Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Moving Experience

The end of June, the entire month of July, and the beginning of August are our busiest months in the personnel office.  Not only are there things in the office to do to say good-bye to those leaving Niger and to prepare for those arriving, there are things to do outside the office as well.

Every house that somebody vacates needs to have curtains washed (you should see what a year of Niger dust on curtains looks like!), all dirty linens washed, and needs a good thorough cleaning.  Sometimes we have a few weeks to get that done before the next arrival, but sometimes we only have a few days.  Thankfully it only happens rarely that we only have a few hours....but that was the case last week.

We recently had two long-term families arrive who had bought furniture from families who had left.  But the furniture was not in the house where the new families would be living.  So we needed to get it to the right place.  We also had a third long-term family return from home assignment.  Their house had been set up for short-termers while they were gone, so we needed to collect that stuff from their house.  This was going to be a lot of work.  And how to do it?  One missionary said we could borrow their pick-up truck, but it was going to be in the garage.  It would take dozens of trips in the truck, anyway.  Then Crystal, my amazing co-worker who has been a life-saver since her arrival in early July, mentioned that once she had hired a truck.  We knew that was our solution.

So, Wednesday morning I started out with a big breakfast to fortify me for the day.  I guessed I wouldn't get much, if any lunch, and that turned out to be true!

The truck driver showed up at the office with the truck and the agent who organizes the contract between us and the truck driver.  Crystal also brought three guys from her church, her cousin, N., who is here for a month to help us out, Mr. & Mrs. G (we were moving their stuff), and John showed up to help.

First thing on the truck was a wardrobe that was being stored at the office.

Then we stopped at the W's house and picked up some mattresses, a bed, a washing machine, and a stove.  The truck is starting to fill up!

From there we drove north and picked up furniture at another house.  This included a couch, chairs, a fridge, some shelves, a cupboard, and a stove.  That house is now empty and ready for the next occupants!  By now the truck was pretty full.  It's good we got one this big.

I just want to say here that John is amazing at packing boxes and loading trucks and trunks.  He can see exactly what will fit perfectly in which spot.  At this place he was up in the truck telling the guys exactly what to put where and how to tie it.  It took us longer in the other locations because he had to get back to work after helping there.  But without anybody to give directions, it was just a lot slower.

We then went across the river to the Bible School compound where we have a big garage where we store furniture that we use for furnishing houses for short termers.  I wish I'd taken a picture of the garage, but it wouldn't show all the accumulation of dust and cobwebs in there.  Mr. & Mrs. G also live on that compound so we off-loaded their stuff and then put other stuff in the storage garage.

From there we ran down the road to Sahel and dropped off a bed and picked up another bed and washing machine that were no longer being used, but were needed elsewhere.   I didn't take many pictures because I was too busy holding adorable twin boys!

Then back to the Bible School compound where we loaded up all the furniture the D. family had bought from another family.  I didn't get many pictures there as I was too busy helping to load the truck.  By the time we got that all loaded the truck was full again.  Everybody was getting hot and tired and it was past lunch time.  So we told the guys on the truck to go out and buy some food and we'd meet them at the gas station.  Crystal also went out and got some pop (sodas; minerals; fizzy drinks....whatever you call them!) and cookies.  So that was lunch, but it sure helped get the blood sugar back up where they needed to be.  Bless you, Crystal!

From there we drove to the D's house and offloaded everything that belonged to them.  It kind of looks like everybody is watching Crystal work!  And there was no way that truck would fit in the gate.  

There were beds, a living room suite, dining room table and chairs, a stove, a fridge, and lots of boxes of stuff.  We also had to take from that house the things they no longer needed....beds, living room suite, dining room table and chairs, a stove, and a fridge.  I'm sure the truck driver thought we were insane, especially since so much of the furniture looked exactly alike!

Then it was back to CBN to put the stuff in storage or to drop off to the M family.

We worked from 9 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m.  On the way home I dropped off a mattress somebody needed to borrow and returned the hand truck we had borrowed.  It was past 5:00 when I got home.  I was pretty tired at the end of that day....moving is hard work and don't forget to factor in the heat and humidity!

I'm thankful for our willing and able helpers!!  Well done, everybody!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Show and Tell: Home Tour Edition

Today I'm linking up again with Momfessionals for Show and Tell Tuesday.
 This time the theme is house tours.  I love seeing how people arrange and decorate their houses and I've wondered, if we ever live in the USA again, about getting a real estate license.  I don't know....but it sounds interesting to me to help people find a place that's just right for them.

I'm especially excited about this post because in June we had to have a large portion of our ceiling torn out because termites had lunch up there.  

They even ate the rafter that had the ceiling fan attached to it.  Yikes! Yep, they ate the whole thing. We had planned on getting our house painted this summer, too, because the paint was peeling off the walls.  So from having our ceiling torn out, to getting a termite treatment done (that stuff reeks!), to having the ceiling re-done, to painting with oil-based paint, we couldn't live in our house for about a month.

 Thankfully our next-door neighbors were gone and let us use their house!  All that to say, our house has a fresh coat of paint and everything is pretty much back in place and now is a great time to take pictures!

In all these pictures you may be curious about our windows.  We have screens and security bars on the outside of the sill and then on the inside are glass windows on metal frames that open up into the house.  It's a real pain to have to lift the curtains over the windows when ever you open or shut them.  So in some of the pictures you'll notice that we haven't even bothered.  And, other than our bedroom curtains, I made all our curtains.

When you walk in the front door, you step right into our living room.  It's a strange room in that it's long and narrow.  Some people have galley kitchens....well, we have a galley living room! There is pretty much only one way to arrange it since you have to walk through the middle of it to get to the rest of the house.  But we like it and try to not let the size of it prevent us from having people over.  We have had 13 in Bible study, but that's about all we can hold!

Straight ahead and part of the living room is our dining room.  I like that it's all an open area.  It also makes for nice air flow which is nice since we only have air conditioning in the bedrooms.

To the left off the living room is our bedroom and we have an en suite bathroom.  I made a quilt from orange and blue African fabrics, so one wall is orange and the other three are blue.  We had the same color scheme before, but the orange was too dark and almost looked red and the blue was not the right shade.  This blue still isn't quite right, but it's better.  Folks, there are no paint stores here where you can choose a paint chip.  You show the painter a piece of fabric or something and then you squat beside buckets of paint and mix a little of this and a little of that on the lid until you think you've got it right.  The orange was fairly easy as we just needed to find the right amount of red and yellow to mix.  But the blue was really tricky and we couldn't figure out what to do to get it just right.  So we've got "close enough"!  I should also explain that that's a mosquito net at the end of the bed which we pull up over the bed at night.  
The reddish wood (that doesn't match the rest of the furniture!) is our wardrobe since we don't have a built-in closet.  Yep, we fit all our clothes in the wardrobe and in the dresser which you see to the left.

Our washing machine is in our bathroom.  Other than that, it's just your basic bathroom.  We don't have a bathtub.

Back in the living room...the room next to ours to the left of the living room is a store room.  It's just got all of our junk in it.

Then the room to the left off the dining room is kind of an extra room.  I have my desk in here and my sewing stuff is also in this room.  John's weights are in here and his music books are in the tall wardrobe.  The aqua curtain on the wardrobe was a bedspread I turned into a curtain.  John chose a green color in the curtains (which also have the aqua color in them) for an accent wall. 

 He helped the painter get that color just right and I really like it.

My kitchen is off the dining room.  I really like my kitchen.  It's a great size for just the two of us and I love my red accents.  It makes it look cheery without being overpowered by red.

Off the same side of the dining room as the kitchen there is a little hallway with floor to ceiling storage cupboards.  Off of that is a bathroom and a bedroom.  The bathroom is pretty basic.....The shower is so small you can hardly take a shower without getting tangled in the curtain. Yeah, not very pretty, but it's functional.

When our daughter was home, this bedroom was hers (our son had gone to college by the time we moved here), but now it's John's office.   We had the end wall a dark brown, but it really looked maroon.  In spite of those windows, it tends to be a dark room, so we brightened it up this time with a much lighter brown.  John spends a lot of time holed up in here working on his doctorate or preparing for classes.  We do use it as a guest room, but aren't really prepared to have long term guests since John needs to work in there.

