Sunday, October 26, 2014

What Are You Looking forward To?

Suzanne at the Glorious Mundane asks a weekly question.  For fun you can answer the question, then link up to her blog.  This week's question is What are you looking forward to?

I think looking forward is a good thing to do.  It keeps you hopeful and gives you goals to work towards.  Some of the things I'm looking forward to are just normal seasonal things that happen whether I want them to or not.  Others may are dependent on my actually doing something about them.

I'm definitely looking forward to the humidity being gone.  I love the rainy season, but since it's not going to rain any more, let's just let it be dry!  We've had some dry days this week and the evenings are already starting to get cooler.  Days are still hot, but that's ok if it's not humid and if it's cool at night.  In fact, we have slept the last few nights without running our air conditioner.  It's border-line warm still for that, but hey, saving money is worth it!  Already the guards who greet me on my long 5-minute "commute" home from the office are asking me, "How's the cold?"  Ummmm, the nights are getting down to 77 degrees.  I don't think that's really cold!  But it will get so that nights are in the low 60's and into the 50's and THAT's what I'm looking forward to!  Here's our former neighbor with her daughter and grandson who are all bundled up in sweaters because of the cold.  Seriously, it gets cold enough here to wear sweaters!

Other things I'm looking forward to?

A strong, vibrant church in this country.  On Sunday morning seeing people heading to church.  There are strong, vibrant churches here, by the way, just not many and Christians are very much in a minority.

Getting some of my projects at work done.  That would be like a major accomplishment.

Heaven.  To see Jesus.  And because I'll never have to say goodbye again.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Getting There is Half the Fun

One of the men I work with at our office has a new baby in their home.  This is their second child and their first girl.  In the culture here, the name is not given at birth, but later on the 8th day. As I understand it, when the child is born at the hospital, the name is required for the birth certificate.  Since it is the religious leader who gives the name, not the parents, the dad will ask the leader for the name so it can go on the certificate, but only the dad and the leader know the name.  Everybody else, including the mom, is kept in the dark until the 8th day.  More modern parents are now more involved in deciding the name and the mom may know ahead of time.  But in general the name is still kept secret until the 8th day.  Our friend's wife had the baby by C-section and wasn't up to having the naming ceremony on the 8th day so they actually had it almost two weeks later.

Usually the naming ceremony is held at the home of the family, but some Christians are having theirs done at churches now.  So Sunday morning found us up bright and early to go to this naming ceremony at our friend's house.  John couldn't go since he had to get to church on time since he was doing a worship survey there.  So I went with our neighbors and another missionary followed behind on his motorcycle.

The directions were pretty clear.....up to a point.  We followed a main road along until we came to a restaurant where we'd all eaten.  We knew we were supposed to turn left there.  Then we were supposed to "look for the two garbey nya trees in the middle of the road."  Right away we spotted the two gao trees, so that was good.  Then the directions were "not the first left, but then you'll turn left and you'll see a gao tree and my house is right by that."  So, we took the 2nd left and drove for awhile and sure enough, there was the naming ceremony.  We got out and went up.  I said, "Let's go in and see the baby", but then our friend on the motorcycle went up and came back soon saying, "This isn't it.  They've got mats out to do M[s]im prayers and I don't recognize anybody."  Woops.

So, we got back in the truck and headed on our way.  By the time we left there, another missionary family had joined our little entourage of vehicles looking for the naming ceremony.  This time though we called the new dad to get directions.  His key direction he added was "turn left when you see the red 4x4 vehicle."  It wasn't long before we saw the red 4x4 and turned there.  Sure enough, there was the naming ceremony.  So we all got out and walked up.  Once again our friend scoped it out, came back and said, "This isn't it.  They've got mats out to do M[s]im prayers and I don't recognize anybody."  Ha! ha!  By now we've also gained in our entourage a motorcycle of two Nigerien guys also looking for the same naming ceremony we were looking for.  They said, "Follow us!  We're pretty sure we know where it is."

So off we went again.  This time the naming ceremony we ended up at was the right one.  We were joking how we could get dressed up every Sunday morning and go around visiting naming ceremonies and getting free breakfasts!

In the naming ceremonies we went to where we used to live, the mom and baby always stayed inside.  But at Christian naming ceremonies, the mom and baby come outside and sit with the dad and other children on a comfortable sofa while the pastor gives a message and announces the name. (I lifted this picture from a friend's facebook page, but I think it's from the official photographer.)   
This baby's name is Tabitha.  Isn't she a doll?

Once the name is announced, the mom and baby go back in the house and food is served.  First kola nut and dates are handed out.  These are a traditional sign of friendship.  Then bags of popcorn and sometimes pieces of candy or bags of chips are handed out.  I've discovered that at Hausa naming ceremonies they give out a traditional honey covered pastry that is just delicious.  It's a lot like baklava.  Here I am enjoying my honeyed treat.  My friend, Enseoung took a picture of one of these treats at another naming ceremony and she's allowed me to use her photo here to show you up-close what it looks like.  

