Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the letter

Once a week I give an hour-long English lesson to a 9 year old French girl. I've talked about her before, and shared some of her stories. 

Several weeks ago, I asked her to write a letter (in English, of course!) using the new "fall" vocab we had been learning. I told her that she was writing to a person named Molly, who was someone that was very special to me  and a good friend of mine. She thought the letter writing idea was a great idea, but didn't seem to care much as I launched into how Molly had the cutest little boy named Noah and how when we were in college we did all kinds of crazy/fun things and how I am so sad not to be able to see her every day. 

But she worked hard on it! For almost 45 minutes! And then when it was time to write it up nicely, she wanted to make it extra pretty with fall colors.

When I first read it, and got to the "do you like Melissa?" question, I was greatly perplexed. What did this question have to do with fall?! It was like she was trying to sneakily include one of her personal wonderings without my knowing. But wait -- why was she doubting that someone I had described as "a special friend friend of mine" liked me?? So I asked. 

Me: Roxane!?! Why did you ask her if she liked me?? I'M HER FRIEND! 
R: well, you said she was your friend in college, does she still like you? 
R: well sometimes you stop liking your friends
Me: whaa---???

At this point I didn't know whether to laugh because the conversation we were having was so funny, or whether to get angry at the apparent need of proving Molly's undivided love and friendship to me after all these years. So I resolutely stated, "Roxane. My friend Molly and I met in college and became good friends and we're STILL GOOD FRIENDS today even though I don't see her but once every two years." 

She just looked at me blankly and then said, "ok." As if to say, "yeah right, I'll leave my question in the letter and see what Molly answers back."

Seeing the skeptical look on her face, I tried to further convince her, "and besides, even IF Molly didn't like me anymore, do you think she'd tell you in a letter that I am going to receive and that I am going to read first???"  

She obviously thought so. Oh dear. I was greatly entertained. 

So Flat, written affirmation that you STILL like me is needed here in Rennes!! :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

oh so thankful

I celebrated Thanksgiving 2 times this past week! Once with 85 students and once with just my staff team (about 30 with all the kiddos included!) Both were great! 

We made a little video of these pilgrims and Indians lost in Rennes. You can check it out here

It was pretty comical watching people's reactions to these strangely dressed people! 

Briag (bottom left) was HYSTERICAL. I was laughing sooooo much while Tara and I were filming.

We cut out hundreds of leaves and feathers for the student Thanksgiving. Team work is a beautiful thing!

And then everyone got to make an Indian hat!

And after the party, my kitchen looked like this:

I would like to point out several things about this picture:
1. The dishes are clean, not dirty.
2. There are a lot of dishes.
3. Those two pieces of paper that are crookedly hanging up are Spanish verbs that I'm learning.
4. Fer, tu peux voir la photo que tu m'as donné? C'est posé sur la lumière! Je le vois tous le temps et je kiffe!!
5. The coffee cup that is on the drying rack is THE coffee cup I use every single morning. It's the biggest one I have. :)

Sunday we had our staff Thanksgiving. Great food and so fun to all be together and with the little (and big!) kids.

The food was really really good. This is Dan's plate. :)

BFF's Nathan and Joel showin' some luuuv. Ooooooh it's Joel's birthday today! Happy Birthday, Joel!

I have so much to be thankful for. 

This was Thanksgiving number 4 spent in Rennes, and it was so nice being here. I felt very much at home. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

my "not so little" little brother

Yesterday (November 25th) was my brother Andrew's birthday. I didn't get around to posting something on his actual birthday, BUT... better late than never, thought I. Especially when I found this picture on my computer from when we lived in Bangui (central africa):

Our Dad built us this sandbox!

And yesterday he turned 25!! I know I'm biased and all, seeing as he's my brother, but he's really an exceptional guy. He grew up with 3 sisters... couldn't have been easy (though they are ANGELS and nothing but delights to be around -- hehe).

He loves football -- Green Bay is his team. He knows every player on every team and every coach and every old coach and millions of details about every player. Sometimes, just for fun I try to ask him a "tough" question about some random football fact I heard somewhere and usually his response is "sigh...I knooooow, Melissa", but then he quickly adds "good job, ita. now let's see if you know this..." and then he asks me a lot of questions that I know zero answers too. It's a fun game.

A few days ago, I was skyping with him and our sister Erika and we played a "who knows how much football trivia" between Erika and I. Andrew was asking the questions. I think Erika won. And I think Andrew was discouraged by how little we knew. :)

He's a patient guy. He loves people. He's a history buff. He's much looking forward to visiting the Normandy beaches with our fam at Christmas.