So, that's our house.  It may be humble, but we like it.  After all, it's true that there's no place like home be it ever so humble!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

We Just Keep Plugging Away

John had hoped to finish up his doctorate by the summer of 2016.  But while he was in Oxford in April and May, one thing he and his advisers realized is that that's not going to happen.  The aim now is September 2017. 

Due to unforeseen circumstances, John has had to take on some extra administrative responsibilities starting in November.  This has left him with less time for his doctorate.  Also, some things that happened in November, including the sudden death of a colleague, and then the events of January 16 and 17 in which churches were attacked and burnt, packed a hard punch and left John discouraged and unmotivated.  

While in England he was able to debrief with a member of the pastoral staff at the church he attends while in Oxford.  The meetings with his academic advisers also helped him figure out what still needs to be done, what his time line is for getting it done, and a way to keep on track.  He came back encouraged and more focused than he's been for awhile.

Some of the things he still needs to do are finish up the case studies at churches that we've been working on, finishing transcribing interviews, code the interviews, read more books on his topic, and, of course, put it all together into a dissertation.  He's already been coding interviews and finding some significant threads that support his thesis.  

Today we visited one of our favorite little churches.  John shared with the members what he's noticed concerning music during the case study visits, interviewed the congregation, and then interviewed one of the members.  This is a small church, but we got some helpful information today during the interview.

So, John continues to put in as many hours a week as he can.  He's trying to take advantage of having more hours during the summer when he's not teaching at the Bible school.  We are disappointed that the end goal is a year farther out than we had hoped, but at the same time, it's good to have a more well-defined way to get to that goal.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Eating Out in Niamey

The number and variety of restaurants we have in Niamey never ceases to amaze me.  I am equally amazed by the number of patrons each restaurant has! There are a lot of people eating out in Niamey on any given night. Niamey has every thing from tables by the side of the street where one can buy rice and sauce, roasted meat, or fried bean-cakes or doughnut-like cakes to restaurants in little shacks where you can sit down and eat a meal for around $2.00 to more expensive European-style restaurants where you pay anywhere from $8.00 - $20.00 per person.  We have African food including varieties from all over West Africa, Chinese food, Indian food, Lebanese food, Italian food, and French food.  We're still waiting for a good Thai restaurant and, of course, a good Tex-Mex restaurant!  (There you go for a business as mission idea!)

We usually eat out about once a month at a nicer restaurant.  We do often buy a meat/French fry sandwich off the sandwich stand down the street for $1.00. But we know we can eat a lot more cheaply at home, so we don't eat out frequently.  While we were on our stay-cation we ate out a lot more though.  Here is where we ate and what we thought of each restaurant.  I'll just take them in the order in which we visited.  Remember, this is personal opinion and you need to visit to form your own opinion!

The Shangrila, aka The Sahel Restaurant -- This restaurant is behind the Sahel Hotel.  One can sit on the patio overlooking the river, in an air-conditioned room, or on the roof-top overlooking the river. In our opinion, they sell the best brochettes (I think called shish-kebobs in USA?) and fries.  The fries there are absolutely can see the guys sitting there peeling potatoes.  The meat is always tender.  And they have this great hot sauce for dipping your meat in.  It's so hot, I just kind of dip my meat but some people roll their meat in the sauce and really get it covered!  Some nice things about this restaurant are the view of the river/sunset, there is a playground for kids, the food is the best, and it's reasonably priced.  The disadvantages are that sometimes their music is really loud and the service is a bit slow (but then that's because they're peeling all those potatoes!  But sometimes we wonder if they're out killing the cow, too.).  Also, if you want something other than brochettes and fries, you'll have to go elsewhere.

La Cabane -- I believe the people running this restaurant are Lebanese and they sell quite a few Lebanese specialties.  They have a nice garden area for seating, an upstairs open-air seating area (overlooking a busy street), and indoor dining.  We have eaten in all three areas.  The upstairs area is actually the bar, but the night we ate up there, nobody was at the bar.  The garden area is really pretty with palm trees and grass.  The wait staff are very friendly and competent.  The food is o.k., but not fabulous.  I guess if you like smoking a hookah pipe, this is the place for you because there's a lot of that going on there!  We personally feel that it's over-priced for the quality of food you get.  Also, the waiters seem to disappear when you want them to bring you your check!  La Cabane is in walking distance from our house.

