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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!