Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Tuareg wedding- the party outside

The wedding day festivities actually took place is 4 distinct locations. I can’t show you how the groom and his friends celebrated since I never saw them. In the previous post I told you about how the bride was spending the day, so let’s look at how the other party goers passed their time!

This is the yard where Aminata’s family lives. We visit here every week. All of the women gathered in this place. It was a hot day (mid 40s Celsius) and every patch of shade was taken up. You can’t see them all in this photo, but there was close to 40 women crammed together under this wooden and straw structure we call a “hangar” here.

weddinghutwebweddingwomenweb weddingwomen4web

A bunch of us in the official two shades of “wedding fabric”.


The hut they lived in also had people in it. There were women everywhere!

weddingwomen2web weddingwomen3web

While all the women sat and visited, there was another party going on just 30 feet away. This was the real party place, where all the young people gathered. Our friends had taken a power line from a neighbours house and run it into this rented tent, with rented plastic chairs, and set up a boom box, precariously balanced on a chair. 


This kid kept making me laugh. He thought he was so cool!20100925-IMG_1824



Of course the little kids gravitated to the music spot and were busting a move just outside the tent cover. They didn’t care it was 40 degrees!

 weddingdaykids3webweddingkids02web weddingkids01web

Bennett wasn’t as excited by the dancing as the other kids, but he was still having fun. He found a tire and was rolling it all over the place for a while.


So all afternoon the women visited, the teens and 20s danced, and the kids goofed around as normal. Until it came time to eat…. But I think the food will be a post for next time!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Tuareg wedding – “A room with no view” the Bride’s perspective

Over the past year I have learned a lot about the culture that goes along with a Tuareg wedding. Until now I was not closely enough linked with a family where there was a marriage to be able to take part in the entire experience. That made this past weekend special.

I will set the scene for you from the bride’s perspective and explain a bit of the culture as I go.

When we arrived in the morning at the hut of the family, we first wanted to see the bride. It turns out she was at the tiny concrete house of a neighbour in her “seclusion”. You see, the bride is not a part of the festivities. She is away in a room with some friends where she sits all day. Here in this picture she is in the middle of a mattress on the floor in the corner completely covered with her shawl, hiding away. In the morning there were lots of women visiting, but the overall mood was not was of festivities in this room.


They henna her hands and feet (Aminata’s had been done the day before) and they braid her hair. The older woman who is starting to braid her hair in the photo below is a woman who has never been divorced. This is actually a rarity in Tuareg culture, who are not polygamist, but serial divorcers. The meaning being that they wish her a good marriage that she will never leave.




The henna on her hands and feet was beautiful. The most intricate, beautiful work I have seen done here in Niger!


weddinghands3web weddingfeet2web weddingfeetweb

The room was sweltering hot. It was easy 40 degrees outside even in the shade and the room felt just as hot. They had pulled a power cord from a neighbour to run two little floor fans, but it barely made a dent. Everyone had sweat pouring down them. Good thing African fabric really hides sweat stains! Poor Aminata was even hid away under covers at some points. She only left this little room the entire day when she visited the latrine. She was not allowed to smile, or laugh, or show joy. It is hard to imagine getting wedding day shots of a bride where she hides her face, scowls and looks downcast. But that is what it was. She wanted pictures, but the appropriately miserable looking pictures. So different for me to switch my thinking that way!

So in their culture, like many others I have heard of, especially in this part of the world, it is expected that the bride is sad and sombre her wedding day. Inside she might be jumping for joy, but it would be shameful for her to show that. It is shameful and embarrassing for her to show joy at leaving her family. She is supposed to be upset to leave her family and mourn this new life of “roles and expectations”. I was so sad to see her sad all day, not enjoying anything. In my head it is so deeply ingrained that this should be one of the most special, joyful and love filled days for her! And yet…it seemed hollow and sad.

She sat. People came and went, sometimes she was alone. She could faintly hear the music across the street from her own party. She was hot. She was nervous. Unsure of what that night, the weeks to come, and her future would bring. Like bride’s all over the world, it was a day where everything would change.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sneak Peek- the Africa wedding

Yesterday I spent all day at the wedding of a dear African friend with Rebecca and Katherine. We have known Aminata and her family for almost two years and is a family we visit with weekly.

My job- Photographer for the day for the family. Which I learned was way different from shooting a wedding in North America! Don’t expect any smiles from the bride or even a shot of the Groom!

We were there from 10:30 am to 10:00 pm. It was fascinating, insightful to their culture, funny at times, and sad at others.

Over this next week I am going to put up a series of blogs about the event. But today is Sunday- and I am truly trying to have a day off!

So I leave you with a sneak peek and a link.

To read Katherine’s synopsis of the day go to: Katherine's wedding blog



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Alphabet pride!

Yesterday I was so proud of my little guy. Like any Mom I am generally always proud of Bennett and Arielle, but Bennett had a special day yesterday!

He is really excited to be learning to read at school. Almost everyday he tells me new things he wants to read or little words. He is in the first month of Kindergarten for those of you who don’t know.

I was out yesterday morning buying a bunch of little chalkboards for the training centre we are opening up. Bennett and Arielle were drawing on some of them and Bennett called me into the room that he wanted to show me something. I sat and watched him slowly write out all the letters of the alphabet in order (he missed the letter i only!) without any help and then read them all back to me! I was so proud! We had been working on some letters ,but I had no idea he was this good already!


Then he proceeded to take a pile of the little chalkboards and go around the house and copy down letters and words from packages, games, machines, boxes etc! Anything he could see, he wrote the names and spread out all the little chalkboards on the table, so proud of his writing skills. Now we are working to sound them out!


That first chalkboard with the alphabet? I have it displayed in my office now and I am NOT going to erase it . Your momma is so proud of you!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Our own garden of Eden


It seems like this past rainy season has done wonders for our garden. When we moved into this lot 2 years ago there were 3 scrawny short trees and nothing else. What a different a few years (and some gardening TLC) makes!

When we first moved in- June 2008. Our tree on the left was so small we were almost taller than it! That tree now has three levels and is a good 4 feet taller than the roof of the house!


And NOW!


Trying to plant a few things….


That same corner 2 years later!



The front of the house. You can see the mats hanging down (wet from rain) in the screen porch behind.


My basil bush shrub! I have two kinds of Basil grown here – a native Niger one and one that I planted from seeds bought in Italy. I am interested to see which will last longer, but they both taste and smell amazing! Anyone need some basil?


And if course Harriet likes all the foliage- to hide in and to eat!


Our front gate

20100905-_MG_1693 20100905-_MG_1692

Our fig tree! Last year I got maybe half a dozen full grown figs. Now this picture is just a little look at one part of a branch. I probably have 50 figs growing on it today alone!




So I have learned that things CAN be grown here in Niger! Even my poor attempt at a green thumb can’t mess it up, especially when our guards remember to water and weed even when I don’t!

So come visit our very own garden of Eden! It sure helps cut the sand and bleakness of the country!

Monday, September 20, 2010



In our grain aid distribution for September we also had the capacity to hand out hand-sewn blankets to all of our program families. Each family received two warm blankets. You might not think you need them here in Niger, but they use them on the floor in hot season and to cover up with in cold season. These blankets came to us through a group of women in the USA who get together and sew sew sew! There is a crazy variety of fabrics and colors, all put together to make simple quilts. I wish some of these dear women who make the quilts could see their love in action!

We had 8 bundles with 40 quilts in each to give out here in town to our community we work in. That’s a lot of blankets! We also sent out an additional 32 bundles to our village locations. That’s roughly 1600 quilts!!

blankets03 - Copy

blankets05 - Copy

And of course, we never forget to have fun!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

End of Ramadan!


Last week marked the end of Ramadan, the month long Islamic event where many people fast from sunrise to sunset. As we learn more and more about the culture and the people, we were surprised to see how many were not fasting in fact, and the variety of reasons that it was excusable. Interesting!

At the end of this period of time, there are always lots of parties!

We went to our friend Miriama’s house to celebrate the end of the fasting. We spent the afternoon there enjoying good friends, interesting conversations, strong tea and great food!


Bennett takes his role of “watcher of the tea” very seriously


He helps Aminata mix in the sugar and pour it into cups   Ramadan03-2

Then he hands around all the cups of steaming hot sweet tea!


Katherine enjoying her first African meal and tea event!


Ramadan is also a time where everyone gets new clothes. It was fun to drive around and see shiny clothes, bright sequins, swishing skirts and bold colors wherever we went.

These two boys were ADORABLE! They are 5 and 2 and had matching little suits. So darn cute! On the right there is the same dirty little boy who had Bennett’s toy car between his thighs a few weeks ago that I blogged about- he cleans up good!


Rebecca and Aminata were also looking good! Aminata is getting married in two weeks and I am excited to be her photographer as well as taking part in the day as part of her “family!'”


And of course, Arielle was looking cute as always!


And eventually it came time to eat. We eat at their house often, usually an assortment of some type of sauce that we dip bread into or they pour over hot rice. This food was even better! It had chicken in it, lots of sweet potatoes and other veggies. Everyone dug into the big platter and had their fill.


The adults bowed out after eating their share, but the kids kept on going…


Ibrahim thought it was “finger licking” good!


And the last one standing, crouching in a true African fashion while chowing down- Miss Arielle!


Black or white, friends all the same!