Monday, November 20, 2006

France Part 2 -Chartres

So we took off in our sporty little Renault car and headed southwest of Paris through the country. The windy little National roads are a lot of fun to drive and lead you through all these little villages and fields. Our destination for that day was Chartres, famous for its huge cathedral. Its very big and nice, though dark inside like most french churches. Its famous that one of the King Louis's got married there, and Joan of Arc was there, etc. The whole city is build around the big cathedral on the Hill

Outside the cathedral there are lots of pedestrian only streets with shops. At one intersection there was a fountain in the square. Bennett loved watching all the water jets shoot up and move and he would dance on the edge in just a little bit of water on his shoes for splashes. When we finally left we literally had to carry him away kicking and screaming. he wanted to play there all night!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The France Escapades -Part 1 in Paris

So now that I am back home and finally feeling healthy...i figured I had better update our site here with the rest of the trip! So here is the first installment of a multi part France series on that trip.

Oh yeah...and you are probably wondering if they found out what i Had over there...Dengue Fever!

On to the trip! We spent a few days in Paris on our way down to Niger, then a day there after I got out of the hospital before we rented our car.
We saw live filming of the movie "rush hour 3" and saw Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan...but I didnt have my camera. Nor did I have it when we had Bennett at the Eiffel Tower. What was I thinking?

What I was how to do they park? And after they park like they do, how the heck do they get out? I guess their bumpers really do get bumped a lot!

We went for a night boat ride along the Seine River to see all the sites. Bennett was most excited by the birds and could care less about the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame or anything else. But we enjoyed the quiet ride and sights.

Eiffel Tower

Notre Dame

We walked around on the first days there and did some geocaching. (If you dont know what that is go to - Its adventure travel and GPS linking to find hidden logs and treasures) We spent part of the afternoon up by Sacre Coeur and in that area where all the artists hang out. Here is a shot from Place Tertre where the artists all hang out and try to draw your portraits (for a fee of course)

The last day just before we went to rent our car we wandered along the river and I took lots of neat shots of boats, the trees, the tent hotels of the homeless and these cool rings, many of which were randomly put all along the lower walkway of the Seine River.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Just a minor blip!

So by now many of you know the story, but hey, heres an official one. So Friday, after the giraffes, I spent the rest of the day in bed again really sick, with a 40degree fever and brutal muscle aching. We were supposed to fly out that night to Paris, but I didnt think I could make it. A Niger clinic (nice and clean!) took blood and tests showed negative for malaria, and that my body was fighting something. We figured if it was going to get worse I should probably be in a First World country at least, so i dragged my butt onto the airplane that night. I even threw up in their departure lounge. Wow...I'm so sophisticated :) Anyhow, luckily my fever broke during the flight and I actually rested a bit. The next morning in Paris we went to a hospital just for a checkout, and to my surprise, they insisted on admitting me! Yikes! So they took me over to a hospital with a Tropical Disease wing and set me up like royalty. If royalty means a yellow rough gown, no tv (that worked for the first while at least) or music or visitors and not so good food. Because Bennett is so young, he wasnt allowed on the wing (which i totally understand) but Paul also had no one to watch him, which meant he couldnt come either :( ANd thus began my days of boredom and missing them. The fever dropped and they kept running tests to try and find out what I had. To no avail (even today they are still running tests to find out). THey just kept me hydrated and gave me painkillers for the muscle aching while my body fought and won. (WOOHHOO Body!) I was released Monday morning for good behaviour and 48 hours fever free.
All in all it wasnt too bad. I was more worried about Paul and Bennett, since they were alone in Paris without their translator and guide! However God is good and they did fine, I bounced back, and more France stories to come in the blog!
We also saw Rush Hour 3 (the movie) being filmed right across the street and saw Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
Also, it may have been a normal hospital, but how many of you can truly say even your hospital area had a view of the top 1/4 of the Eiffel Tower? Ah ha! I'll take the perks where I can get em.

