Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When the unexpected occurs...

These last two days were nothing I would have ever planned. In fact, knowing myself well, I would have said “Wow – that is a recipe for burnout!” And yet, emerging from two and going into a probable third, I would not trade it. Not necessarily replicate it every week, but not replace it either!

On Tuesday morning, my night guard Ismaguil woke up from his night off in his own hut. He has a wife, 4 children (Ages 18 months to 7) and his two brothers, all who live together in a straw hut. They live in the inside courtyard of a cement house. The owner of the house allows them to live there, which provides them with privacy and a certain amount of security, in exchange for keeping on eye on the house. No one currently lives in the house, and it is locked up tight with a vehicle in the courtyard as well. So their straw hut takes up all the space between the cement wall of the house and the cement of the courtyard wall. While some of the family still slept, Ismaguil got dressed and headed down the street to do errands. He was about ½ kilometer away, almost at the paved road, when he got a call on his cellphone. What he heard set the course for our days to come.

“Ismaguil – your house is on fire!!”

Having left there only 20 or so minutes before he found this hard to believe and yet picked up the bottom of his robes and ran as fast as he could back to their courtyard. What he saw was devastating. In less than 10 minutes, their hut and all of his belongings had burnt done to nothing but cinders. However, his heart leapt to see all of his family safe and outside the courtyard walls. Thankfully not all had been sleeping and everyone got out before the hut went up in flames. The fireman were called, but did not respond, which is about par for the course when they hear it’s a “hut fire”. Because the hut is made with wooden posts and dry straw mats, it incinerated faster than you could imagine. With the exception of the cooking bowls, pots and dishes (which were in another part of their yard) they lost EVERYTHING they own. The heat from the fire also melted the front end of the owner’s car which was parked next to it.

Shortly after I got the phone call from Ismaguil (on Paul’s cellphone) that the “patron” (Paul) had to come quick – there had been a fire. Paul dropped everything and jumped in the truck and took off. Sure enough, when he arrived, this was all that was left.


What happened? Above Ismaguil's house runs a central power line on poles. This line was old and cracked and broke in two pieces. One side fell right onto Ismaguil’s hut, shorting out and bursting the hut into flames in seconds.

So the representatives came for both the house owner and the power company. Keep in mind we aren’t really living in a place where “the rights of all men” is applied equally. We are thankful that the owner of the property is fighting on behalf of Ismaguil and it sounds like he will be reimbursed for all they lost. The immediate needs of his family were still unmet however. Paul gathered up the family and brought them to our house, leaving Ismaguil behind to deal with details,etc. So we received his wife, 4 children and two brothers at our house around noon. We are thankful to have a large covered terrace at the front of our house. We borrowed a few foam mattresses from the team guest house, put out our straw mats, filled a large bucket with water and did our best to give them a peaceful place to process what they had been through. The children instantly went at the buckets of toys and our own children did a wonderful job of sharing their buckets, trucks and bikes. My household Rebecca had already left for the day, but my language tutor Kutana was still outside. He is a knowledgeable young guy who is also a good cook, so I recruited him to help me make a big batch of sauce (tomatoes,onions, hot peppers, tomato paste, spices, oil,etc ) all in a big pot while I made rice and gathered dishes. Including our family, we fed 14 people for lunch, and 16 for supper that day.

One thing we wanted to be very aware of was that we didn’t want to impinge the role of the community in how they would normally react to a crisis like this. We retained an open gate policy through the day and night where people would come and pay their respects to the family, and often slip them a little bit of money to help with what they lost. The Tamasheq community group we work with pooled some funds to go out and buy several pairs of clothing for all the children and we pitched in to get some blankets.

Tamasheq friends dropping of bags of clothing


We wanted to learn the ways that the culture responds and not take over, but watch and try to fit in the gaps to some extent. That evening, Bennett brought out his little DVD machine and all together they watched Dr Seuss for an hour while we made the supper.

Eating in the evening with some of the people


After that, the kids went to sleep and the adults built a fire in the middle of our courtyard. Kutana is also an excellent guitarist and I brought out my guitar and we enjoyed 90 minutes or so of music, clapping, singing and even a little dancing.


