Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Finally home

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-4)

After almost three weeks gone to France, Bennett and I were very very VERY happy to return to Niger. There was something familiar about the humid heat, gritty air, blowing sand and even the smell of Niger when we got off the plane. Even being delayed 2.5 hours on the tarmac in Paris couldn’t stop our joy! We are so thrilled to be reunited as a family!

So as promised, I am writing a few of my thoughts and lessons from the past three weeks. Obviously that fateful Sunday night just as church was about to start, I had no clue how tumultuous our month would end up being and that everything would change in a flash on the monkey bars.

Everytime I leave Niger and go to a Developed Country I undergo a little bit of culture shock. This time I journalled a little while sitting on the beach watching Bennett play with his friends in the sand and waves. Here is the scene where I wrote it

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“How do I keep my 5 year old rambunctious boy from getting his cast wet without totally killing all his chances at fun? He keeps trying all these different ways to get water into his bucket without actually putting his arm in the water and it is pretty funny to watch. He lines it up where a wave will fill it, and watches the next one roll in, only to watch it knock over the bucket completely. He anchors it with sand next time, tries a few other ideas, until he finally gets it to work.

I am sitting in a pile of sand. This is so familiar. And yet my other senses are super aware that everything else is different. I can smell the ocean, feel a crisp breeze on my face and see more ( A LOT MORE!) skin on people that I am used to. it shocked me at first. Oh my gosh- I can see her whole legs!! I am used to arms and feet only. I roll up my own jeans to my knees- how scandalous! So interesting how our worldview changes. That is more leg than I have shown in public in a year!

This beach is full of people. There is a plethora of snacks all over the place, no one is worrying where their next meal will come from. Food is thrown out and a bird picks away at the leftovers of fruit left idly by the side. People are lounging, playing with their kids, showing affection for each other, etc. There is a peaceful relaxation that is evident that is not evident in Niger. The daily worry of life in Niger seems to etch lines into the fabric of their lives that doesn’t exist in places where life is easier on a basic survival level. On our way to the beach I passed rich green farmlands and fat cows. I noticed them because they were different than my “normal”.

I find it hard to wrap my brain around this. I know in Niger there is a famine, that people are struggling for daily life and are dying.  I have seen it with my own eyes. And yet here I am in France where everything is so carefree and beautiful. How can these co-exist? How can famine and drought and poverty and death be happening in one place, while in another there is plentiful and beauty and ease. Too much to handle sometimes. The diversity of the world is truly incomprehensible.

I feel sometimes like I live in multiple worlds. In my Niger life we couldn’t get Bennett’s broken arm set in Niger because of risks associated with anaesthesia and surgery and therefore he had to wait 3 days and fly 4000km to get it fixed. That never would have happened in my other “Canadian life” where a hospital and good care is nearby. Part of the life we have chosen when following the call to work in Niger”.

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Things in life don’t always go as planned. There were days in France that were awful and I fully needed every ounce of strength and energy to get through. When I was weeping in the hospital hallway and I didn’t know what to do and couldn’t find anyone to help me. All I wanted was help. One person to care and come alongside of me and help me navigate the system with the speed we needed. I didn’t take any pictures those days. I mean really…who wants to see pictures of all the hours we spent in waiting rooms, talking to doctors, going from one office to another trying to find the “right place” to help us. Fighting with the people at Western Union, trying to pay at clinics when they said it would take 3 weeks to add us to the system to pay, getting robbed, prodded, poked with needles and walking miles. Nobody wants to see those photos!

Those days I prayed lots. I felt the support of so many of you around the world trying to do your best to help us through. Your emails, skype calls, etc were such a blessing to me in our “alone-ness” in Paris.

And then we had other days, infinitely better than the crappy ones. Days where we had no doctor appointments or tests or people to fight with to get service. We had a clear schedule and I was determined to make the best of it! We can’t expect everyday to be good, but we can make the best of the days we are given. I think even in the worst of circumstances there are things to be grateful for, to turn our faces towards little joys and choose not to let the bad things control us.

Those days we choose to go to movies, many parks, to smell flowers, to eat Happy Meals, to go to a carnival, to go see fireworks, to go see friends on the coast for a few precious days of respite. And those are the days you will see pictures of. The ones I choose to remember, the good memories I hope Bennett will hold on to rather than the long, crappy ones we also had to endure on the journey. We choose to get out of the hotel, see the sights, eat crepes, smell flowers, go on rides and feel the breeze on our faces. I am so glad we did.

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We aren't completely finished with the whole situation yet. I still have a lot of work to do filling out paperwork to hopefully get reimbursed for most of what we had to spend on hospitals, hotels, tests, xrays, etc. I am thankful for insurance and hope this process won’t be so painful and will be quick as well.

But we made it. With God’s grace we came out ahead, still holding onto our sanity and sure that through it all, He never left our side.

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Choosing the sunshine side of life,

Chantelle

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26: 3-4)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Update from Paris




Well hello there!
We are still alive and well here in Paris. I thought I would write up a little update about our misadventures in the big city.

So here is what our weeks have looked like in brief

- Came to Paris. Spent all day in hospital finally getting Bennett's arm set.

- A few days of no sleep and frustration trying to get his pain under control

- Tried to see a few movies, sights and visit parks. Saw the new Shrek movie.

- Great parks, love the flowers and fresh smells and seeing people without a care in the world. Their spirits seem lighter here, I guess that comes from not having to worry where your next meal comes from.



- Bennett rediscovered McDonald's happy meals, and has been wanting them for lunch every day since.

-Bennett sees the Eiffel Tower for the first time (well that he was old enough to remember). His first thoughts about it- Hey Mom- is that a GIANT Toy store???


-We went to the kids science museum on the outskirts of town and had a great time playing with science and machines and tactile adventures for children about space, air, water, food, bugs, etc.



A great time. On the way home, with tired child with broken arm, heavy stroller, bags and myself to care for, was targeted by thieves. In the busy hallways between metro trains where you are packed person to person, they stole my tiny wallet. It had our visa card, bank card and my passport. Yah---that sucked.

-Still had more medical appointments to go to, made more difficult by the fact I had to make alternative payment arrangements since I had no more money. Some people were less than helpful. More tears. Walked a whole lot of kilometeres since we had very little cash and I wanted to save it for food.

- Set in motion with the Canadian Embassy to get either a new permanent passport or a temporary one by the time we leave. They have trouble getting a hold of my references and that slows us down.

-Visa sends me a new emergency card after 4 days and transfers some money via Western Union. Western Union looks at my 5 other pieces of I.D (3 of which are government issue with picture and signature) and refuses to give me any money without my passport. I go back to the Police yet again to get another report from them to tell them YES my passport was stolen you dummies. Finally a day later we convince Western Union to give me my money! Parisians seem to be exceedingly difficult in every situation I confront them.

-Bennett gets his first xray. One bone is perfect, and one has slightly shifted but not enough for them to worry about it. Yay!



-With money in hand, we buy train tickets out of town for a 3 day weekend to go visit good friends of ours who live on the coast a few hours away (well they live in Niger with us, but are french and are home in France for summer vacation). We really needed to get out of town!

-Bennett loves the beach (only allowed to play in the sand-no water!) and seeing his friends again. Mom is super happy to sit and read and not see crowds of people and have no drama!


- The Western Union in this little beach town doesn't blink at my lack of I.D and even uses my Niger Driver's Permit as their piece of I.D. haha!

- Back to Paris for more appointments and some shopping. Wednesday is Bastille Day which is the biggest holiday of the year here in France.

- We try to go see the Parade. Ridiculous amount of people, we cant even see the street and it pours rain on us.

This picture is with the camera held high above my head and this is still all I could see!