The Goat delivery

Someone back here in Canada gave us some money to bring to the field. They wanted us to use it directly to impact some people, with no administrative fees from a big organization or anything to water it down. SO after much discussion with the team leaders, we bought goats. Yup goats. You see, buying a goat here is more than just a goat. Especially if said goat is a mother, with a young child goatie. Especially if this mamma goat is producing lots of milk which can be both drunk and sold to help the family. You get the point I think.
Anyhow, we bought 3 healthy mamma goats, all with healthy babies and who were producing milk, and gave them to 3 guards who worked for the group and who all had families to support. Even though I was sick, I made it to the first goat delivery before being dropped back off at my bed. We packed all 6 geet (yeah i know thats not plural for goats...but i like it and Jill will catch the reference :)into the back seat of the Toyota Prado. Everyone i think must have gotten a chuckle out of us, but hey, we were on a mission! We delivered goats, made some happy families, and hopefully gave them something tangible to help make their lives better. The goats were a fantastic gift to give and to reach the people directly. Good idea dad :)

Giraffe safari

So our last morning we were there I was feeling a little bit better when I awoke and wanted to catch the opportunity to go see the giraffes in the wild. There is a reserve park about 35 minutes from Niamey. So off we went about 7am. We got a little lost (not lost-we simply had a divine appointment to go too far, pick up some Peace Corps people and get to pray for and encourage one young lady in particular) We found the giraffes and probably saw about 12 total. We drove to nearby them, then parked and walked quietly. Bennett was quite excited to see them and kept pointing and exclaiming when he saw them. Here are a few pics :)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Our million star hotel !

So I was out of touch for a while since we went out into the bush. We took a 5 hour 4x4 drive into the NE (i think) of the country to a place called Bani Bangou. Road was actually not to bad, all things considered. Out there, we went several times to a little mud hut village called Soumat to spend some time checking out the development projects that Samaritans Purse has there. They are building bio-sand water filters and linking it with education. so we went to the village three times, once to see the molds and cement being made for the filter casements, once to look in on the general hygiene education being taught by a local lady, and once to see them cement molds emerge after curing. What great technology to give them, the guft of clean, easy, non breaking down water sources.

The men building the filters

Rows of completed filters

A thirst for life- clean water!!

We also went to a project sponsored by SP as well as Unicef and World Food Programme. It is a nutrition program for malnourished children where they offer hygiene and education, weight and height measurements, a doctors visit and rations of CSB (Corn soy blend) that is highly nutritious for the child. they track them and watch them grow over the months. I hung out there all morning and watched the process and talked with the workers.

The women learning healthy food preperation

A young child being weighed in the Nutrition program

Then at night we slept outside under the stars. Who wants to stay in a 5 star hotel when you can bee under the entire heavens of stars. great views, but a little noisy with all the dog,donkey,goats,calls to prayer and drums going on at all hours of the night.Yes dont worry, we had mosquito netting. Only drawback was they only had electricity for a few hours a day, and thus you never had cold b(or even cool) water, which when its 45 degrees, is a major must in my opinion.

Here is the coordinates of where we were:
Bani bangou main tiny town:
N 15°2'4.85"
E 2°42'13.97"

Tiny village of Soumat
N 14°57'1.73"
E 2°43'1.13"

In Africa, you are never alone

Its a funny thing to be stared at all the time. Here you are never truly alone unless you lock yourself in your villa. In your vehicle you are like the fish in a fishbowl seperated only by the glass. Hordes of young kids, with theiur hands pressed up against the glass-tapping, smiling, waving, pleading, begging. You leave the vehicle and you become like the Pied Piper, follwed by crowds. We went to a plateau overlooking the river and were the nights entertainment. A dozen or so herders came to offer their donkey ride services (Bennett was afraid) and then they stayed and watched us all night. They sat on their haunches only a few metres away and stayed until after sunset, until it was so dark we could only see them when they smiled and their teeth showed in the dark.

Paul and I walk down the streets, Bennett in the backpack, and a crowd of women surrounded us. They marvelled at the backpack, which in theory is close to how they all carry their babies around in a cloth sling on their back, but that fact that the MAN was carrying the child was so crazy to them. What a shock to their way of thinking. The talked and told us we should give them Bennett and he was very beautiful, which i am told is their way of appreciating him and they didnt really expect us to give him up or anything like that. The women normally keep their distance, the children flock to us, and the men are more subdued and usually only wave, if that. Even when we were stopped in the bush and hadnt seen hide nor hair of a person for many kilometres, within a few minutes they began to emerge from behind the millet stalks like some sort of freaky horror picture, which is great when you need people to help pull you out of the mud, but not so great when you are looking for a quiet shrub to pee behind.
All this to say, in africa, if you are alon, Enjoy it. Because it will end in a few seconds.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Lonely Planet group must love Niger. Excerpts from their great wisdom in their travel guide-

Niger may be the place of the beginning of the end of the world

Niger has two seasons. Hot, and hotter than hell.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Quel Aventure!!

