Wednesday, October 22, 2014


After kicking off October break with a weekend of NUTS (Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball), I took a few days to simply recover and relax:  hanging out with my housemates, watching movies, reading, sleeping, running, and the like.

On Thursday and Friday, I joined the other new missionaries of SIM for an orientation.  It was a great time to learn and relearn a few things about culture and living as a missionary.  I met some wonderful missionaries from Galmi and Maradi and got to know a few others from Niamey a bit better.
Mr. Hama led an insightful talk on Nigerien culture.
 At the end of our time on Friday, we all participated in a cooking competition in Sahel Academy's kitchen!  We broke into three groups of five or six and were challenged to cook an entree with given ingredients.  All of the ingredients were purchased at the market and the object of the game was to work as a team to cook the best dish without any recipe!

Our team's eclectic collection of Nigerien market food.
Our group's identifiable ingredients were eggplant and Nigerien squash.  The other three items required for our dish were something that looked like a very fine millet, a hunk of meat - bones, animal hair included!, and a small bag of brown seeds.  Our team decided to add water to the sand-like grain and cook it into a paste.  We added the seeds and some garlic to the mixture and fried it in oil!  As the judges walked around, they looked awfully worried to find out that we were cooking our grain, which we found out is called sorghum.  It is traditionally prepared with only a little bit of water and NOT COOKED.  Oops!  It was too late, so we forged ahead on our own Nigerien-style cooking adventure.  Team members hacked away at the meat to sort it from the bones and hair.  Veggies were chopped, diced, and minced.  The squash was placed in the oven.  We had no idea how anything would turn out, and as all three teams shared the two stoves, we could see how beautifully their meals were coming together.  I was a bit worried, and to be honest, I had already admitted defeat.  And yet, thanks to a childhood with three brothers, my competitive nature inspired a strong finish.  In the end, we cubed the meat and cooked a stir fry to go along with our sorghum fried pancakes.
3 teams, 2 stoves, 1 hot kitchen

Presentation is everything, so we prepared a plate for the judges and waited to hear their praises (haha...).  The other dishes included a traditional peanut sauce stew over rice and mashed potatoes with tomato based stew.  One had goat, the other beef, and we found out that our hunk of meat was lamb.  The judges tasted and talked, and my team won!  They decided that the originality and flavors were creative and delicious.  Who knew?!  And I thought that I couldn't successfully cook in Niger.  What a blessing to know that I cannot only cook, but I can cook well!

Rachel and I were on different teams, but we had to get a roomie picture!

Of course, not without the help of my teammates!  We all got a package of Oreos for our prize!  I am so glad to have gotten to spend time with these lovely people :)  God is good.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tan Lines in October!

It's about time for an update!  So much has been happening in the past couple weeks and I will do my best to recap the highlights!

October is the end of rainy season and the beginning of a mini hot season.  Therefore, I have reached a new level of sweat.  For instance, perspiring so much that my fingers begin to prune.  And soaking my clothes straight through with sweat.  The heat in combination with the dry sand makes sweat brown.  But nothing a cold shower can't remedy for a few minutes!

Fortunately, there is more to talk about than the heat. This past week, although a short one, was Spirit Week at Sahel Academy!  Student Council assigns a creative theme for each day, and the students parade the courtyard each morning in their attire, competing for best costume.  The themed schedule is as follows:

Monday:                    No school (Tabaski)
Tuesday:                 Mismatch Day (Wear clothes that don’t match.)
Wednesday:         Cultural Day (Dress like a country.)
Thursday:                   Fantasy Day (Be a super hero or a princess or prince.)
Friday:      Sahel Day (Wear yellow and black.)

While it is difficult to choose, I think my favorite day was Cultural Day.  The parade that morning consisted of colorful garbs from MANY different countries, including Korea, Niger, Cameroon, America, Canada, and more!  Overall, the students did an excellent job of showing their spirit for Sahel Academy by coming up with some great get-ups!  Check out Second Grade:
Mismatch Day!
Fantasy Day!
Cultural Day!

Sahel Day!

At the end of the week, we had an all-school Pep Rally!  The students put together dances, cheers, chants, and songs to get people excited for the Softball Tournament called N.U.T.S., just in time for the week long October break!  Second grade reluctantly led the entire school in a "repeat-after-me" chant taken from the movie "Remember the Titans."  And in the middle of the Pep Rally, the teachers caught everyone off guard with a FLASH MOB!  It was great fun and quite entertaining, choreographed and led by yours truly :)  And after a crazy week of school, and two straight months of teaching with only one day off, I was ready for October break!

