Sunday, May 31, 2009



Today is May 31. Today marks one full year that we have been living here in Niger! A year ago, in the wee hours of the morning (like 2:00am) our family arrived, 8 very full pieces of luggage in tow, and was greeted at the airport by almost our whole team and we stepped into this country to start our new lives.

In some regards, I am amazed how fast the time has gone by. It DOES seem like we have been here only 5 or 6 months. We have been so busy with life, people and language that time flies by.


Here are a few of the things that we have learned and done in this past year:

We have begun to learn about different cultural mannerisms, and what it is ok to do and what it is not okay to do in public. It still seems odd to me to see men and women fishing around in their nose in public with no problem. We hear loud burps from both sexes who don't seem bothered. We have learned that if you pass gas in their presence, especially in a village setting, you might as well move and go find a new place of ministry. Story goes that ministries and reputations have actually been ruined because they farted in public. yikes!

Bad driving is the norm in Niger. While Paul still gets mad out about this, (and Chantelle tries to avoid driving if she doesn't have to) we are still amazed that one country can be so full of bad drivers. We see accidents almost everyday. Half the times these include motorbikes, which are the menaces of the road for sure. People pass you on the LEFT, way out into the other lane. I think many people honestly think (or have been taught) that the center line is merely a suggestion and doesn't matter much. People cut you off all the time. At night, most roads have no street lights and driving is even more scary. We appreciate all prayers directed towards our general safety as we have to drive around here! Thankfully we have a big truck that sits up high and is tough. Go Toyota Landcruisers!

Crazy high temperatures is the norm.


Thankfully, we find we are doing much better with by now. Our bodies and attitudes have acclimated, and while we still feel the heat and sweat a lot, we don't let it bother us as much and we continue on with life in spite of it. I really do believe the battle is half mental! We tried to fry an egg on our front tile patio in the sun when it was 57 degrees (135 farenheit) and it surprised me by taking longer than i thought. Next up, I plan to try baking cookies on the dash of our truck. I have heard rumours it works!

Paul has spent that last 9 months in intensive studies for french. He has learned a ton of the language and we are so pleased with his progress. He will be starting full time Tamasheq studies in September. Chantelle has spent 9 months in full time tamasheq language. This language is related to Arabic loosely and is quite a challenge. After 9 months, I am beginning to be able to hold my own in basic conversations and sit and visit with the women (who speak no french)

We have also taken a lot of time this past year to work on our relationships with the people around us. I have 5 different women I feel welcomed to visit and spend time with as often as possible. We love their children and feel like aunts and uncles to them. It has been so exciting to build friendships and learn culture from them and be accepted. Really, this is all the icing on the cake for us! This gift to stand out at something "different" to them and to be invited over time and time again to share in their lives, teach them things and pray for them. What joy!

In our past year, here is some of the development work we have been doing:

Paul is working a lot in the little welding shop out front. He is teaching 2 men on and off how to use basic tools, how to grind and saw and piece things together. This shop has done work for a missions aviation group, the Adventist Relief agency, Sahel school (solar cooker box) and our own projects building pulleys and systems to outfit a well, designing and modify roof racks for team vehicles and anything else that anyone needs fixed. Some days he has more work than time, but he is loving the way to work alongside his workers, speak french and teach them, while blessing others in his skills to build things.


Chantelle spent many months designing, implementing and tabulating all the data from our team's first baseline development survey. As you may have read in our posts about it, we gathered health, education, death, illness, water source, family changes, and much more from over 1200 people in the areas we work. This information is now helping us better plan our next steps in these communities


Our family has been the team point persons for working with a local Tuareg community group to build a hut class and latrine for them. They are starting classes for their own people to teach them literacy, french language and health/hygiene topics. The grand opening is next week, so stay tuned for more information on this exciting project! We are also working with our Tuareg team members the Marineau family who live about an hour outside town to put together grant funds and plans for a school nutrition & feeding program we hope to start this September. This school only has 40% attendance (at the primary level!) and we hope that by giving 2 meals a day that meet international nutritional standards, that we can improve attendance and their consumption rates, thus positively impacting their health and education at the same time! We are still in the planning stages, so more news to come!


Bennett and Arielle

Our two little tikes are now 3 and 4 years old. They have spent the past 9 months attending a morning preschool in french. This frees us up to have language classes all morning. They are enjoying learning lots of songs and we are quite pleased to see the level of french they are slowly starting to acquire. Arielle will continue in this preschool next year, while Bennett will transfer over to start real kindergarten at "La Fontaine", thus starting his scholastic journey in the french system. We have chosen to put him in the french system for now to ensure he gets not only a great education, but the best chance we can offer him to learn french really well and be bilingual. As you can tell, language is important to us! Arielle will likely follow the year after



Some of the things we have seen for the very first time here in Niger

Families of giraffes out in the wild


Minivans and buses packed higher than the height of the vehicle itself


Photographed, sat on and played with a giant turtle

Seen little moped motorbikes used as major transportation haulers. We have seen these things carry animals, 6 people at a time, lawnmowers, other mopeds strapped on top with the driver, full wooden dresser/armoire units, 20 foot long wrapped lengths of iron, barrels, gas cylinders and many other bizarre things.

Moto with two people and a sheep


Sweat. I had no idea we could lose so much water via sweat and still be standing and healthy. Here is Paul after a few hours outside working in the shop.


Water. We have seen whole communities of people drink water from wells that is so dirty that we wouldn't even consider drinking it back in Canada.

Photo courtesy of Tim


Sand storms. Never before have I seen a blue sky turn completely orange in the middle of the day. The sand storms normally get pushed up ahead of rain coming and the high winds roll into the city, bringing with them huge sand storms. In minutes the sky is covered and we run to close all our windows and get inside. A fine layer of sand still makes it into the cracks in the doors and windows and we sweep out a fine layer of sand from the floors and off the surfaces in the house. These photos have not been touched up at all for color, saturation or effect. This is how it really rolls in. Notice the patch of sky just barely peeking through in the top right of this first one? It is the middle of the day.




We rode camels.


Chantelle learned to grind up millet in a traditional mortar and pestle. Hard work!



And so now we embark on another year. Many new adventures and projects planned, and many more opportunities to spend our lives with the people of Niger. Thank you for being with us thus far!!


Paul & Chantelle


NIGER1.COM said...


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your one year anniversary!

I pray that you would be devoted to prayer and thankful, and that God may open a door for your message, so that you may proclaim the mystery of Christ. I pray that you may proclaim it clearly. I pray that you will be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity, letting your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Coll.4:2-6


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for you wonderful blogs on your life out there. I grew up in Chad, in Central Africa, and what you write about reminds me so much of my background. The heat, the sand storms, the sweat, the dirt, the heavy rains, all those I also experienced and can almost feel and smell them still. I also learned French as my first language and it is so wonderful to hear that your two are also learning the language.
You are in our prayers and we pray God watches over you and your little ones.
With prayer,
Suzanne McWhinnie, Innisfail Alliance Church

Kristi Hopf: said...

Yay to Year One!!! woohoo.

Di said...

I have just stumbled upon your blog while blog surfing. Am in awe of your photos. But more amazed at how God works, my dearest friend in the whole wide world lives & works in Niemay with the Fulani people. I will continue to read, and also pray for you as you work in Niger! Blessings on you an dyour family.

Anonymous said...

Two anniversaries celebrated! Your wedding and your new home..congrats on both. Love and hugs to all heather