They also usually serve meat and sauce with bread to eat it with.  

(Where we used to live they only served the dates and goro and popcorn....they were too poor to put on two meals so the noon meal was the only one they served.)  I'm not sure if serving food for breakfast is a Niamey tradition or a Hausa tradition or a income-based tradition.

Other un-invited guests show up such as the old lady who came up to me begging.  I offered her some of my honey treat, but she said, no, she wanted money.  I was relieved as I didn't really want her to take my treat!  The owner of this tea cart is also a neighborhood fellow who was probably not officially invited.  This set-up is pretty clever as he's made a brazier out of an old milk powder can into which he puts hot charcoal.  The tea kettle was steaming away and he was waiting for customers to buy a cup of hot tea.  He also deals in cigarettes, which, by the way, you can buy one at a time when you need a smoke.  There's no need to buy a full pack.

Naming ceremonies are a great time to hang out with friends.  And getting there is so much fun I might just try to find a few to attend again next weekend!  I just need to make sure they're serving the honey treat.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Orientation for New Arrivals

Twice a year John and I and our colleague, Eliane, facilitate a two-day orientation for all those who have arrived in the country since our last orientation.  

We cover a variety of topics such as maintaining your spiritual life, handling stress and conflict, how to learn a language, church history, [s]am in our context, and sharing the Gospel using media.

Eliane had the group work in small groups during her sessions.  

John led the session on [s]am in Niger.

Scott and Lucia gave some helpful pointers for learning a vernacular language.

Sjoerd and Rachel showed how media can be used in evangelism, even if you don't speak a local language well.  

Probably everybody's favorite session is when Mr. Hama talks to us about local culture.

Eliane had the group identify things that cause stress in every day life.  The board was full!  Do you think living in Niger might be just a little bit stressful?

We like to end orientation with a fun activity that is also a chance to learn a new skill.  In the past we've done a photo scavenger hunt in which they have to use the local taxi system to get around town to find certain items they take pictures of.  But with all the road construction, it's nearly impossible to find a taxi from our location and the activity would have taken twice as long as it has in years past.  So we decided to try a new activity.

There are a lot of popular cooking shows and this idea was taken from some of those.  The learning objective was to create a delicious meal using ingredients available in local markets.  The group was divided up into three teams and given a grocery sack of ingredients.  From those ingredients they had to make a meal. Here they are looking in their sacks and planning their menu. They had an hour and a half to fix the meal.

While they cooked, we sat in the air conditioning and relaxed! :)  

They could also ask each of us one question.  

It was easily over 100 degrees in the kitchen!  Well, I guess that's also a reality of life in Niger (did I mention that living here is stressful?!)  And, yes, Abby may or may not be fanning herself with a dinner plate.

At the end we judged their concoctions and awarded the winning team a small prize.  Just in case anybody who will attend next year's orientation is reading this, I won't tell you what the winning team came up with.  I'll just say it was a very unique use of a certain ingredient that turned out to be absolutely delicious!  Here are the teams awaiting our judgment.

All three teams had delicious meals which we all shared together as a potluck.  I think they had fun and we certainly enjoyed being the judges!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Favorite Color

Suzanne has started a weekly feature on her blog where she asks a question.  You answer on your blog and then link up to hers.  If you'd like to play along, just click here.

So this week's question is simple....What's your favorite color and why?  First, I'll let you guess my favorite color by looking at these pictures.  (Hopefully it's not an overload of ME pictures!)

By the way, three of these photos were taken in Niger, one in Pennsylvania, and one in Washington State.  I'll let you guess which is which.

And, here's another hint to my favorite color.  My favorite flower is also this color!

If you guessed that it's purple you're right!

Now, the hard question is....WHY is it my favorite color.  I'm not sure.  I really like a lot of other colors,, green, red, brown, etc.  But purple just makes me feel really happy and calm.  I also think I look good in purple, so I tend to gravitate to purple clothes.  So I don't really have a profound reason for liking purple.  I just do!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Grandma's Brag Book, September

I love being a grandma.  Not that I've had much experience at's all still very new.  But some days it is just hard to be so far away.  I'd love to see little Tera growing and changing.  Some days her mommy struggles with new-mommy-ness and I'd just love to be there to lend a helping hand.  I'm so thankful that Suzanne does such a great job at coming us up-to-date on what is happening.  She sends us a little letter from Tera every day and with it she includes a picture.  Since Grandmas are notorious for bringing out their photo album of their grandkids, I need to live up to that reputation.  So in this blog post I'm just sharing with you my favorite photos from the month of September.

When Suzanne sends me the vertical pictures they arrive sideways.  I save them in a vertical format.  But when I post them to the web, they come up sideways again.  In blogger there is no way for me to turn them around again.  So, sorry that you will have to lie on your side to see some of these!  It's frustrating to me because I like things to look right and this just isn't right!