Wednesday, March 28, 2007

English in Thailand

The Thai people are beautiful people. I suppose there are some homely Thais, but I didn't see any! They are very gracious and always willing to please. English is a 2nd language to them and it may not even be the most used language at the hotel we were in. There were tons of Russians and Iranians on holiday there, not to mention the Thais, Chinese, and Indians who were there. It didn't take us long to figure out that our English was not very often understood...or at least not understood well. They made a valiant attempt to communicate in English, though.

Because I'm usually the one making the funny language mistakes, I got a real kick out of some of the English signs we saw in Thailand. Here are some of the funny ones we saw.
This was posted on the back of our door: "For your own protection, Please double lock your door or used a door chain whiling you in room."
This was at the pool to warn of deep water.
This was definitely my favorite: "To relieve yourself in an ideal of karaoke and live music in bewitching time." I don't think anybody would be very happy if the tourists started relieving themselves during karaoke time!

Trip to Thailand

John and I just returned from Thailand where we attended a consultation for missionaries. It was pretty good. Lots and lots of meetings. We were busy from morning to night with not much free time. The food was wonderful! The hotel was luxurious, at least for us! This is our hotel. We were on the 12th floor.

We had to go a few days before the consultation and stay a few days after. So we did get to see some things. That was because there are so few flights into and out of Niger. Not exactly a world-class tourist destination.

So, we had to fly from here to Casa Blanca, Morocco. The Casa Blanca airport is very small, but
clean. But after 6 hours, what is there to do? It was a LONG wait. From there we flew to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. We flew Emirate Air and they sure know how to run an airline! The service was top-notch. The airport is....opulent. But it was so busy and there were tons of people. People from every country in the world probably. We were so exhausted. It was the middle of the night, so we finally just laid down on the floor and slept. As I looked up, this is what I saw. They had these fake palm trees in the airport and columns with little lights on them. Anyway, our third flight was from Dubai to Bangkok. A driver picked us up in Bangkok and took us two hours by road south to Pattaya where our hotel was.

This hotel was called "Ambassador City" and it was like a little city. There were four hotel buildings, three pools, and a conference center. It was right on the beach. They had their own little tourist market, grocery store, and restaurants. Our meetings kept us busy all day long and into the night, but we were able to squeeze in some swimming and John went to the exercise room a lot. This was the view from our window. You can see the three pools and the beach.

After the conference we did more swimming, walked the beach, went shopping, and.....the highlight for me....rode an elephant! You had to pay to ride the elephant. Then the elephant man stopped the elephant and got off and took our camera and took photos for us. So we had to pay him a tip. Then when we got back from the ride, this guy told us to sit down at a table. We were like, no we don't want to buy any food. But they brought us a plate of pineapple and watermelon....part of the deal I guess. Then we bought bananas and fed them to the elephant and took pictures. We also got to sit on the elephant's tusks and the John let the elephant pick him up in its trunk. These elephants are so smart. The man just talks to the elephant and they obey. We went to a cheap place, but some of the more touristy places have elephants who "play" soccer and who paint pictures. These are Asian elephants and they are smaller than African elephants and I think more trainable. They were grey, but had pink splothces on their skin. It was a great experience and I'm glad I got to do it.

These trucks are the poor man's taxi. As soon as I saw one, I said, I've got to ride in one of those. They are pickup trucks with benches in the back. About 10 people can ride inside and then there is a special place where two people can stand on the back bumper. There are switches on the roof that you push to ring a bell when you want to get off. It was a lot of fun.
I have so many more pictures, but I guess this will do. It's hard to describe a new place to people. Everything was so different from Africa or from North America. It was clean, people are hospitable, it was so modern. It was a fantastic time.

Sahel Academy Outreach Team

On the weekend of March 9-11, a group of students and staff from Sahel Academy, where Daniel and Suzanne attend, came to Tera for a weekend of hard work. There were 26 in the group....5 staff and the rest students. Even more of the students wanted to come, but we just couldn't host more than that, so the youth pastor picked who would come based on applications and whether or not they had already done a ministry outreach trip this school year.

