Thursday, August 24, 2006

Shopping in Niamey

One of our main reasons for coming to Niamey once a month is so we can go grocery shopping. This always takes quite awhile, but I have it down to a fine art and can usually do it with a minimal amount of stress.

But while we were gone in the US, I seemed to have forgotten the art of stressless shopping in Niamey (don't laugh, Mike! You'll be stressed on your end of the equation!).

First of all I've been so exhausted from jet lag and from the stress of the trip. I've felt like a zombie wandering through a thick fog. I felt like I could neither focus nor function.

Secondly, it is impossible to buy everything in one store. While we were gone I had rather forgotten which store had what.

Thirdly, I went to my favorite store. When I left, I thought the guard/parking attendant seemed kind of mad at me. I thought, "Well, he's gotten grouchy lately." Then I got to the end of the street and was trying to turn left. A policeman came up to me and said, rather sternly, "Why did you come the wrong way down a one way street?" I said, "WHAT? I've been gone a year and it wasn't a one way street a year ago!" He said, "Well, there's a sign saying it's one way." I told him I was very sorry, but I didn't see it. He kindly say, "OK, but don't do it again."

Fourthly, I have to buy for a month and there is no food in the house at all. So that means I have to buy a lot of everything. Then when I got to the cash register and she said "110,000" that just seemed like a huge amount of money. Food really is more expensive here, but 110,000 isn't nearly as much as it sounds! And that was only at one store. I hate to imagine the grand total of all the stores I went to!

Fifthly, I decided to go into the market and get the meat myself. Now, folks, these pictures I've posted here (compliments of Mike Murphy) are not of the scratch and sniff variety. The meat market smelled very strongly of raw meat mixed with the smell of the mud all over the ground, combined with the smell of rotting vegetables in a heap nearby. While I was waiting for him to get my meat and cut it up, a nun came to buy meat. She ordered something with bone in it. He laid the meat on a huge chopping block made of a log. Then he proceeded to whack at it with his huge butcher knife. Flecks of meat and chunks of bone were flying everywhere, landing on both the nun and I. The sister decided to cover her mouth with her handbag and I just stood there, patiently flicking off the pieces that landed on me. Now, you would think that all of this would totally gross me out, but I knew what it would be like and was pretty well steeled for it all. But this leads us to the sixth thing.

Sixth, while waiting for my meat, a young man stood beside me talking non-stop in French. I kept trying to get him to switch to Songhai, but he just switched back to French. It was taking a fair bit of emotional energy to maintain an even keel at the butcher's table (who, by the way, did an amazingly beautiful job of cutting the meat into steaks and cubes), so I had no energy left to concentrate on somebody talking nonstop in French. I just kind of zoned him out, muttering something in reply once in awhile. Then a fight broke out just behind us and he said, "See! That's what I'm talking about!" I had no idea what he was talking about or what the fight had to do with it.

Anyway, I survived my first shopping trip, though it took me two days to get it done. From now on I hope my shopping trips will be non-events for me, just another part of the routine.

A Weekend in Tera

We spent this past weekend in Tera. We loaded the truck with as many boxes and suitcases as we could. I should say John did. This was no easy task as we're staying in an upstairs apartment and each box weighs 70 lbs. I did help him carry some of them. The humidity in the air was so high that by the time we were done, he was literally soaked with sweat. I gave him a drink and had him change his shirt before we went to pick the kids up at school. As soon as we got them we were on our way....except we had forgotten the spare tire so we had to go back to the apartment to get it....then we were on our way.

Our house was in pretty good shape. Somebody had stayed there a few weeks after Mike left and then had it thoroughly cleaned. Things were a little re-arranged, but that is easily fixed. The worst thing was that termites had gotten into the cupboard above the desk and pretty well eaten the back of one section of it. They had eaten through a stack of typing paper and were starting in on the books. We needed to redo that cupboard anyway because of getting a desktop computer. We're so thankful they didn't destroy the books. You can see from this picture that, once again, it looks like a missionary barrel exploded in our house.

We had lots of happy reunions with our friends. They are not "huggy" people, but we got some near hugs, lots of smiles, and lots of "Barka"s ("Blessing!"). These are some of the neighbor children who came to greet. The two girls, who are sisters, are the aunts of the two boys, who are brothers.

Daniel and Suzanne were glad to see their cats again. Both are probably only a generation from being feral cats and they are not overly affectionate, so I'm not sure the joy was mutual. They're just happy if they get fed. They don't feel the need to be cuddled. Daniel's cat is 14 years old and still catches mice and lizards. She doesn't have many teeth with which to eat them, though!

