Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunset over the Niger

After our day of visiting our former town, we ate out.  We were just too tired to cook a meal.  We went to one of our favorite restaurants near the river.  There are several reasons we like this restaurant:
1.  It starts to serve early.  We can go around 6 p.m. and get served.  Most restaurants don't start serving until about 7:30, following both French and Nigerien customs of not eating until 8 or 9 p.m.  
2.  It's not that cheap, but it's cheaper than many restaurants.  We figured we paid about $9.00 a person.  But that is for organic beef, potatoes peeled, cut, and fried on the spot, and delicious green beans, plus drinks and the tip.  
3.  Which is my next point....the food is delicious!  The menu is simple...beef brochettes, a plate of green beans seasoned with onions and garlic, and french fries.  All of the above is served with a hot pepper sauce to dip your meat in, mustard, mayonnaise, or ketchup.
4.  We like the setting.  We sit outside, looking over the river, and if you time it right, you can enjoy the sunset and maybe even catch a cool breeze. You can sit on the terrace, inside a building, or up on the rooftop of that building.  The best place to watch the sunset is on the rooftop.   

 The night we were there, we got a special treat....the sunset on one side, and the moon rise on the other!

Come visit us and we'll make sure you get to take in a beautiful sunset over the Niger River! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Our Town

One of the main things we wanted to do while Suz and Theo were here was to visit the town where we lived and worked for 16 years.  It is essentially where Daniel and Suzanne grew up.  It played a huge part in making them who they are today.

Waiting for the ferry

We left early in the morning on market day, crossing the river at the ferry.  In rural areas, many people leave the towns during the rainy season and go live in their fields.  Their fields can be 5-10 miles from the town, so many of them will have a little hut in their field where they live during the rainy season, eliminating the long commute they would normally have. 
On the way to market
But, market day will find them returning to town to buy supplies, meet up with friends, and catch up on the gossip.  So we chose market day to visit knowing it would be our best chance to see friends who might otherwise be living near their fields.

The first thing we noticed when we drove into town that more permanent shelters had been built in the market and that one of the roads going around the market was now paved, making two paved roads through the market area! When we had last visited there were reports that there would be a paved road put in that would go all the way to Burkina Faso.  Sure enough....the paved road now no longer ends in Our Town, but goes all the way from Niamey to Burkina!
The new road
  It's a pretty nice road and we had trouble recognizing landmarks as it didn't follow the exact same route as the previous dirt road.  There is even a multi-storied hotel there now!

We first went to my friend H's house.  I guessed she wouldn't be there as she always moves to the bush in the rainy season.  Sure enough, the house was all locked up.  So we went to M's house next.  She had been my house-worker and friend and teacher-of-culture for the entire 16 years we lived in Our Town.
My friend "M" and me
  We had a great visit seeing how the kids had grown, finding out who was married and who had had babies, and who had moved away.  John's friend, H, came in while we visiting and more news was exchanged.

From there, we went over to my friend, H's, house.  In a land of poverty, they are even poorer than everybody else.  They squat on a piece of land, living in a grass hut without even a latrine for a bathroom. 

"H" and me
They were so excited to see us and even shed a few tears.  Then H told us, with tears in her eyes (it is very unusual for Nigeriens to cry and especially for people of her people group to cry) that her husband has "gone crazy".  He is very old and I suspect has dementia.  He wanders off and went into the compound of the people across the road.  The young father there told him to get off his property or he would kill him like he'd kill a sheep....in other words, slit his throat.  It was so, so sad to see how they are treated and despised just because they are so poor, they are nothing.  H's daughter who lives in Ghana has never been able to have children, so she took her youngest sister to live with her there.  We really missed not seeing her around...she was always so small for her age due to under-nourishment, but she was such a spunky little thing.  H is one of my best friends and it was just nice to spend some time with her again.
Theo has the great ability to make friends with kids wherever he goes.  Language doesn't stop him!
While there, John's friend N, came wandering by and was really surprised to see us!  We had a great visit with him, too. 

Next stop was to visit Suzanne's friend, S.  She is married and has a child.  She married well and lives in a pretty nice house with real furniture, a TV, etc. 
Suz and "S" grew up together
As we were driving to her house, my friend H (who wasn't home) saw us, literally dropped her stuff, and came running.  Also, John's friend, A, wandered by then and they were
John's Nigerien brother, "A"
able to spend a lot of time visiting while Suz, Theo, and I visited with S.