This is one of my all time favorite pictures of him and my Dad. It's framed in my living room. They had both put their feet in the FREEZING cold stream in Montana on family vacation and Ando is lending Dad a hand.

Cute skype picture with our mama!  

I'm so blessed by him. Happy (day late) birthday Ando! Loveyoulaaaater!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's tomorrow!!!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow! Over 60 students (so far!) have signed up to come enjoy a traditional American Thanksgiving meal! Which means... cooking cooking cooking! I need to go buy some pumpkins to make pumpkin pies!

But before I head off to the store, I wanted to ask you -- are there some people that seem out of place in these pictures?

A little foretaste of what's to come in the following days...

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

quite an honor

Lazare is the national director of Campus pour Christ in Ouagadougou. We've known him and his wife for a long time and they're really great people. When I was last in Ouaga -- about 6 years ago, they only had one little boy named Samson. 

He had grown up SO much when I saw him in October! 

They've since had another little boy, and Sarah (Lazare's wife) was pregnant with their third child when our team came in October. 

I had no idea they were expecting again, and also had no idea that her due date was at the same time as our trip! I got really excited at the thought of a new baby being born at the same time that we were there -- how cool! 

So one day I was talking with Lazare and telling him how much I hoped it was going to be a girl, since they already had 2 boys. He said, "well, if our baby is born while you're here, and if it's a girl, we're naming her Melissa!" Haha. I thought it was pretty cool, but also was pretty sure he was joking... I mean, he wasn't being serious, was he? Melissa is not a very African name and well... I really thought he was joking around with me. 

And then one morning, toward the end of our trip, I got a call on my cell phone: 

Lazare: Bonjour, Melissa. How are you doing? 
Melissa: Great! How are things with you and your family? How is Sarah feeling? 
Lazare: She's tired. She just had a baby. 
Melissa: REALLY!?!?!? OH MY GOODNESS CONGRATULATIONS!! What did she have???
Lazare: It's a girl! Her name is Melissa. 
Melissa: **insert silence and gasps of excitement / disbelief. Really!?! Is this true? 
Lazare: Of course it's true! I told you that if she was a she and born while you were here, we'd name her Melissa! 

Snif snif. How cool!!! 

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to present little Melissa: 

Isn't she precious!?! 

I'm so proud! It's quite an honor. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

USA vs. France

Did you know that last night was a friendly soccer game of US vs. France? Well, for the occasion, the guys who live not too far from me decided to invite some people over to have dinner and watch the game. It was all French and one American; me. You can imagine the trash talk! But, I stood my ground and cheered, especially for Carlos (the captain of the team with whom I conversed once upon a time in the Rennes train station). Jeremie also cheered for the US, out of the kindness of his heart. So thus the night went: 8 French fans and 2 American fans.

A couple days ago, they asked me to bring a dessert. But not the dessert of my choice, it had to be brownies. I have this homemade brownie recipe that is really really yummy and these guys love them and ask for them regularly. Thanks Laurie for your awesome recipe -- it's very popular! :)

As I was getting ready to make the brownies, the creative and patriotic juices started flowing and I decided that I wanted to make the brownies look like a soccer ball and for them to be pro-USA. And I had just the things for it! I had all these little American toothpick flags that someone gave me a long time ago and that I've never known what to use them for. How perfect, thought I!

I got giddy with excitment at the thought of showing up at the guys' place with their favorite brownies, but also covered in American flags! Woohoo!

And then the hard part. How to make a pan of brownies look like a soccer ball. Thankfully, Stephanie (who is my new 1-month roomate) was here to help me figure it all out. After much thought, drawing, cutting, thinking, and powdered sugar, we managed to get something that KIND of resembled a soccer ball. :) It was harder than I thought! Or I'm just not very talented! Ha.

The solid white shapes are what are supposed to black / brown on the ball. 

We pinned down the corners with our aforementioned toothpicks

It KIND of looks like a soccer ball, right? :)

So I took it to the guys house, who straight away asked, "do you really think I'm going to eat that, with those flags like that!!?" Mouahaha.

So I set the pan of brownies in the kitchen and went into the living room to chat with some of the girls. A few minutes later, Sam came in and goes, "hey Melissa, I heard you brought brownies!" And I said, "oh, you haven't seen them yet?? Come and see, Sam, you'll looooooove them! They're decorated especially for you!"