I am quite the novice guitar player, but I told them they had to hear at least one song of our style of music, so I played Matt Redman’s “Blessed be your name” and Paul sang with me. Much to their (polite because I'm not good) enjoyment! Then we wrapped a tarp around some of the open walls and they all settled in for a good sleep.


This morning we enjoyed bread and oranges for breakfast and the men went off to the yard to clean up all the debris, talk with the owner and start to dig the holes for new posts and walls. I had class for 3 hours with Kutana, but for the first hour and a half I made traditional Tamasheq tea. Yup, ME!


We had talked about doing that one class, and today was a great opportunity to do just that! We bought tea and sugar and sat outside together around the mat. I was the one in front of the tea set and I added the tea and water, adjusted the coals, learned to judge when it was ready, poured back and forth the tea from cup to teapot in high streams off the ground to mix well the tea and sugar and water and to make the coveted froth in the cup along with the tea. I didn’t even spill much!


And as I worked, I learned. I learned how to say all the actions in Tamasheq, the required verbs for pouring, adding, etc. The names of each item required to make tea. How to offer, how to describe the taste, etc. Three times we repeated to process, since traditional tea is a series of three glasses for everyone. The first being strong like life, the second (I cant remember what they compare it to-but its a little sweeter and mild) and the third soft and sweet like love. Each time I would hear the words, enter into conversation, repeat the phrases of what I was doing and hearing, and serving tea! I was quite the sight apparently and many stopped by to greet us.


After tea I went into the classroom and we wrote down all the key words so I could re-read and memorize them. That’s they key for me, who is a visual learner – I hear, I try , I repeat and then I need to see it written down. It was a great day for tea!

Now it is getting close to supper and I have a great meal of rice, lentils and a pimento sauce all ready on the stove for when the men return and we all eat together one more night on our patio. This afternoon they have been working hard getting all the walls up at their new hut and tomorrow it will be done and they will go back home. All afternoon the children having been having fun together, playing in the sand, using chalk to write on the walls, etc.



So tonight I will sit on the mats some more next to his wife and talk stiltedly. But I can communicate! What a joy to at least make some progress and get my point across and laugh together. Who cares that I used the word “bum” instead of “cushion” today. Who makes them so close in sound anyhow here! hah. They will sleep safely here again tonight and start the process of rebuilding their lives.

Interestingly enough, one of the most important things they lost is their paperwork. That is the one thing they kept talking about. Can you imagine losing every piece of paperwork you have about your identity? Health records, birth records, death records, social insurance cards, employment cards, bank info (ok-they have no banks-that’s just you). They lose their ability to participate in programs, etc and apparently this is not easy to replace or cheap. Hopefully this will be covered by the power company as well. I spoke about this with a friend though. In our culture we mourn the loss of sentimental things in a time like this. We mourn photographs and albums, special jewelry, gifts from loved ones, etc. They mourn identity.

While they rebuild we will continue to help and support them, albeit carefully to make sure we never take over the role of their community and families and the power company who was at fault. To give you an idea of the scope, here are some of the things that were lost

  • all the clothes of every member of the family except what they had on their backs.
  • all of the mattresses and blankets
  • all of their family identity papers and health records
  • all of their medications and food stores
  • tables and other little pieces of furniture
  • any toys they had for the kids

And yet they are so grateful no one was hurt, and that they will “rise from the ashes” and move on with life. Just another bump right?


Many of you who saw my update about this on facebook have asked how you could help. Thank you so much. We are thankful that we have a healthy “Work Special” Account that allows us to immediately respond to crisis here. Thank you for those who support that fund and the Global Advance Fund which keeps us here. In fact, what we are trying to provide costs very little except for the blankets and food we have bought. As we see little needs over the next while I am sure we will help some of those too. The youngest boy has really bad and painful eczema and we just had a tub of “Georges cream” sent out from Canada to help treat and heal that. We applied it twice before it was lost in the fire. Anyone want to mail a new tub?