Cote Jardin -- This restaurant is run by a Brazilian family.  They have indoor dining, but the garden is so beautiful that I can't imagine choosing to eat indoors.  The owners have arranged the garden so that plants and tables are arranged in little alcoves with wind-chimes here and there, they have decorated the tables with colorful runners, cloths, and napkins, and made the entire setting feel private and romantic.  The first time we went there we weren't overly impressed because service was so slow.  But it was opening night, it was Valentine's Day night, and you could tell the staff were still figuring out what to do and how to do it.  This time when we went, the service was great, the food was fabulous, and the atmosphere was so enjoyable.  I don't have anything negative to say about this restaurant.  I should add that there is a play room for kids.  This one is also in walking distance from our house.  Just a side note...back in the day when Daniel and Suzanne were little and we lived in Niamey, I had a friend whose husband worked for USAID.  They lived in the house where this restaurant now is and every week we had mom's Bible Study/play dates there.  

Le Terminus -- We went swimming every day at the Terminus Hotel.  So one day we ordered our meal and ate by the pool.  The food was pretty good, but lacking in salt.  What was really nice was just staying in our swim suits and being waited on by the pool.  It felt like we were really living in luxury!  The price wasn't bad, either.

Le Pilier -- Le Pilier's menu has a mix of French and Italian food.
LOL....yeah, in May it's hard to look fabulous.  This picture is from May 2009.
 I always, yes always, order the spinach ravioli.  It's that delicious!  The restaurant is nicely decorated with a lot of earth-tone colors like you see in local village homes where the walls are coated with a smooth covering of mud.  They also have the work of local artists on the walls and use a lot of local weavings, baskets, and metal bowls to decorate.  

May 2009
Eating there is always a good experience.  They also have dining on the patio, but we prefer eating in the air-conditioned room.  It seems to be one of the favorite restaurants in town as nearly every table was filled.  This one is also in walking distance from our house.

Chez Chin -- Chez Chin is a Chinese restaurant and an old favorite.  I ordered the menu du jour which included neems (eggrolls) and something else, rice and a ginger-pepper beef sauce, and one scoop of vanilla ice cream.  John got a chicken coconut sauce that he said was awful, but edible.  The meat was tough and freezer-burnt and the sauce was tasteless.  But my meal was delicious, so if you go, just don't order the chicken coconut!  We and another small group were the only ones there.  This was one of the first days of the fast, so it may be that other customers came later in the evening after breaking the fast. They have both indoor and outdoor dining, but we chose indoor for the air conditioning.  

And as much as I like to take pictures, you'd think I'd have taken pictures of all our restaurant forays, but I took not a single picture.  All the pictures you see here are from other times.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Craziness of the Middle of June to the Middle of August

The middle of June to the middle of August are my busiest months.  We have a lot of people leaving in June.  Many who leave are short termers who have finished their 1-month to 2-year commitment.  There are also many long-term missionaries who begin their home assignment as soon as their kids are done with school and many take their month of holiday in June or July.  Starting in July we get a new surge of people coming in.

My to-do list and a pile of junk....pretty typical or this time of year.

All of this involves, from my desk, a lot of letter email writing back and forth to our sending entities.   Once a placement is agreed upon, I'll offer help to sort out how to apply for visas, what things to bring to Niger, and answering a multitude of questions.  We have such a frequent turn-over at our mission hospital, that we have a personnel coordinator there who works just on hospital personnel placements.  Sahel Academy's Human Resources Administrator also works with me on Sahel Academy specific placements.  These two ladies handle a lot of the correspondence, especially emails that ask specific work-related questions.  Once we know somebody is coming, one of us has to coordinate airport pick-up, guest house reservations, in-country travel, meals for the first few days, orientation, and....if they live in Niamey...making sure their house is set-up.

We provide furnished housing for all short-termers.  And we provide furnished housing for long-termers arriving new on the field so that they have the basics for living while they find their own furnishings.  There's no Ikea here, so it can take weeks to order a hand-made bed from the carpenter.

