Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Last Decade

Lucky for me I have my clock on my computer still set to Eastern Standard Time so I'll sneak this in as the last post of 2009 even though as I sit here typing in Niamey I can hear the new year's fireworks all around me! Just got to thinking that God has walked me through some pretty amazing things in this last decade...
  • graduating college
  • learning to teach
  • being baptized
  • trusting him with my biggest hopes and dreams
  • recognizing that He is with me in failure and success
  • coming short term to Sahel Academy
  • dealing with challenging students
  • learning to love them
  • studying French
  • returning to Sahel long term
  • driving in Niger (never do that on New Year's Eve)
and realizing through all of this and more that He is trustworthy, faithful and worthy of all my praise!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Crafty Christmas

I had a lot of fun crafting for Christmas. The addition of the sewing machine my Mom made me buy and bring to Niger made it even more fun. Here are my favorite creations.

Favorite card - I love this thing. It was hard to part with it!

Favorite bittie cards - created these on Christmas eve - a last minute idea.

Saw this ornament idea and wanted to try it but I had to borrow the main supply, felt, from Beka. I ended up giving it back to her kids - just in a different form! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Miss Them

Buying in Bulk

In North America one is generally rewarded when one buys in bulk. The more you buy of something the cheaper the item is. It is easy to expect the same in other cultures but that would be a false assumption. Often times here in Niger, one is rewarded for buying the smaller amount. For example, these little cream cheese cubes come packaged in a box of 6 for which I would be required to pay 1475 cfa. That works out to about 245 cfa (approximately 60 cents) a cube whereas I could choose from the box of unpackaged cubes and pay only 150 cfa per cube (approximately 40 cents). Interesting cultural difference!

St. Lucia Day Celebration

Christmas around the world - that's what we spent the last two weeks of school focusing on. My children had the opportunity to hear first hand about the traditions of France from Eliane who brought in a delicious yule log for the children to enjoy.They also heard about Christmas in Norway from Mrs. Lindberg who is the mother of one of my sudents. She did a beautiful job explaining some of the traditions including St. Lucia Day celebrations. St. Lucia was an Italian saint marytred in 300 A.D. She has become a symbol for light in the midst of darkness. This is a particularly important celebration to those living in Sweden and Norway who spend much of their winter days in darkness. Mrs. Lindberg told the kids that it is often dark until 9 or 10 am. For the St. Lucia day celebrations kindergarteners come to school dressed in white. One child will be chosen to lead a procession with a lighted wreath on her head and the students will go from classroom to classroom caroling. I can only imagine how special this would be if school starts when it is still dark outside! It wasn't dark when we started school but we enjoyed listening and learning, caroling at the doors of the other elementary classes and eating Lussekatt, a traditional St. Lucia bun.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


These two were thrilled to death when they realized that the new haircut belonging to one of them made them look almost like twins!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Day the Donkey Got Away

I am itching to pick up my little markers and draw this little story in stick figures but I think it might just be better if we all use our imaginations...

In the course of the work day there comes a time when we all must stop by the bathroom and take care of business. What does that look like when you are the owner of a donkey and cart on your way to wherever? Well, you pull up beside the nearest wall and even if that is the wall on the main road that leads to the only bridge in town, it's still quite possible that you can discreetly take care of business. That is, of course, as long as your donkey understands the need for discretion.

But should your donkey miss the memo about the need for discretion, he might decide to make like a banana and split. At which time, you will be nonchalantly standing at the wall, unaware that your donkey is on the lam, running directly into the path of the two white women driving down the dirt road to the intersection. The donkey hesitates while the white women look around at all the people sitting around chewing the fat wondering where the owner is and why in the world no one cares enough to stop the donkey running directly onto the main road. But you, the donkey owner, remain blissfully unaware of the unfolding drama. Meanwhile, your runaway donkey decides to take the plunge into oncoming traffic. Cars slow, swerving to avoid him. Motorcycles screech to a halt, brakes squealing and finally, your attention is caught just as you finish up. Just in time too, for now your donkey and cart are well down the road. No mere jog will do for catching up with them. Run, donkey cart man, run!

