10 December 2008

Water Crisis at Galmi

This was posted by one of the folks currently at Galmi. Just thought you should know. As of word on the impending strike, so far it is still just a threat. To see the full post on the water situation at Galmi, check out Cindy's blog.

A situation has come up that could have very serious implications for the town of Galmi, the hospital, and all the missionaries here.The pump for our well has broken down. It is now impossible to pump water up from the well into the large storage tanks across the road from the hospital. The people in the village also use this water supply. They have become desperate enough to break one of the pipes in one storage tank to steal the water. This breakage also caused the tank to drain to almost empty, thus wasting most of the water that flowed out uncontrollably.

We had a new pump, but it has sat in storage for many years. When it was put into use, it too failed. We are trying a temporary fix, but this may not even be possible. We are trying to get a new pump, but it could take several days to get here.We are on strict water restrictions for the next few days. No laundry, or watering our just-beginnning-to grow vegetable gardens.We have a few days of drinking water available, but after that, we will have to go somewhere else temporarily.Please pray that we can get a temporary fix for the pump, and that a new one will get here quickly. We especially feel for the families with young children.

The construction project is on hold as large quantities of water are needed to mix the cement. Our builder leaves next week, and was hoping to have this part of the building completed before he leaves.Thank you for praying for us, our fellow missionaries, and the people of Galmi.

And for those of you following the crisis in Jos, Nigeria, here is the link to a post by a fellow SIMer who is living through it: http://renemarshall.blogspot.com/2008/11/jos-crisis-few-words-and-pix.html.

08 December 2008

Worth Living Over

I spent Saturday in DC at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with some friends who run a project called Operation Joy. Pat, Pam, and Krista (and families) spend months planning, organizing, and preparing for this all day event. They traced over 4,000 hands (of all sizes) onto green felt in order to sew together christmas trees to be given to the wounded soldiers and their families.

On the drive down, my friend Meighan was telling me about one of the questions she had to answer for her law school application: Describe a day from your life you would want to live over again. What a question! I immediately thought of a few I am thankful I would not have to relive, but then I began to consider what day I would choose. There were many moments that made the list, but as Saturday went on, I began to say to myself, 'This is a day I would I relive."
We spent the day doing crafts and talking with soldiers and their families, hearing the stories of their injuries, finding out about home, playing with their children. We had the privilege of praying with many, as they face many uncertainties about the recovery process.

This year, Operation Joy was granted access to the inpatient hospital. Three of us were able to go visit soldiers in their rooms. The group allowed me to be one of the three -- what a blessing it was to be in this facility. Both personally and professionally. We were able to spend a long time with a twenty year old man who received skin grafting to his entire left leg. He was waiting to find out if the graft took, so that his leg would not need to be amputated. This young man demonstrated an incredibly positive outlook on his situation. He was honest with us about his fears related to the rehab process, but overall, he was cheery, optimistic, and full of laughter. When we presented him with a Christmas tree and explained its meaning, he said, "This is the most beautiful thing I've been given." We were able to spend some time praying with him and his mom. It was a time of mutual blessing.

I prayed with the wife of a soldier who is very sick and they are facing so many unknowns in terms of his health. We were able to serve them on such a deep level. We provided a few minutes or hours of distraction from the reality that the life these men and women knew was stripped from them in an instant -- all the while protecting our freedom (of which most of them consider "just part of my job, ma'am.").

We gave them Christmas trees, they gave us perspective. My heart is full of thanks and gratitude to the members of our armed forces, and to their families, for the sacrifices they have made on our behalf.

21 November 2008

Praying for Galmi

One of the M's working at Galmi right now posted this on her blog today(http://chatswithcindy.blogspot.com/2008/11/galmi-hospital.html). Please join us in praying for this situation:

I am coming to you with another Prayer Request.Last night we learned that a proposed date of Tuesday, Nov. 25th., our Hospital employees will go out on STRIKE.STRIKE is not new to us. There are always 'rumblings' going on, but they are usually diverted. This seems to be taking shape quite quickly.Many ask..."Aren't you a Christian Hospital?", yes, we are...we live in a fallen world.Please pray for us as missionaries...this is difficult. Difficult with relationships with our African friends that take years to build...trust with each other that has even taken longer to put into place. We went through this a year ago and thought things were settled...God has other plans.A lot of meetings are going on today with Admin. Please pray for great wisdom and discernment. Three missionaries and three nationals make up our Admin. Committee until a full time Hospital Director can get here. Our committee is tired. They all have other responsibilities in the hospital and on the compound. To have this brought up again is very discouraging.We know that God is greater then all of this... He is Faithful and Good. We are holding onto the edge of His robe...Thanks once again for your prayers...

