Archive for April, 2010

Photo Safari in Ndjei

Last week started out rough, with the worst headache by far I’ve ever had. I was in bed for two days with spotty nausea and searing pain any time I moved my head or eyes. After the second day it got better pretty quickly and I was no worse for the wear other than having heat rash from laying and sweating in bed so constantly. I was especially glad to be better in time to go out to the village on Thursday to take pictures with Nicole. On exiting the truck, we were immediately bombarded by excited kids.

I expected to have a good time taking pictures but I didn’t expect the day to be quite so eventful. We started out by visiting a couple houses of people Nicole knew. Then we walked through some paths and hills that turned out to lead us across the border of Togo into Benin! I had no idea we were so close. Our guide, Jerome, showed us the place marked by rocks where the border line falls and I took a picture (not shown). Over the hills, we sat and talked with a sick lady for a while. Well, Nicole talked to the lady and her family in Kabiye/French. I sat and watched chickens roll around in the dirt. By that time, dark clouds were rolling in so we hurried back over the hills and to the places Nicole had in mind to photograph the elderly members of the village. I’ve always loved painting older people, I think the wrinkles and look of well-earned years gives a beautiful stateliness of appearance. There seems to be so much wisdom and so many stories in their faces and eyes.

At our first stop we met a lady who was over a hundred years old, was very smiley, had no teeth and was happy to be photographed. She was absolutely precious.

There were several people there, including Jerome’s father, on the left.

Then we walked to the compound where the chief  lives. When we got there it started raining, then pouring, and then hailing. We were stuck in this little  metal roofed room with about 10 other people.  This picture cracks me up because Nicole glows and the set up of the composition is such a perfect reminder of the classic Virgin Mary paintings, complete with the Byzantine head tilt. I call this “Nicole as Mary the Mother”.

After we’d been stuck in the little mud house for about 25 minutes I told Nicole if she wanted to ask them people to stand in the doorway one at a time, I’d have enough light to take each of their pictures. This first picture is of an old lady who exclaimed, shouted and clapped in excitement at seeing the picture of herself on my camera’s screen. That was a definite highlight of my day.

This is the chief. There wasn’t really great light, so I had to kick up the ISO. Sorry for the graininess.

Another cute lady.

I took some pictures out the door into the rain. The kids saw me taking their pictures and put on a show exaggerating their dancing and jumping around.

Eventually Nicole decided that it was time to leave in order to get dinner ready in time, so we braved the rain. I wrapped my camera bag up in a plastic bag and we dashed out of the house. A small but fast moving river had formed since we had arrived and crossing it with my camera made me a little nervous. Walking the rest of the way in the rain was extremely enjoyable actually and I told Nicole that the rain was like the icing on the cake to our fun day in the village.


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We went on a field trip with the school kids last week to observe and participate in the well drilling that Dave Reeves and Matt Hangen, two of the missionaries, are working on developing in nearby villages. It is a cheap (everything totals under $100), easily reproducible process that gets cleaner water from a lot deeper in the ground than their other wells. They use easily found objects- pieces of flip flop for example 🙂 . They dig with a long weighted metal tube with a drill bit on the end pumped up and down by hand. Four men pull on the rope coming away from the pulley, and two stand working the pole. Both positions require strength and endurance. The water comes up the pipe as they pump and hits the corrugate metal you can see standing up behind the men in the first picture. This particular well is next to a school, seen in the background.

Below you can see Dave Reeves and his son, Elijah, pumping. People hall the water to the barrels from far away because it’s needed for various parts of the process.

This shows the water coming out of the pipe. Maddie Kennell is pumping in this photo; each kid took a turn. The man with his back to the viewer is throwing water on Dave and Maddie’s hands every 3-4 pumps because the mud gets slippery.

The men rotate pulling so the work can continue. I tried this part, which made me tired after about 2 minutes.

Aidan Miller found a very colorful cricket type bug. I don’t know if you can see the red on it’s face and legs.

It was a very fun and informative day. I have a lot of respect for the men who stay out laboring in the hot sun every day.

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Easter, etc.

School is winding down and it’s exciting for the kids and myself to be so close to the end of curriculum and all we’ve worked for this year. I’m enjoying having more flexibility. One thing we’ve done with the extra time is extend read-aloud time. I enjoy the reading itself and the antics of my girls as we sit on our not too clean futon to read. They do my hair or each other’s, or, like this Saturday, arrange all 6 legs into an impressive pretzel. I told them “you can only be a pretzel if you can be a quiet pretzel.” Being the exemplary students that they are, they CAN be a quiet/attentive pretzel. We’ve been reading extra from the Anne of Green Gables series (we just started House of Dreams, for the Anne aficionados out there). These books have been very significant to me and reading them with my students is kind of the fulfillment of a small dream. I hadn’t read them until college, when I started them with my mom during a break. That quality time post-childhood with her is precious to me. I finished up the last few books on my own during my internship in Papua New Guinea. That was a formative experience, so having Anne along was very memorable. There are life lessons and random delights in those books, and her ability to beautify the simple things in life brings out a similar sentimentality in myself.

Another thing we have done with extra class time is labeling the 50 States on a large dry erase map provided by the Sonlight curriculum. I told the girls that if any of them could beat my record I’d bake them a whole batch of cookies of their own. Abby Miller caught up to my time quicker than I expected. I stopped doing it after I’d reached 1 min. 14 seconds because I figured that was fast enough and I really did want one of them to beat my record. Last Friday, Abby surged ahead with the time of 1:07. I will be baking ginger bread cookies in easter shapes. I’m very proud 🙂 .

My class isn’t the only one with extra time. Last Saturday afternoon, the entire school watched the 2006 Spring Sing on DVD, at Jacque’s request. She was  missing being at Harding for Spring Sing this weekend, which was always a huge part of her life there. I think the kids enjoyed it, but not as much as Sarah, Jacque and I did, pointing out old friends and reminiscing together.

Of course this was also Easter weekend. Saturday night, Sarah and I slept on the roof. Jacque was at the Kennell’s for the weekend, and our power was out. Without AC or a ceiling fan, the outside air is MUCH preferable to our bedroom. I actually wanted to do that before leaving, so that’s one item checked off the “bucket list” as we’ve come to call the list of things we want to do before leaving Africa. My family always attended a sunrise service on Easter morning, so waking up to the sunrise sufficed, kind of.

Easter morning, I joined a few of the missionaries in attending the annual all church retreat of the Christians in Kabiye land. Afterwards, we were served rice with yellow spicy-fishy sauce and I gave away some easter candy (supplied by my mom-thanks for the package!) to the African kids present. I figure sugar transcends language and cultural barriers, right? Later the team had an potluck, an Easter program by the kids, team pictures, and an Easter-egg hunt. Except for a pretty bad headache towards the end, my Easter was great! I listened to a sermon by John Piper to wrap up the day focusing on Jesus, the reason for celebrating that day and every day. The reason I have true life, freedom, and hope. My complete fulfillment and complete joy.

p.s. Since writing the above, we’ve had another day of school. During recess the kids played at being in America. It cracked me up… Hannah Reeves: “Ok, guys, I’m going to McDonalds. Do you want my to pick anything up for you?” “No thanks, I’m going to Baskin Robins.” Etc. Hahaha! You know you’re in Africa when…

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