Monday, December 28, 2009

Get Me to the Church on Time!

Bayo and I were married 13 years ago today. I was an hour late to our wedding due to circumstances beyond my control. Hmmm, I 've never put it that way before. It's completely true, but now having lived in Nigeria for 14+ years, I certainly wouldn't make the mistake of only having Plan A as I did on that day.

Here's the scoop: Bayo had made arrangements with a friend of his to pick me up from my house at 10 a.m. and get me to the church in time for our 11 a.m. wedding. Well, it was the 4th Saturday of the month and there was enforced city-wide sanitation from 7-10 a.m. This means "Stay home and clean your compound. No driving allowed." Ok, we knew that so we figured the driver would leave his house about 10 and pick me up about 10:10 and get me to the church by 10:25 or so. No problem.

Well, what we didn't count on was that the driver had not prepared the car beforehand. You can't carry a bride to the church in an undecorated car! So at 10 a.m. he went out to the market to buy ribbon and tape, etc. so he could decorate the car.

Meanwhile, my bridesmaids and I had left my house and were standing out in the driveway of my compound looking for the driver.(I didn't have a car at the time and didn't drive in Nigeria.) Thankfully a friend happened to drive through our compound "just in case we needed anything." Yes--get me to the church in time!

Finally we arrived at the church compound. Then we all had to quickly get dressed and get our hair done. At the stroke of noon, I walked down the aisle. Of course, Bayo was in a panic over what had happened to me. All the guests came on time to our wedding since it was a bature (white person) getting married, and we are known for keeping to time--ha!

But I guess that was just part of my immersion into the culture as I joined the vast majority of tardy Nigerian brides!

Born on Christmas Day

Yesterday at church the pastor asked for anyone with a December 25th birthday to stand up. Five people stood up. Then he asked their names. The three men were: Emmanuel, Christian, and Josiah. The two women were: Emmanuella and Christiana.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's Time to Rest

Everything is breaking down around here:
  • The quilt machine went down on Saturday while we were trying to get a few final orders done for the U.S. I hope it's just a blown fuse or two.
  • The generator also gave out the same day.
  • Internet went down Mon, Tues, Wed.
  • And our family all has colds of one degree or another.
I think the message is clear: it's time to rest our machines and our bodies!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

An Eventful Saturday: Part II

After the orphan Christmas party, I rushed home, changed into wedding attire and got to the reception venue about 3 p.m. The wedding had probably started at 11 a.m., and the reception hadn't even started by the time I got there. When the bride and groom made their grand entrance, I couldn't even get close enough to get a good picture. We'll just have to settle for a shot of some of the 10 bridesmaids and 8 groomsmen.

There was a live band playing really good Nigerian dance music. Lots of 'talking drums' too. Sorry, no photo of that this time. Have I ever mentioned that ALL Nigerians are really good dancers? They dance with confidence as these fluid moves flow out of their bodies. I've come to the conclusion that they acquire their rhythm by the time they're 3 years old; hence, it's impossible for someone like me to ever catch up.

The reception hall was packed. Lily and I had some great seats against the wall so we could really see everything that was going on. (Bayo was taking care of some ministry details and the boys were in the pool.)

The 'satellite dish' headtie is ever-popular at events such as this. I was even wearing a red one myself. I'll have to get a picture the next time.

And Lily's friend was the "little bride."  Lily thoroughly enjoyed everything about the reception.  She soaked in every detail.

An Eventful Saturday: Part I

Today Mashiah Foundation hosted its annual Christmas Party for orphans and vulnerable children. Over 200 children were in attendance. Here's a shot of a few of them.

Ameh, the director of Mashiah Foundation's OVC (Orphans & Vulnerable Children) Program, is arranging the gifts of clothing/fabric.

A local chief helped with the presentation of the gifts of fabric.

This girl appears to be quite pleased with her gift.

Another very pleased girl!

We had plenty of rice to 'chop' (eat).

