang out with the upper classmen.
Wrapping up the year, my students had a swimming party, signed yearbooks, received class awards, cleaned out the classroom, got report cards, and finally ended with an assembly. Then they left. All went smoothly, I was just exhausted by the end! The last day was all that I had hoped it to be and still can't believe that my teaching the grade 1 & 2 class is finished. I'm going to miss my kids very much! At least I will see many of them on the playground and church next year :)
Now for the goodbyes. At church every Sunday, they have a time for hellos and goodbyes. Towards the end of the school year there's always a lot of goodbyes, and it's a time to see your friends one last time. Many times (as long as I'm all prepared for school the next day) the singles will go out to eat afterwards (it's an evening service as many of us attend a local service in the morning). I was able to hang out the last couple of times, as I knew these were my final times to get to be with Kathryn and Mike, both a very treasured friends. I did have the opportunity to spend lots of extra time with Kathryn, which I will hang on to these memories forever. Our last outing was right before I was to leave for Ghana, and she for home. We had planned to get pedicures, but nothing was working out! Just another reminder of where we are :) Looking back, it was a time full of adventure and laughter and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Did I mention I hate goodbyes? I also had to say goodbye to my dear friend Wanda, but I have a good feeling that I'll be seeing her again since her son will be going to the same school my Bryan goes to, which this connection still blows me away.
I will end here and then post about my time in Ghana on a seperate post. So much has been happening!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maradi Road Trip

I know it's been awhile since my last post, I just didn't realize it had been 3 months! Time really goes quickly around here, and I'm sorry I haven't been very faithful in keeping the blog updated. I promise I will now be more faithful and plan on updating with new posts at least everyother week.
So now I'd like to share with you some pictures from my trip over to Maradi. I had been invited by another organization to take part in their orientation, so I did. This also meant that I drove the 10 hours that it takes to get there, but I didn't mind. I love to drive :) However, this road trip was quite a bit different than any other I had ever been on before. First I have a picture of some items I collected along the way. Just like you have to stop in West at the Czech bakery for kolaches, we had to stop and get special items that's well known to certain cities. I got a pinapple in Dosso, onions in Galmi, and honey in Maradi. You know, they would probably tast good all mixed together with some chicken and served on rice. I'll have to try this next time :)
On the trip there were 2 trucks and 6 people initially. We picked up 2 more people in Galmi, making 4 in each truck. My truck included the young singles. It was a great time to share testimonies and just chat. While we were on the road, we passed by a city who was having their weekly market day. Actually, this was on our way home. There were people and cattle everywhere! Market day is a very busy time of trading and selling.

There are not only motorized vehicles on the road, but donkeyized vehicles :) This cart is carrying a load of onions to Galmi to be packaged and sent elsewhere. These onions, I am told, are a major source of income for Galmi because they're a special onion only grown in Galmi. And I can speak from experience, they are very good :).

Here is another interesting vehicle we saw on the road while traveling through a town. I wonder how they got all the goats up there anyway? I've heard, but not seen, that there has been a cow strapped onto the roof of a van before. A cow! Now that would be neat to see :)

The sheep don't have is so lucky, they have to walk to their destination. However, this slows down traffic in the process. Sometimes, if they weren't all together, I'd have to watch for them or else they would jump out of no where. So I had to keep alert at all times. Now there were goats and cattle just roaming around that I had to be careful for as well.

Here is a closer look at our "chocolat dipped" sheep as we like to call them :) Here, sheep look a lot like goats. They way you tell them apart is by their tails. Goats have tails that stick up, and sheep have tails that are long and hand down. Kinda like their ears. They're so cute :).

While we all stopped for lunch on the way home, a Fulani man road passed us on his camel. Just him and his camel out in the wilderness. How peaceful.

Here are some camels waiting to be sold I think. These animals are truely amazing int the way they are able to fold they long legs in sit so contently. Truely amazing.

Along with the sheep, goats and cattle, there would be camel just roaming about in the middle of nowhere. This one is very close to the road! Also, the camels we're used to seeing are tan in color. While we drove, we saw some very interesting colors on camels. . . .

