Saturday, November 8, 2014

October Highlights

In an attempt to "catch you up to speed" on things happening in Niger, I thought I'd try to recap a few highlights from the last month or so.  So basically, this is a compilation of several posts in one.  Get ready.  To read.

Tabaski Celebrations, October 5th, 2014

At the beginning of October, my roommate Mallory took me and two other friends for a drive through the city.  Muslims all over Niamey celebrated Tabaski.  We passed lamb after lamb, freshly slaughtered and stretched over hot coals.  The streets were unusually desolate, making driving especially easy.  It's shocking how quickly you can get around when unhindered by Niamey's crazy traffic.  As we drove the roads and back-roads around town, we saw each stage of sacrificial process, including the actual slicing of the lamb's throat, the gutting of its innards, the skinning, and the roasting!  (Reading Old Testament scripture has a whole new meaning!)  Families gathered in the streets.  Women and children dressed in new, brightly colored traditional garb.  Men worked hard to cook and prepare the evening's feast.  Four white girls, cameras in hand snapping photos from the car windows was, to my surprise, extremely well-received.  Many shouted hello and waved, greeting us with smiles.  We laughed and waved back shouting "Bonne fete!" which literally means, "Happy party!"

As we made our way back to campus, we stopped to wave to our neighbor.  He was so friendly and enthusiastically invited us to dinner that evening.  After talking with some more seasoned missionaries, Abby and I decided to accept the invitation.  We ventured out that evening, and while the lamb was not completely ready, we chatted with our new friends for about an hour!  It was an encouraging and lighthearted experience.  Abby spoke French, and while I had trouble formulating my thoughts into French words, I was able to understand much of the conversation!  He showed us how he cooked the lamb by catching the dripping grease in a dish and then taking a brush and lathering it over the lambs' slowly roasting meat.  We left only after he insisted that we taste the tender and smokey flavored meal.  The next morning we returned to observe how the family celebrated Tabaski.  We had a conversation about Jesus and religion.  Please pray for our neighbors, that we might be a light.

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." -John 13:35

"Family photo" beside the roasting lambs.
Photo credit:  happy Nigerien man.
Sunday's scenery as we drove through town.
Women making preparations.

Animal Adventures Pt. I, All day, Every day 

Niger's wildlife is so different from anything in Pennsylvania.  As I sit on the porch swing each evening, I hear Niger.  Walking through, whether during the day or in the evening, one is bound to encounter God's creativity:

Hearing hippos lulling roar from the porch at night

Rhinoceros beetle, shiny black, bigger than my big toe, outside of the library

Pterodactyl-sized crane flying overhead

Frogs jumping as high as my knee

Countless dragonflies swarming the field

Grasshoppers the size of your palm

Lizards chowing down on moths in the night's light

Toads catching bugs with elastic tongues

Bright aqua-tailed birds squawking from the trees for all to hear 

Gigantic black shadows of bats filling the sky

"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord."  -Psalm 150:6

Animal Adventures Pt. II, October 25th, 2014

Following the SIM Orientation, a friend offered to take a few of us, including the visitors from Galmi and Maradi, to the Musee!  This attraction features a Museum and a Zoo.  We walked around to the few small buildings containing artifacts and history regarding Niamey and Niger.  We saw hippos, lions (including cubs!), hyenas, ostriches, massive bulls, and chimps.  We visited the vendors selling their goods - jewelry, bags, shoes, belts, walls, carved animals, and so much more!  On the way out, God proclaimed his goodness over creation with a breathtaking sunset, colors stunning!  To end our evening, we ate out.  It was so lovely to fellowship with some awesome people!

I got to feed an ostrich!
God was loving me good that night :)

Animal Adventures Pt. III, October 30th, 2014

After school one sunny afternoon, a group of friends and I went out to the river for an adventure.  Susan's parents were visiting and we wanted to see hippos!  We met our guide and walked to the river's bank together.  Green islands reflected in the murky water.  Our wooden boat, covered by a straw thatch roof for shade, stretched long and was just wide enough for one to sit with their legs out in front of them.  We sat on cushions placed on top of crates, keeping us safe from the slow leak beneath.  One man sat at the front guiding, another by the motor, and a third used a can to scoop the unwanted water at the bottom of the boat.

We set out, sun bright, river wide, and eyes eager.  Oh, how good it was for my soul to soak in God's goodness that afternoon.  The boat was low, my face close to the river as we whizzed by lily pads.  Dragonflies zipped in and out of our path.  Cows grazed on bright green islands.  Sandy hills and rocky mountains contrasted the sky blue.  White birds flew about to find the perfect perch.

Finally, the motor stopped and the guides pointed.  We saw what looked like a shiny rock poking out of the water.  But this hippo was alone.  So we quickly continued our mission.  Hippos typically travel together, so when we couldn't see where the others were, we wisely left the premise.  Eventually we came upon a family of hippos!  Shiny pink backs sunning, nostrils, eyes and ears just above the water.  They yawned for us, showing off their large mouths.  How awesome?!  After watching these amazing creatures for awhile, we headed back, sun setting behind us.  Orange sun, disappearing in the haze just above the river's horizon.  Cool air from the Niger River relieved us from the sun's heat.  In total, we saw 6 hippos!  What a great day!

This cow posed perfectly as we sailed past.
The scenery was beautiful.
Do you see the hippos?!
Our boat and trusty guides!

Parent Teacher Conferences, October 28th-29th, 2014

Parent-teacher conferences are perhaps one of the most dreaded requirements of teachers.  And while they were certainly exhausting, I found them to be quite rewarding!  I enjoyed meeting each of my students' parents.  I learned more about my students and how I can be a better teacher.  Since my classroom is made up of such diverse learners with various needs, this is a bit overwhelming.  But I am confident that the Lord used the time I was able to spend with these parents as ministry.  After each meeting, I asked the parents if they would like to pray.  What a privilege to come before the Lord together.  It was truly humbling and a good reminder of whom I serve.  One meeting was particularly God-ordained, in which I was able to, by God's grace, boldly share the good news of the Gospel.  It's in moments like those that I wonder, did I make any sense?  Were my words eloquent?  And yet, my prayer is that God planted seeds of TRUTH that day.  Please pray for this family, that God would be evident in their lives and continue to draw them to Himself.

I am so grateful for the parents at Sahel Academy.  They have all been so supportive and incredibly gracious towards me, especially in my first year of teaching!

Halloween Sleepover, October 31st, 2014

On October 31st, all the girls in grades 9 and 10 came over for a sleepover!  Mallory (i.e. Miss M.) organized an amazing party for these sweet girls, about a dozen total.  The sleepover included creative costumes, music, tie-dying, candy, snacks, "TP-ing" the neighbor's house, cleaning up the damage the next morning (!), decorating cupcakes, playing games, dancing, singing, and watching a movie!  What an incredible blessing it was to hang out with these amazing young ladies!  I truly feel blessed to know them.
The Fairy Godmothers!

Cupcake decorating!

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