Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Suzy's Birthday

Suzanne turned 18 on May 22nd. A fellow student, Rufus, celebrated his 17th birthday on May 23rd. Since he lives in the dorm, we threw a party for the two of them together. The high school is small so the kids do a lot where everybody is invited and the kids are so busy it would be difficult to have two parties in one weekend.

We invited the 11th and 12th grade classes to go with us to the sand dunes outside of town. I spent the day fixing food: tzatziki, maccaroni salad, cupcakes with four colors of frosting, and baked beans. I also had to make a trip to the store and make sure the Cokes were cold.

We borrowed a fellow missionary family's car and piled everybody into their vehicle and ours. Here in Niger people can ride in the bed of pick-up trucks, so we had plenty of room for the 17 who went. We parked our vehicles at the bottom of a hill....we discovered we probably could have driven a little farther up. At any rate, we hauled the coolers of sodas and food and other paraphernalia up to the top of the dunes.

The kids made it to the top much faster than we did. John and I had to stop and talk to the dude you have to pay to park there. I guess it is a government thing to protect the dunes from the tourists. It really is amazing that for as many expats as go up there that there isn't trash everywhere, but it's not like that at all. We were also the last up because I was so slow....going up hill in sand is not as easy as you might think!

We had a great panoramic view from up there.

The kids had a fun time jump off the dunes and trying to climb back up. Then we ate supper. We had the coolers perched on the edge of the dune. Basically one side was a gentle slope down and the other was a drop off. So we had to balance the stuff on the only flat surface which was the edge of the dune! Never the less, sand was in all the food. It must have tasted good anyway, because it all disappeared.

Some Nigerien boys were down in the streambed playing soccer, so a bunch of our guys went down and joined them. Even in the evening it was probably about 105 degrees and we went through our five gallons of water in no time flat and drank 24 Cokes. The kids were still extremely thirsty so we abandoned the plan of singing worship songs in the dark and went home for more water. We went through another three gallons of water there. After a game of Mafia, people were still thirsty, but the cold water was gone and it was time to go home anyway.

On Saturday night we took Suzanne out to a Chinese restaurant for Chinese fondue. Ever since my sister-in-law, La-nee, served this to us it has been a family favorite. A boiling pot of water with spices in it is put in the middle of the table. Then there are plates of raw meat, vegetables, and vermicelli. You drop the stuff into the boiling liquid, then fish it out and dip it into a spicy sauce. Very delicious!

After supper, we came home and gave Suzanne her gifts. Daniel had brought her a very nice study Bible from the US. We gave her all Nigerien-made gifts, but they were all specially designed for her. One was a metal box with African scenes painted on it. We also got her a silver Africa necklace. And we had a messenger bag for her computer (that she doesn't own yet!) and a tote bag made from African cloth. The messenger bag is on the right hand side of this picture. By the way, we are opening gifts on our bed so we could enjoy the air conditioning. No AC in the living room!

I hope you'll excuse a little parental bragging, but Suzanne is a real joy to have as a daughter. Of course we have our moments, but we are very proud of her. She is a beautiful young lady on the inside and outside and a lot of fun, too!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's Hot!

Over all, Niger is a pretty hot place to live. In December the nights get down in the 50's and we call it cold. But if every month is "hot", May has to exceed them all on the misery scale. Even the Nigeriens are miserably hot and the favorite greeting after the usual, "How are you?" is "How is the heat?" The response is that it's really hot or a resigned, "It's the season for it."

Right now it is 5:20 p.m. and it is 108 degrees according to the internet. I'm guessing it was over 110 at the heat of the day. And this morning when I got up at 5 a.m., the internet said it was 90 degrees. As you can see, it never gets truly cool during the month of May.

Butter that you forgot to put back in the fridge when you went to church is a liquid blob when you come back three hours later.
Birthday candles refuse to stand up straight. (Notice the two candles under "Happy" on our friend Mike's birthday cake.)

Overhead fans move the hot air around and offer a little relief. We have air conditioners in our bedrooms that we use at night, but no cooling in the rest of the house. There is an evaporative cooler in my office, but it just adds to the humidity that has been increasing so we don't usually turn it on.

All over town, people are running air conditioners and fans and sometimes the power grid just can't handle it all and the power cuts are more frequent. A couple of weeks ago the power was off for four hours Saturday night and three hours Sunday night. We had candles on in the house, but we were out on the terrace with a battery lamp and flashlights hoping against hope to feel some kind of cool breeze. Sahel Academy seems to have more frequent power cuts than anybody and it is not unusual to go over there in the afternoon and see classes being conducted outside....sure it's hotter outside than in, but at least the air moves outside.

Every day we look at the sky, hoping to see clouds, praying for the first cooling, refreshing, reviving rain of the season. In fact, if you want to hope along with us, here is a fun website to look at. Just click on the underlined print and it should take you right to the sight. If you see dark red over Niger, that is probably rain.

In the meantime God's Word, as always, is an encouragement. These are some of our favorite hot season verses:In case you can't read that, it is: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that send sout its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7 & 8

Please pray for us during the rest of this month and into June. It is really hard to be kind and patient to each other when it is so hot. Tempers run short because every body is over tired. Then we have the stress of packing up to return to the USA for home assignment coupled with the busy-ness of ending our jobs well and getting ready for Suzanne's graduation added to the heat. We're doing ok, but we do need your prayers.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Party Time!

This has been the week for parties! Maybe it's what keeps us going in the heat.

