Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Huge Sigh of Relief

Two weeks ago did you hear the collective sigh of relief and the shouts of joy coming from Niamey?  I think the entire city rejoiced as two years of construction and massive road stress came to an end.  OK, there will always be crazy drivers no matter what and there will always be challenges such as sharing the roads with camels, donkeys, pedestrians, and mentally ill people.  But at least we can now return to the trip to Sahel or to church and back being 8 km instead of 20 km and of said trip taking 5-10 minutes one way instead of 30 minutes to an hour one way.

I will try to show you some before, during, and after pictures of the construction.  Please remember that some of these are taken through a streaked windshield so I apologize for the poor quality.


Taken in November 2011, just before the area was closed for construction.  This is going towards the traffic circle....to your right is the entrance to the bridge.  Taking down all those ugly signs has been an additional bonus.

Approaching the same traffic circle today with the bridge on the right.
Going on to the bridge...the angle of the two pictures just above is taken from where the cars in the center right of the picture are approaching.  This shows WHY we needed to improve the situation!  Photo taken in 2011.
This is taken in 2011, coming down from the hospital towards the Rond Point Kennedy with the Gaweye Hotel on the right and the Musee on the left.

This is more or less the same angle as it is today.  Coming down from the hospital, going to the right will take you past the Gaweye and on to the bridge.  Going straight will take you into Niamey center....towards the petit marche, etc.


While the construction was going on, we could drive on the "sidewalk" in front of the Gaweye to get to the bridge.  You could also bounce across the approach to the bridge and take a plowed-out dirt road to get back to the center area of town.  Coming home from the other side of the river, we had to take the new bridge which took a lot of time!

Driving along the "sidewalk" in front of the Gaweye.
The way it is now, with the Gaweye to the right.

So, while the roads were under construction for two years, I can't even put into words how complicated it was to get around the city.  I must admit I was very thankful to no longer have kids at Sahel so I didn't have to make the commute every day, but my heart went out to those who did!  We had many half-serious jokes about joining "Road Rage Anonymous" and serious prayers for patience.  Craziness was the norm and we learned to tell ourselves that getting home safely was what mattered and how other people drove was not my problem as long as they didn't involve me in an accident!






The next few pictures show the Rond Point Kennedy taken from the bridge looking towards the center of town.


And there it is!  The new overpass.  I'm hopeful that traffic will now be a lot easier to deal with!
Taken in 2009


Taken from almost the same spot a few days later.  This is harmattan in the air....dust that blows down from the Sahara Desert.

The end of the bridge heading into the Rond Point Kennedy

Ahem, sir, going the wrong way around the circle is bad for your health.
Around the cirlce and back up towards the hospital with the musee on the right.

Meanwhile, other changes have been going on in the city.  We are a city of traffic circles.  The next two pictures are at a large traffic circle (rond point) where the "congress" building is.  The first one was taken right after a storm that blew down a sign, but it wasn't really a very pretty location.  Whether or not you like the modern sculpture that is there now, it sure looks better than it did before.
Looking a little sad after a big wind storm.
Looking a whole lot better today.
  So yes, that was a big sigh of relief you heard coming from Niamey!  Maybe driving will return to normal?  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Show and Tell Tuesdays: Best Gift Edition

It's Thursday and I'm just now getting around to linking up with Momfessionals for Show and Tell Tuesday.  This week we are to write about our favorite Christmas gift.  My favorite Christmas gift was given to me on December 24, 1985.









I was a missionary school teacher in Miango, Nigeria.  My then-boyfriend was a missionary in Niger, the country to the north.  He had been in Miango for six months studying Hausa and that is how we met.  We first met in January 1985 and got to know each other throughout the year.  In December, he came down to Nigeria for Christmas.  My parents came from the USA for that Christmas, too.  I knew in a general sort of way that we would probably get engaged, but I didn't know when it would happen.

I was in the habit of going out to a Fulani camp with another missionary one or two evenings a week.  We did literacy and sang and told Bible stories at different Fulani camps.

 So on Christmas Eve, John, my parents, and I all went out to the Fulani camp.  These pictures were taken during the day, so it doesn't show how cold and windy it could be in the evenings!  As we headed out, I put my house keys in John's pocket and he acted really annoyed that I would do that.  Unbeknownst to me, he had my best-Christmas-gift-ever in that pocket.

When we got back from the Fulani camp, we all went back to my apartment and had hot chocolate.  Then my parents suddenly started acting all exhausted and said they were going back to their guest room (I had a very small place so they were actually staying at the guest house nearby).  I got kind of annoyed with them and told them that it was only 9:00 and they were being party poopers.

As soon as they left, John popped the question.  I still didn't really know what was coming but I did ask John why his heart was beating so fast!  Of course, I said yes!  and he placed a beautiful diamond ring on my finger.  I have pictures somewhere, but I can't seem to come up with them now.  John had some how gotten a hold of one of my rings and measured it and sent it to his sister-in-law and told her how much she could spend....so my sister-in-law chose my engagement ring. :) (You've got good taste, Laurie!)  She then somehow got it to my parents who brought it to Nigeria with them.

