29 September 2008
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
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
18 September 2008
13 September 2008
12 September 2008
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
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
06 September 2008
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 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.
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.
05 September 2008
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
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:
- Light stove to toast semi-stale bread for breadcrumbs, as it was really humid today and the slices weren't crispy enough to crumb.
- Squeeze a dozen limes to get 1/4 cup of lime juice for pie.
- Make pie crust.
- Light oven to bake pie crust.
- Bake pie crust.
- Burn one side of the pre-breadcrumb toast.
- Relight oven due to unknown cause of extinguishing in order to finish cooking pie crust.
- Whip up key lime custard.
- Make make meringue . . . by hand . . . without an electric mixer.
- Clean up meringue splotches off floor (I'm a messy enough cook to begin with!).
- Slice up one-side-is-now-burnt-half-stale toast to retoast to make breadcrumbs.
- Continue attempting "stiff peaks." (in this heat and humidity, there's no such thing!)
- Put down bowl and walk away.
- Put pie in oven until meringue tips turn golden brown.
- Relight stove.
- Avoid second burning of breadcrumbs.
- Relight oven.
- Peal and slice potatoes.
- Make two cups of milk from powder.
- Chop onions.
- Season mince.
- Shape loaf.
- Put pie in fridge so that it doesn't melt.
- Boil water x3 for dishes .
- 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!