On Wednesday, the ladies from the office went out for lunch together. Two of the ladies couldn't go, but there were five of us. Until recently the men have far outnumbered the women, so it was nice that we are increasing in number! (A year ago it was Linda, Ouma and me.) On the left of the table from left to right are Linda, Ouma, and Ruth. They all work in treasury. Linda actually works in Projects, but she has been helping out in treasury. Beka on the right side of the table runs the guest house in the absence of the usual guest house hostess, but starting this summer she will switch to being the director's administrative assistant. I really appreciate being able to work with each of these ladies. Ouma enjoyed it so much. She said it was the first time the ladies of the office had all gone out together for lunch so I said we'd have to make it a tradition!

Thursday John brought a cake he made to the office so we could have a special coffee break for my birthday.

Then Friday night we went to a play at Sahel Academy. I didn't get any pictures, but it was a lot of fun and the kids did an excellent job.

Friday night was kind of hard to get any sleep because we went out to the airport at 2:00 a.m. to welcome Daniel! We can't take pictures at the airport, but here he is in the truck on the way back home. After getting back to the house we got some sleep before a delicious pancake breakfast we were invited to at a friend's house.

Then Saturday night we went out to my favorite restaurant, the Pilier. I ALWAYS order the same thing there. They have this home-made spinach ravioli that is amazing and never disappointing. We also had an appetizer that was fantastic. I think a meal of this quality back in the US would probably cost triple what it does here. Aren't they so good-looking? It didn't take long for the brotherly-sisterly love fights to start up though! This picture looks like it's all Daniel, but I can assure you that Suzanne probably started it! I love the way families can just go back to the way they were before a long separation! By the way, this dinner was to celebrate my birthday, Daniel's arrival, and Mother's Day all in one.

Afterwards we went home and I opened my gifts. My birthday was really the 7th, but we waited to do gifts until Daniel got here on the 9th. This is a really cool painting John got me for my birthday.My mother-in-law sent this beautiful blouse with Daniel. Now I'll just have to find something to wear it with....and keep it hidden from Suzanne in the meantime. I got lots of other nice gifts, too.

Then this afternoon there was a surprise party for me at our neighbors' house (we share a yard). She had told me that we needed to have a compound picture taken at 3:00. I was like, "Well, sometimes we're taking naps still at 3:00 especially if church goes extra long. Why don't we do it right after church?" So she said her kids would be seriously grouchy by then and that wouldn't work. So I said, "How about 5:30 right before we go to evening church?" and she came up with some excuse. So, I thought, well, o.k., I'll manage....just so I get my nap! So, I walk into the house with Daniel and John....We opened the kitchen door and I saw a friend sitting there and I thought, "What's he doing here when we're just having a compound picture taken?" Then I came around the corner and everybody yelled, "Surprise!" I really truly was surprised!

It's so hot and so I just pull my hair back even though it looks so much better down. Also I hadn't washed it because I always wear a scarf to church so it gains me a few extra sleep minutes if I don't wash it Sunday mornings! I feel like I look so hot and tired in these pictures, but it really was a lot of fun. John and Beka and Suzanne did a great job planning it and putting it together and I never suspected anything.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Scrapbooking

First, let it be known that it is 109 degrees in the shade and the power is OFF!!!! You know those warnings you get back in the US in the summer when it is hot and they tell you to stay home where it is cool because it is dangerous to go outside? (We always laugh when we hear those!) I think they forgot to warn us here today!

My main project for now is working on a scrapbook for Suzanne. I enjoy putting together the story of her life in pictures for her to have as a memory and to show her friends at college so they can understand a bit of who she is and where she's coming from. I did one for Daniel, too. In fact for both of them it will be more than one book.

While I enjoy doing this project, it's not without its frustrations. One is that I don't have a place to just spread out and keep it there and come back to it to work on it whenever I have a minute or two. So it's kind of a big production to pull it out every time I want to work. Although I have taken to leaving it stacked up on the end of the dining room table. Fortunately there are usually only three of us for supper! But Daniel is coming. Since we have a small table, I'll need the whole table while he is here. Yikes.

The 2nd frustration has to do with printing the pictures. Ink cartridges just don't last out here. The heat and dryness mess them up, so we keep them in the freezer, but even then it seems like only every other cartridge has the right amount of ink and color in them. I'll put a brand new ink cartridge in and all the pictures come out purple or yellow. Or I'll put one in and it just doesn't work at all. On Sunday I went through three cartridges before the system worked properly!

I could do an email picture order through Walmart or some place like that, but they wouldn't mail them out here! And I wasn't organized enough to order them and have them sent to Daniel. Plus which it takes a long time to upload one picture.

Another problem is one of my own making. In all honesty I'd rather work with photoshop than scrapbooking, so I get distracted with playing too much with pictures when I could just use them the way they are.

And then there are the power outages. Like right now, I can use the laptop until the battery dies and the internet wireless is on battery back-up. But I can't print anything.

I guess it is true that you have a greater appreciation for the things you have to work hard to get. So, I keep working away and know that it will be worth it. Memories are important, especially as Suzanne ends this chapter of her life and God begins writing for her a new chapter. As with all books, we are in suspense as to what the author has planned next for her.
(Although, as The Sacred Romance reminds us, God is not only the author, but the main character. He is romancing her and wooing her to himself and it is exciting to see her responding to His love for her!)

Since there's no power, I guess I'd better go and arrange some more pages and glue some things in!