Friday, February 23, 2007

Birthdays




On January 29 we celebrated John's birthday. We had a very special meal. We hadn't been able to find chicken for ages and we finally got some, so we had chicken fixed his favorite way! We also invited the Southern Baptist missionaries over for supper...they left just a few days after that to return to the US for awhile. Anyway, John got lots of nice gifts from both his parents and mine and a few from me, too. I'm so thankful to have this good and godly man as my husband!



Today, February 23, was Daniel's birthday. It doesn't seem like 18 years ago that he was born right here in Niamey. He's a special kid and I've enjoyed every one of the 18 years with him so far. We wanted to make the day special for him, but didn't really know how to do that. The poor kid had a major math test today...and math has been a real struggle for him recently. But he feels like he did well on this test, so maybe his day wasn't totally ruined by it.

Anyway, while he was still in school, Suzanne, another girl in the dorm, the dorm assistant, and I "pinked" Daniel's room. So, when he got back from school, he was really shocked to find that he suddenly had a very girlie room. The plan was that I would sit in his room with the camera and take a picture of his reaction when he came in. Well, I waited and waited and waited. His roommate came and I told him to go away and not let Daniel know what was going on. Then I heard them singing "Happy Birthday" to him out in the dining room and enjoying birthday cake....and I was still sitting in his room waiting for him to come! Finally he did come, but he realized right away that he'd been "pinked" and he ducked, so I didn't get a very good picture. Frustrating after all that waiting! But I did get a piece of the cake anyway.



Later in the afternoon the dorm kids got to go to the Ambassador's Residence to play Ultimate Frisbee with the Marines, so I guess that made up for the math test. Until one of Daniel's friends wished him a happy birthday and one of the Marines said, "How old are you? Eleven?" The guy was serious, too. So then the Marines' buddies were saying to the Marine, "So how old are you, twelve?




We went out for supper to a Chinese restaurant and had "Chinese fondue". My sister-in-law, Lannie, had made this for us when we were at her house because it is a traditional food from her region of China. Last week we had eaten at that restaurant and when Daniel saw that have Chinese fondue there, he knew that's what he wanted for his birthday supper. It was an expensive meal, but, wow! was it ever delicious. It was almost as good as Lannie's, but not quite. Anyway, we had fun cooking our meat and other sorts of vegetables, noodles, tofu, and other "things"????? in the spicy, boiling water. John told the waiter that our son was celebrating his birthday. So at the end he brought us all sparklers. It was karaoke night at the restaurant, so the karaoke dude sang happy birthday and they brought Daniel a cup of sorbet with a lit sparkler in the middle and we all lit our sparklers from Daniel's.

Then we came back here to the Guest House where Daniel's friends were waiting for us. We had angel food cake made from a mix I had brought from the US with strawberries fresh from the gardens right here along the river and cream whip made from a package mix I bought here in one of the grocery stores. It was a wonderful dessert! Then Daniel opened his gifts. Again, he had plenty thanks to both sets of grandparents! We gave him a few things, but mostly we gave him money to spend when he gets back home to the US this summer.






How have these 18 years gone so fast? I have no idea! One mother wrote about her son turning into a towering teen that his growth was something that "caused her to feel approximately ancient, not to mention slightly shorter than your average troll." That is so true! And how did he get all these friends that, like him, look like men and not little boys? And how could he possibly be going to college next year?

Like I said, these 18 years have been great and I pray that as he goes out on his own that he will continue to love God like he does now and that he will turn into the kind of man that God wants him to be.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Young People










On my last post I said that 50% of Niger's population is under 15. I don't know what percentage is between 15 and 25, but it has to be pretty high. I think you get the idea that Niger's population is young. (This photo by Joni Byker.








Like teens everywhere, the kids here like to do what ever the latest style is. The guys love the ghetto look. The girls who can get away with it like to wear skimpy styles. They love rap and hip-hop. Many are rebellious. Sadly, they are being influenced by some very negative things coming out of the west. It's no wonder the US, and especially Hollywood, is not always appreciated!




Another thing most teens enjoy is sports. Sports are great because they help teach discipline and they give kids something to do to keep them out of trouble. When Mike Murphy was here, he had a dream to fix up the town's sports field which is basically just that....a field. We started a project to raise money to upgrade the field. A little came in and we were able to donate these nets. But, not much has come in and the mayor keeps asking if we can do anything to help. We thought we'd get a sizeable gift from Uncle Sam, but that hasn't come through.
The first picutre shows the soccer field which is a desolate stretch of sand. Animal poop litters the field and animals come meandering across even during games. The 2nd picture shows the ex-basketball backboards. The backboards and nets are totally gone, trash litters the ground, and the court is only sand. We would like to be able to put in a proper court, put up backboards, add a volleyball court, and put a wall around the facility. If there was enough money, lights could be installed for evening games and bleachers could be put in. This fund-raising project is a little different than others because it isn't directly for the church, but is for the town. However, it is beneficial for church/town relationships and shows our love for people outside our church community.
If you'd like to donate, you can contact SIM at Box 7900, Charlotte, NC 28241 or check their website at www.sim.org. You can even donate on-line! The project number is 97150, which you would need to mention on any donation you make.



















What to Do with Those Kids





As all you parents and teachers know, the best thing to do with kids is keep them busy! So, on Wednesday afternoons, which the kids have off of school, I have a Kids' Club for kids. John helps me with the music and Jeremy helps me with crowd control. That's why he has the stick in his hands. "Frapper! Frapper!" (Loosely translated, "I'm going to hit you!") As the famous line goes...Walk softly and carry a big stick. No, he doesn't normally hit kids, but the stick speaks their language.






