Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Watching and Learning

This past week has been one of watching and learning. We have been so blessed to have had 4 or 5 days now with clouds and rain. The rain is so important for the crops for the people right now, with harvest coming in October and this is prime growing time. And of course the wonderful side effect of this rain, is the milder temperatures! We were so thrilled to actually be cold one morning in our room and have to pull on a sheet. It was 26 degrees and we were cold! Outside this afternoon it is 29 celsius and cloudy. We are loving every moment of it. Like Paul says, i think your system gets a bit messed up here. Your body adjusts to the high heat and when you get brief respites when it falls into the upper 20s, we feel quite cool and want to wear pants and long sleeves! The rain and cool weather has refreshed us.

The rain pelting down on the truck and container

Bennett loves to squeegee the terrace. He won't even wait until it stops raining to get started. Good thing the rain is so nice and refreshing and it is wonderful to play in!

This week I was also learning and observing culture. In the vacant lot next to our house there is a lady who lives there in a grass hut with her 4 children. Her husband is either continually away or completely out of the picture (haven't yet figured that out). She used to have her hut in our lot before our house was finished. When we moved in we gave her some plastic tarps to seal her grass roof against the rains. She sits outside our house (we have the big shade tree) for many hours each day talking with the guard and passerbys as the two youngest children play. Her two older children work small jobs around to make some money for the family. I spend a good chunk of time outside talking with this lady, she speaks good french, and our children play together. I noticed that her youngest son (boubay) had only one pair of old blue sweat pant shorts that were torn and rough, no shoes and no shirt. Her other son had a tshirt wrapped over a pair of shorts that were so ripped that they weren't acceptable on their own anymore (see pic below). Anyhow, i got some of Bennett's shorts out for an older size and gave them to boubay to wear, along with a few shirts. He was so thrilled and his face lit up. I couldn't leave the rest of the family out, seeing as they all had only one worn out item of clothing, and got them all some new clothes over the next few days. They were so thrilled and thankful and it gave me some awesome opportunities to share with them. The mom told me she had never had anything of good quality before, and I shared with her that she has value, to me and to God and is deserving of love. The story gets interesting in that i learned a few days ago that she also has a female family member, who is better off financially and lives nearby. Apparently she saw that the family had new clothes and felt shamed that someone other than family was seeing needs and caring for them instead of her. So i came home to see they all had a whole other new set of clothes from her! My intent was never to shame them, in fact i didn't even know they existed, but I am content with the outcome that this family now has more clothes and the boys can play fully clothed, the mother has dignity and can be cleaner and wash clothes easier since she has something else to wear, etc. So i welcome the shamed family and hope to love them too, but am happy that maybe they will remember to care for their own family. An interesting cultural lesson as I try to walk the line of being culturally aware and appropriate while still loving people unabashedly. Here is a picture of this wonderful family before the new clothes.

So the other change in life lately is that I am relearning to drive! Our awesome Land Cruiser is here and is a right hand drive. So i have to do everything with the opposite hand now. I find I am doing really good at shifting, staying in the lanes, etc. Everything except signaling. The turn signal lever is on the opposite side now that i am used to and so i keep, by habit, going to the left and I keep turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal!!

Thank you for remembering us so often and for the encouragement of your words to us. We see so many things each day that tug at our hearts. Today while driving I saw, while parked at a light, a young boy who had elephantitis. His upper body (he is in a rickety wheelchair) looked 12 and small and frail. His legs were huge and grotesque. They looked like gigantic legs of a 500 pound man and his feet were misshapen and almost 2 feet long. SO often my heart aches for the people who know so much sickness and pain, and all I can do often is lift them up in prayer.

Bennett playing with the neighbors

Arielle at the zoo (which is a small sad place, but we got to see a hippo up close and personal and they had a park to play)

And one final note for today. In Niger we see abject poverty everyday. When we go out, we see beggars all the time, often who come to our vehicle, knock on our windows and follow us. We are used to the out-stretched hands, asking for something from us. But today we went to the zoo. And this one really made me laugh. We can't even escape it at the zoo!


Anonymous said...

Oh God! I weep again. heather

Anonymous said...

Chantelle, what an example you are! I'd love to see simple needs in people here at home the way you see them in Niger. Thanks for sharing this week! Christine

Bryan said...

That last picture reminds me of going to bail Paul out of jail the first time. Thanks for the memories Chantelle.

Coffeegirl said...

Hello! Thanks so much for the lead to your blog - I really enjoyed reading a bit about your life there in Niger. Looking forward to following your chronicles as we connect through the blog world!