So yesterday turned out to be way more of a third world experience than we had forseen. We have a Toyota Prado and were headed with an african man and his guide to a village about 4 hours away. Turns out he had an entourage of 5 with him...and somehow we all jammed in. Thankfully with Bennett's carseat they couldnt cram into that space and we were ok and could breathe. Anyhow, we left at 6am and had a decent paved road for 2 hours to the small town of Ayerou. From there, we went on "la piste" little backwoods roads and sand dune paths. It had rained the night before so there we lots of big puddles. Thank goodness for 4x4! We got close to the village after 2 hours (we stopped briefly at another village) and there we had to go off any type of road and into the bushes. We tried to cross one place, but it was too wet in the grass and our wheels were spinning and we got stuck. Paul and the 3 able bodied Africans pushed a bit and we got out from there and went farther down the road to try to get across. We headed across a dried up millet field, and ran smack dab into the middle of a mud hole from which there was no exiting. We pulled and dug and manouevered to no avail.

So us ladies, Bennett and the small african girl Grace headed off to install ourselves into the shade of a tree. We needed a truck to pull ourselves out, and this wasnt exactle a well travelled area!
After 2 hours- a truck! woohoo! We flagged it down and it was a govenor of the region. He actually told us he was too important to stop and would not help and he left. Yuck. We were not impressed. About an hour later, another truck. Same story. he was in the delegation and they had no time. (it was not risky for them and we only needed a 10 foot pull, it would have taken no more than 5 minutes top!) So another hour passes, at this point Bennett wakes up from his sleep under the tree and is playing and chasing goats with Grace the African girl.

A motorcycle passes and tells us there are other trucks on the road. We wait and 2 more arrive together. Guess what. The governors delegation and they wont help. Lets just say Paul was so mad its a good thing some of us were there to calm him down. By this time we had been stuck in the mud in the sun for 4 hours. Finally, about 20 minutes after that, a bush taxi bus, crammed full of like 30 people and bags on the roof etc, pulls up and stops. We talka bit, offer some financial incentive (still cheap by our standars) and the whole bus unloads, the 30 or so africans come to the truck, 2 minutes of getting set and one BIG PULL. WOohoo!

It was a very vivid experience of the people who stop and help and who are part of a community and a government and the rich who do nothing. Another reasons we have a passion to help the poor normal people, and &*@!%! to the rich government who bleed them dry. OK, enough ranting!

Through the whole thing, we were remarkable calm. Bennett did great, took a nap, played, ran chased goats and laughed. I felt more than prepared to spend the night under that tree if we needed to. My emergency pack had lots of sunscreen, mosquito spray, heat reflecting foil blanket, road flares, matches for a fire, protein bars, water purification tablets etc. (Thanks again Mark and Tom -see i used it!)So if we had to stay there it was ok. In the end we got out and headed home for a 14 hour round trip, some great talks and insight into the people here. For those with google earth, here is our coordinates to see where we were stuck (you need to change them to the other format, but thats easily done on the web). We were almost in Mali!
N 14degrees 57.500 E 000 degrees 46.039

SO I also find that french is getting more and more in my head and i forget english now. I use french most of the day, and even with bennett I find myself mostly using french :) Amazing how fast it comes back and im already dreaming in french and mixing up my languages when i talk to Paul. He is glad im here to translate and is seeing the value of knowing it for sure. Good motivation for his next class!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hanging in the suburbs of Dar Es Salaam

Today we went out to the suburbs of Niamey, which I am told looks a lot like village life. Lisa works out here with the Fulani people and has a fairly impressive grasp of Fufulde language! Paul is helping her fix her vehicle and her and I and Bennett went out visiting some ladies. I sure wish that we had a fast enough connection to upload some pictures. i will keep trying. So we went into the grass/thatch huts and visited with one lady and her children. Some other people came and went as we were there. They spoke Fulfulde, and i picked up the odd thing based on context and nuance. A french lady came to visit and we chatted a while too. This hut was all straw, had three beds in it and a bunch of pots of food and water and mash and clothes and everything they need to live. Bennett was a bit shy and hung out around the door a lot and played in the sand and watched it all with fascination. The ladies were happy to have us there and it gave me great insight into some of their living conditions and development challenges.
There were three huts surrounded by a rough brick wall. There was also a bunch of Ocra plants growing, a chicken pen (with chickens running around it whereever they wanted, and assorted other things.
Tomorrow we are going with the Marineau family out to the village of Ayerou (spelling?) which is about 4 hours away and we will stop at a bunch of Tamajchek villages along the way.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Niamey - Days 1 and 2

So we arrived in Niamey! It is hot and humid, just like I remember it. Smells the same (not to say its a bad smell, just distict and I remembered it) I love seeing the people filling the streets, the vendors, the red dirt, the grass hut houses squatting in lots, the dark skin, the red skin, the people with tea, the baby goat who was born this afternoon, etc.