John and I will go to Tera again this weekend, this time to stay until October. I'm going to do another blog before Saturday, then there won't be any more until October. At that time I may post 4 or 5 blogs and you can read them all at one time or read one a week and make them last!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Day 1: A Long, Eventful Trip

I can't even begin to tell you all the details of our trip to Niger. Let me just say there was a great deal of near panic at the very end! The day before we left we had to go get our wills signed at the notary, go visit friends who had just had a baby, and make one last stop at Pizza Hut. The kids had a youth event, and we were still packing and sewing name tags on the kids clothes.

We had to call Air France and notify them of our excess baggage. We had started calling on Saturday and still did not have an answer by Thursday morning, the day of our departure. To make a very long and stressful story short, we finally got word that we were allowed 200 kilos excess baggage per person and somehow they thought we had way more than that. They also wanted us to make sure the ink cartridges were out of the printers and that we pulled the beebee gun. So on Thursday morning, we were pulling the printers out of the boxes to get the cartridges out and pulling the gun to be sent on the container that is ready to leave for Niger. Our friend, Jim Knowlton, kindly found room for something he knows is extremely important to Daniel!

To complicate matters, the pastor called and said, "Have you heard the news?" We watched the TV, then, to find the news that we couldn't take any liquids or medicines not properly labeled in our carry-ons. So we had to pull stuff from our carry-ons and find room for them in our suitcases.

Pastor Terry Ribble drove us to the airport in the Grace Bible Church van. The check-in was lengthy, but no problems. The security was also very long and when we got through, our plane was boarding. We were due to take off right on time....but, some passengers were still in security, so we would wait for them. They came, but one more should be arriving soon. They got tired of waiting for him, but his suitcase was on, so they had to get in the cargo hold and find his suitcase and get it off the plane. Then a thunder storm kicked up and the entire airport was shut down. By the time it opened back up, we were about 10th in line to take off. Anyway, long story short...we sat in the plane at JFK for nearly six hours before we took off. Of course, we knew by then that we had missed our flight to Niamey as we only had a four hour lay-over in Paris.

I am posting this story in several segments, so go on to the next entry to read the next installment.

Day 2, Time in Paris





We arrived in Paris in the morning on Friday. The plan had been to get the connecting flight to Niamey later in the day. But that flight was leaving about the time we were landing in Paris. So we found our way to the place where you find out about connecting flights. You should have seen the line! In fact if you look, you'll see John just to the right of one of the big poles...the guy with the hat. We met up with two other missionary families and one single guy all on their way to Niamey and in the same predicament. Daniel made the most of the waiting time by taking a nap on the floor. The cold metal chairs were not conducive to sleeping in!

After three hours in line, it was finally our turn. We were told they could get us on a flight going to Morocco on Sunday and from Morocco to Niamey. But, they said, you'll have to collect your luggage and take it with you to your hotel. We told them that would be impossible as we had 27 pieces and the other family had 18 and the single guy had 3. The agent said, "Oh la la!" and went and spoke to her supervisor. We were given the OK to leave the luggage at the Paris airport. Anyway, all this took another 2 or 3 hours.

From there we found the information desk and made reservations at a hotel. One family had small children and decided to stay near the airport. But we found it was cheaper to stay in Paris and we wanted to do some sight-seeing. It took a long time to find rooms for all of us and we finally ended up with us being in one hotel in two rooms and the other family and the single guy in a nearby hotel in three rooms.

We were so glad to get some supper at a Paris restaurant. It was a chilly night, but we ate out on the street because there was so much smoke inside the restaurant. The owner's dog wandered freely around. The food was delicious and we were starved. We had had a pitiful breakfast on the plane and had had no lunch. The other family had a few Euros on them and bought us a bottle of water. So we were pretty dehydrated, too.

We sure slept well that night!

Day 3, Ste Chapelle and Notre Dame


Most people have heard of Notre Dame, but few have heard of Ste Chapelle. Ste Chappelle was built in the middle ages as the private chapel for the royal family. One entire wall is lined with stained glass windows depicting the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation. At either end are rose windows. One wall is beautifully painted. It is an absolutely gorgeous chapel and nearly impossible to describe. Daniel and Suzanne are exagerating the awe you feel when you first walk in! Downstairs was the chapel for the servants and courtiers. It was much simpler, but I thought it was also beautiful because the ceiling was painted dark blue and then covered with gold fleur d'elise to look like stars.

By now, we had realized that John was a good tour guide. In fact, people in the airport and in the train station were coming up to him, asking him questions. I guess they could tell that he was both bilingual and knowledgable. We jokingly began to call him "Moses", telling him to lead the way. Here you see him as a blur of activity. No wonder he gets tired! We got tired following him around, but we couldn't have asked for a better guide.