They were a great bunch of kids. Just the international-ness of the group was a testimony. One of the teachers, a Nigerien, was asked how we could all work together being so different and he was able to witness to the man of how Christ saves people from every tribe and nation. We had Americans, Koreans, a Nigerian, a Ruwandan, a Beninois, a Ghanaian, a Belgian, and a Nigerien.
They arrived Friday night and the men went over to the church property and set up camp. The young women stayed at our house. After supper we had an orientation and devos.
The first activity Saturday morning was a football (soccer) game between Sahel Academy and a Tera team. We were told that they picked the best players in Tera to play us! The final score was 2-6 and, ummmm.....we had the 2. But our guys had great attitudes and played hard. The wind blew ferociously the entire time and kicked up clouds of dust. It wasn't exactly ideal playing conditions!
After the football game, the group divided into three smaller groups.

One group went to Doumba to help them with their church building. They decided on their own to make bricks and put up their own church building. So, the Sahel kids went and helped them move bricks from the place where they were made to the building site. Daniel worked in this group. It will be a small, one-r00m mud-brick structure where God will be worshiped. Hallelujah!

The 2nd group went to the church property in Tera to help dig zai holes. I already explained zais, so if you don't know what they are, look at my previous post or check out John's blog at or Jeremy's at As I said previously, Jeremy had dug at least 1/2 of the property single-handedly. Other people had dug some (I dug a wimpy 28!....not all at one time!), so at the beginning of the day, probably 2/3s of the land was dug. They didn't quite get to finish it, but they dug a lot of holes and it is probably now 3/4s finished. Their rows weren't quite as straight as Jeremy's, but they did a good job.

The 3rd group helped me with a kids' club. The kids were pretty well behaved and enjoyed having a story, singing, making a craft, and playing lots of games. We had about 40 neighborhood kids. The work of this team was not as physical, but it was equally exhausting as they had the challenge of trying to communicate with kids whose language they don't know. We did have the Nigerien teacher, Suzanne, and myself in that group, so we were the interpreters.

On Sunday morning, groups one and two went to Doumba for a church service. One of the staff members preached and the kids did special music. The 3rd group stayed with me in Tera and did Sunday School with about 60 kids.

We're having a water shortage in Tera (still). We have a new big storage tank which helps with the problem, but we realized before the Sahel team came up that the tank was filling only about every 3rd night. We knew that with that many people we would really have to ration the amount of water used. Everybody had to use the outside latrine....which means you squat over a hole in the ground...and there's lots of huge cockroaches at night....and it stinks. Everybody got a bucket of water per day for bathing. We put one bowl of water out for washing hands before meals and everybody used the same water. The kids were good sports about it all and some even remarked that it helped them appreciate how easy life is in Niamey.

It was a great weekend and we were really glad the kids could come up. It was a great testimony to work together like that and to be of service to people in Tera.

Monday, March 19, 2007

If Gloves Could Talk

Awhile back we realized that we had a huge church property sitting mostly empty with just a small grass shack which serves as our church building. Why not plant the rest of the property with millet which, when harvested we can give to the poor. But, if we're decided if we are going to do it, we might as well do it properly. That means we needed to dig zai holes....a method of planting used in arid areas for increasing crop yield. Well, Jeremy ran with the idea. He has completely worn out the leather gloves you see here. These gloves enabled Jeremy to do a huge amount of back-breaking work.

First, he dug a 5-foot deep hole behind our store room. Then he and John went out and collected millet chaff and manure which they dumped into the hole and watered faithfully to make compost. Then he spent all morning most mornings of the week digging holes in the ground about 1.5 feet deep. Into these holes is dumped some of the compost. Then you let the wind blow the sand back into the holes, covering the compost. You can't plant the seed directly on the compost or it burns the seedling. Jeremy regularly dug about 45 holes a day. I guess that's approximately 9 holes an hour if he worked 4 hours a day. I went out a couple of times to "help" and I could only get up to 5 an hour! Of course, he's half my age so he should have been able to do more than me!

Any way, this is a tribute to Jeremy and all his hard work. He chose this as his project and he single-handedly dug at least 1/3 of the field himself. He had occasional help from people like me and his friends. The Sahel Academy team helped too....more about that on a later post. The exciting thing about all this work Jeremy has done is that his work will be good for three years. These holes do not need to be redug again for another three years. Amazing! Thanks, Jeremy!

For a slightly different viewpoint of zai holes, see Jeremy's and John's blogs: and