We have met the team here and they already feel like family. Enjoying our time with them immensely. I already spent the afternoon going to a Water and Sanitation meeting with NGOs to get a feel for the aid work in the country and have made great contacts. Paul and Bennett spent a few hours in front of the guest house talking with the day guard. Paul speaks little french, he spoke little english, so I have a feeling there was a whole lot of gesturing going on! Bennett played with them all and loved the sand. Paul got Tuareg tea made for him too and had blast. He is loving it here.

In a few days we are headed out to a village 4 hours away and will stop in a bunch of little villages on the way. I have taken a few pictures and will expect to take lots more soon. Im going to try to upload one for you all of Paul and his two friends outside the house. Check out the lovely red sand!

The heat is .....well hot. But we are feeling good so far. Im looking forward to getting out and exploring in the next few days. MOre stories to come.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Heading out!!

So we now are in the final stages of packing and getting organized to leave for Niger. We leave Saturday early evening. Its funny how stressful something so exciting can be :)

While we are there I will be able to update this site. Probably not with any pictures yet, but at least tell you what it going on. We are bringing our GPS unit with us to do some geocaching, so we will report back our position! So for those of you with Google Earth (free! fantastic! download it now!) We will letyou know where we are at when we are out and about and you can zoom in and see and track us a bit! Of course i will also be taking pictures, and will upload some when I can.

Thank you in advance for all your prayers and encouragement. Its almost surreal that my lifelong passion for aid and development, and giving people hope, has taken this turn in life and heading us in this direction. I can't wait.

Stay tuned


Can you see the truck hiding in this picture? (A real picture from Niger)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Niger update

Our visa's have arrived! Woohoo!
So we sent off the huge stack of required documentation last week to the Embassy of Niger. I guess they dont get many requests for tourist visa's since we got them back yesterday. One huge tick in a check box todos.

We are most of the way through vaccinations as well. I got the least, Paul needed a few, and poor Bennett needed the most. We opted for the 4 shots for rabies simply because he loves dogs so much and will likely go up to "give love" to any stray we see there. So he needs to go back two more times for shots still.

Our church gave us $2000 to help defray the $7000 total cost, so we are very blessed and thankful for that help. (Thank you if you are reading this from there!)

I am compiling a list of things to bring. I actually found a list i made last time I lived there, but it isnt as helpful as I would have hoped. Sadly i dont think "alfredo sauce packets" will be needed for this trip :) I hope to get some culturally appropriate clothing ideas soon. Im borrowing long skirts anyhow.

Mentally we are very excited for it. We leave in less than a month now, and cant wait. Its funny how we sort of feel like we are going to meet family. We have such a clear sense of calling going here, that we know these people will be cherished in our lives.

I will update more later. Suffice it to say we have most of the essentials in place and are working on the logistics and packing and ideas :)

Thank you for being part of this journey!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Some recent happenings and photos

So what have we been up to the last month or so? Just living and enjoying life really :) Here are a few highlights of a beautiful summer.

First of all we went camping for three days with most of the McIver clan. We went to Peter Lougheed Park in the mountains. It was a great time of relaxing and encouraging one another. The boys all went on a 20 or so kilometer hike to Mt. Assiniboine. Sanka went with them, and with all his running back and forth he logged likely 50 km. Poor guy was so sore he couldnt barely hobble the next day.

Bennett loves it camping. He would wander in the trees, play with rocks, and generally get dirty and happy. What joy to watch him!

Then we went camping with Mark and Teresa. I still need to get into her photo account so I would have pictures to add, but suffice to say it was fantastic time to share and laugh and be together with my dear friends

We spent some days volunteering at Camp Cerith. I was in the general camp and Paul led rapelling as per usual. I love that camp, a great chance to serve the girls and talk with them. Bennett was a bit tougher this year since i couldnt stick him in the bouncy chair while i worked, but we managed. He loved it out there. A real outdoor boy this summer!

Only bad thing..he had baby measles. You can see the spots. FUnny next thing..his mom caught it. First ever case of transfer to an adult my Dr. has ever seen. I felt fine, but was speckled and contagious. What fun! (You can ses spots in some pictures on him) wont load. Ill work on it. Stay tuned.....

Friday, June 30, 2006

The truck that God built

So here is a story of how when we listen to and follow the will of God, even when it might not fit our own plans, that he blesses us.