Notre Dame is only a few blocks from Ste Chapelle so our tour guide, John, took us there next. There was a very long line, so we didn't go in to the cathedral. Here we are at Notre Dame.

Day 3, Eiffel Tower




The fourth place our tour guide, John, aka Moses, took us to, was the Eiffel Tower. I know you've all heard of the Eiffel Tower. You can climb the stairs to the first level or go on to the 2nd level. If you want to go all the way to the top, you have to pay a rather large sum. Daniel, Suzanne, Jeremy (a missionary with another mission), and Luke Sauers climbed to the 2nd level. It was a total of 700 stairs. They said their legs felt like rubber by the time they got back down! The rest of us enjoyed sitting on benches resting our weary legs.

Day 3, Sacre Coeur




Our last stop of the day was Sacre Coeur. Our tour guide, John, told us that this church is built on the highest, and one of the few, hills in Paris. We did not go inside. We were so tired and so hungry by now, so we bought some Parisian street food: Croque Monsieur and Crepes with Nutella. A croque Monsieur is a sandwich with ham inside and cheese on top and it is toasted. A crepe is a sort of very thin pancake. There were different varieties, but we had ours spread with Nutella, a special chocolate spread. We then took it and sat on benches in a playground at the foot of the Sacre Coeur. The boys had a blast watching the pigeons, most of which had deformed feet. Suddenly a cat (with a little luring from Daniel), lept out of the bushes and grabbed one of the pigeons. The bird got away, minus a whole lot of tail feathers. We saw the cat back under the bushes with feathers stuck in his ears!

Day 4 and 5


Jet lag really kicked in Saturday night and I couldn't get to sleep until around 2 a.m. I slept until nearly 9, then took another little nap after breakfast. We had to leave for the airport around 11. This is a picture of us in the train station. We were quite the colorful bunch, representing the primary colors of yellow, blue, green, and red!

We stood in line for hours in the airport, getting our boarding passes and making sure our luggage would be on the plane with us. The Air France officials were very helpful.

The flight from Paris to Casa Blanca was about 3 hours. Then we had a six hour lay-over in Casa Blanca. We read, talked, walked around, played Phase 10, and I did some cross-stitch. It was a very boring six hour lay-over.

The flight from Casa to Niamey was another 3 hours and we arrived in Niamey in the stifling heat at about 3 a.m. Monday morning. Two of our bags were missing...John's and my clothes and one guitar. Nobody was there to meet us, but a missionary with another organization called some of our missionaries and in no time 2 vans and 1 pick-up arrived to take us and our luggage to where we were staying. We went right to bed and slept until noon.

We're slowly getting over jet lag and the kids are adjusting well. They miss their PA friends and their cousins, but enjoy being with their old friends here. We were able to pick up our missing luggage last night (our anniversary).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Leavin' On a Jet Plane...and a ferry...and a Toyota pickup


Well, folks, this is it. The computer will be packed today. We're still taking care of details, still running around, but this is it. If it doesn't get done today it won't be done! It's been hard to say good-bye, but I'm looking forward to saying hello to friends in Niger. It's hard to leave the life we've had here this year, but God has called us to Niger. He worked the miracle of bringing in our support and He'll sustain us in Niger. It's so obvious He wants us there!

Our van is being sold by a friend, but we'll likely have to settle for a lower price. We appreciate their doing this for us.

It is raining in Niger, but it's not a great rainy season. Pray for the rain to continue into October. That would be very unusual, but God is able.

Friends from church have fed us every night for a little over a week and that has been so helpful!

We leave here tomorrow, August 10, around noon, driving to JFK airport. Our flight leaves at 6-something p.m. EST. We will arrive in Paris on August 11, at 6-something a.m. Paris time (about 1 a.m. EST). We'll have about 4 hours in the Paris airport before we leave for Niger, arriving there on August 11 at 3-something p.m. (about 10 a.m. EST). By the time we get through customs at the airport, it will be supper-time. Somebody will feed us and then we'll head for the showers and for bed. We'll be exhausted by then!

The next day we'll do a little bit of grocery shopping, then head for Tera. This is us waiting to board the ferry and the next picture is the ferry we cross the Niger River on. The last picture is typical of Niger scenery...sand, sand, more sand. This was taken in the dry season. It should be greener than this at this time of year.

We hope to surprise our friends there! We'll spend a few days there before we bring Daniel and Suzanne back for the opening of school on August 16.

There is no internet access in Tera, so I will only be posting once a month when we go to Niamey. It will take us awhile to get everything reconfigured on the computer. Nothing ever happens as smoothly as you would like!