I will try to keep you posted as I here more.

Happy Birthday Rene!

Today is Rene Magritte's 110th birthday!!! What's that? YOU DON'T KNOW WHO RENE MAGRITTE IS?!?!?! Did you fail Art History???? Rene Magritte is the GREATEST painter of all time!! (sorry, but you're kid's paint-by-number's don't count as masterpieces)


Magritte was a Belgian surrealist, and in my opinion, brilliant. Here's a link to some more info on his life and career: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Magritte





So Happy 110th, Rene!








29 September 2008

Not my pinhole camera!

So I'm almost done packing up my life. But I've come across my most favorite camera, and I can't bring myself to part with it. But you see, it's an oatmeal canister. Or at least it was in its past life. I built this camera as a project in college. . . but it was my first pinhole camera that I used as a freshman in high school that triggered my interest in photography. And look where that got me!

So parting with this is a bit harder than most. So maybe I'll stick it in some box and after I've lived without it for a few years, parting with it won't feel as depressing. I'm allowed one silly sentimental thing now and again, right?

28 September 2008

It's always harder than I think

I've spent the past two and a half days packing up my life. But I've been purging more than packing -- between giving things away, selling furniture, and throwing out stuff that I've never needed -- I've cleared out most of my apartment. It's been a wee bit emotional, but I'll get to that later. Let's start with the good stuff:

In an attempt to downsize, I went through all my files, keeping only those necessary (I had cell phone statements from 2000!! OY!). I filled up my laundry basket with papers to shred . . . but I barely made a dent in it when the shredder DIED on me!!!! Now, both of my parents have had their identity stolen, so I wanted to do my mother proud and make sure that there would be no identifying documents heading off to the trash bin. BUT HOW COULD I??? WITHOUT MY TRUSTY SHREDDER?!?!?! Hmmm. Think Deb. You're an OT . . . it's your job to problem solve. Hmm. AH HA! I know, I'll burn them! So, I went outside with a roasting pan, my laundry basket of paperwork and a big box of matches. But it was a rainy, windy day. Nothing but a whole lot of smoke. Hmm. Plan B. OOOh, I've got it . . . I have a fireplace that I've NEVER used!!

So, I set the roasting pan in the fireplace (because I wanted to keep the mess to a minimum) and lit a match. There was such a beautifully roaring fire! Except . . . wait a minute!! The room is filling up with smoke . . . WHAT'S GOING ON?!?! That's when I noticed that the trap door to the chimney was closed! (I know, so much more than a pretty face!) Problem resolved.

I am now paperless . . . but have a huge mess on my hands to clean up before Tuesday night! OY! Go figure. But at least I can sleep tonight knowing that my identity has been reduced to ashes (lots and LOTS of ashes).

But packing up your life is a bit emotional. I came across some memories from college . . . allowed myself a few minutes to reminisce, and then added them to a bag bound for the dumpster. Why? Because as much as I loved going to see Les Miserables on Broadway, I don't need to schlep the ticket stub all the way to Niger. Or stash it in a box bound for my parents' attic. No. That's ridiculous. I've given over half of my clothing to Goodwill . . . but I figure, really by doing that I'm just saving on shipping costs. I'm so out of style, no one will buy those clothes anyway, and by the time I get to Niger they will be on a freighter bound for the Galmi Market. So really, that was a strategic move. I wonder if that will work for my kitchen aid? Hmm. Probably not.

I've found all sorts of treasures . . . a 39 cents stamp! I remember those days!! And I finally cashed in my coke-bank full of pennies (it was a Christmas present when I was six or seven, I think, and I've been putting in my spare pennies since. It was only half full, but again, I'm not schlepping it anymore!!). Guess how much it was worth . . . $76.05!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!! IN PENNIES!!! HA! Too bad it wasn't quarters . . . or those liberty dollars! Or better yet, British Pounds . . . but I'll take $76.05 . . . not too bad for doing nothing but dropping in stray pennies.