My best friend had made me promise that if I got engaged, no matter what the hour, I had to come tell her.  So as soon as John left I ran over to my friend's apartment and stood at her bedroom window calling her name until she woke up.  The next day was Christmas and our engagement was announced at the Christmas service.


Our engagement was mostly long-distance with us in two different countries....and the borders were closed.  There was a courier who would take mail across the border, so we always say our love letters were smuggled.  

The day we got our son, Daniel, settled into boarding school for the first time, my mom heart was pretty sad and wondering if we were doing the right thing.  We were traveling back from the capital city to the town where we worked.  I looked down and noticed the diamond from my ring had fallen out.  It was a very sad and difficult day, I'll tell you!

So on our next home assignment I got another ring which I also love.  And my ring is still the best gift I've ever gotten on Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Me and Christmas Cookies

I think I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas cookies.  I love to eat them.  But I know I shouldn't.  And they are so much work to make.  But they are so beautiful.  But John now has what seems to be a lactose intolerance, so all that butter can't be good for him.  And it's only two of us, so how will we eat all those cookies?

I see pictures of Christmas cookies like this 

   

and this 

 

on the internet. And how about these cookies that are too pretty to eat? 

 

Then I think, "I should do that."  And then I think, "Ain't nobody got time for that!" Not to mention that aside from some sprinkles (or hundreds and thousands depending on what part of the world you are from) cookie decorating items aren't available here, so I have to stick to the limited supplies I brought with me.

Helping with a task a little less frustrating than making cookies!

















When my kids were little I'd have this Hallmark movie idea in my head of making cookies with my kids and how much fun everybody would have.  And then as the dough stuck to the table and the frustration levels mounted and the dough went everywhere, I knew I for one was NOT having fun and would rather just do it myself.  As my kids got older, it wasn't so frustrating for me.  Although when my kids were little they never thought of getting in flour fights.  At least at this age I could tell them to clean up the mess themselves!

So, yesterday I decided to make Christmas cookies.  My dough turned out perfectly which is unusual!

 

Usually I have too much flour or not enough flour in them.  I think maybe because the flour had been in the freezer and was still cold it helped in keeping the butter from getting too soft and the dough too sticky.



My cookies were perfect in texture and taste...even if they weren't a work of art in decorations!



Holiday Sugar Cookies (I don't know my original source for this recipe)

Into large bowl mix:
3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In another bowl, with mixer at medium speed, mix:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (can use half margarine) ... (I used all butter. The original recipe called for 1/2 cup butter or margarine and 1/2 cup shortening.  Trust me....use the butter, not the shortening!)

Reduce speed and add:
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Beat until well blended.  With wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture just until well-blended (I had to add a little extra flour).  

Divide dough into four balls.  Wrap each ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350.  Roll out dough on a flour-covered surface, cut dough, decorate, bake.  Or bake and then frost.  I take one ball at a time out of the fridge because of living in a warm climate.  You can work with the dough better if it's not room temperature.

Yield:  4 - 5 dozen

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Show and Tell Tuesday....Christmas Decor

Woops...once again, it's no longer Tuesday.  Nevertheless I'm linking up with Momfessionals for Show and Tell Tuesday.   The topic this week is Christmas Decor and I can assure you this will be a short post!

I love Christmas and I've got nothing against Christmas decorations.  But since we are missionaries in a country with a very small minority of Christians, we decided a long time ago to keep our Christmas simple. For one thing, we wanted new believers to be able to celebrate Christmas as they think is appropriate and not feel that the way we celebrate is the way Christians have to do it.  Here Christmas is celebrated at church with your church family.  At first we found it frustrating to try to open gifts with the kids and then spend the day at church, so we created our own tradition.  We usually have a special supper on Christmas Eve.  Then we go to church on Christmas Day and that almost always involves a meal of some sort.  Then on the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) we celebrate with gifts and a traditional American Christmas dinner.

And now that we've been keeping our Christmas simple for almost 30 years, I actually like it that way.  I now find that when places are heavily decorated I find it to be a sensory overload for me.

So, here's our "decor" if you want to call it that!  We have a very tiny tree. 



And this year the cat has decided she likes to play with the ornaments.



This is one of my favorite ornaments.

  

It was given to me by my German friend, Waltraud, who is in heaven now.  And this is a Swedish ornament we got for our wedding. 

 

Most of our Swedish straw ornaments have bit the dust.....but then they are almost 30 years old!

I have three nativity sets I really like.  One is from Nigeria and is made from pieces of wood. 



 This one is from Niger and is made from soapstone (it's my favorite).  



And this one was given to us a long time ago by friends.



When we were first married we bought these stockings, a green one and a red one.  (We don't have a mantel, so we hang them on the bookshelf! :) )



Then over the years I made a cross-stitched stocking for everybody in the family (except me).  So here is John's. 

 

I gave Daniel's and Suzanne's to them to keep.

We have a few other decorations around.



My great Aunt Jeanette loved Christmas.  These mugs were hers and I think of her every time I have a hot cup of tea or Milo.



My Christmas decorations may be simple, but get a load of this:  Santa does come to Niger and he comes on a camel!