Friday, September 30, 2011

One word....

I was asked yesterday by a friend to sum up my trip in one word.

One word? Seriously? 

Try it, one word to sum up the last month of your life.

It is not easy!  I did manage to find one word to sum up this experience that took me from home, for almost a month, to the other side of the globe, via 4 different airports, 6 planes, several time zones, way too many languages to count, to a totally different culture, HOT climate, to work with people you have never met, to see one of your best friends on her turf, to do things you have never done, eat things you have never eaten, and just plain a long way from home...... One word....   HUMBLING

I live in a country listed as one of the richest in the world, with listings as the best cities in the world to live in.  Yet all around I see discontent, people wanting the next newest this or that, not really sure of what is of real value.  A country where many people do not know their neighbours, where family is not valued as it should be.  A country with more options for groceries than we truly need, with soil that will grow almost anything, and a climate that makes it possible. 

I visit a country listed 3rd from the bottom of UN's human development list , the people have next to nothing, the streets are littered with garbage, goats, cows, sheep and young children roam the streets at all hours, a country where people rarely have the opportunity to travel, where even basic education is a luxury.   Goods are available on every street corner, but funds to purchase such goods is scarce.  However in the midst of this extreme poverty the people are gracious, kind and generous. Family is valued and communities are depended upon. They have joy. in the midst of it all.   Experiencing and being on the receiving end of that was truly HUMBLING!
 I will never be the same after Africa......

The girls.... MY Girl!

I have left a smattering of heart pieces all over the city of Niamey, Niger, West Africa, that is no surprise as part of it was already there.   About a year ago I was asked if I would like to be a prayer partner for one of the girls attending the Niger Vocational Training School (NVOC for short) and I accepted.  I received an email containing a photo and a brief blurb about MY GIRL, her life in  etc.  So for the past year, I have prayed, for health, happiness despite hardship, that she would be a good student, that her family would have food to eat, and her parents would have work. I have prayed extra hard that she would follow through on her commitment to the school, and complete the 2 years, and NOT marry.  I have prayed that she would discover her worth as a young woman, and that she would not believe that the only worth she has as a young woman is when she marries and has babies as is the custom  in the area.

I prayed for this somber faced girl who looked so serious and almost sad, and when I met her she was none of the above.  Zeina is full of life, a little cheeky, laughs easily and later in the week poked fun at me.  She takes charge and works hard, sometimes getting in others way while doing so.  What a blessing to be able to meet her in person and to invest in her life up close and in person.  On our last day there she came into the classroom and gave me a little hug, this was HUGE, hugging is not something that is done in their culture, and for her to take the first step was way out of her comfort zone.  I love this girl, she has one of the fragments of my heart for sure, she had my heart even before I arrived there.  I continue to pray, now I pray that the time I spent with her would be something she values as well.

Home since Monday

4 days home, and I miss Africa.  I miss the people I met, I miss learning and seeing new things, I miss being able to help, I miss the energy of the girls, I just miss it.  I guess what 'they' say is true, you either love Africa or you hate Africa!  Don't get me wrong, I am happy to be home to all that is familiar, to my family & my friends, to my life here, but processing the whole trip is tough.  Finding perspective when I have been, only by luck of the draw, born into one of the richest nations in the world, and my new friends, by that same luck of the draw, have been born into one of the poorest.  Where is fair in that? 

That is where my head is at processing all the things I saw, heard, learned and experienced.  This trip was so rich, there is so much to share, I had hoped to be able to write more while I was there, but I was too busy living the experience.  So now I will write in retrospect, picking pieces from my journal, adding a few of the 1000+ photos  &  fill you in on all of the adventures.  I hope you enjoy it just the same. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First impressions....

Here are just a few of the sights

Can you tell who has the right of way?

Visitor at breakfast - thankfully outside the screened in porch

Garbage piles everywhere, crazy huge piles. People
living by them, scrounging in them & goats & sheep
eating from them.

Street market.
Typical African road -
hard packed, washboard,
sandy streets.

Working with my first set of girls.  What an amazing
privilege to be here and share this time with them.