What's a party without a soccer game?

After a brief stint on the soccer field, Ameh was back to the sidelines.

It was a memorable day for all involved. Now the orphans will feel like they have been able to celebrate Christmas this year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Women Married 10+ Years Know

During this holiday season our Women of Hope quilt and sewing shop sees more male customers than usual.

One man ordered about $40 worth of 12" x 12" squares of all kinds of fabric for his wife's birthday. She's a quilter who keeps her work handy and hand-stitches her quilt blocks wherever she is. When he ordered the squares, I thought, "What an observant husband he is to give her such a perfect gift!"

Another husband ordered a cushion that will keep his wife more comfortable when she's working on her computer in bed. What an observant, thoughtful husband!

And yet another husband said to me, "You know that quilt you made for those people who left a couple years ago? I want you to make me one just like it. My wife loved that quilt. Now, not a word to my wife."

As I complimented these men on their keen powers of observation, they each revealed that...well, their wives had made some pretty direct hints about what they would like. But I do have to give them credit for actually remembering and following through on those not-so-subtle hints.

I can't even remember ever playing the hinting game in our marriage. I prefer the direct approach. Three years ago a friend was selling her gorgeous set of Winterberry Christmas dishes. I said to Bayo, "Honey, what would you think if I bought this set of dishes and called it my 10th anniversary present?"

"Sure, go ahead."

Maybe it's not romantic, but it sure is practical.

Come to think of it, that anniversary gift served for our 11th and 12th anniversaries as well. I'm still pretty tickled with those dishes so I think they can cover for our 13th anniversary in a couple of weeks. That sure was a great gift, Bayo!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Tonight I asked Tobi to select a book for me to read to all of them. I gave him three choices:
* A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (children's version retold by Anne de Graaf)
* The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
* Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Well, he chose none of them. He got out three other Dickens books and said, "How about Oliver Twist or David Copperfield or Nicholas come all of these books are so sad?"

Ok, so I made an executive decision. "Let's read, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." (See sidebar.)

Well, they didn't think they'd like it, but they were rolling off the couch and emitting deep belly laughs by the time I had finished the first chapter. In a nutshell, the story is about six straggly rag-a-muffin siblings who bully their whole school. They start coming to church because they heard about all the refreshments there. Then they bully their way into getting the six main parts in the annual Christmas pageant. They end up bringing a fresh perspective to the 'greatest story ever told' as they hear about it for the first time.

We read for so long that we got hungry. So we got out a snack, and I resumed reading, but that didn't go so well. We just about had a couple of choking attacks and milk-through-the-nose episodes. We stopped eating and returned to the living room. During one paragraph where I couldn't even get the words out because of laughter, Bayo came out of his office (where he was working diligently on his end-of-term paper) and said, "You people are making too much noise!"

I rejoined, "Sit down and enjoy the story with us." And he did.

An hour past bedtime, I closed the book and said, "We'll finish the last two chapters tomorrow. The kids disappointedly shuffled off to bed. I read this book to them about 3 years ago, but I think they were too young to appreciate it. This time my 6 & 9 year-olds really got the humor. And my 4 year-old would chime in with belly laughs half a second after the older two.

I have a feeling they'll ask me to finish the last two chapters at breakfast, but that could be dangerous.

It looks like this book will become standard December reading in our household.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feliz Navidad!

Lily, David and I ran a few errands this morning. While we were shopping in a Lebanese-owned grocery store, we heard "Feliz Navidad" on the piped-in music system. That struck me as funny: I'm an American living in Nigeria, shopping at a Lebanese store, listening to a song with Spanish in it. Lily & David had never heard the song, and before I knew it, David was dancing in the aisle! I guess it does have a catchy beat. For the rest of the day, I've heard Lily singing it around the house.

