Sunday, March 23, 2014

Odds and Ends during March

This month has been busy and challenging in many ways.  Driving in Niamey is definitely a challenge .....and it's about to get a whole lot worse! Here's a picture of a typical city driving scene. This truck is taking onions grown in Galmi out of the country.  Onions are actually Niger's biggest cash crop.

And why are things about to get worse?  Well, the rond point (traffic circle) at the end of the bridge and the bridge are about to get a major make-over.
 There will be an over-pass, multiple lanes, and I don't know what all.  So on Friday they blocked off two of the roads leading to/going from the bridge and the madness begins as all traffic is compressed into half the number of available roads.  I suspect it will get a whole lot worse before it gets better.  But when it's done it should be really nice.  It's just that it is supposed to take two years.....two years of even crazier driving than normal.  Thankfully I can walk to work, but parents of school kids have to make that trip twice a day.  Yikes.

We started the month with a trip to Galmi for a two-day orientation seminar.  Thankfully, the trip there was without adventure which is always a good thing.  With trucks like this, though, it's a wonder that we don't see more accidents.  

On the way, there are no comfort stations so as one drives through country side like this, one wonders where they will find a bush to hide behind for "comfort".  We eventually found a good bushy place!  Later we stopped for lunch here.  No, it's not the Grand Canyon, but it's beautiful never-the-less.  Things are very dry right now as we haven't had rain since September.

John and I had a goal for the year, starting in September, of at least once a month paying a social visit to a family or individual in our church or with whom we work.  It's harder than it sounds since everybody is so busy and Niamey is pretty spread out.  It's an aspect of life from the village that we visits happened every day there.  We visited a family from our church in September, a family from the office in October, then we dropped the ball on it in November, December, and January for various reasons. In February we went up to our "hometown".  A few weeks ago we were able to go visit a family we've known for a long time but don't see often since we don't work at the same place or go to the same church.  We had pulled over off the road to wait for him to come show us the way to his house.  There was a shop there so I went in.  I was really surprised to find Aldi Frosted Flakes and Aldi Raisin Bran.  It was a little expensive, but I had grocery money for the month left over so we splurged.  Now, you're probably scratching your head wondering what visiting friends and cereal has to do with each other.  I don't know either....just that one happened on the way to the other!

We have two new babies at the office!  Or I should say, the parents of the babies work at the office.  M's baby was born in a neighboring country and the naming ceremony took place there and his wife and baby just recently returned here.  So the office staff all piled in the van one afternoon and went to meet the new baby.  Then yesterday we went to another naming ceremony for the baby of another employee.  Both babies are boys.

 This month, the thermostat got turned up.  We had a very pleasant cool season and didn't use the air conditioner at all from the beginning of November until the 2nd week of March.  But when the heat hit, it hit with a vengeance.  This is the temperature inside the house.  And we have a fairly "cool" house.  Outside we are hitting 104-106 every day.  This reader doesn't go below 16% humidity, but according to the internet, it is 4% humidity today.  So, yes, it's a dry heat.  And yes, dry heat is better than humid heat.  And yes, heat is still heat.

Work keeps me busy.  I enjoy what I'm doing, but when I try to describe it, it sounds kind of boring.  And the parts that aren't boring are confidential, so there's not much I can write about work!

I tried two new recipes this week.  Unfortunately I didn't think to take pictures of either.  But both will definitely be repeated.  I have a forest of basil growing, so I found a recipe for pesto.  I cooked chicken in a close to grilled chicken as I could make it and served the pesto on noddles.  The recipe is available here.  This doesn't even have to be cooked!  Talk about easy.  Not to mention delicious.

The other recipe I tried was Moroccan Couscous with Roasted Vegetables, available here.  This was a little more complicated to make as there are various steps, lots of cutting and chopping to do, different spices, etc.  But it is well worth the work!  And it always takes me longer to make a recipe the first time because I keep checking it to make sure I'm doing it right.  The nice thing about this recipe is that you can use different veggies depending on what is in season.  Likewise, instead of raisins, you could use dates or prunes.  And, I discovered that it is really good cold as well.  We ate this as a meatless meal, so if you're vegetarian, this is a good one to try.

