Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fighting the Battle

Malaria is a killer disease and it's a common disease.  The mosquitoes that transmit malaria are extremely common and numerous.  And it seems that half of them live in our house.  I have never, ever lived in a house that has as many mosquitoes as this one.  In Tera we could sit outside in the evening and get bit less than we do inside here.  It seems that we wage constant battle against mosquitoes even though we have good screens on our windows that don't seem to be full of holes.

We have a handy tennis racket zapper.  This is extremely satisfying when you make connection with a mosquito and hear the frying sound.  However, it doesn't just work on its own.  It requires that a person picks it up and makes contact with a mosquito.  So, it doesn't work so well if you're trying to eat dinner or sleep.

We have a new little contraption another family told us about.  It has blue LED lights which apparently attract mosquitoes.  There is also a small fan inside.  So when the mosquitoes come to check out the light, the fan sucks them in and they die.  This contraption works best at night.  And we can't stand the light in our bedroom, but we've been leaving it on all night in the living room.  Look what we find in it in the morning.  Yes, that is only one night.  I think I like this little machine!

Insect repellent is a must for when we will be outside in the evenings.  John always makes sure to wear long trousers and socks, but sorry, that's not an option for me.  Yes, I know, I could wear socks with my wrapper or skirt, but, no, that's not going to happen!  I even put this on in the evenings in the house sometimes.  Did you know mosquitoes are out most at dusk and the evening and around dawn?

We sleep under a mosquito net.  I would rather not, but when we were waking up with blood smears all over the sheets from our mosquito bites we decided a net was a very good idea.

And we take a prophylaxis....a medicine to prevent illness.  There are three good choices, but we've settled on doxycyline which we take daily.   Woops!  Kitty photo-bombed that one! 

All of this seems to be working as I've only had malaria once and John's only had it least since we've been married.  But I almost died, so we take prevention seriously.

But what about our friends and neighbors who can't afford all these contraptions, creams, and medicines?  What do they do?  I guess the answer is obvious....they get malaria.  And many of them die.

The WHO has an interesting fact-sheet about malaria which you can check out here.  

Many people here do use mosquito nets and the government often gives insecticide treated nets to people and to pregnant women, especially.  But since most people sleep outside, it's not long until the net is ruined.  We're not talking about wheeling a nice bed outside, we're talking about sleeping on a mat on the ground.

Small children and pregnant women are most vulnerable to malaria.  Malaria is also more severe in those suffering from malnutrition as their bodies are already weak.  Malaria season (rainy season, but especially the end of the rainy season) also coincides with harvest season when people come home exhausted at the end of each day from the physical labor of their fields.  It is also the end of the "hungry time"...people haven't eaten well since their food ran out some time in March or April, or earlier.

Right now the doctors at our mission-run hospital in Galmi are maxed out with treating malaria patients.  
They see more patients during September and October than in any other time period.  Can you please pray for them as they deal with constant sickness and dying?  Will you pray that they can find creative days to work their shifts so that each doctor and nurse gets the rest they need?  Pray for the medical staff to provide quality, competent health care while showing the compassion for Christ, even when they are exhausted.

We praise God that we are in good health, but continue to pray for God's protection from illness.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Looking back on Our Vacation

We are so thankful we were able to go back to the USA for a month.  Our main reason for going was to help our daughter when her first child was born.  We spent the majority of our time welcoming the new love of our life, our first granddaughter.  We did a lot of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and caring for pets, but we also did a lot of cuddling, snuggling, and loving on this beautiful baby.  It was with tears and sadness that we may be two years before we get back to the USA.  We are just very thankful for emails, Skype, and Facebook.  When I was a kid my grandparents didn't have those luxuries.

While in Ohio with Suzanne, Theo, and Tera we did a few fun things like going to the Corn Festival (yes, it is southern Ohio, after all!)
and visiting Yellow Springs, a nearby small town that has a very unique atmosphere.  
We also went to Young's one night where we played mini golf and had ice cream afterwards.  And we all went to a Thai restaurant for our anniversary.  But mostly we just stayed home and loved on that baby.

We also went to Florida to visit my parents and to Connecticut to visit John's mom.  We flew since we didn't have a car or time to drive.  We figured it was cheaper anyway.  We got some really good deals on Southwest and best of all didn't have to pay for all the luggage we had with us (we are allowed two free pieces on international travel, so it's nice that Southwest still has the same regulations).

 We went out to eat some and we celebrated Labor Day with other retired missionaries in Sebring, but mostly we just stayed home and enjoyed catching up with each other.  We only had three days in each location so we had no desire to do a lot of running around.  Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures in either Florida or Connecticut!

