Thursday, January 26, 2012

Another Step Closer

What a week this has been so far! Monday morning we started cleaning the hospital. It had not been touched in months so we knew a major job was ahead of us. We were able to hire ten workers to help us and overall they were great. We were able to bust that place out in two and a half days. When we finally started putting the beds into the ward the tears started. I cannot wait for that place to be filled with women. They have already started coming. If you build it, they will come, and they have. Two women from previous trips are already here. About six more and their children are waiting as well. They are staying in the huts. The huts are the cement dwellings behind the hospital where the women can stay pre or post operatively, especially if they need further follow up but they live too far to return every day. So the initial cleaning is done. 42 beds have been moved in with their mosquito net frames. All the windows have been cleaned. Hundreds upon hundreds of spiders killed. Every wall bleached. All floors mopped. All fans dusted. Laundry done, for the most part. The operating room looks great. More spiders killed. Now we are waiting on the container to arrive so we can have the supplies we need to begin.

I am still learning so much on a daily basis. Did you know that when you make popcorn on the stovetop you should make sure your pot has a lid so the popcorn doesn’t end up all over your kitchen? This is a fact. Did you know that home made yogurt is perhaps the only type of yogurt I will eat now? Absolutely amazing stuff! Did you know that Sarah actually translates into hausa to be Saratu but they drop the ‘h’ and this disappoints me a little. I have been proud of the ‘h’ on my name so I may be the only Saratu spelling her name Sarahtu. Did you know that in hausa the word for sing and the word for wash sound very similar so when the cute little girls from church came over to sing for me I thought they were telling me to go wash, not sing.

Maybe I’ll start having a section on here called: Things That Made Sarah Jump This Week. On Tuesday I had just returned to my home when I put my key in my door to lock it from the inside. As soon as I started turning the key a little head with big eyes shot out from the top of the lock where there was a small gap. I don’t know what type of animal, big game I think, these eyes belonged to but I do know that I yelled loud enough for Ashley to hear me and I kept jumping around my place thinking it was crawling all over me. I have gotten better though. I don’t live in fear anymore of a snake jumping out at me whenever I open a cupboard or door. I think this is a big improvement in a week.

An update on the current snake situation: just about everyone here knows of my fear of these rancid animals. Some still like to report on the daily snake sightings though. Two were found in my neighbors hut outside their home which they use for storage. I never saw them but I know they were quickly killed then burned. Oh, and get this. There is an area on the compound that we frequently walk down which one of the boys here called snake city yesterday. I think I will walk another way from now on.

From all this cleaning my back has gone crazy. Please pray for the pain to go away. We have a long journey ahead of us and I can’t be hurting. Please continue to pray too for our hausa lessons as well. We had our first one Tuesday and another tonight. Please pray that it will all sink in quickly for both Ashley and I. We have a great teacher, but languages have never been a strong area for me. I have learned that when people see you are trying they want to help you out and get excited for you when they know you learned another word or greeting. I look forward to the day when I can talk to the women without a translator! Thank you all for your prayers!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Foodies of the Desert

Yesterday I came to this realization that I will survive. Don’t take this to mean I didn’t think I would but yesterday I saw and learned that cooking here is doable. I am not the greatest cook and even with my limited cooking ability there is usually some sort of processed something in there. There are four other houses here filled with missionaries who have been on the field for years. Nancy has lived in Niger for fourteen years and I guess you could say she is a foodie of the desert. She was just going to teach Ashley and I how to make yogurt but then she asked if we wanted to learn to make tortillas. No question there. I was tempted to even pack some when I came but no room was left in my luggage. We went back to her place later in the day for our tortilla class. Well tortilla class turned into bread class, which turned into sweet roll class, which turned into icing class, which turned into vinaigrette class. All this in under three hours even. I’ll admit, for some reason making your own yogurt kind of freaked me out a bit. Leaving my warm glass jar wrapped in a towel on my counter in the heat of the day kind of concerned me but this is what you do. Tonight I made myself finally try it. It was bitter but as soon as I added a bit of sugar, I am already hooked! No more buying yogurt in the store. Beyond easy too. All you need is powdered milk, water, and a small bit of yogurt starter. Done. I’m already thinking about how to make frozen yogurt and using the yogurt for baking and mango yogurt and vanilla yogurt and… We documented our entire cooking day, basically step by step but I can’t seem to get pictures on here, sorry. I am sure more cooking days and stories are to come!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Guess What Is In My Drain...

Sanu! I have made it safely to Niger. I have been here almost five days. Wow. It seems like I have been here weeks already. My flight here was pretty uneventful. Nothing too exciting to report on that. I met up with Ashley, the OR supervisor, at the airport in Paris and we flew the last leg of the trip together. It was great to finally meet. We arrived in Niamey and stayed three nights at a guesthouse there before we could catch our final flight here. All my previous trips through Niamey were really short so it was great to look around a bit. Found an amazing Indian restaurant close to where we stayed.

On Wednesday we flew the last leg of our flight to Maradi. Had a rocky start to the flight but the rest of the two hour flight was smooth. I’m still in awe as we fly across Niger. With there being only one paved road across the country and tons of small villages converged upon by small walking paths, it’s no wonder why VVF exists.