I wasn't sure if I would be able to conjure enough gusto for an entire weekend of softball, but boy, I am glad that I did!  NUTS stands for Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball, an entire weekend of Niamey's favorite sport!  The Tournament started Friday afternoon and lasts all weekend.  Imagine crowds of families, students, parents, young and old camped out with snacks and blankets and bleachers, all there to watch and participate!  Teams consist of students, parents, adults, teachers, and whomever else wants to join the fun (even a couple teams from Burkina Faso!)!  I played in the social league with mostly Sahel teachers on a team called the "One Hit Wonders!"

The "One Hit Wonders!"
While softball is not my sport of choice, I can honestly say that after an entire weekend of games, I played 6 total, I thoroughly enjoy softball!  I learned much more about the sport and even had a few good catches, RBIs, and hits!  In one of the first games, I was ready to make a catch for an out, but missed it.  After the play, I looked down and realized that the reason I missed the ball was because it actually went straight through my glove, breaking the strings completely!  Our team had a rocky start, but improved immensely by Sunday and ended up winning in a final game against the "Social Suns," a team consisting of students at Sahel Academy.  I am so impressed with the students here at Sahel Academy.  It was an honor to be able to play ball with them!

The Sahel Suns and the One Hit Wonders after a great game!
We ended the weekend with a banquet at the Rec. Center with chicken enchiladas and cake.  It was a nice way to celebrate everyone's achievements.  I am so proud of our team and the kids at Sahel Academy!  Way to go, guys!

Overall, it's been an awesome weekend of socializing, sweating, swimming in between games, eating oranges, dancing in between innings, and getting tan lines in October!

Here are some pictures with the students at the banquet:


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fellowship Deep

One of the things that has made it onto my list each night when I count my blessings is "friends."  The community here has been so helpful in adjusting to a new culture and home.  It's really quite a special bond that forms in such a transient community.  In honor of the One who provides for my every need, I would like to take time to list some ways that I have felt loved by the new friends I have here in Niamey. :)

1.  On my first night in Niger, my neighbor, mentor and friend cooked and hosted dinner for me and the other ladies on campus!  After a long day and a half of traveling, the food and fellowship was such a blessing!

2.  Occasionally, we go out to eat - whether it's just a few people or many.  We often find a new  restaurant to try (there are surprisingly quite a number of restaurants in the city); and depending on the night, I either try something new or try to find something that "tastes like America."  Some of these dishes include fajitas, brochettes and fries (pictured below), camel, crepes, schwarmas, pizza, a "Philly Steak" sandwhich, and rice.

3.  Girls' nights:  Games, popcorn, fudge, movies, TV shows, painting nails, late night thunderstorms, and anything else that includes crying, laughter, or chocolate! (Have you noticed a food theme yet?)

4.  Planning lessons and preparing for another school week around the dining room table.  This often includes quality music, good conversation, yummy snacks, and distracting videos.

5.  Exercising!  I often run alone, so when my two friends decided to walk the path as I "jogged/did calisthenics" beside them just so that I could have company, well it was great.  Late night work outs are much sweeter with friends to talk to. :)

6.  Ultimate Frisbee Thursdays!  Around 5:00pm we play a healthy game of Ultimate with a crowd from around the area!  I have enjoyed getting to not only toss disc, but also meet people outside of Sahel!

7.  Cooking and baking!  When you get hungry for pizza, there is only one way to make it - from scratch!  I have also successfully made yogurt (round 2), granola, a breakfast scrambler, and cookie dough balls (thank you DebDeb for that recipe!).

8.  Game nights!  Psychiatrist, Fishbowl, and "other" fun games :)  I've also gotten my roommates to play Bananagrams and Spot It with me! And of course, a game night is not complete without snacks - brownies, peanut butter cookies, chips, popcorn, candy, or cooked corn!

9.  Being able to cry wet tears all over my friend's lap because sometimes change is just overwhelming.  Being able to count on someone to drive me to the nurse for medicine as another friend sits with me to reassuringly rub my shoulder.  These people really care for each other.

10.  And sometimes things just don't turn out the way you want and the electricity goes out completely - you can't even see your own hand in front of your face.  And sometimes you go to the pool to swim and it starts down pouring instead.  Other times you desperately need the internet to work and all you get is a blank screen.  And sometimes you've had a rough day and need to talk, so you and a friend sit on the wall to watch the sunset.  And sometimes you spoil yogurt and bleach the lettuce too long.  But it's okay, because you've learned how to laugh.  And if you don't chuckle at the "mishaps," you'll go crazy.

God has blessed me with some incredible friends with whom I can talk, laugh, cry, and pray.  I am so grateful for the fellowship of the Body of Believers, both in Niger and the States.  The Lord continues to consistently encourage me through notes, packages, emails, skype calls, and letters.  Thank you!

"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."  1 Corinthians 12:27