But this purging process has been good. It continues to solidify this process. It's helping to keep the goal in mind. Which is ultimately Heaven. And I have to say, at this point, I'm very thankful that I can't take any of it with me . . . this may sound selfish, but then someone else gets to pack it all up! Jesus was on to something when He said "Sell your possessions and give to the poor, then come, follow Me." He knew how to live without stuff. In fact, He didn't even carry around His own pillow (I just had a mental picture of Jesus wearing one of those travel neck pillows in an airport . . . where do I get these things?!?). I'm getting ready to move to the poorest nation on the planet . . . a place where the neighborhood is made out mud . . . and I'm worried about which box to pack my red curtains in. What, I can't live without my red curtains? No I could. But I really like them. And red makes me happy. So, I'm packing up my red curtains and at the end of the month I will ship them to Florida where they will nest in a container bound for Niger. My curtains will most likely get to Galmi before I do. Hopefully they will get a good start on learning Hausa so that when I'm sleeping they can whisper to me (OH MY!! THE PACKING IS GETTING TO ME! I NEED SOME SLEEP!).

19 September 2008

Almost Forgotten Photo

I wanted to post this photo I took at Galmi Hospital. I really like the shot, and wanted to share it.
It's always interesting to me when people ask "So, how was Africa?" "It was good." "Oh, good" [end conversation]. But what does "It was good" really mean?? Come on, Deb.! "It was good"?!?! GOOD?!?! WE'VE BEEN READING YOUR BLOG . . . GOOD IS THE BEST YOU CAN COME UP WITH?!?!
Sorry, but that's all I've got.

18 September 2008

Looking back

One week ago I left Galmi. It feels like yesterday. Funny how quickly life goes when one is back in the "familiar." Usually when I come back from overseas it's life-as-usual in hyperspeed. But this time I was able to ease back in a bit. Back to the rehab tomorrow. It will be nice to be able to communicate efficiently with my patients.

Not being able to speak Hausa or French really limited my ability to communicate with the patients at Galmi. But it didn't prohibit it. One of the characteristics I really appreciated about the Hausa was their ability to laugh, even through great adversity. And their desire to help. And to teach.

Because there is not a regular orthopedic surgeon at Galmi, the doctors there have no other choice but to use traction. I hung out with the patients in traction quite a bit -- they had no way of getting away from me! :) There was a little girl, "Z" (about 6 or 7) who had experienced some trauma and so as a result spent six weeks in the same bed, staring at the same ceiling, laying in the same position.

If I was in Z's position, I would have gone mad, so I went in to try to encourage a little play with her. Using the Look & Listen technique I learned at language acquisition training, Z began to teach me the words in Hausa for "eyes," "nose," "mouth," "lips," "ear," "earring," "neck," "arms," "hand," "legs," "feet." Soon, her family members jumped in to help teach. For a week I would stop in everyday and "practice" with Z and her family. They laughed with me as I stumbled over syllables and cheered for me when I accidently got one right.

Soon, her x-ray revealed that her femur had healed and she was to be discharged as soon as she could walk with a pair of crutches. They put a cast on her from the tips of her toes to the top of her hip; she was to be non-weight bearing until she saw the ortho (who arrived on the plane I flew out on). Finding her crutches that fit proved to be impossible, so with a saw and drill, I refitted the crutches as best as I could. But teaching her to use them was the greatest challenge of all.

Without my words, we worked on her standing balance (one leg is hard enough, but having to hold up a heavy cast is quite the challenge for a little one who is still developing gross motor coordination), hopping, and eventually crutches. How did we accomplish this? Easy. Through a language lesson. In class they called it "Total Physical Response" . . . when the native speaker gives the command to stand up, you stand up. So, finally, through a lousy game of charades, Z's mom understood what I wanted her to do. Tashi! She commanded Z. And she stood up. Once she was sitting again, I looked at mom and said, "In English, this is stand" and I stood up. "Hausa??" I shrugged. Tashi. She repeated. I stood. Zumna. I sat down. Tashi!! Z shouted. I stood. She giggled. ZUMNA!! I sat. TASHI!! Up. ZUMNA!! Down. Z laughed and laughed. Soon there was a small crowd gathering watching the power this little one had on me.

Z has a beautiful laugh.

There was also an old man, "A," who lost one of his legs. Any time I would come into the room for crutch training with him, he would say, Sai an jima! ("See you later.") He continually refused to learn to walk again. One day the doctor told him that he couldn't go home until I said he was up and walking. Turns out, the crutches he had been given were as tall as he was! So, back to the shop for the saw and the drill!