I was thinking the other day how God changes our hearts. I never imagined I would be living in the desert. Not in a million years. I grew up on the beach and love the water. I definitely have sand, but no water. Take away all the times I have jumped or screamed the past two days from random things that have spooked me and I can almost say I love it here. Daily I have been getting more relaxed with where I am. I am not as afraid to open a cupboard and think that a snake will jump out at me. Tonight I was in my bathroom and jumped then laughed and stood in disbelief as I watched a gecko shove its fat little head down the drain in my sink. He is now down in my drain and I don’t know if he can get out. He’s chilling right under the drain. I’m afraid to use it. It was the most random thing to see. It’s little body was wriggling all around as it forced its head down the drain…

The last two days have been filled to overflowing with information overload. There are four other houses in the same compound where I am living that house four families with enough mission experience to last multiple lifetimes. They have all been great in teaching Ashley and I how to live. Tonight we got a good introduction on how to light our stove. Yesterday we did the market. In all the time I have lived in West Africa I have not had to do all my own cooking and cleaning and clothes washing, and I mean by hand. I saw the market yesterday in a whole new light. It was great to have people to translate for us and tell us how to find the best produce and what to do with it once we got home. I bought flour and sugar by the kilo from a nice man on the corner with a scale. I now have flour and sugar in my freezer to kill the weebles in it. I was told the stuff I bought was fresh so I didn’t have to do it but at this point if you tell me there is a chance I have bugs in my flour or sugar I will do anything I can to kill them. Things that back in the states would take minutes to do can and do take hours here. After the market your day is not over. Now you have to clean everything. By cleaning I mean first washing it with soap and water and then letting it soak in bleach then rinsing it again. Lettuce is the most annoying one. Every piece of lettuce is washed this way. You definitely learn how to appreciate what you eat. Something else I learned was that you need to know what you find in different seasons. Right now as you drive through Maradi you see sellers with plates of carrots on their heads. Carrots are everywhere. It’s carrot season. I’m told that in a few months you won’t find any so now is the time to freeze them so you will have some to eat later. After going through the long washing process now you cut them up to freeze them. I have carrots, bell peppers, onions, cilantro and flour and sugar in my freezer. I’m so thankful I went to the Brown’s for dinner tonight. I would have stuck with a granola bar if I hadn’t.

Yesterday evening we went to see the hospital. Once it is cleaned it will be so beautiful. I can’t wait to see it filled with women. The ward is huge. The operating room is amazing. The hospital has been locked up for months except for a construction team and it is FILTHY. It seems like an overwhelming project but starting Monday we will start cleaning, hopefully with a team of workers. The amount of spiders everywhere in there could possibly set a record though. We opening one door and in the door frame was a gross pregnant spider. What scared us even more was the egg sac next to her. This egg sac was cream colored and covered with spikes. I came home a googled it and I’m wondering if it is a brown widow spider??? I kind of don’t want to know. Either way it is still there and we are hoping the eggs don’t hatch anytime soon. SO GROSS! That is how I feel about that.

We met with our hausa teacher today. We’ll start lessons next week. That is really the biggest prayer request I have right now. I am awful at languages and not only do I need to learn hausa, I need to eventually learn French as well. Hausa is first since most of the women speak it since they don’t live in the cities. Everyone else speaks French though. Please pray that I will be able to pick them both up quickly.

Tomorrow is a new day. I think I will try and cook something on my gas stove now that I think I know how to fiddle with it to make it work. I can’t thank you all enough for your prayers. Please keep them coming and let me know how I can be praying for you too!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Now is the Time

Two and a half months I have been back in the US. I have rested. Visited. Played with four adorable, growing nieces and nephews. Laughed. Ate some pretty nasty jelly beans. Recovered. Worked on policies and procedures. Prayed. Ate. Gained weight. Cleaned out my storage unit. Had a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. Watched 'A Walk to Beautiful'. Spoke about my heart. Wondered about a great many things. Been prayed for. Hoped...

Now I am back in the airport. I will land in Niger in 23 hours. That seems longer than I was thinking. I feel ready. Ready to get back to work. Ready to unpack a large container and organize the ward. Ready to meet the heat face on when I land. Ready to face the adventure that lay ahead. I don't know if I would say I am completely looking forward to all the challenges that lay ahead, but I am really looking forward to the expectation of God's hand moving and seeing what He does during the next few months, year, who knows how long I will be there.

I had wanted to write a post to catch you all up a long time ago but time just seems to always get away from me. It sounds like the internet has been working lately in Danja so when I get in I'll write to let you know I made it. I'll be in Niamey until Wednesday then will fly to Danja then.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me. Supported me financially, spiritually and emotionally. Come to listen to me speak. Offered words of encouragement. Given me a place to sleep and food to eat. Given me three closets and a basement to put everything from storage into so I can get rid of that finally! (Thanks Rebecca and Stephen!) I have really felt loved and supported. I know I am not going out alone. I know Christ goes before me but I also know I have a huge team back in the states praying for me and ready to help. Thank you.

Here we go...