Tuesday, January 24, 2012


In Niger we have had the joy to meet and interact with many families. Often we are quite cognisant of the differences in our lives and cultures, but sometimes we are also amazed by how alike we are, by how family, love and fun can cross cultural boundaries. It is amazing how even though our houses look different, our food tastes different and our customs are different, there are always commonalities. One of those friendships is with our friend Fatima and her family. She is one of 8 children who live on a lot just outside of town. They live in a tiny cement three bedroom row house and sleep outside most nights. They have a donkey who is hilarious. They are so welcoming and we visit often, enjoying tea, meals and much laughter. Our kids love to play with their little kids. I am thankful for families where cultural differences don’t really matter and are just the subject of interesting conversations, never the topic of anger or division.


We brought extra friends along for the evening and everyone chipped in to peel and chop veggies- even Arielle!


The kids love playing “the button game”. This simple game was made by Grandma Bev and we often take it when we visit friends.


Arielle and Oumou-Hani


Arielle loved holding baby Mouhamedoune


One thing that Tuareg’s are known for is their sense of humour and joking. If you are “family” the jokes fly and they are always laughing and mocking each other. So we decided to pull some pranks of our own. The kids have a great, realistic looking rubber lizard. We put it in all kinds of places and had fun scaring people. Here we put it in the tea box and then covered most of it with tea and gave it to Asku the team maker. He thought it was hilarious!


Asku makes some of the best tasting tea in Niger


Fatima is so beautiful – inside and out!


Mohammed and Bennett had fun catching chickens. Bennett would get close but then “chicken out” before actually grabbing one, but Mohammed could get the job done!


Fred playing light sabers with the kids


Light sabers are very popular no matter which culture the kids are from!


My sister in Niger, a precious student at our school and good friend- Fatima!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Park W for New Years!


This year we took the long weekend of New Years and went down to a National Park called Park W. It is called Park W because the river does a large winding W shape right there that you can even see on Google Earth. This park straddles three countries- Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso.

Once again we stayed at the eco-lodge that is located 40 minutes inside the park on a beautiful island. This is the most beautiful, restful and awesome place we have found in Niger to date. It isn’t too far away, not too expensive, and it is one of the places where we can totally relax and unwind.

The cabins as we approach by canoe. There are 10 cabins in total.ParcW-2602-2

Fred and Pat in their cabin with a view!ParcW-2134-2

Sunset on the terrace. Waiting for supper and enjoying spectacular sunset views!ParcW-2188-2ParcW-2191-2ParcW-2538-2

One day we went hiking all around the island. There are lots of Boabab trees and interesting rock formations. The kids love the exploring and chasing the small green monkeys that also live on the island! This is the view from up on the highest rock hill looking across the river. Shortly after this I slipped on a rock and badly bruised my elbow- but that is another story! Thankfully it has healed fine so far!ParcW-2612-2ParcW-2482-2

Paul got the the Park a few days early after he canoed down with a group of youths from Sahel Academy. Then he tented for a few days with other families while he waited for us to come. One night they went on a night safari and saw two lions! Lions are a rare thing to be able to see, so he was really lucky! This is a grainy, low-light photo but you can still see the lion!ParcW-7033-2

Our safari one day brought many more animals to our camera lens in much better light. We saw many springbok type antler creatures that I forget the English name for!ParcW-2200-2

Pumba’s relatives! ParcW-2307-2

And also- my favourite sighting of all! The elephant has long been my favourite animal and I consider it pure joy each and every time I get to see them.

The first day we came around a corner and came face to face with this giant! We were literally only 15 feet away! Apparently the ears out and flapping is a sign that they are NOT happy with you. I was driving but Patricia grabbed the wheel while I fired off a few shots.ParcW-2120-2

He raised his trunk to trumpet at us, clearly not happy now. I took the shot and hit the gas while Patricia steered us down the road another 10 meters. Awesome!!


The next day we saw two elephants grazing on trees, but at a distance this time. We sat and watched for a while and it was amazing to see them grab branches and strip them of their leaves with their trunks.


One of the best parts of this weekend was the company! We went with half of our team and we had a wonderful time. The kids and adults alike all had friends to hang out with, games to play and lots of great conversation!

ParcW-2502-2Patricia giving Arielle a lift while we watched the Elephants eat.

ParcW-2443-2Kristi and Arielle hiking around.

ParcW-2605-2Daddy and Bennett. See these rocks? Not hard to imagine how I slipped on some leaves and crashed down! Instinct had me grab my camera and hoist it to avoid getting it hit while my other elbow crashed down. Paul was funny to say – we have health insurance but not camera insurance- good job!!


We also got to enjoy canoeing as a family for a couple hours. The kids loved it. Arielle liked to sit on the very bottom and watch everything go by while Bennett wanted to take his turn paddling and helping. It was awesome to get out and check out little inlets and laugh as a family. I love watersports so this was a real treat. Thanks Brian for lending us your canoe!