What do you do?

What do you do when the item you need is at the bottom of that pile?
Well you definitely don't unload the whole thing. That would make far too much sense!
I learned to stack dishes like this while a fifth or sixth grader in Galmi. Alihu, our house worker, was quite good at it and so I studied up in the fine art of dish stacking. Speaking of Alihu, he had been around visiting in Galmi as some very good friends of mine from Galmi days are back in Galmi for a few weeks. He had been asking after me and my family so one of "my good friends" decided to call me via cell phone to let him talk to me. He speaks Hausa which I understand but can only do the bare minimum of greeting in. I speak French which he can not speak. Wow! Talk about awkward and "my good/bad friend" walked away and left us to hash it out. So that was about the longest 20 second conversation I've ever had and the best part about it was someone else was in the car with me and got to enjoy all the awkwardness!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oh Me, Oh My

File this under things that make me laugh! Kurt Browning never fails to crack me up.

I think the Charlie Chaplin moves are hysterical and kudos to this girl for being willing to get out there and have a ham like him follow her around.

Baby, It's Cold Outside

What do you do when the temperature hits a low of 66?

If you're the teacher, you throw on your hoodie, happy as a lark for cool weather and a day without sweat.
If you're the student, it's time to break out your......
I got a great kick out of watching the little people huddle in a group beside the door this morning proclaiming their longing for the bell to ring - wishing, hoping and praying that their teacher would have mercy on them and let them stay inside the warm 80 degree classroom. Not a chance friends! Go run, play and get your blood moving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


In your mind you plan out a lesson and you have certain expectations of what your students might do or ask and what might happen during your lesson. If you see any potential bad ideas you normally try to point them out and mention that they are not allowed. Some days kids meet your expectations and other days they just bust right out of the box of expected thinking.

We're studying matter and today we were learning about how matter can change states from a solid to a liquid and back to a solid again. So I paired the children up and explained that I would give each pair an ice cube and they could do whatever they wanted to try and get it to melt quickly. My expectations: they will sit it in the sun, rub their hands around it or break it into smaller pieces to get it to melt quickly. Yes, they tried all of those things along with sitting on it and even putting it in their mouth to help the process along...both fairly decent ideas. But then there was the kid who busted out of the box and decided to melt the ice cube by sticking it into their underwear. Oh my! Forgot to cover the rule that says you may not stick the ice cube into your undies....Dear me! What will I do with you little first and second graders?

Friday, November 6, 2009

As Seen on the Bridge

My neighbor, Laurence, was saying how great it would be if we could just have a camera in the tip of our finger. This would be handy here in Niger for taking pictures unobtrusively and for those moments that just crack you up and you wish you had your camera with you. Tonight was one of those moments. I just had to laugh.
This is what I saw. Can't you just picture the scene of the accident?
"What do you mean, Officer?
There's no way I had an obstructed view!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One of their Favorite Things

Acting is one of their favorite things to do. This is the second play that some of this group has gotten to do this week alone! Bright, as the only boy, got to be Abraham as they reenacted the story of Abraham and his three visitors and the eventual birth of Isaac. I wish the picture was a little bigger so you could see their expressions....funny!

Baby Hedgie

A while back I was reading a magazine in the U.S. that listed the price for a hedgehog as around $100. $100 dollars seem slightly steep for somehting I used to pick up in my backyard on the compound at Galmi and keep in my room as pets...that was, of course, until I realized that they were awfully stinky especially when you don't clean out their cage very often. Well, in all my "days" (and they were short) of keeping hedgehogs, I never had the chance to see an itty bitty baby. The other night the kindergarten teacher, Lori, happened upon a hedgehog and decided to catch it and bring it into school. Overnight, said hedgehog gave birth to this cute little thing., nice timing! Lori said that when it was just born it was pink but by the end of the first day it had white needles. Here "Hedgie" is two days old and the needles are starting to turn gray. It's eyes aren't open yet. Ahhh! Doesn't that face just make you want to go out and pay $100 for a little hedgehog! So cute!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Soon They Learn