Once his crutches were the right height for him, we tried some bedside standing. No good. He needed something to hold on to. Hmm. Where could I find parallel bars?? Nope. Next best thing. The hand rail along the ledge between the outpatient department and the inpatient wards. Seeing the potential hazzard of a bad fall, I acted out the danger of not paying attention to where his foot was positioned. He had a laugh at my charades.
When I work with English speaking patients on standing tolerance and balance I often engage them in a task or conversation in order to distract them from standing. Hmmm. Yet again, I had no Hausa. But I did have Look & Listen!! I was wearing blue and green. He had on a deep red. I pointed to my shirt: "In English, this is green." He caught on quickly and I learned the words for "blue," "red," "green," "yellow," "orange," "brown," "black," and "white." "White" was the most fun: A's son was standing behind him, holding the wheelchair in place, he was wearing a white cap. I pointed. He stated the word for "white." I pointed to something else white, and he said the word (I've forgotten it already). This went on with a few more "white" things . . . and then I pointed to the gray on A's head. "WHITE!" He and his son roared with laughter! Then I pointed to my arm. "WHITE!" They roared again. The Hausa really have a great sense of humor!

13 September 2008

My Favorite Brooklyn

Okay, I know that she has very little to do with Niger, but I promised I'd post some photos of my favorite B, so here you go (we took a break from reading The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and went to the beach today).


12 September 2008

Home . . . Better Late Than Still Stuck in Morocco

I'm home. Finally. In the Adirondacks with my family. Sweatshirts, hot showers, and PANTS (!!!!) . . . I know, it's only been three weeks, but it feels like a lot longer. It feels so good to wear a pair of pants! And play teaparty with Brooklyn.

My journey home was not without event. But when is my life?

The SIMAir flight made it to Galmi on Wednesday . . . but the bus never did. The bus I would have had to take (if SIMAir couldn't fly) to Niamey broke down before it even got to us. And I got my second flying lesson. Flying a plane: so easy, an OT can do it!

We arrived in the capital a little before 5pm, and I only had to wait until midnight before heading back to the airport. The Niamey airport is really three rooms: the front lobby where you can get your tickets, the departures "terminal" (a room with a few rows of seats and three doors: gate 1 for "first class and those traveling with children", gate 2 for "business class" and gate 3. There was no label on gate 3, but its the only one we used) and the arrivals "terminal" (which was sectioned off: surfaces to fill out customs forms, a desk to get your passport checked, and the health desk to check your yellow book. There's one conveyor for luggage, and a police checks your stuff at the door). the Niamey airport is closed more often than it is open.

After check-in, I had to get stamped out by customs . . . but it was break time for the customs officials. So we stood and waited while they sat around and talked. After break was over, we all got stamped through and then waited in the departures terminal -- gate 3. The shuttled pulled up to the door: bottle neck #1. We had our carryon's searched and ourselves wanded. Then we all piled onto the shuttle bus. After everyone was on board, the shuttle drove 100 feet (no, you didn't read that wrong) to the plane: bottle neck #2. That's right, they load us up in the shuttle to drive us to the plane. Of course it would be faster and more efficient for us to all walk to the plane. But that would be too easy. You see, a few years ago the Francophone Games were in Niger. So in an attempt to be progressive, they put a shuttle bus at the airport. Who would have thought that "progress" would be the kiss of death for "efficiency."

After about an hour, we landed for a stop in Ouagadougou, Burkina Fasso (there's nothing else to say about it . . . I just like saying "Ouagadougou").

Arrival in Casablanca was without event. That is until departure time came and went, with no word. Suddenly, as a wave through the cloud, we hear "Your flight has been cancelled." The reason we were given: "The plane flying in disappeared off the radar." WHAT?!?!? I know, it doesn't make sense. But at least I wasn't on that plane! Those who came in from Morocco that morning were immediately sent back through customs and brought to a hotel. Those of us who flew into Casa that morning, were hassled about leaving the airport, so we stashed in the RoyalAirMoroc First Class Salon. We were delayed 13 hours. The day was spent wondering if we were actually going to fly out of Morocco . . . tryng to sleep . . . trying to organize the details of changing my train ticket from NYC to Albany via email (thank God for a very organized mother who insists on having her own copies of everything . . . thanks mom for all of you help!!). They had free internet for us, but the computers all had Frecnh keyboards . . . the "A" and "Q" are backwards . . . the "M" is where the ";" is and all the punctuation keys were in different places. The numbers and symbols were opposite (had to hit "shift" for the numbers) but the symbols were in different places than on standard keyboards. It took twice as long to type anything because I had to hit "backspace" every three characters. But hey, at least they had free internet for us.

I sat next to a very interesting old man on the plane who asked me how I got to Casablanca from Niger. "Is there anyother way than a plane?" He thought about his question for a minute, "Maybe a camel!" he laughed. "Nope, I took a donkey cart."