The next song on the playlist was "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." The only 'white' Christmas we'll get around here is a blanketing of harmattan dust which will cover every possible surface.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Another Reason Why I Love Living in Nigeria (#2)

Fresh, real peanut butter.
Ingredients: peanuts, nothing else.
Made: in the last couple of days.
Cost: $6.67

Peanuts, which are called "ground nuts" here, are grown in abundance in our state: Plateau State.

I bought this peanut butter at a little market that caters to international customers. I've never known a Nigerian to have a large supply of peanut butter in their home like this, or to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Nigerians often buy a small amount of peanut butter which has been ground up with some hot pepper. Then they dip a raw, bland vegetable called a garden egg or yallo in the peanut butter for a tasty, satisfying snack.

Nigerians eat peanuts for a snack. They also put some of their peanut butter in one of their soups (very tasty!). But probably their greatest use of the peanut is for ground nut oil. Oil is used in nearly every type of cooking here.

Weddings, Continued

The other night Bayo was stretched out on the couch when he suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, I forgot to go to a wedding last Saturday!" I didn't even have that one on my radar. Then he continued, "I have a wedding that I MUST go to this Saturday." We don't know the couple, but we are very close friends with the brother of the bride.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mom, How Come Sundays are Always Sunny?

Just thought I'd share how the kids and I spent last Sunday afternoon.

What's this I'm hearing about a snowstorm in the U.S.?

Alright, to tell you the truth, the water was actually pretty cold, but the sun sure was warm. Middle of the day temps reach 80-90 degrees F. Nightime temps dip down to 55-60.

I sure didn't mind a deserted pool all to ourselves.

Oh, and David, every day is sunny during dry season.

Friday, December 4, 2009

'Tis the Get Married

Today I was chatting with one of my colleagues about the blitz of wedding invitations that arrive every December.

"So Sarah, how many wedding invitations do you have for December?"

"Let me see...I have two on the 12th, two on the 19th, and one on the far."

"Well, I only have four: three on the 19th and one on the 26th." Then I joked, "Who are we to talk--we both got married in December!"

The main wedding season in Nigeria is during the dry season--simply because it's just a lot easier to plan a wedding when you know you can count on the weather being decent. So, the invitations start rolling in October through April.

It's funny, in the first 18 years of my life I can only remember going to two weddings. Now, not a month passes without at least one invitation. Why is that? Well, we're living in a metropolis of over one million people; we know a lot of people; but perhaps the biggest reason is simply that weddings here are huge social events involving many people who may not even know the couple.

Of the four invitations we have for December, I only vaguely know one of the grooms and none of the brides. How's that? For three of the couples, I'm closely connected to one of their relatives. This is standard protocol: you go to the wedding to show support for your friend as well as their extended family. It doesn't matter how many invitations are issued. There is no such thing as an RSVP or a limited number of place settings. By the way, 'RSVP' and a phone number appear on every invitation, but it doesn't mean RSVP. What I can gather is that you can contact this person if you have any questions; alternatively it could be the name of a prominent person who will be at the wedding. Or, as Nigerian jokers like to suggest: it stands for Rice and Stew Very Plenty--which is true.

When I was getting married, my Nigerian maid-of-honor came to my house and said, "Give me one of your invitations. I'm going to give it to my aunt." I thought that was strange since I didn't know the aunt, but now I know it to be a very normal thing.

Sometimes I get confused when I go to the U.S. One summer when I was driving around Iowa visiting churches, I heard about two weddings which were taking place in two families that I'm close to. In my mind I started trying to figure out how I could work the weddings into my itinerary. About a week later, I suddenly realized: I'm not invited--and that means something in the U.S.! In Nigeria, anyone can go to any wedding without receiving an invitation.

I don't go to every wedding I receive an invitation for, but I'll try to make it to a few this December in order to show support for my colleagues. I know my boys won't join me, but Lily never passes up a chance to go to a wedding.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Balancing Act

So much to do--and I love doing it all! The past two days, I have done nothing but hands-on sewing instruction with the the detriment of my other work. But we have a lot of orders to concentrate on, and we want to make sure that we don't disappoint our customers.

