Jody and Sarah Fox - this phase of our Journey as IMB missionaries in Niger, West Africa

Saturday, August 27, 2011

African Names and Happy Birthday!

Well, I've never understood this before, but apparently it's just the normal thing. I'm talking about receiving an African name. Why in the world can't we just be called by our American names - Jody, Sarah, Camryn, Jordan and Lauren? Up to 2 days ago we have introduced our children by their real names and we have been getting some confused looks and people repeat their names, but they don't sound quite right. But 2 days ago I was visiting with some African women and I told them the names of my girls. She repeated them slowly and then said 'ga sandi', which means they are difficult. That's when it hit me. What's familiar and easy to me is foreign and difficult to them and vice versa. The past month as I've been meeting people I'm always thinking how difficult their names are and that I'm never going to be able to learn them. Names such as Mounkaila, Hawa, Daouda, Khadijah, Rashida, Farita, Hamsatou, Sumana, etc. And those are just the names I could understand well enough to attempt to spell them out. Other names are like 4 syllables and completely unintelligible to my English ears. Occasionally I would meet a Layla or an Anna and I'd think, ok, I can remember this one.

So even though the names I'm used to seem so much simpler - Luke, John, Susan, Amy - they're not easy for Nigeriens. If we want people to be able to understand our names and remember them, it's best to have names they are used to. So this same lady who said my kid's names were difficult took it upon herself to give my children African names. I hadn't planned on giving them new names, but it just makes sense. So, I now introduce you to....

Hilema
(aka Camryn)

Cherifa
(aka Jordan) This sounds like a little diva name, but what can I say, it fits Jordan!

Nana

(aka Lauren) The a's sound like the o in otter.

In case you were wondering, Jody and I also have African names. Someone gave Jody the name "Gado" which means 'one who comes after twins'. Of course this doesn't make sense because Jody is the firstborn, but I think they chose it because it sounds similar to 'Jody'. Then someone who Jody was talking to gave me the name "Khadi" which I was ok with until I found out that it was one of Muhammad's wives...so I decided to switch to 'Saharatu' which is how Sarah translates into Zarma. It's not a super popular name here, but they understand it and I did meet a little girl with the name. I prefer to be associated with Abraham's wife than Muhammad's! J

Also, today is Lauren’s 2nd birthday! We went to the zoo to celebrate and then had some birthday cake and opened presents at night. She’s been practicing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song since Jordan’s birthday last month, so she was prepared! She loved having a special day just for her and loved getting some new toys to play with.

At the Zoo


In front of the lions...don't stick your hands in girls!

Cute little baby hippo!

Lauren lookin proud of her cake!

Lauren playing her new drum!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Awesome Playground

We just wanted to show you all some pictures of where we're living. I decided to start with the playground! For these first few months we are living in the capital city, Niamey. We are staying at the Baptist Mission Guesthouse. This is a gated compound that has several guesthouses as well as an office building and missionary lounge and meeting area. Basically it's the hub for all the IMB missionaries in Niger. Those missionaries who live hours away from the capital will come here to stay for a few days if they need to do shopping, other business, or just take a break and have some consistent electricity! Living here has been great because we are able to meet many people who we wouldn't normally come in contact with - missionaries from the IMB and other agencies as well as volunteer teams who stay here.
The compound here is very nice and there is an amazing playground right outside our front door! There is also a basketball/tennis court where the girls like to play with balls, 'play' tennis, have races around the court, and play with the giant parachute. Here are some pics of the girls enjoying the playground:This is what the girls call 'the tower'. Have you seen the movie Tangled? They love that movie and so this is where we always play Rapunzel. Whoever is Rapunzel lets their hair down by the ladder where the evil stepmother (Sarah) climbs up into the tower.

This is the gigantic swing set! In the background is the basketball/tennis court.

Good old teeter totter!

The tire swing - they scream like girls on this thing!!

The trampoline. Now whoever came up with this idea is a genius - the trampoline is not only enclosed with a net, but it's also in the ground! We don't have to worry about them falling off or always be there to help them on and off. They love performing ballet shows and doing tricks on the trampoline!
Aren't they too cute?

Picnic area (aka mommy or daddy rest area)

There's even a play area for the littlest kiddos. I've never seen my girls play on this, but they had to get a picture with every piece of playground equipment!

The little swing set

Lauren loves to swing!

As you can see, there's a lot to do here! We really are blessed to have this playground, especially considering that other than this one there are only 3 other playgrounds in all of Niamey -- 2 of which cost admission to go to, and the 3rd is at the Christian school, so it's not always open to go to. The girls are having lots of fun and we're enjoying being here at the guest house!




Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Our New Normal

We’ve been compiling a list of things that may seem strange to some people, but for us, it’s our new normal. These aren’t just things we’ve heard about, but they’re so common that we’ve already experienced all of these things in only a month's time. You may have seen or experienced some of these things in America, but it would be out of the ordinary, but this is normal here and no one even looks or thinks twice about these things, except for us, but we’re getting used to them…

Driving

· Being cut off by sheep, goats, or cows crossing the road

· Rules, what rules? Just don’t hit anyone, oh wait, there is one rule… you must use your turn signal.

