Friday, May 25, 2007

Sweet 16

Suzanne's 16th birthday was on May 22. Because the 10th graders were taking exams this week, and because her birthday was on a week night, just our family went out for supper on the 22 nd. We went to a nice Lebanese restaurant called La Cascade. We gave Suzanne her gifts at the restaurant and she opened them while we waited for our food. We all ordered pita bread and hummus for an appetizer and then Suzanne had a pasta meal, I had steak au poivre, John had chicken, and Daniel had lamb chops. We were all pleased with our meals. We stopped and bought ice cream bars at a grocery story when we took the kids back to the dorm for the night.

Then today, Friday, we had the 2nd part of her birthday. She invited all the girls in her class over and all but two came. Daniel wanted to come for the food, so he invited his friend Joseph Cail to come along. The two of them are always ready and willing to show up for meals!

I made tacos. We can't buy taco shells or tortillas here, but pita bread works pretty well. So I made a delicious homemade salsa and then we also had cucumbers and carrot sticks with ranch dressing as a dip.

We had a chocolate cake for Suzanne. I had forgotten to bring birthday candles, but John found some cheap ones at one of the little food shops. The problem was that they were so soft from the heat they kept drooping over. Daniel got them all lit and before we could start singing half of them went out. So he lit them again and they went out again. So, I think she only had to blow out about 9 of the 16 candles.

Then she opened the gifts that her friends brought. She got some cute things from them. We had had a jeweler make a purity ring for Suzanne and it wasn't ready until today. In fact, it wasn't ready until the last minute because it was supposed to have engraved on it "One Life...One Love". But the jeweler who doesn't read English...who probably doesn't read at all...had written "Noe Life". Well, that would never do! It was a special moment for John to give it to her....we had told her about it on Tuesday night. Then she signed a pledge card and her friends all signed as witnesses. They were all excited about turning 16 and getting purity rings, too. May God keep each of these girls pure until their marriage day. We pray often for both Daniel and Suzanne to have godly spouses who will love God above all.

A Nigerien lady that teaches part time at Sahel Academy has taken over operating the restaurant at the airport. She was having an ice cream night and then a jazz band. So the girls wanted to go out there and Daniel and Joe did, too. They went to get two of Joe's fellow staff members, so we met them there. But it seems that the ice cream part of the evening was over by the time we got there! The kids had fun, anyway, just being with each other. The jazz was pretty good, but the drinks we ended up buying were pretty pricey!

Now she and her girl-friends are settling in for a long night of games and movies. I'm afraid I can't stay up any longer to get photos of that! The power has gone off, so I'm not sure what they're going to do. I need to paste this into an MS word document so I can save it and try to post it later.

Well, I wanted to share these pictures of our sweet daughter. She is truly beautiful, both inside and out. We love her and are exceedingly proud of her!

It is now June 2 and I am just now posting this! That is because when the power came back on the internet was still down. Even the next morning it was still down, and we were on our way back to Tera. As you know, there is no internet connection in Tera, so I have not been able to post this until today!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Evolution or a Creative God?

Did you know that there is a fish with lungs? This is no joke! It is not an urban legend....or maybe I should say a desert legend. This is the honest truth!

One of our staff members at Sahel, who grew up here in Niger and in Burkina Faso, told us how he went on a fishing trip in the US. When he told them about this kind of fish, they looked at him like he had lost his mind.

Well, it does seem a little far-fetched. But it's true!

They are called lungfish or more precisely "protopterus".

Many Songhai are fishermen because the Songhai live along the Niger River. The Niger River does not run through Tera, but one of the very large streams that feeds into the Niger River does. My friend's husband is one of these fisherman. A few days ago I was at her house and a huge fish was laying on the ground. I asked her what it was and she said it was a kind of fish that can breathe. In Songhai it is a "siiba".

Now, I looked this guy up on the internet just to get my facts straight and this is what I found out:

1. Lungfish are found in South America, West and Central Africa, and Australia.

2. The African variety have two lungs, use their fins (which look like four legs!) to feel their surroundings, live in fresh water, and can grow as long as six feet long.