We spent our last two days with Daniel and Kelly.  They got tickets to go to a baseball game.  We took the metro there as driving and parking would have been difficult at best.  We took a bus first, then went to the Metro station.  There were so many people there who had the same idea as us.  So we joined the crowd to squeeze our way onto the next train.  Then Daniel told us we should go down to the end of the platform because the next train would have eight cars and it would run the entire length of the platform.  None of us believed him at first and were hesitant to lose our place in "line" (depending on your definition of line!).  But we finally believed him and went to the end of the platform.  It wasn't obvious that you could even get down there because we had to go back under a stair case and down a dark area along the stairs.  When we got to the end of the platform there were only about five other people standing around there.  We all told Daniel he'd better be right.  The train pulled in and sure enough, it had eight cars and the eighth one stopped right next to us.  We got onto a nearly empty car while all those other people squeezed into the first five cars.  Daniel rides the rails like a Boss! Here we are in our nearly empty car.

It was the Nationals against the Phillies.  Unfortunately the Nats lost, but it was still a fun experience.  

We each bought a big bottle of water at the grocery store for .87 cents before going to the game.  At the game they were selling beer for $8.00 a can and water for not much less than that.  They must have made a killing on drinks because it was a really hot day.  We did break down and bought Cokes and some french fries at far more than what they were worth!  But it was all part of the fun, I guess.

It turns out that the special event of the day was Faith Night so we were pretty excited about catching a free Lincoln Brewster concert after the game.  But a thunder storm came in and they decided to cancel the concert since they didn't want Lincoln Brewster getting zapped by lightning.  We were a bit disappointed by that, but we had waited around the park for a long time waiting to hear if they were going to cancel or not.  So by the time we left, most of the other 37,800 fans had already cleared out and the metro wasn't too crowded on the way back.

We also went to an Ethiopian restaurant with Daniel and Kelly and the injeera and wat was a hit with all of us.

It was a great vacation.  In some ways it was not the most restful one we've had, but welcoming a grandchild was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my life.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

What It Takes to Get a Doctorate, Part II

I forgot to mention another part of John's doctoral process.  As he transcribes the interviews he has had to figure out a way to keep track of his findings and to analyze what people have said.  There are computer programs one can buy to help with this, but we've heard mixed reviews on them.  John's conclusion is that it sounds like a lot of money to shell out for a program that may or may not be very useful.

So, John goes through each transcription and codes the interview with a note such as "griots" or "traditional views of music" or "worship music".  Each subject is given a code number.

 Some paragraphs may have more than one code applied to them.  So we have to print each page twice if the comment has to codes applied, three times if it has three codes, etc.  
He then prints out the interview and we cut them up and glue them on to 5x7 inch cards.  

Then we file them in a box under the code number..."griot" for example might be #5, so we file it under "5".  In this case, the code number is "25". 
He then has a code for the person interviewed which we note on the back of the card.  That way as he reads through his cards about griots he isn't prejudiced by knowing who made that comment.  It allows for more objectivity in his analysis.

This stage takes a lot of time, but it's much easier work than transcribing interviews!  John applies the codes and I'm doing the cutting and gluing for him.  It kind of takes me back to my days of teaching and class prep!

What It Takes to Get a Doctorate

No, I have no plans to get a doctorate!  But John is working on his.  He is getting is degree under the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies which works in conjunction with Middlesex University.  

So when he gets his official piece of paper it will be from Middlesex University.  He is doing his research on the Songhai music and its use in church (that's a very simplified'll have to talk to him personally if you want to know more!).  He is working on it part-time, so it will take about six years.  I think he is about half way through it now.

The British system is quite different from the American system so what I describe here may be quite different than what you've heard other people talk about.  Even within the US, I've heard of very different procedures for obtaining a degree.  Because John does not live in Oxford, most of his degree involves research.  He doesn't go to classes at all.  He is required to be in Oxford six weeks every year.  While he is there he attends seminars presented by other students, but he doesn't go to classes at all.

So, here are some of the things John does in his work towards getting a degree.

Lots and lots of reading, studying, and taking notes.  He has accumulated quite a library of books on worship, music, and Songhai history.  

We've visited and observed in lots and lots of churches.
 Sometimes the pastor asks him to come sit up front with the other important people (and the flower decorations).

He interviews lots and lots of people.  Some of these interviews have involved staying overnight in a village.   Some of the interviews are in English, some in Songhai or Zarma (dialects of the same language), and some in French.  Doing research in three languages is really quite complicated!  John records the interviews and then we have to write out a transcript of the recording.  This sounds easy, but believe me, it's NOT!  Next time the TV news is on, try typing out everything that is said.  That will give you an idea of what it's complicate that by putting it in another language and with noise in the background like planes taking off and goats bleating.

I've been helping him with some of these transcriptions, but I don't get nearly as many done as he does!

Once we have an interview transcribed, he goes over it with his research assistant who is an English student at the university.  Zarma is his mother tongue, but he also speaks excellent French and English.  He really helps to catch some of the mistakes we make....things we thought we heard, but didn't really.

Once all these interviews are transcribed, his assistant will also help him translate segments of them into English. 

Some fun things we have done is attended a concert of a local well-known musician whose band is called Mamar Kassey.  

We have also visited the musical instrument museum in Niamey to research types of traditional instruments.
 And John would like to take lessons on a traditional musical instrument.

As he goes along, John is writing, submitting, and presenting parts of his dissertation.  So it's a continuous on-going process.  I'm pretty sure we'll both be glad when it's over!