Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas in Niger

Our First Christmas here in Niger.
In many ways we have been trying to figure out how it all works here, what they do here to celebrate (if anything at all) and how to set up our own new customs and ways to celebrate. I have been thinking often about how similar where I live must have been to the time and place where Jesus was born.
My co-workers Ace must have been thinking the same thing since he wrote a post about similar thoughts :) Here we are surrounded by dust, there are sheep, goats, cow and yes, even donkey, around us in the streets. It doesnt take much of a stretch of the imagination to picture a veiled young Mary riding a donkey, giving birth in a dusty, hay covered manger, the stars in the sky, the visitors etc.
The Christmas story comes alive living here in Niger.

We had so many opportunities to love our neighbors, share our lives and reason for being here, and to bless others, to look outside ourselves and focus on others in wonderful way that blessed us many times over.

The Sunday before Christmas our church had an outdoor carols service with live animals mixed in. Sitting amongst all the candles was beautiful, and the kids loved it.

The days of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day found us out of the house a lot visiting people. These are of course days when we are completely allowed to relax, spend time at home with family and focus on our time together and celebrating together, eating goodies, etc. It is a holiday day for us. However, we felt strongly that this day was also a unique and special day to share with our Nigerien friends, to tell them about Christmas (both the north american culture and what we do for it and the bible story of the birth of Jesus and the reason he came to earth as a baby). So we choose to dress up African and spend our days with our Nigerian friends, bringing gifts of fruit, tea and sugar, and the kids choose toys to give to all the other kids.

Ismaguils House and family

First we went to the hut of our night guard Ismaguil and his extended family. We had a wonderful time sitting with his wife and kids, uncles, etc.

The toys that our kids presented to their new African friends were a big hit, especially with the young ones!

Ismaguils wife and Arielle hit it off really well!

The Uncles and brothers who were there were very hospitable and did some translating while I worked to speak in Tamasheq with the women.

Visiting Sidimou's house

While Sidimou's immediate family is out in the bush so his wife can give birth to their first child (tradition dictates they go back to their families village for their first child) we still visited had tea, and spoke with his neices and nephews and cousins.

NEWS FLASH!! Just after I posted this we got a call saying his wife had the baby! So they have a new little boy, please pray for his health and that they would be strong enough to return to the big city soon!

Once again, for my kids, the goats were the stars of the show!

I love this picture of Bennett snuggling a baby goat. He was cooing to the baby goat and being so gentle (of course after he chased them around for a while!)

Paul sharing tea

Visiting Mohammed and family

Mohammed and his family welcomed us into their little cement home a few kilometres from our house. The kids played together in the room while the adults finished watching the JESUS FILM on National television that had been translated into Zarma. Wow. I surely hadn't expected to see that! It led to great opportunities to talk.

Bennett had fun using a rock to smash cinder block and show us how strong he is! Scary to think that a 3 year old can easily smash the bricks they build houses out of!

Their new friend Laila

And finally, just so you didn't think we missed out, here is a look at the "Boxing Day" sales in Niger! Yes, this is a stand selling used WINTER JACKETS. You see, it gets down to a chilly 20-23 degrees celsius outside at night. do they live and not freeze ;) So you wonder where all those winter jackets that you donate to organizations goes? Some of them end up here. I even saw some with their Value Village price tags still attached!! So I hope you enjoyed all your boxing day sales! Personally I didnt miss the shopping, the gifts, the hustle and money and media fighting for our spending dollars. A different Christmas, but wonderful in many ways!

Hitting the boxing day sales

We pray that this Christmas was wonderful for all of you, no matter where you found yourselves. Thank you for being part of our journey and support team!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Paul parents come for an early Christmas!

This post is a few weeks late due to the holidays and life in general, but I didn't want to lose the opportunity to post a little commentary and some pictures from the visit we had with Paul's parents. They live in Dubai and came to visit us for 10 days early Dececmber. While Niger may not be the tourist destination of choice for many people, we have such unique opportunities to share the people we know, villages, culture, food and experiences with the people who visit us. A wonderful early Christmas gift to us and the kids to have Roger and Bev come visit.

Sharing an early Christmas together

Paul and his Dad

Arielle looking beautiful in her Christmas ribbon

They arrived just days before Tabaski, a Muslim celebration where every household will sacrific sheeps. It was almost surreal to drive around and see dead sheep everywhere, heads, guts, kids playing with lungs, etc. Yuck. The smell hung around for days, and we got fresh leg of lamb, which we slow roasted with marinade and it was yummy!! But here are the common sights from that day

We also went out of town and visited friends and also went to two Tamasheq villages, The whole family really enjoyed our time there. Here is Mom enjoying some of the local children.

We enjoyed a picnic overlooking the plains and volcanic rock and scrub below us. A great photo op for mom and dad!

Mom and I had a project while she was here- to recover our big stuffed chair we brought to keep the dust from wrecking it. Here is the final product. Thanks for the help mom!

We had many adventures in markets, here is Mom looking at fabric in this crazy shop with tons of different colors and patterns.

Bennett playing around and climbing trees

One of our last days we went out of town to one of the world's last large natural giraffe reserves. They have 205 giraffes in the wild that are protected and you can go visit. You hire a guide who rides on your roof and takes you to the last place they were seen and you drive around looking for them. We saw over 40 giraffes that day, in multiple family units, even twins! An amazing experience!!

Bennett on the roof truck (dont worry we were stopped!) looking for the giraffes)

For more giraffe photos, you can see them at this link on my photography blog: