Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tidbits

A few glimpses from life

A team work bee party prepping 1500 mosquito nets for distribution

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Lisa

I took a new profile photo for my teammate Lisa. She is currently in Canada for a few months on a speaking tour and I am sure many of you will be getting this new photo on a card!

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Village latrines and wells

Paul and Tim went out to the village where we have the school feeding program. They wanted to check the quality of the latrines we recently had built there and do some repair with a concrete saw. Paul was also able to help with a repair for the motor that they use in the school garden well.

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Paul with the school staff on the right and middle, and his “military escort” watching over him from the left.

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Easter celebrations

We went to a traditional Easter Egg hunt party on the lawn of the residence of the USA Ambassador.

Here are the kids in a race carrying an egg on a spoon. Can you see Bennett in the picture?

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The toss an egg to your friend game

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The Great Egg Hunt!

There were two separate egg hunts set up. One was for bigger kids, and one for younger kids. The big kids had trees to climb, bushes to crawl in etc. The younger kids had an open area with most of the eggs in fairly plain sight or just in a shrub you could see them in. Arielle wanted to be with the little kids and Bennett wanted to go on the big side and climb trees etc. Imagine his distress and the tears that flowed when they told him he was too little (along with a few of his friends) and that he needed to go to the little side.

In each location there was ONE golden egg well hidden. The child who got this golden egg won the big prize of a giant chocolate egg or white chocolate bunny.

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They let the big kids start their hunt first since they required less supervision, then came over and started the little kids side. A few minutes later Arielle came running up to me with the golden egg for the little kids side! She found it all on her own in a shrub. She was so excited!

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Once all the eggs were done in the little kids side, Bennett asked the man if he could go over to the big kids side to climb some trees and see if there were any eggs left. He said that would be ok, so off Bennett ran, about 20 minutes after the big kids had started (and mostly finished) the egg hunt on their side.

A few minutes later I heard a group of kids cheering and yelling, and saw Bennett running back over to me. In his hands, I could see something that looked suspiciously like the second golden egg! Sure enough, 20 minutes after the big kids had started and cleared out their area, Bennett went in, went commando crawling through bushes and found their golden egg!!  I guess he proved he can run with the big kids!

Both kids with their grand prizes!

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Arielle enjoying some of her chocolate!

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We also enjoyed a sunrise service and hanging out with friends on Easter. No pictures sorry!

We wish you all a wonderful Easter season. He is Risen!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A ship on rough seas

So what’s up? It seems like time flies here. And no one else in our family blogs, or even uses the computer much, so I guess it is up to me to keep you all up to date best I can. If you want to chat with Paul though- he loves to skype and talk to people in person, so set it up!

Bennett has begun to really enjoy writing and reading. He loves school so much. We are thankful for that. Arielle loves her friends at school and getting dressed up. She doesn’t seem interested in writing anything, but there is still lots of time!

I made from scratch brownies with Bennett this weekend. He loved every step and was super excited. When the finished product came out of the oven he tasted his, then threw it in the garbage. He said to me "Mom, You know I don't even really like chocolate anyways". WHAT! How can this be my flesh and blood! Good thing Arielle and I aren't too proud to eat his share :)

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Paul is really busy with the shop and with language learning. Quite often the two go hand in hand now. He is helping a group of young kids learn to make a set for a school play out of metal. He is teaching our day guard to use tools and make his own bed frame. He is still building the roof structure for our Girls School. Busy man. We can see such an amazing work in this new Vocational training program, and already see the need for a business type manager to help us with all the business end that we are not gifted in! Any takers? Also- we really need someone to help him plan curriculum for next year. So ALL YOU TRADES MEN if one of you has worked with apprentices in the past or taught at a trades school, we would love to see if you could help Paul plan!

 

A group of women in Niamey got together for a quilting seminar. While I already know how to quilt, it was great to come along for ideas! I I enjoyed the company of the other women and worked out a few project ideas we are going to use at the Girls at Risk School this Fall. Also, I got to work on a baby quilt, well two actually- for two special babies being born into our family in the next few months! And now with news I have another new nephew or niece on the way- I better get quilting! It tends to be a good relaxing time to work on a project, so I need to make more time for creative things like this!

The finished quilt before it was mailed off.

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In other news….well I found out my brother and his wife are having another baby! Yay! Also means one more birth, baby shower and newborn I won’t get too see. Too many of those lately. Being so far away for so many big events for our family is hard. I have a new respect for all those international workers I heard about while growing up and over the years. I know how hard it is to be so far away, and they didn’t even have the blessing of Skype to keep in touch!

Mostly, I will be honest, I have just been really stressed lately. More than I can remember ever being in fact. There is so much need here, so much work to do, so many people who count on us. And I love my work, these girls and can see so much how God desires their lives to be whole. But at what point do i need to let go and chill? There is so much more to be done than I am physically capable of, or emotionally capable of, that I feel burnt out. No surprise to those who know me well and know Paul and I only know one speed- full speed ahead.

I have appreciated the words of care and wisdom I have received from some of you these past weeks. We want to do the best we can to ensure our situation is as sustainable as we can make it, barring outside crazy factors we can’t control. Praying and looking hard for those hidden gems and peaceful times. When our batteries are almost empty, even a weekend away only seems to fill them up to 40%.

