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.

1 comment:

David Wilkinson said...

This is a great story. You have to learn to keep a good sense of humor and not be impatient or else you'd go crazy. We've lost so much of that here in the US. We expect everything to work according to our schedules and then if something go awry, we lose it. It is great training for children, since they are constantly adding twists and turns to our lives. Even after 23 years.