3. During the spawning season the male and female of the African species build a nest for their eggs, then after the female lays the eggs, the male guards the nest.

4. "The African lungfishes ... dig out holes in the mud but cover themselves completely with a secretion that is given off by their bodies. As the water level lowers the secretions on their bodies will dry to form a kind of leathery cocoon that encases them until sufficient water has returned. During this waterless type of hibernation, both species remain dormant until the rains come to release them from their shells." (from

5. "For hibernating the fish literally chews its way into the substrate ejecting mud out of its gill openings; it may reach a depth of 3-25 cm below the bottom depending on the length of the fish; the lungfish wriggles around, thereby hollowing out a bulb-shaped chamber and coming to rest with its nose pointing upward; they breathe air at the mouth of the chamber's tube and then sink back into the expanded part of the chamber. As the water disappears the respiratory trips cease; air reaches the fish via the tube to the surface." (from

6. These websites also assure us that these species have been around for millions of years. I have read about these fish in textbooks that like to use their existence as proof of evolution.

7. When I see a creature this unique and amazing and so perfectly suited for its harsh, dry environment, I can't help but praise the Creator. Imagine a fish that can hibernate in mud and survive in a place where his watery environment completely dries up! I call that a creature created by a very creative Creator!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Trying to Survive the Month of May

Well, folks, I have to tell you that May is definitely the worse month in Niger. If you can survive May, you can survive anything. The only word to describe May is HOT!

So, we came back from Niamey on April 30, looking forward to a good night's sleep in our air-conditioned bedroom. But when we turned it cool air. Well, we made it through the night. John slept outside and I slept inside....we each chose the spot we thought we'd most likely get a good night's sleep.

The next day a guy came to fix it. Or should I say night because it was sundown when he came. He discovered holes in the pipe for the coolant, so he soldered them over, but he kept discovering more. Anyway, he gets it fixed, or so we thought, and we had cool air again.

But in a week, all the gas had leaked out again! So we called a different repairman because the first guy had just been in Tera on business and doesn't live there. This guy came and cleaned it up really nice and put in more gas, but didn't do anything to fix it. So guess what? A week went by and no gas, no cool air.

We decided we'd tough it out for the 10 days left before going back to Niamey where we could get the AC fixed. So we decided the best way to do that is to sleep outside because it is cooler outside than in. You can see how
we hung a net from poles that had formerly been an aviary. The first night was horrible. There was a thick dust cover hanging in the air, preventing any cool air from penetrating. In addition to that, it was unbearably humid. We literally rolled around in pools of sweat, absolutely unable to sleep. The 2nd night, Saturday, was better.
John's trick for staying cool is to get a towel really wet and then lay it over himself. Here he is catching a nap one afternoon. This trick is especially effective if you are under a fan or if there is a good breeze blowing. He was down on the floor to be directly under the fan in in line from the air (hot) coming in the window.
Then Sunday afternoon the power went off. Well, that's not terribly unusual, so we waited for it to come back on. We waited all afternoon. It was 110 degrees that day with 40% humidity and the "Heat Index" in the Almanac tells us the temperature in those conditions feels like 130. Here I am wiping the sweat off my fevered brow and fanning myself, drinking tons of liquids. (I wouldn't leave my yard in a sleeveless top like this, but in my own yard it's ok.)
So, anyway, sunset comes and I realize that our neighbors have electricity and we're the only ones who don't. John checks all the fuses and we haven't tripped any. Get this, the power company is right next door to us. John called over the wall to them and told them, they came and looked at everything with flashlights and kept proclaiming, "C'est bizarre". Which we already knew. They said, well, we'd have to wait until morning.
By that time we were so frustrated, so hot, so exhausted. If somebody had given me a ticket to fly back to the US at that point, I would have taken it. John called Chad Winsor, the fix-it man in Niamey, to ask for his advice. Chad asked if he should come up and we said no, especially we didn't want him driving in the dark. We told him we'd let him know in the morning if they could fix the problem or not.
The next morning Nigelec came and found the problem......wires in the meter had melted together and that was the end of our power. They had to replace the meter and the problem was solved. We had been about 18 hours with now power. A storm had come up in the night and we got 18 mm of rain. It cooled the temperature down nicely and probably saved all the stuff in the freezer. I'm not sure it would have stayed cold enough if the intense heat had contined.
In the meantime Chad decided we really needed his help, so he and David Ceton came up. They replaced some of the wiring coming out of the meter with a bigger sized wire so it wouldn't happen again, fixed some other problems we had, worked on solving a dripping problem in our water storage tank (which doesn't have water in it at this time!), and took our AC unit to Niamey to get it fixed. Later in the week they brought it back up and we finished our last four nights up there in a nice cool room. Best of all they were a huge encouragement to us....just to know that they cared enough to put aside what they were doing to come up and help us. Wow!
None too soon, either because I really hadn't been sleeping too well outside. It was the noise more than the heat. Either a place of worship was reading the holy book all night or the neighbors had a casette of the above being done that they played all night. I'm not sure why anybody thinks the whole neighborhood wants to hear it all night.
Guess what lesson I was preparing to teach the ladies that week? Job, of course! Now that puts everything into perspective, doesn't it? I mean, I THINK I have a lot to complain about until I read of all that happened to him!