We finally landed at JFK, one minute after 02:00. Getting through customs was a breeze and my suit case was there waiting. I exited into the waiting area, searching out a place to park until 5 when I would take the train to the subway to Penn Station to catch the first train out at 7. "DEB-RUH!!" Man, I didn't realize how exhausted I was -- auditory hallucinations . . . that sounded just like my mom. No. They're 4 hours north, in Speculator. "DEB-RUH!!!" There she was. There's no mistaking that sound. My parents felt really bad that I had to wait so long to catch the train after such a miserable day, they left at 9pm, arrived at 1:30. We got in the car and drove 4 hours back. What parents!!

So, the morning has been spent playing teaparty, reading, and coloring with m favorite 3 year old, Brooklyn (pictures to follow). So. There you have it. Three weeks at Galmi, come and gone. Up next: language school.

10 September 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

My bags are packed
I'm ready to go. . . .

I'm leaving on a jet plane -- UH, HOPEFULLY!

My time here at Galmi is up, for now. The plan is that I'll be back here to stay for 3 years starting in 2010. But I'm learning the truth of Proverbs 16:9, In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. I am scheduled to leave Galmi around 2pm for a quick hour and a half flight back to Niamey. But if it rains, the plane can't fly or land on our dirt runway.


We went a week without rain, then Monday night there was massive down pour, with plenty more Tuesday morning. So I quickly enlisted the troops (that would be my weekly prayer teams) as my alternative mode of transportation to the capital is bus -- but much of the road between here and there has been washed out from the rain (there's one place where they had to drop a shipping container into the hole in order to temporarily "fix" the road!) so the buses have been breaking down (and that's not just "oops, we ran out of oil" but "oops, the front axle just snapped in two"). This results in a 15+ hour bus trip (normally is about 7, if everything runs smoothly).



I've heard back from so many that you are praying out there . . . WHAT A BLESSING! And by 3pm it was hot and sunny and the roads were starting to dry. I was walking back to my house last night, praying "Oh, thank you God! You've taken care of this already!" But the Lord knows that I have trouble when it comes to the ambiguity of plans (see, I have a train ticket to take me from NYC to Albany, NY on Thursday after I land in JFK, and I'm scheduled to share at a church on Sunday morning, and I'm supposed to have 5 days with my niece in New York before I head home). So when I woke up this morning and it was cool and windy (which is a blessing when you live in such a hot place) all I could think was "Lord, if this is what it takes so that I finally I can learn this lesson!"

[The phone rang as I was typing that sentance . . . it was Auntie Cindy -- wife of the team leader here at Galmi. "Deb., James just heard from Ed, there's a storm coming, but he's going to drive to the airport to look at the doplar and see if where it is. He will phone again at quarter to 8. You need to be ready if we have to run out the door." I shut off the computer, and ran to double check to make sure everything was done. Five minutes later, Cindy was at the door. She did a few dishes while I filled out my expense report; then we prayed. The phone rang, it was James -- Ed, the pilot, has decided he can fly this afternoon."]

But that doesn't guarantee anything. But the sun is now peaking through the clouds . . . the wind has stopped . . . and the temperature is already going up. All good signs.

And God is still good. He never stopped being good, nor will He. And if I end up broken down on the side of the road, missing my flight home, there would be a reason. And He would still be in control. Isaiah 46:4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Even when I go gray, He will sustain me! I am He. What a promise before a long journey!!

09 September 2008

Pour Votre Plus Grand Plaisir

I went to visit the CREN yesterday--it's a center for nutritional rehab for malnurished babies. Since one of the few ways women gain status in Nigerien society is through the number of children they have, many women start having babies right away (the Muslim women, I'm told, tend to marry between 14 & 16 years old) and will get pregnant again shortly after they give birth. So older baby is often weaned, very suddenly and prematurely. This leaves baby to survive on goats milk or reconstituted powdered milk, both which lack vitamins and nutrients that mom's "nono" contains (that is what they call breast milk). Many babies are also put on a diet high in carbohydrates (ie: millet mush) . . . which results in the bloated "malnutrition bellies" that so many of these kids have.

But the CREN renourishes these little ones, and teaches many moms proper nutrition. The women stay there at the CREN until baby is well enough to go home. So they not only hear, they have the opportunity to practice and receive social support from other women in the same situation.

So here are some photos of the CREN and the hospital that I took yesterday. Enjoy.



06 September 2008

Voici la Mariée

On Thursday I was walking through the hospital with two of the doctors. A man stopped us and handed us bubble gum. "What's this for?" I asked. "That's the father of the bride, and you've just been invited to the wedding this weekend." (The best part is that there are random facts inside the wrapper: "Where is the driest place in the world? The Arocama desert in Chile. It rains only a few times every 100 years." Hmmm . . . they've obviously never been Galmi!). This is the bride's father in the cobalt blue to the right.

