Friday, January 5, 2018

{Day 4 and 5} Life happens outside

When I asked Joel what some of his first impressions of Niamey were, he said, "so dusty and so much of life happens out of doors, on the side of the road." So true!

Some people carry tea and coffee stations, others walk around with a sewing machine, clicking their scissors as they walk so people can hear and call them over for a quick repair if they need it. Others are in their tiny little shops, packed full of any miscellaneous items you might need. Others are selling vegetables, fruit, mattresses, furniture, shoes, clothes...

Others are cooking, or selling the meat to cook...

So much of life happens outside, on the side of the street. Oh, and don't forget your manicure or pedicure! Instead of driving to Wichita to get it done, you can just wait by your gate until someone with a mani/pedi station walks by! This was happening outside of Mom and Dad's gate.

Don't you just love the creativity of buying peanuts in whiskey and vodka bottles? They are really tasty peanuts too!

Mom and I went on a walk tonight to go pick up a few bottled cokes at one of the little stores in their neighborhood. #africanbottledcokeisthebest

The fruit they have cut open doesn't always look super fresh or appealing to buy... especially with all of the dust and sand everywhere! But I love how they stack their tomatoes so carefully and high

Mom is a pro at negotiating good prices for her fresh produce! The vendors know they can't get away with making the prices go up when she comes around! 

Niamey may be very dusty, but it's a beautiful, colorful, and lively place! We are having so much fun and our time is going by so quickly! We are packing lots of card games and crafting into these days as well as discovering the city and people! Who knows what tomorrow will bring! :)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

{a bit of Day 2, but mostly Day 3}

I was just sitting down to recount our wonderful day today when the electricity went off. Dad was working on his puzzle but he wasn't phased one bit with the sudden lack of light. He just got out his flashlight and kept working on it! 

Yesterday was New Year's Day and, in good ole' fashioned Mennonite tradition, Mom was up early making New Year's cookies. 

She did a great job! They were so yummy! For those of you who have never had the pleasure of tasting these treats, they are basically fried dough with raisins, and then a yummy glaze all over them. Joel tried them for the first time and really liked them! 

After they were done, Mom and I put on our skirts and went over to the neighbors to give them some and wish them a happy new year. It was a cool opportunity to see the ladies hard at work, getting all of the food ready for their restaurant. That will have to be a whole other post, as their restaurant undertaking is a pretty amazing ordeal! 

The rest of the day was spent visiting the market down the road, visiting with friends, reading, crafting, playing games, relaxing...vacation! 

Today, our big outing was going to see the giraffes! 

They say they are the last free roaming giraffes in west Africa. It was pretty cool. The landscape was so sparse and dry. 

We drove a ways outside of the city to pick up our guide, and he somehow knew just exactly where to go to find the giraffes! We drove on roads, semi-roads, and off-roaded quite a bit! 

The guide stood at the back of the pickup and indicated the way by tapping his stick on the windshield, either to the right or to the left, or several times to indicate we were stopping. Here he is telling us to slightly curve to the left. :) 

How he knew his way around was a big mystery! I could never have found my way back. 

We finally spotted them! They were so amazing! So beautiful and graceful and we got so close! 

Oh Mom... She is just the best. Ever.
These little babies were 2-3 months old!


It was beautiful creation to admire and stand in awe of! We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion! 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

{Day 1} of our Niger adventures

Joel and I are so excited to have some time to visit Mom and Dad in their city for the next 10 days! I hope you are ready for some blog posts! :)

We left our apartment in Lyon yesterday at 3:50 am in order to walk to the train station, catch the little tram that took us to the Lyon airport, fly to Paris and then fly to Niamey. It was a very smooth and uneventful trip, just the getting up at 3:20 in the morning that tired us!

It was a really clear day flying, and we saw some beautiful landscapes from our plane window. Look at the irrigation circles in the middle of the Sahara dessert !

When we arrived in Niamey, the pilot announced that due to heavy air traffic, we would have to circle around for 10 minutes or so before landing.

The "heavy traffic" as we saw later, was one other, smaller airplane that had just landed. Hehe.

As we were waiting in line at the border police, I saw a friendly face wave to us and hold up a sign said that said "Joel et Melissa" -- it was our trustworthy and efficient #16, always there to help with our bags and welcome us. He has helped my parents each time they have flown in and out, as well as my siblings when they all came that one Christmas. He just kept smiling and smiling and said, "I am so happy that you are so happy to be together!" It was so sweet! #16 and Moussa, the faithful, taxi-man, and Mom and Dad -- quite the welcoming committee! It's worth coming here just to meet them!

In the evening, we had a lovely time catching up, and had a wonderful Christmas together, ending with a phenomenal new story that Lindsay had written as her Christmas gift to Mom and Dad. She really needs to publish these stories and have Melanie illustrate them! :) Deep, meaningful, powerful, and so so good.