Like these that are two-toned. Very interesting.
Well, this is all for now. Next time I'll share pictures from my actual trip in Maradi.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My New Normal

As I live here in Niger, I have found myself adapting to my environment more and more each day. Things that I once considered different and exciting, are now a daily occurrence and just "normal". However, they're things that are very different from what I was previously used to and believe my new normal would now be considered as different or maybe even "weird" to all of my friends and family back home. So I have decided to share a list with you all of things that I experience on a daily basis. I hope you enjoy it :)

-Sharing the road with donkeys and camels
-Dodging goats on the road
-Driving on very bumpy dirt roads to get to a friend's house
-Greeting everyone I see with "Bonjour" or "Bonsoir" and a smile :)
-Not being able to buy produce at a store, but at a stand
-Having to wash my produce with bleach water before eating any of it
-Only drinking water that comes from a filter
-Brushing my teeth with filtered water
-Pushing a button on top of the toilet to flush
-Manually igniting my gas stove and oven with a stick match
-Limited access to regular TV (no complaints)
-Watching movies on my laptop with earphones
-Making calls home through my laptop
-Refrigerate fruit so that they don't ripe too quickly
-Go to a bakery to get FRESH croissants and baggets :)
-Icecream costs $9.00 per quart!!
-It is 100 degrees F in February and I don't need to use an air conditioner
-My feet are caked with sand and sweat by the end of the day and feel so refreshed after being washed
-Houses are surrounded by walls and have guards in front of the gate
-Livestock "grazing" in trash dumps
-Lizards everywhere!!
-No baggies with zips, they must be tied off
-Items at grocery store are mostly in foreign languages
-People carrying rolled up rugs and buckets of doughnuts and other items on their heads
-Guys selling phone cards at stop lights
-If I want yogurt, I make it myself
-I hang my clothes out to dry, and then they dry in like 30 minutes
-On a roundabout, the cars/bikes/motorcycles coming in have the right away
-You don't pulled over for speeding, but for not using your blinker
-Taxis are everywhere and drive slow and are unpredictable so I often pass them up
-It's okay to dance in church
-Church services are performed in at least 2 different languages
-It's okay to cross lines on a major road to pass someone up
-Dust so think in the air that you can look at the sun without hurting your eyes
-Call to worship and drive by groups of men kneeling to pray (actually not a norm, still hard to see)
-Plugs have two round prongs and the outlets are circlular
-Mosquito repellant is my new perfume
-Pay as you go cell phones
-Mango juice is my new favorite drink :)
-Sodas are in glass bottles with caps, after I finish I save the bottle to return
-Tailors are readily available to make outfits, out of material bought at a market, into any pattern I like
-During the day I open my door to a melody of different birds singing

There are many more, but I think this is all I will share for now. I hope you have enjoyed a taste of my new life here in Niamey:)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sahel Academy

The first week of school students were able to eat lunch outside in between the cafeteria and the High School building.

This is the building where the teachers lounge and French room are found.

This is the cafeteria, aka auditorium, aka sanctuary, whatever you need it to be, that's what it is :)

This is the elementary building. My room can be found on the other side of the second and third doors :) It has been explained that the sidewalks are our outdoor "hallways" :)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Streets of Niamey

This is a typical side road in Niamey. Very sandy and bumpy.

This is the gate to the school I serve at. If the gate is closed, a guard is always available to open it to let me in. If I'm leaving, he'll open it and then check for traffic for me then wave me on if it's clear.

This is the bridge that crosses the Niger River that I cross everyday to get to school.

I am stopped here waiting to meet up with someone, so I decided to take some pictures :) There are a lot of these big trucks because they are building another bridge to relieve the traffic on the current bridge. Since there are a lot of big trucks traveling on this sandy road and dry conditions, water trucks often go down the road(same as my school's road) to help keep the sand from getting too stirred up.

Saw some camels (not uncommon but always neat) while I was waiting :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Home!!

This is my new home in Niamey, Niger! I have lived here about a week now and continue to be blessed each day :)