By the time we arrived to the wedding (well after it was scheduled to start), the church was already full. But we managed to squeeze onto a bench that was under a fan. We were right in the middle of the room, so we were unable to see the bride, but hey, we were under a fan (at one point, the lights went out and the fans died for a few seconds . . . you can believe I've never prayed so hard in my life!! It was so hot in the church with the fans running . . . but once again, God showed me that He doesn't give more than we can handle!! The power came roaring back on and I wanted to stand up and shout "Hallelujah!").

The youth choirs from both of the evangelical churches in Galmi (they split about 10 years back as a result of two feuding families) joined together to sing at the wedding. They sang for a good half an hour. After they were done, a man got up with a microphone. He would speak and they would laugh or cheer. I leaned over to Auntie Cindy, "What is going on?" "Oh, he's the Games Master." That's right! In the middle of the wedding, they played a trivia game and even handed out prizes!!! I didn't get a prize. I don't know enough Hausa. But if that's not motivation to learn!

Then the two women's choirs had a sing-off. All throughout the ceremony, as different groups were singing, people would get up and put money on the foreheads of those singing (the sweat on their brow would keep the bills up for a second, before they would flutter to the ground). The money was all for the bride & groom. The better your singing, the more people got up to give.

The women were decked out!! So many beautiful colors and, of course, very loud patterns! But, shockingly, many women went without headscarves. I wish I had! Auntie Cindy dressed me up again, and the wrap on my had was so heavy it kept falling against the back of my neck . . . it was so thick it trapped all of my body heat! I think we should export them to Siberia!! Hmmm.

The groom's family (left) dances in first, and once they are all seated, the bride and her family come in as well. Traditionally, neither of them is to smile . . . as that would indicate to the elders in the church that they have already had sex . . . I wonder what they think about western weddings.

The entire ceremony lasted about 3 hours . . . the pastor preached on Ephesians 5: "Wives submit to your husbands." (he did manage to leave out "husbands, love your wives") I'm told this is the typical wedding sermon. The men (who sat either at the very front of the church, or on the left side) seemed to be the only ones enjoying the sermon.

Despite the heat, it was a great cultural experience! They did have a reception, but we didn't go. It would have been like last night: men on one side, women on the other, sit, eat, leave. There will be plenty of wedding receptions when I come back here for good.
This shot of the bride (left) was the only one I could get of her. She wore a western style dress with lacy sleeves that covered her upper arms nicely. This is a different dress than usual. About a year ago one of the missionaries picked up a dress at a thrift store in the States, and it apparently has gotten quite a bit of use as it has been passed around from bride to bride.
The couple exchanged vows, very similar to western ones: "in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer." But they didn't kiss. They shook hands. Word on the street is that there have been a few kisses at Christian weddings recently, but not everyone approves. Sannu-sannu (slowly-slowly).

05 September 2008

A Night Out

Tonight was a night of many firsts . . . for both me and a 10 year veteran missionary couple. They were invited to an anniversary party (the first one they've heard of for a Nigerien couple), so they asked if I'd like to come along . . . for another taste of Nigerien culture.

We arrived over an hour after the scheduled start time . . . we were some of the first ones there. Nigerien etiquette rule #1: never arrive on time, and NEVER EVER EVER EVER arrive early. We greeted the hostess, and the other women and then sat down. The event was held outside of the host's home, but within the mud walls of their property. The chairs were arranged around the perimeter, men on the left, women on the right. Or at least that's how it's usually done. But for the first time in their 10 years in Niger, they saw married couples sitting together!! A man got up to say a few words, the couple blew out 10 candles from the cake, and then, much to the shock (and excitement) of the veteran missies, the couple danced together! These are Nigerien Christians, breaking the rules!! It was fantastic!! Then, several other married couples got up and joined them!!!

Many of them women tonight were not wearing head scarves (!!) and were dressed to the nines, Quite a few of the younger women were dressed in western style clothing. It was a very unusual party, or so I'm told.

After the honored couple had their dance (and lots of photos were taken), dinner was served. Chicken and onions over millet with some sort of gingered fruit juice in a bag. Drinking juice from a little baggie is an art. They are filled to just under capacity, and then a knot is tied at the top, with no wiggle room. You have to bite a little whole in the corner and suck. But the art is being able to drink it slowly . . . I however, poured quite a bit of it on my zuni (the wrap around skirt . . . see previous postings).