And you can't put a price on emotional support and care anyhow. You are partnering with us to allow us to be here in Niger, and it is times like this where we see can live purpose in loving these people, and praying with them and for them. The Tamasheq people have a great saying for the way they live and work together “Nous sommes ensemble” (Yes that’s french-not Tamasheq!). It means “We are together”. That is what we are doing here, being together as part of their lives, in the good and the bad, hopefully making the bad a little better, and bringing HOPE.

So tonight we will sit around together again, speaking a mix of french and Tamasheq and telling stories and relaxing. I am really racking up the hours of language study! Tomorrow they will go on with their lives, but now we know them better. I feel more comfortable to drop in on them at their hut, sit and visit, and enter into their lives in a meaningful way. I hope they know that we didn’t just open our house, but our hearts, and they are always welcome here.

In my weakness I have been made strong...


Thursday, January 08, 2009



Lambutan nanar means "our garden" in Tamasheq (actually garden-ours).

SO what have we been up to lately? A few things. One of the major projects that has been taking our time both for research and implementation is that of a community garden in front of our house. We got permission from the mayors office to use some of the empty space between our wall and the road (about 25 feet by 35 feet square) to make an enclosed garden space. Here are our ideas and goals

  • We want to do a trial run size of a community garden where people have to work together and get to eat the fruits of their labour
  • We want to improve their nutrition by introducing more vegetables into people who eat mostly rice and millet with weak sauces. Adding tomatoes, herbs, carrots, cabbage and onions can improve their health and diet and hopefully they will like the variety!
  • We want to try several ways of watering. We made mound indents around some plants to capture water to the roots while only losing minimal amounts elsewhere, we are also planning to implement a drop irrigation system in the next few weeks in one part of the garden to test it out.
  • Hopefully while we are teaching, this can inspire them on low-cost, low technology ways to start their own small gardens where they live, thus improving the nutrition of their whole family in a long-term and sustainable fashion.

Problems and hurdles we might encounter

  • From what others have told us, the nationals are not a fan of drip irrigation systems. They think if you can't see the wet ground, it is too dry and won't work. The part of educating them on wet roots, dry top might be a tough battle.
  • We have 4 or 5 users who want to be a part of the garden project so far, and they come from 3 different tribal groups. This can create its own hierarchy, stress and cultural head-butting
  • We are late in the season to plant - but we think that's not a problem since we have enough water and the season is stable for months to come. We are determined to prove them wrong in this!
  • Theft from others, especially during the night. We built a substantial fence, but poverty and hunger are strong forces
  • Giving away. hard to get a handle on this one. One guard asked what he should do if we had good food growing and people came up and asked for it. For us it would seem easy I guess in our culture to say No , but they live in community and you always give to the one who has greater need. They would have a hard time ever saying no and thus the veggies would dwindle fast and they wouldn't benefit as much if they were spread over many people.
  • Division of labour/reward. Again, this is a hard one where our culture and theirs see differently. We understand justice in a different light. We think that he who does the most work should benefit the most. We think he who plants, waters and works hard should gain according to that work. If someone else rarely comes, never waters and lounges around, why should they get the most? Their culture is based on need and community and likely they will share equally or just give it away. Do we even want to change this? How do we make sure the benefit goes to the intended people and not spread out (and thus diffusing any real impact) to everyone and their goat.

So that is the garden project. Thank you for those of you who sponsor our work. We hope it is projects like these that will teach and improve the health of the people we work with. And if this project goes well, we might see it in a larger scale in a village next year! And as an update on our own garden behind the house- we have homegrown tomatoes and homegrown sweet potatoes tonight at supper!

Here is Bennett helping me plant tomatoes!


New Years Day

On New Years Day we had a wonderful town going to the big sand dunes out of town with our good friends the 5 Nomads.

Scenery at the Dunes

Sanddunes-Jan 1

We had a wonderful time playing in the thick sand. The kids went to the top of the dunes and tried to sled down! The soft sand traps the sled with the weight of an adult, but our friend's teen's had more luck! The climb back up the dune is REALLY steep and poor Bennett and his little legs couldn't make it without me half carrying him. A good workout for us both! Arielle chose to stay at base camp and blow bubbles with her little friend instead.