By then we were really hungry, so we headed to the other side of the stream that runs through town and found a nice deserted spot for a picnic lunch.
Trying to toss peanuts in Theo's mouth
The fast of Ramadan is going on now, so we didn't want to eat in the market in front of everybody.

As soon as we were finished eating we went to the market.  There we ran into my friend H again and she took me to find her mother.  We also saw a lot of friends from the nearby village of D.  It was very hot in the market, so we ready to leave by 3 p.m.  

The millet in the area looks terrible.  It is not an exaggeration to say it is one of the worst years we have ever seen. 
The millet should have been about chest high at that time.
Arriving back in Niamey, we were pretty tired out so we went to one of our favorite restaurants for supper.  But I'll save that for another post!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Settling In

What a huge mess!
In the past three weeks since our return, we have done a lot of work, just on the apartment alone.  First, we unpacked all our luggage and found places for everything.

Then we contacted the painters and had them come. It took them four days, I think, but there was a weekend in there, so we were displaced for six days.  Thankfully the apartment next door was empty and we were able to sleep and eat over there.  They used oil-based paints and the fumes were just too much to sleep here!  Most of the apartment is painted white, but we have colors in our room, bathroom, and one wall of Suzanne's room (which will become the office and guest room since there is an air conditioner in there).  However, I am not telling you yet what the colors are.  I have a "new" bedspread, curtains, shower curtain, floor rugs, etc. on a container that is coming.  The colors are meant to go with those items, so you'll have to wait until they arrive before I show you what the rooms look like.  For now, the old curtains are up and they look ghastly with the new colors!

Somewhere in the first two weeks we moved all the stuff we had stored in a container here over to the apartment and unpacked all of that.  It has been quite a challenge to find places for everything. We have TOO MANY BOOKS!  But who can get rid of books?  They are friends!  We have thrown a lot of stuff, though.

We also rearranged some furniture. Some of it just barely fit through the doors and under the fans!

The air freight also arrived, so John got his piano and stand and we got two more action packers we had sent air freight.

Slowly the apartment is starting to look more organized. We still have barrels on the porch that need to be stored, used in some other way, or gotten rid of.  We have a non-functioning chest freezer on the porch.  We're debating whether we should sell it or try to get it fixed.  The problem is, that the time we want to use it most is in the hot season.  We would normally buy up good vegetables when they were in season and freeze them until the hot season.  But with the constant power cuts during the hot season, I don't know if I want to risk wasting a freezer full of good food.  There are also some items still sitting around that belong to other people that we have to move out.

Both John and I do best with a routine and an organized environment, so I hope that we will get the mess fully organized soon!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Home Again

The beginning of the trip:  looking bright and chipper.

Waiting for our flight at JFK.  Still looking bright and chipper.
Our trip back to Africa was interesting, as usual.  Our flight was slightly delayed boarding.  Once we got on there was an incident of a woman yelling at a man about all his carry-ons.  Later on we realized they were a couple!

Sunset in Morocco.  We had two over-night flights, but thankfully we had a day room at a nice hotel in Casa Blanca.

No sooner did everybody get settled on board, but a thunderstorm came up.  That meant we just sat in the plane and didn't leave the gate for over two hours.  They didn't turn on any air, so it got hotter and hotter in the plane.  A bunch of people flipped out and went to the front of the plane and started yelling and shouting.  We're not sure if they were demanding to be let off or just demanding air.  Shortly after that, they did turn on the air and we moved away from the gate.  It was a bit disturbing to all the passengers.  We once sat in an airplane at the same airport for six hours, so two to three hours seemed pretty good to us!
No longer so bright and chipper!
We did arrive safely at our final destination in spite of adventures with people with numerous carry-ons on our second flight.  I'm sure that plane was way overloaded!  We got to our apartment at about 5:30 a.m.and went straight to bed.

Since then we've had a lot of momentous events take place!  I've started work, going in a few hours a day,  a couple of days a week just to keep up with things.  We've rearranged furniture in our apartment, have gotten the apartment painted, and have been unpacking and organizing things (Now is as good a time as any to get rid of stuff we don't really need!).  But the most exciting event by far is what happened last Saturday night at the sand dunes!  Theo asked Suzanne to marry him, and, of course, she accepted!  She is now wearing a gorgeous diamond ring and we've been spending a lot of our time looking up stuff on line and even shopping for some of the things we want for the wedding.  The story of the engagement is Suzanne's to tell, so if you want the details you'll need to read her version of the story at her blog.
Leaping into life together.
We've also purchased a used car, got the air cargo stuff (John's keyboard), and made a trip to the town where we used to live.  But all of that is for another blog.