Being that it was some time after 9pm, I didn't finish all of my dinner . . . but that's okay, there were Auntie Cindy assured me that there were plenty of dogs around to clean up after us. As I was trying to place my paper plate, still full of chicken and onions over millet, on the ground I saw a khaki colored blur out of the corner of my eye. "Oh good, the dog is right behind us, " I whispered to Cindy. We glanced back, oops! It was a little boy . . . and then another, and another, and another!! They were hiding behind all the women waiting to get scavenge the food we had left!! Cindy and I just sat and giggled!! (We did that a lot tonight!!)

Nigerien etiquette rule #2: once you're done eating, the party is over -- it's completely acceptable and expected for you to get up and leave. We took our cue from the others who ate and left, and off we went -- there had been some sort of vehicle emergency that Uncle James had to leave early to attend to, so Auntie Cindy and I weaved our way through the streets without a flash light . . . praying that God would protect our feet from whatever we might step in and our ankles from unsuspecting holes and rocks, and the power wouldn't go out until we got home -- without the few little lights around it would have been utter and total darkness (which He did -- about 10 minutes after we got back, the power went out -- there's a much needed storm coming). Nigerien etiquette rule #3: when it's so dark you can't see where you're stepping, avoid the really dark spots on the ground (chances are, the mud isn't from someone's garden hose).

On our walk back we passed several stalls (Cindy calls them "the strip mall") that were still open for business. There was even a "cinema" -- behind a fence made of sticks, every Friday night you can pay to watch a movie. Not sure what it was . . . it wasn't in French and it wasn't in English. But it was loud. We even came across a few "arcades" (a little TV set on a stool and 8-10 little Nigerien boys huddled around). One was an original Nintendo and the other was a Sega. It's been a very long time since I've seen anyone play the very first version of Super Mario Brothers! But there they were . . . Mario and Luigi, hanging out on the side of Main Street in the middle of nowhere Galmi, Niger. I LOVE IT!!


Tonight couldn't have been better! And to think, there's a wedding tomorrow!

04 September 2008

Chef BoyarDeb. (oh boy, oh boy!)

What a day! I taught three people how to use crutches (but half of that time included fitting the crutches . . . which entailed running back and forth to the shop to have extra holes drilled or to borrow a wrench -- during which time I had a very interesting conversation on marriage with the guys in the shop . . . but that will be a post for another day, as I've been invited to a wedding on Saturday, and I have the bubble gum to prove it!), learned a few colors in Hausa, helped a 15 month old weight bear for the first time in six weeks (bilateral femoral fractures means six weeks of "traction" when there is no ortho around . . . but that's also another story for another day), and (drum roll please) I had company for dinner!!

Now, when I'm home, this would be no great feat. In fact, I typically have at least one dinner party a month, some times two or three. They always take preparation and planning . . . but nothing like today. At home trying out new recipes is an enjoyable process . . . I usually come across one at my leisure and think, "hmm, I'll have to try this out on a few people." But for tonight, recipe hunting was a premeditated, very intentional mission.

Tonight's menu: Meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, peas, and key lime pie. Simple. Not in Niger.

Rewind to last Friday. A vegetable seller came by with the potatoes and onions (keep in mind, it's now the following THURSDAY). Skip ahead to yesterday . . . Wednesday is the co-op day, which means I could purchase flour, butter, mince, canned peas, and a loaf of frozen bread. But I forgot to get mince, and had to go back later. Last night: leave the mince to thaw in the fridge, and two slices of bread out on the counter to harden to make bread crumbs for the meatloaf.

I woke up this morning ready to go! Made yogurt (from powdered milk), then off to the hospital (see above). Did a "load" of laundry in the sink during morning break, followed by more crutch training. My lunch time/siesta were spent in the following manner:

  1. Light stove to toast semi-stale bread for breadcrumbs, as it was really humid today and the slices weren't crispy enough to crumb.
  2. Squeeze a dozen limes to get 1/4 cup of lime juice for pie.
  3. Make pie crust.
  4. Light oven to bake pie crust.
  5. Bake pie crust.
  6. Burn one side of the pre-breadcrumb toast.
  7. Relight oven due to unknown cause of extinguishing in order to finish cooking pie crust.
  8. Whip up key lime custard.
  9. Make make meringue . . . by hand . . . without an electric mixer.
  10. Clean up meringue splotches off floor (I'm a messy enough cook to begin with!).
  11. Slice up one-side-is-now-burnt-half-stale toast to retoast to make breadcrumbs.
  12. Continue attempting "stiff peaks." (in this heat and humidity, there's no such thing!)
  13. Put down bowl and walk away.
  14. Put pie in oven until meringue tips turn golden brown.
  15. Relight stove.
  16. Avoid second burning of breadcrumbs.
  17. Relight oven.
  18. Peal and slice potatoes.
  19. Make two cups of milk from powder.
  20. Chop onions.
  21. Season mince.
  22. Shape loaf.
  23. Put pie in fridge so that it doesn't melt.
  24. Boil water x3 for dishes .
  25. Return to the hospital one hour late.