No Shower for Over Three Weeks!

I'm sure you know by now about our lack of water. We have no water coming through our taps 24/7. From January to the middle of March we had times when the water was off, but the water storage tank filled up every night, so we had all the water we needed. By the beginning of March, it was filling up about every third day, but with careful use we could make the water in the tank last that long. But now we have nothing, not even a trickle.

The problem is due in part to the explosive growth of the town. Tera is no longer a sleepy little village. It is now a sprawling large town. Now, imagine, by the middle of March the temperature is over 100 degrees every day and in April it is 110 or more just about every day. So all those people are very thirsty and also very hot and smelly. So the consumption of water goes way up. Also, by the beginning of March it has been six months since we've had any rain and the underground water table has gone way down. And then there is the problem with the town having only one water chateau (tower)....they just can't pump enough water fast enough to keep that chateau filled.

So what it trickles down to is.....a few public water taps near the chateau have water. Trucks full of barrels and donkey carts piled with jerry cans, and women and children with buckets on their heads line up at those few taps that have water. Other people go to the resevoir where they bathe, wash their clothes, and water their animals. It is NOT very clean water and it can't be healthy especially since people and animals are also urinating in the water. But we have a barrel of that brown, muddy water brought in every day to water our plants and trees.

So, what do we do? First thing every morning I take or grab some kids to take our six jerry cans to one of those public taps. Since the line is so long, we just put the jerry cans in the line and leave them there....everybody does that. The people who man the taps move the cans along. Then a couple of hours later John goes to the tap in the truck and picks up the jerry cans. When he brings them home, we pour some of the water into a big barrel. From that we dip out water for cooking, bathing, and washing dishes and clothes. (On laundry day we hire somebody to bring in extra water. I have laundry done twice a week.) Some of the water we pour directly into our water filter.

To conserve water we use the outside toilet. It is in the corner of the yard with mud walls surrounding us. Here I am closing the grass mat door for a bit of privacy. Every body who visits us uses our latrine, so when they see the door they know somebody is in there. You can also drape a scarf or an item of clothing over the wall and that signals that somebody is in there....the pit latrine. This is neither pleasant nor fun, but it means a lot less water to have to haul in. The latrine is outside with no shade over it. You squat over the hole and believe me, that's no fun when the shade temperature is 113 and the sun is beating down on your head. Be glad you can't smell along with these photos!
We keep a bucket and a tub of water in the bathroom for having bucket baths. So, no I haven't had a shower for over three weeks. But I have bathed!
We are clean and we are not thirsty. Chores just take a little longer and it's definitely not convenient. But some people don't have a truck or a donkey cart to haul in water. My neighbor for instance has to carry all their water home in buckets on her short distance from the tap. The children are not very clean right now since all the water she carries in is for drinking or cooking. So when I feel like complaining I try to remember others around me who are worse off than I am! Besides lugging around those jerry cans is a good way to get buff!!