Monday, May 31, 2010

TWO YEARS! An interview with BENNETT we have been here two years now in Niger! This week stay tuned for a series of interviews with our family on life and living here in Niger as we all answer the questions and you get our different perspectives! Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question you want answered!

Here are some of Bennett’s thoughts on these last two years!!


If you had to describe all that has happened and life in general in just three words...what would those words be?

Hot, animals, fun

What do you like most about living in Niger?

I like going to the Park W, seeing animals all day (goats, donkeys, camels, monkeys, all the animals in this world!). I like playing games with mom and dad, and now I really like bumpy roads, especially when Daddy lets me hold the wheel!

What do you really NOT like about life here in Niger?

I don’t like all the garbage, i don’t like kids who yell at me and follow me when I am just walking on the street, and i don’t like the food sometimes when we go to visit people in their huts.
Also, it makes me angry if someone would pray that they don’t like me. I just want to be their friend! I don’t like it when friends who want to be friends have a friend who doesn’t want friends! (yeah…try to say that 4 times fast!)

What have you learned about yourself in these past two years that maybe you didn't know before?
I can speak French!  I can run really fast too.

I love being Bennett because God made me to be your child Mom. (and what mom wouldn’t melt at that!)


Give me a little snapshot of your week. What kind of things do you do in a normal week?

I spend the morning at school , where i speak French the whole time and do crafts and play and have many friends. I run so fast that they can’t catch me sometimes! Today I even hit myself on the head with my own rock!

I come home for lunch then I nap sometimes even if I don’t want to, or go to the pool, or visit my friend’s house or play games with Arielle until supper. Sometimes we go visit our friends in their huts and I get to play with sticks and make up games where we run around, but sometimes it is hard since those other little kids don’t speak English and they don’t speak French either! Then we have supper together, then we read stories and play with Mom and Dad until it is time for bed!

What are a few of the biggest things you miss about our life back in Canada?
Snow, seeing Grandmas and Grandpas, those little orange goldfish crackers, my dear puppy Sanka, chips with ripples- (here they are all flat!) and all my uncles and aunties.

Any other thoughts you want to share?

No Mom. I am going to play now!


My Mom says this is all weeds, but it is the closest thing to grass I have seen in a long time, and I like it!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

A birthday party- Africa style!


Last weekend our local friends helped throw a birthday party for our dear Rebecca. Her real birthday was a few weeks ago, but we are always up to celebrate twice!

This is where the party was held. Bush party!!

Rebecca and some of her girls! party061web

Me and Fatimaparty034web


The party was a big draw for the kids. They all know and love Rebecca and they were thrilled to stay up late and enjoy the tea, fire, rice and sauce and music!  

Some kid shots

party069web   party064web  party038






The piece de resistance near the end of the night (well at least the end of the night before us old white folks were tired and went off to bed!) was the cake. Erm….goat. Which was sort of like a cake would be to our party…so i called it the goat cake!

When we got there, the goat was still in the “oven”. Yup, buried in sand, covered in coals and cooking all day.


When the cake, er goat cake, was finally ready to come out, Rebecca got to make the ceremonial first shovel full!


The goat, wrapped in paper and oiled down, was carefully protected and had no sand at all in it. The insides were filled with couscous and spices. Although i am very wary of african cooked outdoor meat stuff, I have to say I tried some and it was quite delicious!


A few more party pics.

party020web   party030

Happy Birthday Rebecca. Hope you liked the goat cake!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Triplets and snapshots of life

HI there. I thought I would update here with a few shots and insights into our last week.  Stay tuned in a few days for a blog about Rebecca’s African Bush birthday party!

Here is my popcorn. I bought the bag, froze it, opened it a week later, washed it and found hundreds of dead bugs floating to the surface. Yum. Couldn’t quite bring myself to eat it even though i knew they were all dead and washed out. Such is life here, every once in a while we get a bag of sugar, rice, flour or corn that is just full of bugs. Thus the reason we freeze and wash!

This week Bennett conquered the monkey bars! He was so proud to finally make it all the way across!

tea and turtles011


The food aid distribution centre is quiet in the last half of the month. It is monthly rations we give out and the majority of the people come in the first two weeks to pick it all up. So the last couple of weeks we still go, sit and have tea, visit with our National friends who come by, and get some work done. Here is some of the varying degrees of work that was done last week. See if you can guess who got the short end of the stick!


Youssouff is our designated tea maker. He truly makes the best cups of tea! He hangs out and serves tea and visits with us all morning. Yay for tea!tea and turtles008

Paul and Daniel sitting in the courtyard visiting with a group of men.   Paul really looks forward to Wednesdays as he practices language with several of the men he really enjoys and it gets him out of traditional books and memorizing and class for a day!tea and turtles010

This is Zeinaboo, a volunteer from the local community group whose job it is to distribute the oil rations. Not a lot of oil going out today as you can tell!

tea and turtles007Rebecca hard at work. She normally mans the ledger and moneybox with Miriama (in white in photo). As you can tell, they are working hard today too!  Gotta love quiet days!tea and turtles009

And finally there is me. I am working on translating material into Tamasheq for the health teaching sessions and writing them all in a book of lesson plans. This months topic is all about Diarrhoea and Dehydration. People here really think that when you have Diarrhoea and are sick you should totally stop drinking and eating so that it will “dry up”. Very dangerous considering they are already malnourished and susceptible to illness. We have a great lesson this month that teaches them to rehydrate often, and how to make their own ORS using things available at home like water, sugar and salt. I guess someone has got to do some work!! (don’t worry, I took time for tea and some visiting too!)



