Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas, though it seems that this year it snuck up on me before I could get ready!
The first thing to do for Christmas, of course, is to get ready! We were busy right after Thanksgiving, so we didn't decorate until the 7th of December, which was Tabaski and a national holiday, therefore a day off school. John is decorating our little, tiny tree. We LIKE our little tree, and contrary to popular opinion, it is NOT a BUSH!!!

Here's our favorite little elf. She's wearing two of our Christmas stockings, decorations that Alesha made when she was a little mite, and a Santa hat.

This year for the first time ever, I got a little string of lights and hung them on our front patio. It looks very festive.

Then, of course, there was the office Christmas party but I never got any pictures of that. It was fun, though. Very low-key and laid back.

Then there was Carols by Candlelight, or as one friend quipped, Carols by Mosquito Bite. This was for the English-speaking community and was held at Sahel Academy. The nice thing about living in Niger is that you can have Christmas services outside. The highlight this year was the live creche. There was a calf, a sheep and her baby and a goat and her baby. Mary rode in on a live donkey, too. Everybody was a bit distracted when the lamb and the kid were taken from their moms for the shepherds to carry in. The mama sheep went beserk, running around in circles, bleating and trying to find her baby. They had to put the lamb and kid back and the shepherds came in without baby animals. In the picture, the shepherd on the left is holding the kid.

We also had three Christmas services at church. The first was Sunday morning before Christmas and all the Sunday School classes had special numbers. Of course, the youngest class stole the show. Here is the little Mary and Joseph. Then there was a Christmas Eve service that we opted out of. We did go to the Christmas Day service. I didn't take any pictures, but this is the church from the Sunday before. You can see all the decorations hanging from the ceiling. One of them even got caught in the fan during the message.
Before going to church we had our gift-opening and special Christmas-morning sticky buns that I stayed up late making. Again, as last year, we missed not having Daniel with year in America. About the picture...I had just gotten up, was still tired, and had a headache. What can I say?

Later in the afternoon, we went to our friends, the Chamberlains, house. They had invited a lot of people and we all brought something. The meal was great and we just sat around and talked and talked afterwards.

The men did the dishes which was really nice of them!

Naomi Brown, whose family had gone back to England in 2007, got to come back for the holidays. She was staying with the Chamberlains. Here is Naomi, Jessie, and Suzanne. Aren't they beautiful?!

Here's Suzanne having a cuddle with our neighbor boy, Tom, and reading a book to him. Family is what Christmas is all about, isn't it? Our own family here in Niger, our church family, our mission family who really do become like brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, and our American family who we miss. I thank God so much for sending his Son so that we could be part of the family of God! Merry Christmas to each one who reads this!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Bout Trip

Luke Ardill had been in Niger almost a year and was on his way out. He was staying with us and Suzanne suggested that we do something "touristy". She, Luke, and others went to the museum. There they met a guy who asked if they wanted to ride in his "bout". He spoke fairly good English, but he kept pronouncing "boat" as "bout". Like, I had a bout of malaria. Anyway, they agreed to meet him on Saturday for an outing in his bout.

It was a lot of fun being a tourist for a day. His bout was a large canoe, or pirogue, made out of wood. It was equiped with an outboard motor. It leaked a little and he did some bailing, but it wasn't so bad that it was scary. He had cushions in the boat and we relaxed on the cushions. "We" was John and I, Luke, Suzanne, and three of her classmates: Trae, Phil, and Tam.
It was nice to get away from the noise and bustle of the city and just float along peacefully. I made a bit of a lunch and we ate that as we floated along.

The owner of this boat must have Zain as his cell phone company. The cell phone companies here have signature colors that identify them. Even if you are illiterate you know which kiosk sells your recharge cards. Zain is pink and yellow.John made friends with the owner of the bout. He isn't the one who called it the bout....that guy was the travel agent. The owner is Songhai and is from Mali. They talked together for a long time.

We went along for almost two hours and finally got to a place where there were hippos in the river. It looked like there were two together and one looked smaller, so we assumed it was a mother and her baby. The other one was in a place apart. The bout man didn't want to get too close as angry hippos are very dangerous.

It was a really fun day. I'm so glad Suzanne found the bout man!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cake decorating

Here at the office we have a thing called "Pidgin". It is an inter-office chat line and we can message each other on our computers instead of having to go all the way to somebody else's office....I mean our offices are so far apart. Seriously, it really is nice.

Anyway, one day last week I was working away at my desk. It was one of those days when I had a lot to do and didn't know quite how I was going to get it all done. Then a message popped up from my co-worker, Doudou, asking me if I could do something for him. I hesitantly asked what it was he wanted. He said it was his fiancee's birthday on Friday and could I make a cake for him to give her.

Well, how could I say no? Anything for love! I asked what kind and he said all the cakes I make are good, so I should choose. Later in the day he asked if I could write her name on it. I said I wasn't sure about that!

I am terrible at decorating cakes, cookies, etc. Long ago when I taught at KA in Nigeria, I helped in a weekend cake decorating club. My friend was the expert. I was just there to "help". Everybody else made beautiful frosting roses, but I just made frosting blobs.

So, I made a spice cake and put brown sugar frosting on it. Then I saw the candy hearts in the cupboard and decided I could decorate with those. So this is what I did.
He was really pleased when he saw it. He said that was better than writing her name! He said she really liked it and was happy with it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Special Dinners

There have been three special dinners lately.

The first was a Mexican dinner the seniors put on for the community. This was a fund-raising dinner to get money towards their senior trip. Two of the senior's moms made Mexican food and the seniors ran a restaurant for the evening. It was every bit as nice as going to a real restaurant! The seniors worked hard the evening before and all day Saturday, and quite late Saturday night. Suzanne said being a waitress is NOT her calling in life! But the seniors did well, making about $800.00! Sadly, I forgot to take the camera.

The next special dinner was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was just a normal working day for us. But on Tuesday night I made dough for my dinner rolls. I have this really good recipe where you make the dough and don't even let it rise. You just put it in the fridge and you can keep it there for up to five days. By the time you are ready to use it, it has done its first rising in the fridge. Then you shape it into buns, let it rise, and bake it. Wednesday night I made my apple pie. Then Thursday I baked a chicken, baked the buns, and we were ready to go! I also bought sparkling grape juice for our feast. Our neighbors, Ian and Beka Rideout, invited us over. She also prepared meat, a pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and beans. Our other neighbor, Jeanette James, brought some things. She is Australian, but we let her come anyway. We also had Anisa Blomquist who brought some goodies, too. So, we had plenty to eat and pretty much the same things you enjoyed at your Thanksgiving feast!

Last Saturday night the Student Council put on an Italian dinner for staff and students at Sahel. It was a dress-up affair. John and I didn't go since we're not on staff, but it was fun to help Suzanne get ready to go. She was very beautiful in her little black dress. This dinner was also a lot of work, but guessing by the pictures it was a fun evening.