Monday, August 27, 2012

an artist at work

Niger has a lot of soapstone, and artisans make beautiful beautiful stuff out of it. The stone is incredibly brittle and easy to work with, but you really have to know what you're doing so that it doesn't break.

My Mom and I went to check out some of the stuff they were making, and I asked if they could make me a customized object (it's a surprise!), which they were very happy to do. The guy was VERY eager to have me come back to their tent and take pictures of him working the stone. It was soooooo cool.

He used 2 different tools. One to chip away the general form of what he was going to make

And a big file to smooth out the edges and continue the shaping the rock into the desired object. 

His foot was also an essential part of the process

Can you tell what he's making? :) He did a phenomenal job, and it was just INCREDIBLE seeing him artistically shape this object. He didn't even take time to think about how he was going to do it, he just grabbed a piece of soapstone, sat down with his tools and started. Amazing.

I bought a few things from him... he was soooo nice and friendly and we had a great time bartering prices and talking about how I was also African, and so didn't want the "white man" prices! We laughed a lot!

Oh man, it was really really sunny and hot! (Mbappé je porte un pagne, mais tu peux pas le voir dans la photo...) :)

Hard to believe there are only a few more days left here. But we are enjoying them to the fullest!

TYLIE! Can't wait to hear your baby news!!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

today I saw 1 camel and 10 giraffes

You never know what you're going to see when you drive around Niamey.

Today my family and one of the Nigerian staff and their 3 boys decided to go see giraffes. We took 2 taxis. This is Moussa (my parents' faithful taxi man). He needed to make a u-turn and so hopped up on the median.

We drove about 35 miles outside of town to where the giraffes are.

And then the storm clouds rolled in.

And it started pouring! Our taxi wasn't very waterproof. The driver kept his window down a bit so that the windows didn't fog up, so rain was coming in his window, right on Mom. He handed us a piece of cloth to hold up against the window for protection. Dad kindly held it up for us...his arm around the taxi man. On my side there were two steady streams of water coming in through the door or window or roof, and I was getting SO wet. So both Mom and I moved as close to the middle as we could and of course got the giggles. :)

We went on like this for about 20 minutes -- us giggling and sitting very close together in the middle of the taxi, Dad, his arm around the taxi man, holding a piece of cloth (useless really) in front of the window and the taxi driver who couldn't see hardly anything out of the window. At one point Mom said, "why does he have to go so fast??"

And just like that, we had turned off of the paved road onto this small dirt "road" and he said "we have arrived".

So we piled out and waited in these little huts for the rain to stop.

One of the staff boys loved wearing my Dad's KU hat. Can't believe my own Father owns a KU hat. Shame shame shame.

 (Can you believe this is on my blog, Abby??)

When the rain (mostly) stopped, we got back into the taxis and went on the lookout for the giraffes. Niger has around 310 free range giraffes -- the last free range giraffes for all of west Africa (maybe all of Africa, no one really knows...). Meaning, they're not in any kind of game park.

The guide sat on the window and indicated which way to drive
We weren't exactly in 4-wheel drives, and there was a bit of sliding around and tires spinning in mud. 

We drove to the guide's lookout tower so he could see where they were.

A few minutes later, we found them!! It was SO cool! The male is the bigger, darker one, but we were told that it's the females that lead the pack :)

We walked through lots of mud and water

Staff kids!

There were 8 other giraffes, including a few smaller ones that we saw.

We were the only people out there. Talk about a really really fun outing. Thanks Dad!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

flooding, a camel, and frisbies

There is water everywhere. So many people have lost their homes. The boarding school that Lindsay taught at is completely under water and no one really knows how long it'll stay this way. So sad.

Recognize this street Linds? It's right after the rond point by our house

the top of a wall...

One taxi man found a great use for all of the water and decided to wash his taxi inside and out

People are putting sandbags around their gates and walls in hopes of keeping the water out or delaying it coming into their yard as long as possible

Since you can't use cars, bikes and mopeds in certain places, some are having to use canoes

Camel! He's doing publicity for "orange"; a French phone company that operates here.

We went to visit one of the staff families that work with my parents. They have had to move out of their home because of the water. Mom and Dad brought their boys a frisby and Dad taught them how to play!

They loved it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

a walk to the market

I have been in Niamey for a few days and trying to make the time go by really slowly as I don't want to leave again! Africa is such a great place. There are a lot of differences between Niger and Burkina Faso, but the sounds, smells, friendliness of people and incredible hospitality are similar. This is home for me.

Yesterday Mom and I needed to get a few grocery items and some fabric, so we took a little walk down to the market. There are always so many interesting things to see!

All of these people and these goats and these bags of grass/feed were going to be put into the little white taxi that's parked there.

Don't believe me?

Bigger truck means bigger load.

This is where we bought some tomato paste. How many times have your groceries been sold in a pyramid form?

We also needed onions.

Lest you think that she's selling corn on the cob... this is field corn. It's very hard. They grill it and sell it like that. It's actually really good.

The road next to our house is under construction and part of it is blocked off. It didn't take long for people to find another way around the barbed wire. :) There is this tiny one lane path that people have started using. What happens when two people come at the same time and there is no room to go around?  It was so entertaining. Mom and I just stood there and watched for a while to see who would be the one to back up.

Niamey is having some very serious issues with flooding, and many people have evacuated their homes. We've seen quite a few trucks loaded with people's belongings moving to a drier area.

(when my Dad saw the above picture he said it reminded him of The Grapes of Wrath. I couldn't agree more!)

The water level hasn't been this high in at least 75 years.

People are sand bagging around their walls and doors to try to keep the water out. The Niger river is very high and still rising. Our house is ok as it's up on higher ground. You can see more pictures on my Mom's blog. It's really hard and sad. Pray for these families!

On an unrelated note... I finished reading Les Miserables in French!! I cried the last hour of reading as it was soooo sad, but soooo good. I haven't cried like that in a book in a loooooong time! :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Paris, new shelves, and corn

On my way back from my conference in Estonia, I spent a couple days in Paris visiting my friend Helene. It was so nice not feeling the need to visit all of the big touristy things, but just to enjoy a bit of Parisian life. We went to several of my favorite bookstores, which took us right past Notre Dame, and then we set ourselves down in a little park with our picnic lunch.

Paris also means starbucks. One of 2 cities in France that has starbucks. The other city is NOT Rennes. I know that you're probably thinking, "dude, melissa. you live in France. there are amazing coffee shops everywhere, WHY would you want to go to starbucks?!?" And to that I would say, "yes yes, there are, and I enjoy them regularly. But it's starbucks! STARBUCKS!"

 I never give my own name when they ask for it. It makes me feel...sly. Hi Bev! :)

We met THE Mrs. Pierre Hoffmann for lunch on my last day there; she is a beautiful newlywed and just glowing. What a treat! 

Aunt Terry, this next picture is just for my dear UG! We walked by a restaurant "at the foot of the pig" which sounds absolutely disgusting to me, but look how fancy this place looks! I thought, this is for UG! 

After a nice couple days in Paris, I am now once again in my little Rennes home. 

I have my mother's "need to rearrange the furniture regularly" gene, but since my apartment is small, there aren't a million possibilities to rearrange things. So I decided to change a bit of the decor and put in some new shelves:

Yesterday I walked down to the countryside not very far from where I live, and "checked" the corn. It's very very tall.

Cute little farm house with amazing hanging flowers.

I have all of my Kansas pictures as a screen saver on my computer and it brings back such good memories from the summer, but man does it seem like a loooooong ways away!