Yesterday my class delved into safety signs and their meanings...first sign up - the traffic light. The discussion on the traffic light began with a heated argument between E and K over the meaning of the yellow light. E maintained the position that the yellow light meant slow down and stop. K argued vehemently that the yellow light means speed up and get through the light. Hmm, seems to me that someone is wise to the ways of drivers facing yellow lights. Isn't second grade a little to early to be picking up on that?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Bouffant Bob

Lately, I've been realizing that I really need to get my hair cut and get it back off my neck. But with that desire comes a certain amount of reticence and unwillingness to actually take the plunge as it means that I would have to try and explain my hairstyle preference in French to a hair dresser. How to solve the problem? Well, I really was quite fond of the way my hair was cut the very last time I got it cut in July so I thought to myself why not take in a picture of myself to give the hairdresser some guidance. Yesterday was my lucky day! Someone else provided me with a picture of myself which I can use to give the hairdresser some guidance. "Yes, that's right, Mr./Ms. Hairdresser, I'm hear to get the Bouffant Bob. I hear it's all the rage these days."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Hole World is Sad

Well, I've been lying in bed resting for 3 out of the last 4 days and really probably feeling like that's what I wanted to be doing for the last 7 days. I semi-lost my voice to begin with and now it has turned into a nasty cough. I tried to go to school today but it was clear that if I kept trying to teach I probably wouldn't have a voice at all by the end of the day. I'm grateful to Shannon for offering to step in and take my class for me so I could go home and try to rest my voice some more. Just a few minutes ago a pack of get well cards from the crew was delivered to my door! Letters from kids are always good for a laugh. This one was my favorite. It's so dramatic that it just cracks me up! Even funnier was the fact that it was written by a boy. Well just in case you been wondering why you've been feeling so sad these last couple of you's cause I'm laid up. :) Thanks for the good laugh, Shannon!

Ha! I just read this again and noticed that according to this note, I'm a man. Funny!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Best or Worst Dressed?

Apparently this actress chose to wear her politics to Emmy night. I have no idea who she is but it seems that she may have landed herself on the Worst Dressed list for people who care about such things. She needs to move to Africa...she would SO be on the Best Dressed List! It's a la mode to put people's faces on your cloth here. Not only that Obama is a hit here. Earlier this year I went out with a friend to do a bit of shopping. While we bought meat, the guy behind the meat counter correctly identified my friend as an American. He proceeded to point high above his counter to a spot where he had placed a picture of Obama. Then he very proudly mentioned that he and Obama had been friends for two years. Sure buddy, and I'm friends with the King of Spain. Well, whether he's watching over the meat counter, keeping Africa clean or solving all it's problems, one thing is for sure, Obama's dress would be a hit!

Friday, September 18, 2009

From Head to Toe with Eric Carle

We are in the midst of an author study on Eric Carle and this being Friday, I decided to have some fun with the kids. We read "The Grouchy Ladybug" and did some ladybug things but it all began with the spots on my back that caused quite a stir when they were "spotted." Confusion and then the dawn of understanding even as there remained an element of mystery...were they or were they not taped on? Ah, the joys of the young and innocent...

We made clocks,
used doubles facts to plan out and then decorate a ladybug cookie, thought about things that would take seconds, minutes and hours and enjoyed reading books by Eric Carle and others about insects
and that was only about 1 hour of the day!
The rest was filled with writing and taking pictures for our own book in Eric's style, filling our ant farm with dirt and ants, spelling tests and memory verses and a whole lot of after school fun.
All in all, a very busy day!
Now why in the world am I still up?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Tomorrow we'll encounter our first birthday celebration of the year in our class. The girls have been keeping track of it for at least a week now and I'm telling you, with the excitement they showed this morning you would think that one of them was having a birthday. However, it just happens to be one of the most laidback boys who is having the birthday so we asked him this morning if he was excited about his upcoming birthday because, of course, all the little girls want to know. So with head resting in palms of hands, elbows on knees and absolutely no change of expression, his response was "Yeah." How's that for enthusiasm! There are times when I just feel like busting up laughing.