· We came across an accident the other day in the road. They had put out a road flare 10 feet behind the vehicle, and by road flare I mean a big rock.

· Round-abouts are common (just like you would find in France) except there are different rules for each one. Good luck remembering which rules apply to which round-about.

· Babies riding on motorcycles. Other things we’ve seen on motorcycles: huge tv, 20 ft. ladder, dad with three kids, two men on one motorcycle – each with a live sheep in their lap. We just can’t make this stuff up!

· Driving in general is pretty crazy. You’ve got two lanes (you aren’t required to stay in your lane, it’s really just a reference to width) and there are all sorts of different travelers sharing those lanes – pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, donkey carts, cars, majorly overloaded vans, camels, donkey carts with long poles sticking out into ‘your’ lane, goats, sheep, cows, donkey carts being driven by kids, etc. etc. etc. It’s so crazy because you’re sharing the road with things of different speeds, so everyone is constantly passing someone and then you throw in the swerving to avoid potholes…You have to be constantly aware of everything which makes driving stressful to some (Sarah) and exciting to others (Jody). Think: real life frogger.

Food

· Cooking with a gas stove and yes the propane tank is inside (not sure this would pass fire code in America). At least when the power goes out you can still cook.

· Kitchen is unbearably hot when you cook

· Finding bugs (sometimes living) in your dry food (rice, flour, etc.)

· Have to bleach all fruits and veggies before you can eat them

· Not being able to read most food labels, including cooking instructions. I even bought a bag of French fries only to discover after baking them in the oven that they were actually beans!

· Hot dogs in a can

· Powdered milk – Lauren didn’t fuss about it at all, but the other girls still won’t drink it at all.

· Constant use of ice cubes…drinks don’t stay cold for long!

House

· Power outages frequently (where we are living now there’s a generator so they typically only last 10 seconds). This is so normal for the girls that they made a game to go with it…whenever the power goes out they stop whatever they’re doing and pretend to be sleeping (fake snoring and all) until the lights come back on

· Brushing our teeth with filtered water (can’t use the tap water to rinse, however, Jody forgets sometimes, he’s going to get sick).

· Cockroaches, do I need to say any more?

Out and About

· Lizards running everyone around our house – sidewalk, trees, up the side of the building. The girls love seeing them and they’re really no problem, except for the one that got into our house. There are a few different kinds we see and even tiny baby lizards can be seen everywhere.

· Sand everywhere…this is the desert after all

· Getting used to the metric system…I should have paid more attention in 5th grade!

· Not being able to communicate with anyone…hopefully this won’t be normal for too much longer, but it is for now.

Church

· Never sitting together as a family again. Guys sit on one side and women on the other

· Hearing roosters crow during service

There’s nothing like living in Africa! What an adventure!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Language Learning

Well we have been in Niger for almost 4 weeks now. We appreciate the prayers many of you have sent out for us. We can use all the prayers we can get. We have been in language class for the last 3 weeks. The language we are learning is called Zarma. Out of all the languages here, Zarma is the easiest to learn. We are very grateful for that. Each week Monday through Thursday from 1:00 to 4:00 we are in language class with a teacher. I (Jody) spend my mornings trying to go out and talk with people using the things I have learned from the day before. This proves very interesting, but always very fun. The people I approach usually love trying to talk to me and I appreciate the chance to practice. For the past two Saturdays, Sarah, I and the girls drove out to our village (Boubon) to walk around, explore, and talk to people. We wanted more chances to try to use the Zarma language. We spoke to several people near our house and it seemed to go very well. My ususal approach is to approach someone and greet them, by saying “Mate Ni Go?” (matay knee go). This means “how are you?” I then try to greet them with many other little greetings which seem customary. I finally have a bunch of questions and statements I have either memorized or written down which I attempt to use. Sometimes it goes well, other times they look at me with this puzzled expression on their face. Please pray for us as we continue to study the language. We spend a majority of our time studying the language. This is our main job at the moment and we pray we know enough Zarma to move into our village by November 1st.

As some of you may know, Jordan had a run in with a ceiling fan this past week. She was up on the top bunk of her bunk bed and the ceiling fan whacked her in the head. The result was a little gory, so if you do not like blood you may want to skip down a few sentences J. The fans here are like weapons - 3 pieces of metal flinging themselves around in the area. When Jordan was struck it opened up a gash in her head about an inch long and pretty gaping. It was also really deep and pretty wide. We were in language class when it occurred and the girls were with the babysitter. The babysitter came and got us and we took her immediately to the medical center, where Jordan received 3 stitches in her forehead above her right eye. This is pretty much the first major accident we have had with our girls in 5 years of having kids. In looking at these fans, we are grateful to God that the result was only 3 little stitches. A little lower and Jordan could have easily lost an eye. Our God is good and is always watching over us. We are grateful for His provision and protection.

Please continue to pray for us and the people of Boubon - that God would ready their hearts for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am including at the end of this blog some pictures of our village.

The white domed roofs in the distance of this picture is our house in Boubon. We move their around November 1st.

If you were to walk out of the gate of our compound. This is the first thing you would see. The sticks in the ground are where they bring the cows for market day on Wednesday. Yes, the cows are right out our front gate every Wednesday.

This is a picture of the market in Boubon on Wednesday (Alarba).