Anyway, I digress.... Back to the club. We have singing, then we have a Bible story, a verse, a lesson in French, and we color a picture. I was trying to do a game with the kids, but the boys just wanted to leave to go play soccer, so I gave up on the game. Right now we are studying Elisha. Those are exciting stories and the kids listen spell-bound. That's about the only time during the club when they are really good! I also teach them Sunday School, which is the same idea, but it's more low-key. In Sunday School we are studying the Life of Christ. Those are exciting stories, too. I guess you'd have to say, really, that the Bible is an exciting book!


These kids are not always well behaved....I mean, look at the line up of boys on the couch. Don't they look mischevious? But, I love teaching them.
Well, that gives you a glimpse into what I spend most of my time doing. Hours and hours go into preparation because of doing it in another language.
There will be another blog coming up talking about teenagers. By the way, there was an opening line on my previous blog that didn't show up. I said that 50% of Niger's population is under 15! Kids are everywhere!!!! They're bored and they want to be loved.
All the photos on this post are by Joni Byker. I don't know if she's posted our pictures on her website yet, but you can check at www.bykerwoman.com.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Kids!


Kids are everywhere in Niger! Over half the population of Niger is under 15!

Kids are so willing to pose for photos. They love our digital cameras and crowd around after each photo yelling, "Ey ma di!" Which actually sounds like, "M di! M di!" "Let me see! Let me see!" Here are some of my favorite kid photos that I've taken in recent months.


This little guy was eating candy I had given him. His nose is just a little disgusting! He tries so hard to be funny...his version of funny is just spouting nonsense. And doing stuff like showing everybody the green candy in his mouth!



This little boy ALWAYS has a dirty nose. The first thing I say everytime I see him is, "Go blow your nose." He's so naughty, but so cute! He lives next door and all day long I hear his mom calling his name. Jeremy calls him Genghis Khan. But the other kids think he's saying "Genji Kaan" which would mean a good crazy person. Either way, the name seems to fit! See the string around his neck? Tied to the string is a leather pouch with some sort of verses from the Koran wrapped up inside. It is a charm.

This boy's name is....no kidding....Saddam-Hussein. He's very rough, almost like he'
s trying to live up to his name. But I've discovered if you give him a job to do, he's happy and is very willing to please.









These two are neighbors. The one on the left lives right beside us in a grass hut. She is so adorable, but so mischevious. She really can't sit still and loves to talk. The other one lives two doors down and her mom works in my house for me. She is generally pretty cute and likes t
o cuddle. But, maybe because she is the youngest of 11, she can sure pitch a fit! She just throws herself on the ground and screams and screams. Maybe because she's the youngest of 11, she is usually ignored when she has a fit!













This is one of the older brothers of the little girl that pitches fits. I don't think the stuff on his face is food or snot. They had been fixing up their house by dabbing liquidy mud on the walls and it had splatted all over him. Well, ok, maybe there is some snot there.















This girl is a relative of my house lady. Her family lives in Coutounou (or s
omewhere) and they left her here to live with her aunt (my house lady). She is about 15 and has quit school. She pretty much does all the house work at their house. She is a hard worker. The little boy is not her child. He is the grandson of my house worker's co-wife (their husband has three wives).







This is a picture Joni Byker took of th
ree girls in the village of D____. Aren't they adorable? I don't really know them, but I loved this picture. Check out Joni's website at www.bykerwoman.com.





It is not unusual....in fact, it is the norm, to have children peeking in our windows. They love to come to the kitchen window or door and talk to me while I'm cooking. They especially like to peek in the dining room window while we're eating. What's up with these strange white people? Why is Yaaye eating with his wife? Who does she think she is, acting equal with him? And what is that junk they're eating, anyway? And look at those pretty plates. John says it's like they're watching Little House on the Edge of the Desert. That's why we have curtains! One thing for sure....we never get lonely with this many kids around!

Next post.....what do we do with all these kids!?






Thursday, February 15, 2007

Home Improvements



Well, I'm back in Niamey, but just for overnight. The kids have a long weekend off school. Daniel will be going to Ougadougou for a softball tournament. Jeremy wanted to go along, so I brought him down. Suzanne and her roommate wanted to come to Tera, so it all worked out nicely.

We got so busy the week of Christmas and the week after that my house lady could only do the most basic chores. Things like dusting the window sills just didn't get done. Then we went to Niamey for two weeks. From Christmas until the time we returned to Niamey we had very heavy harmattan. (See John's blog for a good description: http://yaaye.blogspot.com.) So when we got home, our house was filthy. These pictures show a window sill, our dresser, and the floor inside the kitchen door that doesn't quite completely shut. Thankfully, she has caught up on the cleaning and has been keeping up with it better.

The past three weeks have gone by so quickly. But we life has been pretty routine and I haven't thought about what to post on my blog. Or maybe it's that I've been so busy that I haven't thought much about it. Two big things that happened are that first, Joni Byker came to Tera to take pictures of our work. She has a website: www.bykerwoman.com. I don't know if any of our pictures are up yet, but she's a great photographer.

The 2nd thing that happened is that Chad Winsor along with his wife and two children spent a weekend in Tera. Chad worked nonstop at fixing stuff that had fallen into disrepair. Two of the most exciting for me was that he fixed the floater for the water storage tank so that it will fill itself and cut off when full. That means I don't have to get up in the middle of the night to fill the tank. Because the middle of the night is about the only time we have water now. It's great to have that tank and have water all day. The other wonderful thing he did is to install more lights in our living room/dining room. That room was really dark with only one flourescent bulb. Now we have three!! We can see our food again! We can see if our Dutch Blitz cards are blue or green! We can see the layers of dust on the table!

We had two weeks of clear and therefore much hotter days. But now it is back to harmattan and cool nights. Gotta love all this dust!