The "Chillen"

So thanks to my friend Shannon you are seeing a picture of my "chillen". :) Love that word for some reason....and thanks to her I realize how much faster things load when you shrink your pictures which I'm too lazy to do. 2 seconds as opposed to minutes, hours, days...well okay, it's not quite that bad!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Style All Their Own

Here it is...your first peek at some of my 2nd grade students...unless of course you know them personally! After completely a chain link of addition facts that equal 11, these ladies decided to use their chain as a fashion accessory. Look for this fad to catch on big time!

What's in your sink?

Be careful when you stick your hands in your never know what might be lurking there. It could be just dirty dishes or you might find one of these... Thankfully, no hands went into my sink at school before Jacques, one of our janitors, noticed him. He was very much alive and definitely the kind that really hurts, according to Jacques. I took him out and killed him by dropping a part of a cement block on him repeatedly, but not before I asked Anisa, the 3rd & 4th grade teacher, if she wanted another pet. Can't believe she turned my offer down?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


So here's the thing about teaching a class full of'll be inundated with notes. This is what I received on Sunday night alone. Apparently, these two students were inspired to donate all their Sunday sermon "notes" to me. Not sure if there's room on the refrigerator for all of this. :) My favorite part about these notes is that during the first couple of days when I asked these two to write a story, they told me they didn't know how to write and they copied from a book or from something on the wall. But two weeks later they are fired up about writing and telling their stories.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Just sitting here thinking

Just sitting here thinking about how cool it is that I have or will have the privilege of teaching the children of people that I grew up and went to school with in the next couple of years. I can't imagine that too many teachers get that privilege. I'm thankful for it and trusting God to help me do a good job!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Did I tell you?

Did I tell you that I squeezed lotion up my nose last week? Yep, if you didn't know it before you do now...I'm a dork! I was trying to pick out some good lotion to put on my dry skin and that's how I found myself going down the row, opening up bottles, holding them up to my nose and giving them a gentle squeeze so that I could catch a whiff of their scent. It was all going well until I squeezed the one that had lotion right at the nozzle and it shot right up into my nose! Wow! What a shock that was! Then there's the fun of trying to inconspicuously clean up that little mess and pretend like it didn't happen as I nonchalantely continue to browse in the store all the while laughing hysterically at the fact that I actually squeezed lotion up my nose!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Conversations with a Kindergartner

I had an after school visit from a Kindergartener this week that was quite funny. She was standing at the door with her brother talking through the screen to me. I invited her in but she must not have heard me until a little bit later.

When she did come in, the fun started. She began looking around the room noting things with amazement in her voice, "Oh, you have letters just like we do!" "Oh, you have a tape recorder just like we do!" "Oh, you have computers just like we do!" Apparently, she went home and asked her mom if all the classes looked the same.

The other funny thing she said when I asked her what her class had done that day was that they had had "adventures". Hmm, couldn't quite figure that one out - thought maybe it was a special name their teacher had for something they did in the classroom. Anyway, when she got around to noting the computers she started mentioning "adventures" again and I realized that she calls "centers" in the classroom "adventures". What a trip!

My advice to you with someone small today! It's bound to be fun and maybe even insightful!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is how we do it!

This is how we do it!
This is how we do it!

When the electricity is off
And it's raining
We're supposed to be learning
But the lights are off

This is how we do it!
This is how we do it!

Go out on the porch
With our books in our laps
Listening to the rain
As it tap, tap, taps

This is how we do it!
This is how we do it!

