Monday, August 30, 2010

AFBC Food Distribution

Anyone who gets our newsletter or regular updates has heard about what a bad year it is here. After two years of little to no rains and the severe lack of pasture that goes along with it, we knew that we were facing another food crisis, worse than that of 2005 which received international media attention. By the end of the hot season, cows that would normally sell for $500 in market were going for $10. Driving through the region you would see dead animals everywhere. Thankfully the rainy season did start (and is still going) although it seemed to come a little late farther up north. With the first big rain up north came flash floods which took many people’s remaining stock that had survived the hot season. Without their animals they have no means to buy food to feed their families. So now there is pasture, but many people don’t have animals to eat it. Environmentally speaking, it’s probably a good thing as the zone is over grazed, but for those individuals who have lost everything it is catastrophic.

In the midst of this catastrophe Arcata First Baptist Church gave $7,000 to help us feed the poorest of the poor. With that money we were able to buy a sack of millet, a sack of rice, and a 5 liter jug of oil each for 70 families. This will feed each family for approximately two months. The beneficiaries were from seven different sites, both Wodaabe and Tamasheq. Each one was more than grateful.

Some of the food waiting to be distributed.

Micah waiting to go out to the bush.

For security reasons, just to be on the safe side, we took armed guards out with us. They were quite taken with Micah

One of the grateful recipients.

“Signing” for their grain with their thumb prints

Micah helping with the distribution

There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of aid coming in and really the crisis is just beginning, or I guess you could say it continues. We call it post-crisis. We made it through the hot season and the rains and the pasture have come, but now many people are left with nothing. Next we will do what we can to help people re-stock their herds so that they can hopefully become once again self-sufficient.


One night while Donnie was in Niamey we were talking on the phone, “I have a surprise for Micah,” he says, “but I’m not telling you what it is.” Ok, whatever. The week continued and I forgot about Micah’s surprise. It wasn’t until after he had gotten home, the truck was almost unloaded and then out jumped this little guy…

And then I remembered the surprise.

Keep in mind this is the same man who wouldn’t let me keep a puppy I found in the street. Anyone else see the irony here?

He seems to really like us, especially Micah. Sometimes he gets really excited and jumps up and down when he sees him. I’m sure if Micah could, he would do the same thing. Rest assured we supervise these monkey/baby interactions very closely.

Marcel has made himself at home on our porch. I have mixed feelings about the little guy, he is rather cute and has grown on me but he poops everywhere and now I can’t just let Micah go out on the porch to play. We untied him thinking he might decide that freedom is a beautiful thing but now he just climbs trees and wants to come in the house. I guess he’s gotten a bit attached to us.

Wedding Day\

Bride getting her hair braided while guests hang out and drink tea. At the end of the afternoon an entourage from the groom’s side will come and take her away.

Lunchtime at Zoua's

Micah Helps Make Tea


We had an amazing lightning storm one night. Not much rain to speak of, but there was lightning for hours. The sky was lit up more than it was dark and I was walking around my house in the middle of the night without any lights on. Here are a few shots. I was a little scared to unlock my door and go outside and besides needed something to steady my camera on as I was shooting these with a shutter speed of 3 seconds, hence the screen.

Bright as day! This one looks like it struck the ground.

Happy Birthday Again!

Donnie came back from Tahoua last week with not one but two packages! The Sutters and the Fagundes’ had sent Micah some birthday presents (and a little love for us too!). The package from the Sutters was post-marked June 20th. On the front of that envelope was a little stamp that said…

So that’s why it took nine weeks to get here!

He got a shape sorter and a whole fleet of cute little Tonka trucks, some of them having been to Thailand!

Dear Kevin, Laura, Mike, Cortnee, and Madeline,
Thank you for my birthday presents!

Stuck Truck

We were on our way back from doing a food distribution out in the bush. We’d made it safely back to town without incident (well, without incident on our truck, the other truck however, got stuck in sand, broke an axle, and blew a tire on the way back) and were driving through Abalak to take some Wodaabe to the maternity hospital. It seemed that all routes there were filled with water. Mike decided to chance it and cross. We made it about halfway through the muddy wet mess when we hit a hole with the left front tire. He put it in 4WD and tried to get out but that only got us stuck deeper. We called for the other truck to come help us but it was over an hour before they came as they were looking for a tow rope. They finally arrived, but this was the truck with the broken back axle, so even in 4WD it was really just 2WD. I decided to go home and feed and water my child and it was a good thing I did because it took them over three hours to get that truck un-stuck.