I walk into the kitchen, only to see this:

Hahaha. A French flag, bigger than all the rest, and dominating the center of the brownies. I laughed so hard.

I love this "don't mess with our brownies" look they were giving me.

In the end... France won 1-0. But the brownies were good.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

learning how to carry things on your head

The place we stayed at in Ouaga was really great. One of the nice things was the lady selling fruits and vegetables that set up shop inside the compound all day. Talk about handy! And she was such a nice lady. On one of the first days, she willingly showed Efrem how African women balance and carry stuff on their heads. It's quite impressive.

First, you position the pagne that has been folded up into a kind of head cushion.

 She then kindly decided to lighten the grapefruit load, to make it a bit easier on Efrem!

Trying to get it to balance on his head

He's doing a great job, but needs to use his hands to balance it!

Ta-dah!!! I love this picture!

It's impressive how much they carry without using their hands to balance!

She told us that during strawberry season, she carries 20 pounds of strawberries, with a baby tied on her back, and on her moto. Wow! And when you've seen the traffic in Ouaga it's even more "wow"!

And just in case you were wondering... yes, we did buy the grapefruit that Efrem carried and they were GOOD!

Friday, November 4, 2011

staff kid fun

Silas and Efrem (Dan and May's boys) were part of our project and it was a big plus having them along. They provided much laughter, fun and energy to our team. 

On Saturday afternoon they invited the staff kids of the national staff to come over an afternoon of fun, including games, a Bible story, a little gift, and tampicos!! :) They kids were a bit shy at first, but once we got them into the water balloon tossing game, there were squeals and shouts of joy. On my part too... I was laughing so hard. :) 

Josué's boys

We did a relay race with ping balls... NOT eggs!

These are Lazare's boys -- Samson and Nephtali! Can you believe how big they've gotten!?!

This little girl is named Erika... after my sister Erika. Her Mom says she talks about my Erika all the time. So I got out a picture I had brought along of Erika and showed her and she just starred at it and then wanted to carry it around the rest of the afternoon. At the end of our time, she came up to me and said "auntie, can I keep this picture please?" in the SWEETEST voice ever. How could I say no!?! It was soooo precious. She loves Erika!

Then we had a water balloon fight... oh man! I learned that there are special balloons that you use for water balloon tosses?? I had just purchased regular ones and so a few of them were hard to break! :)

Silas read the story of Jesus walking on water

This was the coolest thing ever! It's a solid and liquid at the same time... cornstarch and water. Have you ever tried this!? You can make a ball with it in your hands, and then it turns completely liquid. It was quite a hit.

Mom, this picture is for you. Haoua wanted you to see her two little girls!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

it was like being home

I'm back home in Rennes! We all got back Tuesday afternoon safe and sound and with all of our luggage. I'm so thankful for a safe and incredible trip. 

As our plane first approached Ouaga I thought it was so funny that at several thousand feet in the air, the temps were already in the 80s (at 8 o'clock in the evening!) as it was in the 40s the morning that we left Rennes. What a contrast! I was also struck by how little light there was in approaching the city. Ouaga has electricity, but the surrounding villages do not, so it's pitch black as you make your descent into the capital -- only seeing lights as you're about ready to land. 

I got off the plane and the first wave of heat and smells immediately reminded me of home. I was soooooo anxious to see the other staff (that I hadn't seen in 7 years!!) who I knew were waiting for us at the airport. After checking to make sure we had our yellow fever shot, going through customs and then getting our bags, we were welcomed by about 30 staff and students invovled with Agape -- all wearing matching shirts! It was SUCH a cool thing!! 

They loaded all of our bags into the back of a 4x4 pickup and put a couple of guys on top to secure them. You can't really see the bags, but you can see how high the guys are sitting! 

Our team piled into a minibus that had a few extra chairs put in to add more seats. :) There were two more in the way back. Very good use of space!

Describing what Africa is like with words is difficult... it is SO different from the US or France. I took over 400 pictures while there... here are just a few to give you an idea of what it was like.

Can you spot our group at church? :) 

We bought baguette bread at this little place every morning

Touaregs -- a nomadic people group from the desert. They make beautiful things out of camel leather.

This little girl was 7 years old and carrying a baby on her back!

Aren't the people beautiful? Doesn't it make you want to go to Ouaga? A wonderful place! It took about 2 hours the first day we were there for me to get adjusted and then it just seemed like normal and like I had never left. It was home.