Don't even ask what inspired me! My poetry/song writing ain't good but it sure is fun. :) Got pictures but they won't load tonight.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's okay to be nosey!

You need some headphones. You head off to your local Walmart/Target, make your choice and put them in your basket. No strangers come along, lean into your cart and peer in at the choices you've made. That's North America for you. We all keep to ourselves!

In Niger, on the other hand, it's okay to be nosey. It just so happened today that I was interested in purchasing some headphones so I stopped at the local electronics cart and inquired about headphones. All he was selling were the Air France special with two prongs (and just in case you've been spending your whole life searching for them, you could also buy Air France's matching eye covers - crack me up!) Well, he didn't have any single prong ones but he was more than willing to go search them out in the market. Another great thing about living don't necessarily have to do the work of searching. Let me insert here that he pretty much left his cart unattended...maybe the people sitting near by would have prevented any thefts, I don't know. Any how, he returned and the bargaining began. This is when the nosey tomato seller stepped up to the plate. We named our price and the vendor exclaimed "Albarqua!" (Not sure of the spelling of that basically meaning are you crazy.) So then Tomato Man tells him that he needs to lower his price which he does. Then we higher ours a bit and Tomato Man encourages him to meet us in the middle somewhere, pretty much taking over the bargaining. Finally, we agree but wait to see two pairs of what we are purchasing. So while the vendor runs off to get the second pair, Tomato Man decides he's entitled to a bit of negotiation too because of course, we want tomatoes to go along with our headphones! Two pairs of headphones and one kilo of tomatoes later, we're on our way home with a lesson in how being nosey sometimes pays off.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I'm HOT, HOT, HOT and it's not even the HOT part of the year! BLAH!

Friday, August 7, 2009

I listen more than I speak

"I listen more than I speak."

These were the wise words of a Nigerien teacher, sharing with us, her co-workers, the approach she has taken as she has learned to teach in a school culture totally foreign to that of Niger.

Wise words and yet so hard to execute. Harder still when it's your second time around and you have a level of familiarity with people. Your mouth just seems to fall open and the questions or disparaging comments about why things are done this way or that just seem to pour out...or maybe that's just my problem! I'm thankful that God has placed a wise friend here who listens to me...even just in saying things aloud I've heard myself say things that I know absolutely are not true. I hope one day it can be said of me that "I listen more than I speak." Got some work to do!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ode to Ice

Cold and crunchie,
Best little munchie,
Oh how I miss you ice.
I'm so sad.
That my tooth went bad.
Now all because of a drill
And just a little fill
I can't sit back and chill
or experience the thrill
of a sweet little,
crunchie little,
icy little cube.
Well, let's just say poetry has never been my strong suit! :) Only something very important like ice would inspire me to bless the world with my juvenile poetic efforts.

Monday, July 27, 2009

One of the Sweetest Sounds on God's Green Earth

We had about an hour downpour and then about 5 more hours of intermittent rain. Anyone who's ever lived in this part of Africa knows how treasured the sound of rain is.

After the rain, I found a spot by a window looking out onto the street below and it proved to be some very interesting people watching. Everything made more interesting by the enormous amounts of water in the streets. It wasn't too long before one of my students, Kay, came along and joined me at the window. Here is some of what we saw...
Everyone rolls or hikes up their pants and wades through the water. The cars make huge splashes as they pass.I loved this guy riding the motorcycle with his knees practically up to his chin so his pants wouldn't get wet as he forded through the water.
So that's it...the view of the street and here were the two people watchers.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


When one moves into an apartment, it is usually desireable that it be unoccupied, n'est-ce pas?