Then we started a fire under a little tree (in its shade - not actually setting the tree on fire!) and had a good old fashioned cookout with chicken hot dogs, potato salad, chips,etc.) The sun went down around us for some gorgeous photos and we chatted away.


Beth was such a good sport. Who else would be a new friend and let me take pictures of their face close up from 10 inches away? The is my eyebrow model ;) While we were talking I noticed I was getting cool reflections through her sunglasses so I asked her not to move and started snapping away while we talked. Here is the result Beth !


When it was good and Dark the 5 Nomads set off a few bottle rocket fire crackers into the night sky around us and we packed up.

When we left, we took the dry riverbed route out , and in some parts the sand was REALLY deep. Our friends, who drive a Toyota Hilux, got stuck three times. (Check out below how deep the sand was at times, swallowing half the tires!


We backed in and pulled them out and to harder ground every time without getting stuck ourselves. The African guide with us was duly impressed with our vehicle and said -That's not a truck-that's an Elephant! Meaning nothing can stop us! I didn't get any actual photos of us pulling them out. It was dark and I was too busy helping push their truck.

While we were out there I set up my Panoramic tripod head and took series of shots in different light. Here is my handsome technie/roadie setting up the gear.


Me in action (while Paul has my small camera).


One of the final results in a series. (8 separate photos to make this one). Sorry you can't really get the effect here on a blog. In reality it is 10 feet long full size :)

2nd panoramaworking

A stinky situation:

We had some major repairs to do to our septic tanks outside our house. They had been poorly built originally (less than a year ago) and were crumbling in. Not a good feeling when you wonder if your truck (they are under the driveway of sand) is going to fall into your septic tank! We did major excavation (all by hand of course!) and rebuilt the tops of 4 tanks. Smelly work!



Well, that's all for now. Maybe next time I'll let you in on the latest in the fight to learn Tamasheq! Take care!

Friday, January 02, 2009

100 things about me - the traditional 100th post!

So here we are, at my 100th post on this blog of life. Wow. As tradition goes in the blog-o-sphere, after you have a certain amount of time invested in your blog and a certain amount of readers who follow you regularly, at a point they should know more about who you are and where you came from. Knowledge in context right? So that is where the tradition of a "100 things about me" post comes from on your 100th blog post. You would be surprised how difficult it was to think of that many things. Enjoy. Or browse the pictures and skip to the end :) Thank you for sticking with me through 100 posts so far! Feel free to comment at the end on things that surprised you or add your own thoughts to my list!


100 things about me

(some even my parents won't know!)