So, pray that we can get all our boxes on Air France, that all the details of the trip will go smoothly, that everything will arrive with us, that we will have a happy reunion with our friends, and that there will be enough rain for a crop. Pray for Daniel and Suzanne as they say good-bye here and readjust to life in Niger.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sacrifice and Ability

There are two statements I hear frequently when we are on home assignment. They are said sincerely and at first I found them flattering. But the more I think about them, the more I realize that they are not completely true.

The first is, "You have really sacrificed a lot to be a missionary in Niger." Well, maybe I've sacrificed a chance to have some of the nicer things in life, to own a home, to not have to pack up and move every four years, to spend more time with my family. But look at what I've gained: world travel, interaction with people from other cultures, a safe environment in which to raise my kids, freedom from materialism, and a simpler lifestyle just to name a few. Most of all, God has called me, and doing what he wants is not a sacrifice, it's a privilege. David Livingstone summed it up so well when he said,
"Forbid that we should ever consider the holding of a commission from the King of kings as a sacrifice, so long as other men esteem the service of an earthly government as an honour. I am a missionary, heart and soul. God himself had an only Son and he was a missionary and a physician. A poor, poor imitation I am, or wish to be, but in this service I hope to live. In it I wish to die. I still prefer poverty and missions service to riches and ease. This is my choice."

If it would be considered a priviliege to be an aide for, an advisor to, or an ambassador for George W. Bush or Queen Elizabeth or President Tanja of Niger, think of what a greater privilege it is to be a representative for the King of kings! Sacrifice? I think not! Privilege? Yes!

The other statement I hear often is, "It's good thing God called you to be a missionary to Niger, because I could never do that. I'd never survive." Well, there have been days I thought I'd never survive. And I've thought the same of other mission fields. When my friend in Almaty writes about the cold, I think, "Better her than me!" But the fact is, when God calls you some place, He gives you what you need to do it. I'm not some special person with an amazing gift called The Ability to Survive in Niger. If He calls, He equips.

One of Casting Crowns songs is my favorite and it sums it up so well. It's called In Me.
If you asked me to leap out of my boat on the crashing waves
And if you asked me to go preach to a lost world of Jesus saves
I'll go but I cannot go alone cause I know I'm nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I'm weak He makes me strong
When I'm blind He shines His light on me
Cause I'll never get by livin on my own abilities
How refreshing to know you don't need me,
How amazing to find that you want me,
So I'll stand on your truth and I'll fight with your strength
Till you bring the victory by the power of Christ in me.

If you asked me to run carry your life to the fallen land
If you asked me to fight deliver your people from Satan's hand
I'll go but I cannot go alone cause I know I'm nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I'm weak You make me strong
When I'm blind You shine Your light on me
Cause I'll never get by livin on my own abilities
How refreshing to know you don't need me,
How amazing to find that you want me,
So I'll stand on your truth and I'll fight with your strength
Till you bring the victory by the power of Christ in me.

To reach out with your hands to the world through your eyes
To love with the love of the Savior
To feel with your heart
And to think with your mind
I'll give my last breath for your glory

Cause when I'm weak You make me strong
When I'm blind You shine Your light on me
Cause I'll never get by livin on my own abilities
How refreshing to know you don't need me,How amazing to find that you want me,So I'll stand on your truth and I'll fight with your strengthTill you bring the victory by the power of Christ in me.

How amazing to find that He wants me! If He wants me, He strengthens me! Believe me, I'm nothing amazing, I've done nothing amazing! I'm just being obedient and being strengthened by the King of kings!!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Packing

Our house is in chaos right now. As my dad would say, it looks like a couple of missionary barrels exploded in here. Stuff is everywhere ...sort of organized...piles of books, piles of clothes, piles of medicine, piles of kitchen things, etc.

We said we wouldn't take much back with us this time, but somehow it accumulates. We have a lot of gifts to take back to our Nigerien friends. In their culture, a traveler always returns with gifts for family and friends.

We have shoes because the ones we can get there just don't last. Same with underwear.

We have some medicines and kitchen items we just can't get there.

New pillows and sheets. Sweat ruins bedding so fast and our old stuff was looking pretty bad.

Computer stuff. Definitely can't get that there.

We're packing it up in boxes and suitcases. Fortunately both John and I work on it. In some families one or the other spouse hates packing and is really bad at it and the other spouse ends up doing it all. It's rather a fine art finding just the right spot for that odd shaped item and not going over the 70-pound weight limit.

So, the chaos is slowly turning into packed boxes. I hate disorder so this is always somewhat stressful. Pray for us to get all the packing done and maybe have a day or two to just relax! LOL

Most of all, pray for the van to sell. We hate to leave it for somebody here to have to sell for us.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sailing, Part III


Our friend's boat~~~~~~
A glorious day, a beautiful daughter~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I'm sailing! I'm sailing!" (from What About Bob) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~