When I moved into my apartment last Tuesday night, I realized quite quickly that I wasn't the only occupent. Something capable of scurrying very fast was also calling it home. I didn't scream like a girl or anything but I can't say that it was particularly appealing to be sharing my living quarters with one of these guys. A gecko - I could have handled. A lizard - had to be evicted especially because he was not potty trained! However, after chasing him fruitlessly around my bedroom, I gave up when he disappeared and decided to wait for his next appearance. This afternoon as I was reading a book on my bed, I saw him drop from the window onto a pile of clothes so I ran to get my broom. I chased him around and out of my room and under a closet. Using the room I tried to sweep him out but heard him scurrying which gave me a fright at which point I pulled up on the broom and it snapped in half. Ooops!
I went in search of something else long, leaving the door wide open for his retreat back into my room. Argh, so I opened the outside door wide so he had plenty of opportunity to exit the building and then began the chase again around the room and out and under the cupboard. This time when I swiped under the cupboard he scurried out to the living room. Not easily evicted - this one! So I opened the door out to the office below and swiped at him again. Finally, after a few back and forth moves across the wall he made a break for the open door. Eviction complete! Hope he can't squeeze back in by some odd chance. If you happen to work in the office downstairs...I'm oh so sorry to have sent him your way but not at all sad to have seen him go! :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jet Lag Brings On My Return to Blogging

Life on the road is really not condusive to blogging hence the reason you haven't heard from me in over a month! But alas, the roadtrip has come to an end and I'm settled in to my new home...only one problem, my body has not settled in to its new time zone. So here it is 3am and I am wide awake. What better time to make my return to blogging.

What could I tell you about that has happened in the last month?

I could tell you that on my road trip I got to go from house to house visiting all my friends and their families. I had an absolute blast seeing how their children were growing and of course, singing them my favorite song about the Five Little Ducks. It's usually a hit with kids but their parents might have been happy to see me and my song hit the road due to oversinging. :)

I could tell you about spending the 4th of July with my friend Jen and her nephew, Travis and their whole family. I could tell you about how after spending all day with Travis on the 4th of July. He sat down beside me and looked up at me with a very quizzical expression on his face and said, "Do I know you from somewhere?" Cracked me up!
Or maybe I could tell you about all the encouraging notes and conversations I had with people along the way who are praying and interested in the ministry God has called me too here in Niger or the blessing of being commissioned at Parkway Bible Church.
Then there is my last night in Toronto spent with my Mom and Dad and my friend Chellaine playing crokinole. It was intense! (or intensely embarassing if your name is Beth or Chellaine.)

Or I could talk about how hard it was to leave behind two of my favorite people on earth!

But I think it might be time for me to go back to bed....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Finding Treasures

You wouldn't know it to look into my apartment but I am actually planning to leave here on Tuesday morning. This afternoon I've been busy cleaning some seldom cleaned niches and I happened to run across some treasures...a thank you notes from a friend with whom I learned a lot about forgiveness, a letter from a friend about the incredible weeks leading up to the birth of a first know stuff that I've stashed to pull out at a later date. It's cool because it reminds me of how God has moved and worked in my life and the lives of my friends!

Stashed in with all that were some letters and drawings from important kids in my life. For example, this one from my friend, Malik. "Just a pencil drawing," you might be thinking, "Not much of a treasure!" But Malik and I lived through some very challenging moments and through him, God taught me that He can work miracles in my heart. I loved this kid and this drawing along with a year end thank you note from his Mom are incredible treasures.
Then there is this letter. It's a treasure because it just makes me laugh. Why you might ask? Because it's a request from a student for me to go and teach my friend Leonard how to read...Ms. Leonard could run circles around me in the reading department. Not only that but she was pretty much responsible for teaching this little guy everything he knew about reading.
There is nothing more interesting or entertaining than a kid's perspective!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Favorite

Here's my favorite pic from our return to Quebec. Grand Falls, the horseshoe falls east of Niagara, are in the background. And now I'm back in Quebec, my mom and dad helped me clean my apartment all day Saturday. It was a big job and I was thankful for their helpful.
Today it was back to class to face none other than the -a word that could strike fear in the heart of any French language learner! Of all the possible things, we had to end with this? So I got up and studied for about 20 minutes and wonder of wonders when I got to class, it didn't seem half as hard as it did before! Thank you, Jesus!

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