Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's been awhile...

...since my last post. Four and a half months, actually. A fair bit has happened since then. When I last posted we were in Niamey and I had just found out that I was expecting our second child. The hot season was just starting to heat up and power and water cuts were becoming longer and more frequent. At that point we had two and a half months left in Niger. I spent a fair bit of that time in my house...between the extreme heat and morning sickness I didn't feel like getting out much. I was thankful when I started to feel better and could get out and see friends again.

Security always remained and issue and much of the time we had armed guards in our yard at night. And then, two weeks before we had planned on leaving we were asked to evacuate. There were heavily armed vehicles spotted heading in our direction. We had less than 24 hours to pack our bags and leave. (Some people have asked what we did with all of our stuff...well, the beauty of owning our own home over there is that we didn't do anything with it, we just packed up what we were planning on taking back to America with us and then locked up the house and the storage shed and were on our way.)

And then we sat in Niamey for two weeks while we waited for June 16th to arrive. The guest house where we were staying only had room for us for the first week so half way through our stay in Niamey we had to change guest houses.

The night that we moved there was a big rainstorm, the first one of the season in Niamey. During that rainstorm we were robbed. They took our computer (which had all of our email contacts and three months of photos from last year that never made it to the hard drive plus my memory card with my more recent shots...our Mother's Day Easter Egg Hunt among them), and wiped us out of all of our cash--CFA, euros, and dollars. The money was in a cash box under Donnie's side of the bed. They had come into our room while we were sleeping. They'd even grabbed Donnie's jeans and took what cash he had and his phone.

Needless to say, we were under a fair bit of stress having had to have left our home under the circumstances we did, then getting robbed, and then not knowing what awaited us when we finally made it back to California. We were pretty sure of our housing but had no jobs to pay rent yet and no vehicles.

We left Niger on June 16th. We then spent almost two weeks in Alabama and Georgia visiting Donnie's family and some supporters. We arrived in California at the end of June a few days later made it up to Humboldt. Thankfully, by the end of July we had both secured jobs (not quite sure how we'll survive after I quit, though). Donnie's back working at Ploletski's Appliance Center and I'm working at one of the nursing homes. I was able to take my car back from my mom (which leaves her carless) and we bought a $600 clunker that we hope won't be a money pit and will last us for the duration of our stay here.

Micah is doing great adjusting to life in the states. On July 25th we celebrated his 2nd birthday and then had a party the next weekend. Donnie's having a little bit of a hard time being gone all day long and just getting to see him for a few hours in the evening most days but I think overall we're adjusting back just fine too. Aside from gestational diabetes (which I knew was coming and will hopefully be as well controlled as last time), the pregnancy is going really well and our LITTLE GIRL should be arriving sometime around Thanksgiving.

Ok, so I think that about covers it.

PS: If you haven't heard from me in a long time via email send me an email ( and make sure still I have your email address!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Animal Loans

So, as you may recall, last year was a very bad year in Niger. After two years of little to no rains, and the ever present problem of overgrazing in the zone, there was no pasture left and people's animals were dying as they desperately waited for rains and pasture to come.

Dead animals were everywhere and rotting stench was in the air.

Some NGOs would come through and collect all of the dead carcases and burn them so that other animals in their hunger wouldn't try to eat them.

Thankfully, rains came and in the end there was good pasture. Unfortunately the first rains up north were torrential and cause major flash flooding. Many lost whatever remaining animals that had managed to survive the drought.

After the rains came and the pasture began to grow the post-crisis work began. A large part of that work is helping people restock their herds. We do this through animal loans. The way the loans work is that the project (JEMED) buys the initial stock of animals for members of a community chosen by that community. They keep the animals for a number of years and when the time comes for them to reembourse those animals, instead of them paying it back to the project, the animals (not the same ones, but others of the same age and quality) are loaned back out to other members of their community. Around Christmastime our church raised some money to help buy animals. Here are a few pics...

Animals waiting to be branded after being purchased in market.

The branding fire.

Some of the beneficiaries. These are Wodaabe from the village of Tagalalt. Mallam on the far left is the president of the site, the others are two of his brothers.


My little sheep herder.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chez Hebert

A few weeks ago now we moved into our new house. You'd think I'd remember the date, but I don't. Not exactly Christmas like we had hoped, but we made it in just under a year after construction began and we are happy to be there just the same! It was a very long and arduous process, but worth it in the end.

Here's Micah helping Papa mix paint back in December. We spent far more time painting than we ever imagined that we would! And as you can guess, at times it was a bit of a challenge with a toddler running around. Playing in the piles of sand and gravel left over from construction. I think the yard is going to take a lot of work to get it looking nice.
Our spacious kitchen with more cupboard, drawer, and cabinet space than I know what to do with! I'm thrilled to have a place for everything and to not have to have stuff on top of cupboards and on counters collecting dust. I also love that I have an overhead fan in here!

The only drawback to this place is the water cuts. Now that the hot season is started we essentially have 12 hour water cuts everyday beginning around 8 or 9am. Kind of annoying when you would really love to take a shower at siesta, or there are dishes that need doing, but we make do. We have these 20 liter jugs that we fill up with water to get us through the day for cooking, cleaning, and bathing until the water comes back on late in the evening.