This was what I saw when I looked out my window.

Mike trying to dig us out while waiting for the other truck to come help.

Donnie supervising.

It was pretty stuck.

I Turned Around

Micah was cruising around the table when I turned around to dig something out of my purse. When I turned back after just a moment, this is what I saw…

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One Saturday in Niger

This post is for Millie LaDow...thanks for the letter!

I recently received a birthday card with a letter in it in the mail. In the letter she was asking what daily life in Niger is like for us. Well, it’s not usually super exotic or super exciting. There are some things that maybe at first seemed strange or exciting to us, but after awhile become commonplace…eating on a mat on the floor with our hands, dust storms, seeing a nomad riding by on his camel, market day in Abalak, etc. Another thing you get used to living in Niger is nothing ever really going as planned…this Saturday was one of those days.

We’ve been spending much of the week in Tahoua (two hours away) doing an intensive Tamasheq language learning with some Southern Baptist folks and coming home for a couple of days so that Donnie can help supervise project activities. On this day we had planned to have class until 5:30 and then go straight home after that. Well, at breakfast we find out that one member of the class is sick so we come up with Plan B—we’ll skip language for today and just go home early. We call Mike who was coming to Tahoua to do some food shopping and planning on taking us home at 5:30 to see if he could come sooner (like now). He says he’ll leave in about an hour, we plan on leaving around 10:00.

We leave a little after 10:00 and on our way out of town go see the veggie guy to buy some produce. We were there until almost 11:00. Then we stop by CFAO (a small super market of sorts), then get gas, oh, and the back tire needs some air. Finally we’re off, home free, we think. It’s about 11:20 by this time. We get a few kilometers outside of town and the car starts to overheat. Mike rolls down the window and turns on the heater, like we’ve all been taught to do. But this isn’t enough. There is a boom so we pull over to check it out and find that the top of the radiator has exploded. We turn around to see if we can make it back to town (wishful thinking?), but quickly realize that it is not a good idea. We then call the Southern Baptist folks to see if they can tow us back to town. His wife has the truck, he says, but when she gets back he’ll come get us.

Another hour goes by. In the meantime we call back to Abalak to see if someone can hotwire our truck and come get us, assuming that the car is going to take at least all day to fix. If they leave now we can be home in four hours. Southern Baptist guy comes and we get towed back to town. It’s now after 1:00, we’re expecting our truck to arrive in the next 45 minutes. Micah and I go back to the Southern Baptists’ house while Mike and Donnie stay with the car to make sure it doesn’t get parted out.

The truck doesn’t arrive when expected…apparently he took his time getting going because he didn’t arrive until almost 4:00. The guys at the garage say the car will be ready at 5:00. We’re hoping to leave by 5:00 at the latest so that we can get back to Abalak before dark. The headlights on the truck are about worthless, even with the brights on. If there’s any oncoming traffic you cannot see in front of you. Of course the car is not done by 5:00, not even close. We decide to leave our mechanic with the car and we will go back to Abalak. It’s now 6:00, and because of nightfall approaching our two hour drive will probably be at least a three hour drive…so we think.

We get on the road again, thinking that in a few hours we will be back home again. Did I mention that it had rained all afternoon? Yes, great, we need it! However, sometimes when it rains there is so much runoff that has no where to go and sometimes it crosses the road. Well, we arrived at one such place about 45 out. We stop the truck and take a look—it’s moving but it’s not that deep so we figure we can cross it, and we do. We continue on…

And then we come to the raging river! There is not normally a river here, but tonight there are whitewater rapids. Donnie and Mike walk upstream thinking they’ll find a place to cross (wishful thinking again?). We weigh out our options…try to cross? Definitely not a good idea. Sleep here? I don’t think so. The only rational option seems to be to turn around and go back to Tahoua. And being the rational people that we are, this is what we do. Of course it’s dark by now, so the drive back takes a bit longer than the hour that it took to get to this point. We stop at the hotel on the outside of town to get some dinner (Finally! I was getting hungry when we left Tahoua!). By this time it’s almost 9:00. We eat dinner, go back to the house, and go back to bed. The next morning we hit the road at 6:00. Luckily by the time we reached the river it was no longer covering the road and we could safely pass and continue our voyage home.