- We are much happier in the afternoon watching the France premiere of Toy Story 3 followed by a Happy Meal!

- That night after a nap, we head out to the Eiffel Tower area for the fireworks show. We are smart this time and go two hours early to secure a prime spot on one of the bridges at the railing so Bennett can sit and we have no one in front of us. We hang out there for a few hours and then enjoy the show- which is spectacular!



- Find out my temporary passport will indeed be ready Friday afternoon. Glitch is I may have to go to Cote D'Ivoire in person within 60 days to trade in for my real one. Must find the loophole around that one. Cote D'Ivoire happens to be the closest full embassy to Niger.

So now tomorrow is Bennett's next x-ray and hopefully the day they will give us medical clearance to fly home Sunday night!

I have more to say at a later day about some of the things I have learned here, but it is late and tomorrow we have a very full day with x-rays, 2 doctors and hopefully a passport to pick up!



Will write more later. Thank you to many of you for all your encouragement and support. I leave you with some song verses that have encouraged me during this time in France!


There’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes I'm going to have to lose,
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing,
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes they might knock me down but
No I’m not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m going to remember most
Just got to keep going
And I,
I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on







-

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Alive and well in Paris

Not sure what is going on with the pictures here...i dont have any of my usual gear with me for photography...but enjoy anyhow!

Does this picture look familiar to those of you who are long-time faithful blog followers? If not - check out this link from October 2006.
http://chroniclesofourjourney.blogspot.com/2006/10/just-minor-blip.html

In the irony of it all, Bennett's room and hospital in Paris is just one floor above where I stayed where I had my fight with Dengue Fever in 2006. At least I knew the area this time! That is the top of the Eiffel tower from Bennett's room.



Bennett's first two days here in Paris were as uneventful as we can expect. We spent the whole first day getting in to the airport, waiting for a special taxi/ambulance that never showed up, took our own taxi, saw specialists, waited in countless different waiting rooms, never ate anything since we didn't know when/if his surgery would happen, and then finally at 8pm Bennett went under anesthesia and got his arm fixed. They didn't use any pins or rods and while the fracture is unstable, we hope the setting will hold. We are in a holding pattern of follow-ups, xrays and waiting for 2 weeks in Paris. Apparently you can't fly with a new cast, so they have to crack open the cast. Clearly we aren't going to do that anytime soon!

So now we are not in the hospital but are close by in the hotel and trying to decide what to do. After a few days we got Bennett's pain meds under control and he was wanting to go out and see things and do things. Can't blame him. However, we need to make sure his arm stays stable as possible too. So we got a sling, a stroller and headed out!


Our first day in the hospital Bennett was at the window and shouted "Mom, come here! I want to show you something!!" And when I came over...."Look Mom, there is a bush with flowers on it and grass down there!" LOL. My poor African child!
He was thrilled to discover a local outdoor park that is like ones he remembers back in Canada. It has just rained and was cool and he played gently with some other kids. Mom was a kill-joy and wouldnt let him climb anything or run (crazy one armed kid wanted to climb the rope ladders!) but he fully enjoyed himself.

We also went and saw Shrek 4 in the theatre and ate a Happy Meal at McDonalds as per his request. He saw a poster saying Toy Story 3 comes out in two weeks and constantly reminds me that we need to see it they day it comes out.

And Mom is staying positive too. We are so thankful to have insurance that allows us to take our children to quality medical facilites and get taken care. 95% of the population of this world don't have that luxury. I am enjoying the fresh fruit- especially nectarines, peaches and cherries. I can't get enough! As well...Starbucks has many locations in town. We will take our small gifts in life when they come and be thankful. Wishing madly that Paul and Arielle were here too, but thankful we have skype and can talk every night.



Bennett is loving the metro and trains. We will wander around town with the stroller as his energy level and heavy cast allow and make the best of this bonding time. God has this within His capable hands and I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

Until next time from Paris!