  1. I am 32 years old
  2. I am a Canadian citizen
  3. I am Canadian but I don't like hockey.
  4. I was born in Red Deer, Alberta.
  5. Everytime I am away from Canada for a while and listen to the song "Alberta Bound" I get teary and get the urge to turn up the volume and sing along at the top of my lungs. You would be proud Paul Brandt.
  6. I have a wonderful husband named Paul. He was one of my best friends for a few years before we started dating and we were married in 2000. (this is a scan of the laminated photo that Paul keeps in his toolbox, the only picture that came to Africa with us and the only one in digital format!)
  7. When I lived in Djibouti, Africa I sent Paul a very long letter every Tuesday. Like book length long.
  8. I have two wonderful children. Bennett is 3 ½ and Arielle is 2 ½mciversmay1108
  9. My daughter is adopted. My son is not. Yes I can still have my own children. We loved her and took her in not out of necessity, but out of our hearts.
  10. Before we had Bennett, I had several miscarriages. I learned so much of God's comfort and presence during these times.
  11. I have amazing parents who taught me morality, goodness, generosity and peacemaking. Not that I am always good at those, but they were great role models
  12. I have one biological brother, and four sister-in-laws and two brother-in-laws and a set of in-law parents. I lucked out in the in-law department and genuinely like them all!
  13. chantelleleanne
    My one sister-in-law and I have been known to take over Reitman’s dressing rooms and create havoc and laugh ourselves silly. Case in point below, while making ourselves look like tour guides from Disney’s safari ride.
  14. I have had the same two best friends since Grade 4. They live in California and China.
  15. My undergrad degree was from the University of Calgary, majoring in French and minoring in Comparative Religion. I graduated in 2000, but never went to my graduation.
  16. I missed my graduation because I was on my honeymoon. Tough choice (not).
  17. I always wondered what I could really do with a degree in french and religion. Now I live in a Francophone country and am a missionary and International Development worker.
  18. I recently finished my Masters Degree in International Development from Tulane University in New Orleans.
  19. I have never stepped foot in the actual school, and all my classes have been done from my home office via the Internet and correspondence and web conference, while working and having a family.
  20. I worked really hard for 6 years on that degree, and graduated with honors (Summa cum laude) and a 3.863 GPA. I am proud of that accomplishment as it represents many hours and years of hard work. Without the support of Paul and family and friends I never could have done it.
  21. I am not going to make it to that graduation ceremony either (May 9, 2009) for financial reasons. Not nearly as exciting as the reason I missed the first one!
  22. I was close to my grandfather and when he died in 2001 I left a note in his pocket in the casket, promising to do my Masters Degree and make that education count in my life, as we had discussed many times before he died. This was important to him. I did it Grandpa. I know you would be so proud.
  23. I fall under the astrological sign of Virgo but think that astrological/horoscope stuff is all a big load of bunk
  24. I don’t actually use the word bunk much in real life
  25. I really like good coffee.
  26. I really like Dr. Pepper
  27. Twice I went a whole year without drinking soda pop (1998 and 2007). For personal discipline reasons.
  28. I prefer to drink my calories rather than eat them. Give me a fancy coffee over dessert anyday
  29. I had laser eye surgery on one eye in March 2008. It went fantastic and I have better than 20/20 vision in both eyes now.
  30. People used to think it was so very odd that I only wore one contact lens for 10 years. But my other eye had perfect vision, so why wear two? Maybe this was the eye my brother stabbed me in? (see #64)
  31. I can roll my tongue and my r’s in french.
  32. I am fluent in French and am now tackling the Tamasheq tribal language.
  33. I have never been afraid of public speaking
  34. I made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ when I was 16. chantelle1
  35. God combined my gift of compassion for the poor and my relationship with him to point me in the direction of working as a missionary and development worker in Africa.
  36. I am now living out my dream job.
  37. I am a big proponent of living out your dreams, and taking the jumps of faith to make them happen. Don't settle and sell your life short.
  38. I have been drawn to Africa since I was a teenager. In my heart I don’t think I ever pursued going anywhere else.
  39. I am a closet perfectionist, which often stresses me out in Africa as I try to reconcile that desire and the reality of Africa
  40. I love to travel to places that are culturally, linguistically and visually very different that North America.
  41. I have been to Canada, 40 of the USA states, France, Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Scotland, Germany, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Niger, Ecuador, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and Cambodia. Only 178 countries left to visit. Yikes! Don't worry. I don't think I will ever visit most of them.
  42. We have near future (I.e. in the next 5 years) plans to try and visit Dubai, China, Turkey and Greece. That would leave only 174 left to visit...