This morning we walked to church.

It was super windy, lots of dust everywhere, and Mom and I had to hold down our pagne (wrap around skirt) so that it didn't blow open and show our legs! It was a very cold morning here. 78 degrees during church! This is one of Mom's babies -- he was ready for the cold weather!

Always so much fun stuff to see! He has a LOT of stuff that he is carrying on his head. I think it is kitchen stuff to sell.

On our way home, Mom saw her carrot guy. Never pass up an opportunity to buy fresh veggies on the side of the road! 

After church, the guys went to a wedding party for one of the students Dad knows. The bride wasn't there, but that was to be expected. She was partying with her side of the family, and he was partying with his side. The guys enjoyed some rice, meat (goat, they thought), and other specialties that Joel seemed to really enjoy.

While the guys were partying, Mom and I were busy cutting fabric, sewing, and making new little table centerpieces. I love love love love doing projects like this with my Mom, and am treasuring all of these moments. She even treated me to an African coke!

It has been a wonderful way to end 2017, and I am looking forward to our big party tonight and the start of a great new year!

Happy New Year 2018!!!!

Monday, May 29, 2017

a real bat cave

Joel and I have a lengthy list of cool places we want to visit in the area. There are so many things to see, and Thursday, being as it was a holiday, and that Joel didn't have to work, we decided to explore a bat cave! It was only about 40 minutes from Lyon, and really really cool. It was huge! Also, not for the claustrophobic type!

Tools, vases, urns, arrows, and axes from the neolithic era have been found, dating back to 4000 BC, and more recently, well, in the 1700s, the cave was also a hideout for a famous French smuggler.

The pictures don't do it justice for how big it is. The entrance was 35 meters high (about 115 feet) and we were able to explore around half a mile of cave.

The ceiling got pretty low at times, and the labyrinth passageways were so narrow! I am not usually a claustrophobic person, but winding on the little "path" for a long time, without any end in sight, cave walls pressing in all around me... yeah, I was ready to see the light again!

That was our "path"

Amazing limestone formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

The bottom right picture is a river that has formed in the cave, and it stretches several kilometers... they haven't found the end yet! They have discovered 6 sumps, or siphons (a passage in a cave that is submerged in water for an unknown length!) but haven't found the end! Can you imagine doing cave diving and discovering underwater passageways?? Ahhh, so scary!

Really neat place to visit, and we even spotted a bat! :)

Monday, May 22, 2017

hooded and pinned

I have crazy cool siblings. I know I am biased, but I really like my brother and my two sisters, and think they are the best! We have this family whatsap group where we can post interesting (or not) things about our lives, pictures, news, jokes, questions, embarrassing moments, etc. It makes the three continents our family lives on feel like we are actually almost neighbors. Almost. I miss them! And being away for big milestones and celebrations is hard. And recently, BOTH my sisters passed a huge milestone!

 In the last couple of years, my middle sister has read 9300 pages of literature. Books that she sometimes liked and sometimes did not. She worked diligently, put in long hard hours, and all of this, while teaching 4 levels of high school French full time and being involved in numerous other activities! After writing about 409 pages, or approximately, 106,636 words, the day finally came to don her cap, gown, tassel, and hood, and graduate with her Master's in English Literature! I am SO proud of her! I was unexpectedly and generously given a ticket to Kansas to surprise her (along with my littlest sister) and be there to help her celebrate her big day! It was a whirlwind of a trip, but an unforgettable experience!

Erika and I had a great time helping her get ready and her apartment all cute for a little party! Her refreshment choices were a variety of m&ms (she is a huge fan), delicate French pastries made by Mom, Aunt Donna's monster cookies, also made by Mom, and fruit brochettes by our littlest sister!

So proud of you Lindsay!!! OH, and do you see that white colar on her gown? That is her hood. She had the hood in her hand, gave it to the professors on stage, who "hooded" her, and officially made her a Master's Graduate!

So that was a week ago Saturday. This last Sunday, it was Erika's turn to pass a big milestone! She has been working as a nurse (the best one in Kansas, I might add) for the last couple of years, just moved to PA with her husband about 6 months ago, started a second job, and all the while, has been taking classes toward her BSN. And Sunday, she got it! Bachelor of Science in Nursing! What a great accomplishment! Sadly, I couldn't be there for her ceremony, but just look how beautiful she and my Mama looked at her pinning! Oh yes, pinning. She didn't get a hood like Lindsay, but had a traditional "pinning" ceremony, where the emblematic pin of her school was pinned on her shirt. 

A BIG congratulations to my two sisters! Very different fields of study, but so much hard work, perseverance, and studying from them both!