And now the triplets! This weekend we saw a box of sooo adorable baby turtles for sale. Bennett and Arielle wanted to take another one home, but one Harriet is enough for this family! Harriet is doing well, loves living in our garden and is a friend to all our workers :) They can even tell us her daily patterns in walking around the yard and what makes her “happy!” Gee, I didn’t know they could speak turtle!

 tea and turtles014

tea and turtles013

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dubai and back again!

Well we have now been back in Niger for almost a week. I am surprised by how much the heat seems to suck the life out of us after even 3 weeks away from it. Dubai was just a nice warm 30-35 degrees. It was 47 in the shade here yesterday in Niger!

The whole time we were in Dubai I caught myself often thinking about self-care, and the ideas behind how we take care of ourselves (emotionally and physically) so that we can operate at our maximum, even when in a high stress environment. I knew I was tired out, and a little burned out when we got to Dubai. I was really ready for a vacation. But when we were in a mall Day two, and I had a huge grocery store (Like Super Target or Superstore) behind me, Starbucks in front and everything else in between, i cried. Yup. Not the all out bawling, smear your mascara and scare your neighbours kind of cry, but definitely tears. Because it was too much to handle. The culture shock overwhelmed my senses. So I guess I was a little raw after all! When you are worn down, your emotions are closer to the surface and it is more difficult to cope. I am working on an article on compassion fatigue and how it affects people like us living in high stress environments (both physically and emotionally) but i will save that for another day! For now, I will tell you about some of the highlights of our Dubai trip!

The obvious highlight was being able to spend time with family. That is a rare gift now in our lives and it was wonderful to have down times with our family, share meals, stay up late and talk and go see and do things together. I especially appreciated the times when we weren’t doing anything big and were just together, like when we went to the beach several afternoons and watched the kids play, collected shells, and chatted. Same was true of our two days all together on the coast. No pressure, no phone calls, no expectations, just being together.


I also really enjoyed my 4 days away with Paul. We don’t get much time to ourselves nowadays and to have these days away was great! We celebrated our 10th anniversary and went to the east coast of the UAE. (Our actual anniversary date is June 10th). We got to explore Oman, go on a boat tour, snorkel, scuba dive, eat late, sleep in late and just really enjoy some alone time!

Paul flipping off our boat, headed out to snorkel next!

I really love to scuba dive, but rarely get the chance, so this was a highlight for me!

Nobody looks good in a skintight wetsuit… the water was a little murky at first too.

webdive I love floating silently amongst big schools of fish.


The Jellyfish! There were quite a few out one day and we stayed out of the water. The day I dived it was ok. Actually these big ones weren’t too bad, but see all the little long stringy looking things in the photo- those actually zapped my face lots while diving. More annoying than pain…but a bit unnerving!


And while we were gone, the kids had a really wonderful time creating memories by themselves with Grandma and Grandpa. They got to share meals, go to parks, go on rides, go meet friends, and eat more than their share of goodies I am sure! Both kids continue to talk about the things they did there, and we are thankful for this opportunity for relationship bonding. In all before this, Grandma and Grandpa McIver had seen Arielle for only 3 weeks in her life! So what a precious time to connect with both children.

Pictures below from Bev:

tea party


Great snacks! 

Helping Grandpa

Scaring Grandma!

Dubai also has some great tourist sights to see for every age! Here are some of the fun things we went and saw!

The old and the new. While most things are new, there are still some great old historic sights as well.

The new was obvious everywhere. We saw the palm islands, more construction than you can imagine and signs of growth everywhere.

Once you get outside the big cities, there are charming villages and towns that await you. This particular one was in Oman and we really enjoyed it!

Great hotels. We really loved our hotel on the coast.

There were amusement parks and family fun centres. Beautiful outdoor ones with lights, dancing fountains and great coffee shops :)

The tallest building in the world is there. Pretty impressive. Especially since it is 80% unoccupied :P

And in front of the world’s tallest building is a beautiful music and water show every 20 minutes. The kids loved it!


There were great coffee shops all over the place. There was Caribou coffee, Second Cup, Starbucks, Seattle’s Best and many others. For a coffee connoisseur like me it was wonderful! I also earned my UAE and Oman mugs for my Starbucks mugs collection.

Flying out at night, you can just see the outlines of the palm island built into the sea with all the lights. A little grainy but it was dark and we were flying!


I learned my lesson once and now usually take a picture of all my luggage just getting ready to leave. They couldn’t deny they had it then could they! Anyhow, we went over to Dubai with three bags (which had other bags flat in them) and came back only 1.8 kg short of the weight allotment! The big hard container in front had breakables, but also 6kg of frozen bacon, cheddar and sausage. Thank goodness they didn’t lose this bag! We brought home lots of stuff for friends, new clothes for the kids and us, 8 pounds of coffee, and many other items from our shopping list! Even bike parts!


And then we were gone. 3 weeks passed so fast, but really it was a wonderful vacation. A time to refresh our batteries, process some things in life, eat good food and enjoy our family. We are grateful for the opportunity to go and to Paul’s parents for hosting us!