Paul wanted to get his own welding truck, to start his own business and go mobile. We looked into it and how much it was going to cost to get a truck, the tools and a welder on it, and it was going to be at least $15,000. (ands thats with an older truck and used welder on it). I (Chantelle) really wasnt thrilled to be going into debt for anything even though I knew it would make him more money and pay for itself in a few years. You see, we really believe we are called to go overseas to work in the next year and want to stay out of debt. So we prayed about it lots. Paul really wanted the truck, but more than anything we wanted to stay in God's will and trust him. We both clearly felt that God did not want us to go buy a truck. SO although a little sad, we made the choice to listen to that.

So a few months later (Maybe like a year after the original idea and a few months after we had been praying over it again) Paul's boss at the small shop he works for called him in. He is a christian as well. He said (in a nutshell) that he has appreciated Paul and in June wants to give him a truck and a welder. For free. Paul has been working for him on and off for years and always helped him out and been loyal and given up overtime and just worked straight hours sometimes, etc. And now he believed that he was supposed to give us this truck!

So June 15th, they transfered title for $1 and Paul got a truck, welder and a whole bunch of tools for it. He now switched over and runs his own company.

God is so good. He knows our desires and has better ways to bless us than we even imagine. And when we honor him by listening and following Him, He has such good things in store for us, be it the desire of our hearts, or simply a closer walk with Him. Its always worth it.

So I hope that today that is an encouragement to your heart. Our God is good and knows us and blesses us. He even cares about welding trucks :)

Bell City Chase

The Calgary urban adventure race that Paul and I did for our Anniversary.

The premise of this race is you have 6 hours to run around town, using only public transit and your feet, to complete 10 out of a possible 17 quests. Some you ahve locations for, others you have to search for or use information to discover via clues. You can also phone people for help with the clues. For example, we phoned Mom who was at home looking after Bennett and she did a google search to find which building was the tallest in Calgary, so we could go there to the lobby for a next clue.

So we raced around the city. SOme of the tasks we completed were Skyball ( a mix of trampoline and basketball), paint ball shooting targets, scavenger hunts through a mall, Suduku quiz, solve an art puzzle then find the correct painting, construct a table using all supplied materials with none left over, transfer water from one bucket to another not using arms or feet, blindfolded croquet, and a full out Army Reserves obstacle course and rapelling. Complete with them yelling at you to hurry up and do more situps.

So here are the pictures. SOrry for the poor picture quality, but i only brought my 8 year old junkie small camera just incase it got damaged in the activities.

We did it, completed all 10, with 27 minutes to spare to the deadline. We finished 84 out of 310 and had a blast! A great way to celebrate our anniversary.

The Obstacle course with the ROTC guys

Paul at the Obstacle course

Rappelling off the barracks tower

The Skyball challenge

The finish line!!

Camping in Kananaskis

This past weekend we went camping out in Kananaskis. The campgrounds were really full since the K100 mile relay race was going on, but we managed to get a site.

We went hiking for hours on Saturday. Sanka of course had a ball running in the creek and pushing rocks (He wore down his front paw protection!) and generally loving the outdoors. Bennett would take his red ball, laugh like crazy and run away a few metres (with Sanka hot on his trail) and then throw the ball. Sanka would of course go retrieve it, and Bennett thought that was the funniest thing in the world. He was awfully slobbery and dirty afterwards, but thats what little boys are good at. He played with Sanka for hours!

Basically we had a really nice time on Saturday. With our summer filling up really fast, we have to make the time to get out every chance we can.

Thanks again for the great backpack Greg and Jill. We using it tons!! (and as you can tell, Bennett feels right at home in it)

A nice picture of the path "less taken"

Well, I know I'm not afraid of heights!

The Fire Department Station I work most closely with got a new 1.1 million dollar Bronto Truck. Basically a huge platform ladder truck that goes up something like 11 stories in the air. A very nice truck. The guys figured there was over 150 square feet just of diamondcut plating on it. No wonder the truck cost so much...pretty fancy!

Anyhow... we went over there for lunch since one of our District Chiefs was retiring and they had just got the truck. Of course they offered us a ride, which we gladly took them up on! So we put on gear (I am in the orange - the captains uniform and hat) and rode up. I cant believe the physics involved in this thing that puts us 11 stories high out on an angle from the truck, and yet perfectly balanced.

There was a guy sitting in camera dispatch at the University who we knew would love to see this, so we called them and they rotated two cameras to catch us. The whole security team came to dispatch to watch Tom and I up high in the bucket. Too bad I couldnt get a screen capture, it showed how far up we were from far away.

So here are a few pics that were taken for the adventure junkie in all of you. It was fun. One of the perks with working with them so closely all the time :)