  43. I am an INFJ in Myers Briggs (although the I (Introvert) isn’t too strong and sometimes I waft into the E (extrovert) side.
  44. I feel strongly about injustice to those who have no opportunity, no chances, no help.
  45. I love Social conscience movies like Beyond Borders, the Constant Gardener and Hotel Rwanda. I also love adventure movies like Indiana Jones and National Treasure.
  46. When I was in Niger for a short trip in 2006 I got Dengue Fever. Not fun. I ended up in a Paris hospital however and I must say that the view of the top third of the Eiffel Tower from my hospital room was beautiful and we saw Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker live filming the movie "Rush Hour 3" just outside in the streets. Take the silver lining where you can find it folks!
  47. I am not a big fan of television, and rarely watched it back home. Now we don't even have one, but I did upload the last season of Survivor and got some CSI seasons as gifts.
  48. My favorite hobby has been photography since Junior High School. I’m rarely in photos since I am always the one taking them. In fact, the collection I put together for this post is probably the largest collection of pictures with me in it ever assembled. Except maybe my wedding album.DSC00282
  49. I have a photography blog too. (link at the right)
  50. My secret freezer stash of things sent in care packages or people's suitcases consists of bacon, chocolate chips, jelly belly beans, dried cranberries, smarties, coffee and 2 ham shoulder roasts.
  51. I never thought I would make it to the halfway point of this list. Go Me!
  52. I like fresh watermelon. I hate things that are watermelon flavored. Same thing goes for mangoes.
  53. I miss good BBQ steak, chicken drumsticks, broccoli and fresh milk. Powdered milk is awful.
  54. I like to write lists. I am pretty sure I got that from my Mom. Look Mom - Number 54!
  55. I really value good communication. I try very hard to be a good, constant communicator.
  56. I hate sarcasm and think it’s the worst form of communicating with people. Drives me crazy.
  57. I design and write a monthly newsletter on life in Niger.
  58. I struggle with relationships where people are unwilling to be open and authentic.
  59. I probably tend to swing too far to the other side sometimes and be too open and willing to share, and that might not always be really appropriate either.
  60. I am blessed to have an amazing group of women from Canada that I am thrilled to call my good friends, who support me now even from across the world, and take care of me whenever I am around. For years we have celebrated the practice of open and authentic life together.
  61. I miss being in close proximity to those wonderful women.
  62. When I am really frustrated I cry. Not because I am sad, but because that's how the frustration gets out.
  63. When I cry from heavy emotions, I get migraines. That's why everyone coming to the airport to see us off, crying, and then flying for two days with a migraine and two toddlers sounded like a really bad idea.
  64. As a kid I once lied to my parents and told them that my brother stabbed me in the eye with the scissors. Since they were looking at me and it obviously wasn’t true, I don’t know what I was thinking. In my family, that line is often still brought up and laughed over.
  65. As a teenage I took apart the dash of my parent’s car. The story of why is incriminating and I can’t repeat it on the web.
  66. I loved to climb trees as a kid, often scaring my parents in the process. I was stubborn and independent and not afraid to try things.
  67. I enjoy cooking for holidays or company, but don't like the reality of having to make supper for every night. Can't we just not eat for a few days? Thankfully Paul likes to cook too, so we don't starve.
  68. I get nervous, but not afraid. So I can push myself into things that make me nervous or hesitant and remind myself to never live in fear, but in freedom.
  69. I have high standards and big dreams. And I expect to get there. That's not always a good quality.
  70. I have size 8 1/2 feet
  71. I can wear flip flops 24/7 in Niger, but am going to need a massive pedicure when I get back to Canada.
  72. I have naturally curly hair
  73. It is less curly now after I was attacked by a homeless women in the subway in Paris when I lived in France in 1996. She threw a bottle of bleach all over my hair and clothes. Thankfully I turned my back just in time so she didn't get my face. My hair was never the same after that bleach.
    McIver Christmas 124
  74. I’m a light sleeper and wear customs moulded ear plugs most nights to block out the frogs, crickets, neighbors and fans. Also works to block out snoring husbands, calls to prayer, etc. I highly recommend them.
  75. I have worn a long skirt for 95% of the time in the lasts 6 months. I actually don't like skirts all that much and prefer jeans and a tank top. Hazards of the job living in a predominantly Muslim country I guess.
  76. I also haven't worn makeup for 95% of the last 6 months. It melts right off here in the desert, so why bother? And unlike the jeans and tank tops, I don't miss it much.
  77. I am learning a lot about beauty here. I came from a culture where beauty, appearance, clothing, fashion and makeup are very important. Here, I wear long skirts, no makeup and not exactly fashionable outfits (in my opinion at least). God is teaching me a lot about where to get my acceptance, to worry less about what other people think, and more about refining who I am on the inside to be beautiful like the women of Proverbs 31.