View of the living room from the kitchen, it's kind of a light sage green in color. (I mixed all the colors was quite an adventure.) We have an L-shaped open floor plan, the dining area is just to the left.

And here's the bathroom. It's the color of the sky at dusk. We put in a hot water heater so we can have hot showers in the cold season (or in the hot season, if there's water!). There's also an overhead fan in here too, which makes taking care of business in the hot season much more comfortable.

I didn't take pictures of the bedrooms as they're still in disarray. Micah's room is a nice sky blue and ours is a pretty shade of yellow.

We've heard that some people have asked, Why are Donnie and Allison building their own home? And can they even do that there? (Yes, we can!) Nothing in Niger is ever easy, very few things are up to Western standards, and "Renters Rights" do not exist here. We've heard stories over and over again of folks who have dumped money into fixing up a rental house here in Niger only to be evicted or to have the landlord come and double the rent. It costs a lot of money to fix up a place. Even though property values have sharply increased over the last 5-10 years, it was actually more cost effective for us to buy our own property and build our own place. We figured that in about six years or so, the money that we would have spent on fixing up another place and renting would have paid for our house. It's definitely been an investment on our part (all of our savings, basically, and then some), but the place is OURS. We will always have a house to come home to in Niger. We don't have to worry about landlords kicking us out or raising the rent. So, in a nutshell, that is why we bought property and built our own house.

Micah and Enoch

Enoch is the gardener for the neighbors across the street from the YWAM house/office in Niamey. He also fills in as night guard for us from time to time. He's almost always around, even when he's not working and he and Micah have become very good friends. Micah LOVES Enoch, and I think Enoch loves Micah, too.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Neem Flowers

The Front Porch

We've been very blessed with the return of our team mate, Stevie P. Not only has it been great to just have a team mate back here, but he has blessed us immensely by helping us finish the up the house and move in. Not only did he help Donnie finish up the painting and lay down the fake linoleum, but (with the help of Donnie) built us our beautiful front porch! This is quality workmanship, folks.

Steve hard at work.

The finished product! Thank you Donnie and Steve!!!


Someone found a Sharpie!

He found it while emptying out the contents of my purse.

It washed off WAY easier than I thought it would :)

Bush Taxi

Here's a picture of a bush taxi we passed a couple of times on our way down to Niamey last week...

I think I need to make a book, "Things You See on Bush Taxis".

Friday, February 4, 2011

Micah's First Trip to the Zoo

...And Mom's last day in Niger :(

It was a day for the baby book! I'd been thinking for months that it would be cool for mom to be in on his first trip to the zoo, so before we put her on the plane heading back to America we made a trip to the Zoo and National Museum. It's a bit of a sad looking zoo, but a zoo nontheless.

We got to see baboons.

And a civet cat.

And porcupines.

And hippos!

One of the zoo keepers was actually really cool. He was a younger guy. He was watching us watch the hippos and telling us a bit about them. He then directed us to move over a bit and he jumped down into the pen and with some bunches of grass enticed the bigger hippo to come out of the water.
Look at those teeth!

He then arranged for Micah to get up close and personal with the littlest hippo :)

This little guy is nine months old. He still doesn't have any teeth and won't have any until well after a year old. He drinks like 20 liters of milk a day. His mother attacked a fishing boat on the river and killed someone so then she was killed and her baby was brought to the zoo. Kind of sad.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the dinosaur bones!

Playing Ball with Grandma

This kid's got a pretty good arm :)

Bush Trip

We haven't been out to the bush in AGES...whenever we did that food distribution, I think it was sometime this summer, I can't remember. It seems like whenever we have a trip planned there is another "incident" just before our planned trip and then we're grounded in Abalak. Well, a few weeks had passed after the most recent kidnappings in Niamey and we were allowed to go out, but with armed guards, of course, and just for the day. Still, we were thrilled for the chance to go and to show my mom a bit of the bush.
It turned into a really windy day. This picture was taken shortly after our arrival, it was pretty windy already but the landscape had yet to be covered in dust.
About half-way through our visit one of the men brought in a baby goat for Micah to pet. And then he says, "It's for Micah." Oh my! He looks really young, I thought to myself. Turns out the baby's mother had died a week ago and sure enough, he was not yet weaned. And just days before we were leaving for Niamey. Luckily, I have a friend whose mom has some goats with babies so I sent it home with him until we get back and I can buy him a new mama.

As it was super windy, and there weren't actually too many people living at the actual site, we ended up spending much of the day in this little one room building drinking tea and eating dates. Later in the day the wind let up a little and we walked to the seasonal lake (rain runoff from the rainy season) where the people get their drinking water, water their animals, catfish. Crazy, I know, catfish in the middle of the desert. Donnie was very excited. He actually bought some and went home and fried them up. One happy cajun that night, he was.

Playing with Grandma's Glasses


Here's a couple pics of me and my mom visiting my friend Rokaya and her mom and some of her cousins.