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When looking forward to planning for next year, I find myself uncertain. As of yet we don’t have an intern in place to replace the (obviously irreplaceable) Rebecca, who is a huge help to me at the school and invests deeply in some of the girls. We have also learned in the past little bit (and can now share it with you freely) that the other half of the Tuareg focused team (The Marineaus who were in Quebec for the year on furlough) will not be returning to Niger. So this leaves us as the only family on this side of the team for the moment and that is a scary thought with all that was planned to be at least two families wide and our desire to work on community with others. We will miss them dearly. I am not sure how to do this sometimes. I trust God has a plan and know I need to rely more deeply on Him.

As my best friend reminded me today:

Isaiah 58:11: And the LORD will guide you continually

and satisfy your desire in scorched places

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters do not fail.

Fun for your morning coffee

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Enjoy your coffee, and for your sake I hope it’s a strong one!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A weekend at Niger’s new Eco-lodge awesomeness!!

This past week a friend of ours suggested we all pile into his truck and go south for the weekend, to a National Game Parc on the Niger/Benin/Burkina Faso border. There is also a new eco-lodge that I have heard great reviews of that we were wanting to try out! So we headed out Friday after w

Our whole plan for the weekend was to relax, enjoy our surroundings, and not go anywhere. We succeeded! Even though we were on the edge of the parc that is known for its animals, we took little interest. I didn’t even bring the majority of my camera gear, just a little one! Shocking I know. But I wanted nothing to distract me from good friends and having adventures and fun with our kids!

This new eco lodge, called “Ile de Lamantin” is located on an island. You take a long canoe to reach it with your belongings and it is nice to know you are both safe and secluded because of your location! For any of you in Niger who have not been there (which is likely most of you since it just opened- I highly highly recommend it. It is an awesome location, beautiful cabins and gourmet food! The hostess Natalie takes care of you like a Bed and Breakfast (which she also runs 4 months a year in Southern France when the rainy season shuts down access to this eco-lodge).

Check out their website at: Ile du Lamantin

There are 10 cabins on the island. Each one carefully made and nestled either by the river bank or up on the rocks amongst Baobab trees. Every cabin has a great view of the river and you can sit on your terrace and enjoy it.

Here are some of the cabins and their surroundings.

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_MG_8784This is the one we stayed in, down by the river bank. At night all the windows open up (we have full mosquito nets) and the cool air was wonderful!_MG_8770

The scenery is breathtaking. There was a tiny island in the middle of the river (like the size of a large boat) that we could see easily from our cabin and the main restaurant porch. All day Saturday there was a Hippopotamus there, just hanging around. He would lay, half in the water, and move around and splash. He napped I am sure, he wandered around, ate the grass and gave us all quite the show.

We sat on this terrace here at nightfall, watching the sunset and the river.

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This large boat went by at dusk. It was loaded down with baggage and around 50 people. It was really low in the water with all that weight. It made me nervous for them just watching but apparently it is a normal sight, with the people in the villages down river heading up river to a day market in a larger market.

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The famous Baobab trees are an important part of the landscape. They are enormous and look like they have trunks of carved cement. Many of them grew right around large rocks and into cracks, becoming one with the rocks around them.

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The fruit of the Baobab tree is called Monkeyfruit here. It isn’t a fruit we would think to eat but our hostess made juice and ice cream with it. It tasted somewhat like pear juice. However, the fruit shell is known to be a skin irritant to some people, and Paul can attest to that with with a few irritated skin spots on his face.

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The food- oh did I mention the food! It was awesome! Each meal that Natalie prepared had a variety of tastes, textures and colors. She really is a “foodie” and everything was wonderful, using many national ingredients from Niger as well. She made her own bread, her own desserts, her own yogurt, her own lime ice cubes (so yummy in my Coke!).

Here was one lunch: White fish with chives and mint in a citrus sauce, tiny pasta balls with tomatoes and a sauce, baked zucchini muffins, homemade buns and beet ricotta cheese. And lets not forget the awesome layered banana/yogurt/cinnamon cookie dessert parfait!

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She also made all her own jams and conserves and bought local honey. Here is her citrus peel jam, local honey, bissap (hibiscus flower) jelly, orange jam and apple spice sauce. Amazing for breakfast with coffee, homemade yogurt, fruit salad and her buns!

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The adventures.

We did get a lot of exploring in around the island. The kids loved climbing all the rocks and following the paths. The island wasn’t large enough for them to get too lost, so they had a blast running around.

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In addition to seeing hundreds of hiding places in crevices of rocks with there were long millipedes hiding, we found the “graveyard” of all those millipedes! When they die their shells harden and turn sort of white and the kids enjoyed looking closely at them, trying to count the legs, etc!

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On Saturday afternoon Paul and I took the kids (and a few local kids who joined in) on a treasure hunt around the island.

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It was hot and muggy. A few minutes in there were some raindrops falling and we thought nothing of it. The sky turned dark.

Rainy season is still months away. The odd time you might get a few sprinkles, but no rain at this time of year. It is almost unheard of. And yet rain it did. For an hour it poured down a deluge of rain on us. Even though we ran back to the porch of the restaurant, we were still all soaked through!

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One other thing we did was go on a long canoe ride in the “pirogue” boat. We saw lots of villages on the banks, women washing laundry, 2 Hippos, fishermen and other boats. The air was cool and everyone had a great time!

 

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So there you have it. Our weekend away was so relaxing and just what we needed. I highly recommend this place to anyone going down to Parc W. It is better than anything else around there! For those of you who come to visit us- you know where we are going to take you now! I can just imagine my little nieces and nephews running around and having a blast!

 

Chantelle