  78. I once had a "wardrobe malfunction" at a hotel in Las Vegas. Imagine the force of water from a waterfall in a pool and loose straps on a swimsuit top. I was thankful that I would likely never, ever, ever see any of those people ever again. Except my best friend, but she was too busy laughing at me.
  79. I have an artistic bent where I like to create with my brain and own two hands. But don't ever expect me to draw or paint - I am awful! I am much better with a camera or computer to be artistic.
  80. I find it amazing that 212 people are registered to receive my blog updates in their email inboxes. Wow. You are all awesome!! :) (If you aren't registered and are reading this - the link is in the top right of the page if you want to get these updates via email!)
  81. I enjoy going 4x4ing. Is that a verb? I learned how to air down our tires, gear down, climb at crazy inclines and head off into the bush, and loved it all. Paul is a great teacher. We continue our 4x4 adventures here, this time in sand!
  82. I am a pretty decent singer and have always wanted to teach myself guitar so I could self accompany. And I have visions of being out in the bush in villages at night and playing my guitar under a tree and talking with the people. I bought a guitar in May 2007, just before moving to Africa, and have been teaching myself ever since.
  83. In general I am really organized
  84. I am bad at remembering names.
  85. My daughter threw up multiple times a day for over three months. Now thankfully it is just once a week or so. As a result of that, I am so used to vomit that it doesn’t even make me blink or phase me anymore.
  86. I really enjoy geocaching. I have found 113 to date. Being in Niger is hampering my progress in that area since there are none here almost. If you don’t know what it is, go check out geocaching
  87. I don't like to run, but I wish I did. Maybe its the nerve damage I suffer from when I had Bennett, or maybe its just that I don't like running outside. I prefer the treadmill strangely enough. I like the gym, I really do!
  88. I do like to mountain bike. This really is me below in the picture. I know, I’m going so fast you can’t tell. My bike was stolen from our third floor, stairless balcony while we were in Quebec for language study, so now I have no bike to ride.
  89. I like the idea of getting up at dawn and starting the day early, but the reality is what I can’t quite manage.
  90. I hate dirty floors and they really bug me, but I don't care if I pile my stuff up on the counters. My husband is the exact opposite
  91. In Niger I never touch a debit card or a credit card and I share a single bank account with 7 other adults that I am not related to.
  92. I am really enjoying getting to know all the local women around me where we live. I love spending time with them and talking about kids, culture, God and language. Sometimes we have language barriers to cross in actually understanding each other, but these women are already precious to me and I can't wait to continue getting to know them better and be a part of their lives.
  93. Strong and close relationships, especially with women, are really important to me. I have found it hard to move to another continent and lose what I had, but in that I am also learning a lot about myself as I work to create new relationships like that here in Niger. Starting from scratch as it would seem.
  94. I have a tendency to tell it like it is and be blunt and I hate "covering up issues" or pretending they don't exist. I want people to be aware when issues are there and tackle them head on. The part I am still working on is how to do so that the people know it is because I love them and am graceful, while still achieving the same objective of not being content to leave things, people and relationships in "broken" condition. Why should we settle for negative feelings, bad relationships and hidden hurts? I respect people who are the same way and are upfront and honest. This applies to when I have messed something up too, that way I can apologize and learn from it. I want the best in my relationships and I am willing to fight for it.
  95. I freeze my flour and sugar for at least 24 hours before using it here. You know….killing worms and bugs is probably a good thing before baking.
  96. Paul thinks I am a control freak sometimes when it comes to certain matters. I disagree and will beat him into submission so I can regain control.
  97. I like praise and worship music, country music, jazz and a smattering of assorted other artists that I can't really bulk into one genre.
  98. I am a reflection of everything I have learned and seen until this point. A product of my parents, my society, my intellect, my faith and my searchings. I desire to grow and change what that reflection looks like because I know that one day my children will reflect what they learned from me.
  99. I am on a path with God. He is in the shadows of my day alongside me, and in the bright light when I need his presence the most. My prayer is that I would be faithful and bold to the end of my days, and until then that I would be willing to go anywhere, bear any burden, and recommit all to Him afresh each day.
  100. Even today, I am being transformed more and more into the person God intends me to be. What a fantastic journey to be on.