Just to give you an idea of what this time of year is like, here are some of the things I've done in the past two weeks:
1.  Kept up with daily emails.
2.  Attended administration team meeting.
3.  Signed dozens of checks and paperwork....for a week I was the only one in the office who could counter-sign anything.
4.  Organized three different women to clean four different houses.
5.  Hired the painter to paint six houses since the beginning of May (ours included).
6.  Organized the handy-man to fix stuff at two different houses.  When I say "organized" that involves, calling him, arranging to meet him at the house, walking through and explaining what needs to be done, then making sure he gets paid.
7.  Organized the carpenter to build some kitchen cupboards and to install some shelves in closets.
8.  Organized the plumber to fix something at one house.
9.  Met two arriving sets of missionaries at the airport.
10. Listened to some friends going through a hard time.
11. Got supplies out of the STA storage container to put in houses.
12. Started to make the bed for somebody, only to discover the sheets in the cupboard really were not clean.  I took them home, washed them, and handed them off to the new arrival at the airport to make the bed herself. :(  We also had a big confusion with keys at another house and I couldn't make the bed, so the new arrival helped me make it when we took them home.  Woops.....poor planning on my part twice.  I hope I do better the rest of the summer!
13. Got money for new arrivals to get them through the weekend.
14. Did orientation with a new couple and a Bible college student who has come to do an internship.
15. Made the bed for another arrival.  Yeah!  She arrived with a bed ready for her weary body.
16. Took some pans and tupperware stuff from one house back to the storage container.
17. Met another couple at the storage garage to choose furniture.  The size of their family is expanding, so they are moving to a bigger house.
18. Spent three afternoons setting up a house for somebody coming.
19. Met with the Director of the university center.
20. Got the secretary going on sending out more thank you notes for the persecution project funds that have come in.
21. Wrote personal notes to everybody who had a birthday this past week.
22. Helped move furniture from one house to another for one of the families who just arrived.  They had bought furniture from a departing family, but it needed to get across town.  I COULD NOT have done this without John's help!  I really did very little....just made sure the men were cheered on in their hard work.
23. Had guests for supper three times last week and once the week before.
24. Ran some personal errands:  bought a gas bottle for the stove, did some grocery shopping, sent money to a friend in need, and put gas in the car.
25. Attended the Bible College graduation.
26. Served left-overs for supper only once! :)  And John helped me with supper one night, too.  He had most of it done when I got home.

No, I'm not trying to either brag or complain.  In fact, I enjoy doing all of this, but it IS a little much all at one time right now.  The hardest part is that it's soooo hot and humid.  When I get home from working at a house my clothes are completely soaked through with sweat.  I think it's that that makes me more tired than anything.  It's all I can do when I get home to make supper and then I'm off to bed.  (Just an aside....rainy season is really late getting started.  In the past ten days we've finally had two pretty good rains and a third little one.  Today is feeling so much nicer after a rain last night and a small one again today.)

Our living room as it currently looks.
Oh, and did I mention that we are also having our house painted?  The termites ate half of our living room ceiling, so we had to have that ripped out.  Then we had the place fumigated.  Next the carpenter replaced the ceiling.  This past week the painters have been there every day because paint was peeling off our walls in sheets.  
And John's office.  What a mess.
Thankfully we have been able to stay right next door as our neighbors are on vacation.  That has been such a blessing because we can go back and forth to get stuff we need.  Both John and I are ready to move back into our own house though!  

The back seat of my car will look like this pretty much all summer.

Thankfully our Short Term Associate Coordinator has arrived!!!!  I no longer have to work alone!!!  YEAH!!!!! We would both appreciate your prayers as we have a lot to coordinate in the next month.  This coming week we have a young guy and a family coming.  Neither of those should be too much work.  But I've also got to get the painter going on another house, get some curtains to one of the houses and hire somebody to put up the curtain rods, move some more furniture and appliances, and organize meals for the new arrivals.  Our trickiest job of the summer is next week when we have 24 hours to switch furniture from one house to another (it's complicated, I know!).  Thankfully I have a bunch of people already lined up to help.