So, those are some of my ramblings and happenings for the month of March.  There's still a week to go, and I'm hoping it will be a quiet week!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Keeping Myself Organized

In the past I have used a one-year planner, but there is always something about them I don't like and they are expensive!  So, based on an idea I got from a friend and from home-made planners I've seen on the internet, I've gone to creating my own.

It's hard to find the kind of notebook I like here, so I brought a handful of ordinary Composition books with me.  I think the ones I got were $1.00 or $1.50 at Walmart.

Then I print out my own calendar for the month and glue it in to the book.
February Calendar 

March calendar

The next page is my "inspiration page" which I try to use to depict something that is important to me for that month.  Some times it is pictures, a verse, or a prayer.  I'm also using Anne Voskamp's Joy Dare (available on her web site), so I make sure I have that on the page somewhere as well.  
January inspiration page
February inspiration page
For February I ended up with three inspiration pages.  On page 2 and 3, I printed I Corinthians 13 on hearts and then wrote a goal/prayer request for each characteristic of love.  I prayed over these during the month.
March inspiration page

Next, I divide a 2-page spread into eight sections (because it won't go evenly into seven).  This is my planner for the week.  On these pages I write my to-do list, my menu, my photo prompt for the day, etc.  I keep a paper-clip on the page for that week, partly so I can turn to it quickly, but also so I can keep track of receipts I need to turn in, etc.

My weekly plan page

After my weekly planning section, I use pages to take notes in church, during meetings, on books I'm reading, etc.  I also take notes on my Bible reading. That way I have everything in one book and don't have to keep track of so many little pieces of paper or other notebooks.
Notes on the message in church.  If the message is in French, I try to take notes in French.  It helps me stay focused!

Right now for my personal Bible study, I am doing a word study on HOPE.
I find this is working pretty well for me, but I think I'm going to use more composition books than I planned for!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Quilting for the Baby

When Suz and Theo and Daniel and Kelly got married I made each of the couples a quilt.  Now I've made one for ourselves as well.  And now it's time to start on one for Baby Hines, due in August.  

Suz asked me to use grey, aqua, and yellow.  Right now I'm not telling what pattern I'm using or showing any pictures of what I hope the finished product will look like.  For one thing, it's a gift, so the recipients get to see it first....THEN we'll put up photos!  For another thing, since I'm still learning, I don't want to say too much about what it's supposed to look like in case it ends up looking nothing like that!

So, to pique your curiosity a bit, here are some photos of what I've done so far.
Kitty photo-bombed this one.  In the end I didn't use the blue/aqua/red cloth.  Don't worry....I didn't waste money on it.  It belongs to my neighbor, who also gave me quite a few of the other pieces I used.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

A Trip Home

First, a my last post I called Chicken Katsu Curry an Indian dish, but it turns out it's actually Japanese.

Two Fridays ago we went up to where we used to live.  A year ago at this time the government had pretty much banned expatriates from leaving Niamey by road, so it had been over a year since we'd been up there.
Part of the old original road is in the background.  This water will completely dry up before the end of April.  For now it provides water for animals.  

The first place we went was to our former next-door neighbor's house.  We were pleased to see that she got a new grass hut.  It's still a grass hut, but it's a lot better than the one she was living in last time we were there.  We were also surprised to see that somebody had built a permanent house on the property where she lives.  I guess we shouldn't be surprised as she is a squatter and the owners came and built a house on their own property.  What pleasantly surprised us is that they let her stay there.  Here I am sitting on her bed with her in her hut.  The bed, which we gave to her when we left, pretty much takes up the entire hut.

Our neighbor, Bev, came with us.  She is a teacher and the elementary principal at Sahel.  She attracted kids wherever we went!  Here we are in the hut with kids trying to crowd in to have a look at the white people.