Since the prep work was done, I figured it would be smooth sailing from there. Before a quick shower to wash away my Galmi-tan, I lit the oven and popped in the meat loaf -- it's a small oven, with only one rack -- not enough room for the meat and the potatoes at the same time.
Once the meat was done, I popped the potatoes in -- the recipe was for scalloped potatoes without cheese, as it is really hard to come by in these parts, and it said it would only take about 3-4 minutes for the milk to boil, and then I was to lower the oven temperature so that they would simmer. Twenty minutes later, still no boil. Thirty minutes . . . and nothing. Forty . . . my guests were getting hungry. WAIT . . . what's that?? THE OVEN WENT OUT AGAIN! Where are the matches??

By the time the potatoes were done, the meat was cold. Too bad. I don't have a microwave. We sat down to eat, and I realized, OH NO! I FORGOT THE PEAS!!! Oy. But I wanted peas. So, I went to quick make peas while they started to eat. But the pot was dirty from something else, and I didn't want to fill the kettle, light the stove, and wait for water to boil. So, no peas.
The meat looked done, but was a bit soggy in places . . . but that would be the "breadcrumbs" as I burnt one side trying to toast it on the gas stove (no toaster) so I had to chop little pieces instead. HA! And the potatoes were still crunchy. But that's not all . . . .

Refrigerating toasted meringue is a bad idea. It broke, collapsed, and the custard got really runny. So I reasoned that a few extra minutes in the oven would do the trick. But the oven is unreliable and I don't have a timer. Next thing I know, Auntie Cindy said "Um, is your pie still in the oven?" The top of the meringue tasted like a crisply toasted marshmallow. HA!! So much for that idea!

Needless to say, Uncle James, Auntie Cindy and I had some really good laughs throughout dinner!

The Leprosy Hospital at Danja

I've finally made it to a leprosy hospital! (You all must think I'm insane . . . who says something like that?? But I can't help myself. Leprosy fascinates me!)

On Monday, I took a bus from Galmi to Maradi (the second largest city in Niger . . . yet it is still smaller than Mt. Laurel). We were prepared for anything -- the roads are so bad here, that it is more uncommon to arrive without a breakdown or road blockage (or it-rained-last-night-and-washed-the-entire-span-of-road-away) than to be delayed for several hours. But God is good. He knows how to ease me in gently!! We had to wait two hours for the bus to arrive, but once we were on, no problems. We were even sitting right behind the driver, so I've got some video of a passing town and another of the crazy overtaking . . . I will edit them down and post them eventually.

Danja Hospital is beautiful! They've just finished a new ward and physiotherapy gym. The patients come for treatment for several months or years, so they take a lot of pride and ownership of the facilities. I met the most beautiful people there!

Helen, an OT from Australia, is currently training a Nigerien man to take over the PT department so that she can concentrate more on Leprosy control. She shared an abundance of good ideas and advice as I now prepare to come back and set up a physio dept at Galmi. I've definitely got my work cut out for me!

At one point, while Helen had some work to do, I wandered around and found some of the women sitting weaving. I sat down to watch. Within minutes, I was handed some reeds and included in the mix. They taught me two different techniques -- one was more of a braid, and the other was a circular pattern. Both of which they use to make large mats. We had such a good time -- they laughed at my initial inability to coordinate, but by the time I caught on, I could see how satisfied they were that I was doing something every woman should have already known how to do!

They tried teaching me some Hausa . . . that wasn't nearly as successful as the weaving. They laughed and laughed at me as I stumbled over every incorrect syllable. On woman even said "What's this? She can weave but she can't speak Hausa?!?!"

And of course, a visit anywhere would not be complete without a marrage proposal. There was an older man, a patient with leprosy, who asked me to marry him. I told him I was only interested in being the first wife . . . none of this second or third wife business. He laughed at that. The Hausa have such a great sense of humor! I really have laughed a lot with them. (This is him to the right.)

Here are some more photos of Danja. Enjoy.