Our next stop was at another friend's house.  There we got to see some of the kids we had had Bible club with.  Her husband also came home while we were there and we had a good visit with him.

Our next stop was John's friend's house, but he wasn't home.  We greeted his wives.  One of them decided "Bev" was too hard to pronounce and said she needed an African name and said it should be "Fati".  It's quite an honor to be given an African name.  

We then moved on to another friend's house.  Her husband and son were working with the fish net and hooks that they use for fishing.  Many Songhai are skilled at fishing and are known as Niger's fishermen.  

Every time I visit her, her son wants me to take a picture of his oxen.  He embodies the other traditional Songhai skill....farming.

Her daughter and her daughter's girlfriend were also there.  I'm guessing they are around 17 years old and both have children of their own.  And that's what Songhai women the house, take care of the husband, and have babies.  Her t-shirt said, "Will not shut up."  

We visited on a Friday and when we were at this friend's house, we realized it was time for the big weekly prayer.  We had brought a picnic lunch, so we got up to leave to go outside town and find a shade tree under which we could eat. I am convinced my friend's love language is giving.  Every time we visit here, and even when we still lived there, she always gives me something, much more than any body else does.  Every year at harvest time she would bring me a big bag of peanuts, sesame seeds, or beans.  So when she told me to come in her house, I assumed she was going to give me something.  And I was right, but was I ever surprised by what it was!  

As I mentioned, it was Friday which is the day everybody goes to the mosque, well all the men and boys, anyway.  Some women go, but not that many.  Other days they go to the mosque and pray, but on Fridays at 1:00 p.m. they have a sermon and then a longer prayer time.  Then they go home and have a special meal.  For village people such as our friends, this may be the only day of the week that they splurge and have a bit of meat in the sauce.  So I went in and she said, "Tell Yaaye and Fati to come here, too."  So they came in.  "Sit down," she said.  "Here's food."  And she placed in front of us a bowl of steaming hot rice with sauce, meat, and cabbage.  Now, here's the thing.  She didn't know we were coming.  And she wasn't doing any cooking once we got there.  Which means, she gave us their food, or some of it, anyway.  Which is a huge sacrifice.  Did I mention giving is her love language??!  And then when we left, she gave me a big bag of ash peanuts.....peanuts wrapped up in small individual packets, ready to sell.  So she also gave us something she had been planning to sell to make a bit of spending money.  I was really blown away by her generosity.  I always am, but this time she went above and beyond!

And so we sat down and dug in with our hands as there were no spoons available.  And it was very delicious!  I'm not sure Bev was overly fond of it.  She got a big bite of hot pepper right off the bat which kind of did her in.

From there we went back to the small village along the road where we had planted a church.  First we went off to a little hamlet and visited a Christian family there.  The dad was making tea, so we had some of that.  It really hit the spot as I was starting to feel drowsy from not getting my siesta nap.
 As I said, the kids wherever we went really loved Bev, uh, I mean, Fati.  Here they are reacting to something she said and then to a picture she showed them that she had just taken of them.

 Just a fact that you might find interesting:  around 50% of Niger's population is under the age of 15.  That's a lotta kids!

Our next stop was the part of the village where the church is.  There Bev, aka Fati, tried her hand at pounding grain (sorry, not pictured), we watched the older men playing a game with sticks and kanga pods (from off a palm tree), saw the little church, and saw the house that the young church leader is building for himself and his growing family.

We also had two more cups of tea, so I got more caffeine and sugar.  It's good stuff!  We also prayed for a little boy who is having seizures.

It was a long day and almost dark by the time we got home.  Since it was Valentine's Day we tried out a new restaurant down the street from us.  The atmosphere was very nice, the food was delicious, but the service was slow. I think half of the town was at that restaurant for supper!   It probably seemed even slower since we were so tired and just wanted to eat and go to bed!