I enjoy getting the women to reason with me through the sewing process.
  • If we cut the curtains this way, then the leaves will be going sideways. But if we cut it the other way, the curtains will not be wide enough. How can we fix this?
  • Can you figure out how we're going to sew these angel blocks together? (Diagonal rows--she got it!)
  • What size are we going to cut the border pieces in order to get the pillow to be 14" square?
I really love getting absorbed in the creative world of's just that the other demands of ministry are putting on heavy pressure these days.
  • Write a report on November activities.
  • Prepare a budget for 2010.
  • Work on strategic planning for 2010.
  • Update the website.
  • Proofread this document.
  • Etc.
I don't mind doing these things. They are all good and very necessary. It's just that I struggle with how to divide myself and get it all done.

There are 12 of us who work in the sewing program. Everyone has their own job description and their own specialty. They all help to carry the load. It's just that there are some things that take more of my time and effort--especially when it comes to new projects.

I make it a point never to say: If I want it done right, I'll just have to do it myself.
But, it is true that if I want it done right, I will need to give step-by-step instruction and guidance so that the next time they can do it by themselves. This takes T-I-M-E.

But here's what it looks like in the end:
On Monday at 4 p.m. we gave one of our top quilters fabric and about 3 minutes of instruction on a queen-sized quilt. Today, Wednesday, the top was finished, and she loaded it on the quilt machine and quilted it herself. On Thursday morning, she will submit it to quality control. I can tell you right now: it won't have a flaw. This is the result of instruction and guidance in the beginning stages. (Isn't this where we hope to get as parents?!)

As a side note, about six months ago we gave the above quilter a loan so she could have abdominal surgery. Without this progam, she had no other way to get that amount of money. Today she paid off the balance of her loan in cash. Whenever we have given someone a loan in the past, they have worked it off. This is the first time I have ever seen someone pay off their loan in cash.

And so, the balancing act will continue, but I've come to realize: that's just part of life!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crazy Thursday

I keep seeing these adds on the internet for "Black Friday" sales in the U.S. What did I see today? One store is opening at 5 a.m.! When I left the U.S. 14 years ago, the day after Thanksgiving was already a big shopping day, but I get the feeling that it's way out of control now, even earning a distinctive name in recent years.  Anyway, I had my own shopping experience today, and the best thing to call it is "Crazy Thursday."

As an aside, Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Nigeria. But this year the Muslim Sallah has fallen on Thursday and Friday so we actually have a 4-day weekend, just like many of our American friends. Last year we also happened to get Thanksgiving Day off because of a local election, but then the next day chaos reigned as riots erupted throughout our city.

Back to the story...I've been running out of everything lately: toilet paper, dish soap, flour, sugar, etc. It was obviously time to take a trip to the bulk foods section of the market. In fact, the last time I was there was in May before I traveled to the US. I bought 96 rolls of toilet paper then, and we just ran out now.  A couple months ago I tried to get into the market, but the traffic was just too heavy. Because of that, I was trying to be very strategic in planning my next attempt to the bulk foods market. I really figured that an early morning run on a public holiday would be a great time to go. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Huge tractor trailers full of 50 kilo bags of flour, rice, sugar, or boxes of soap completely blocked off the road, while their goods were off-loaded onto the heads of strong young men. The men have this running-walk that they use when carrying such heavy loads. Just stay out of their way when they're coming through.

I saw a couple of tempers flare up throughout the busy market area, probably similar to some altercations which will occur during the U.S. "Black Friday."

There was a great deal of hustling and bustling. Things seem to move faster in this market than in any other market in Jos. Anyone who sells retail food provisions throughout Jos buys from this market. It wasn't the holiday that made it busy; it's just this way every day. Actually I'm sure Sundays would be a bit slower, but the market would still be open.

My neighbor went with me so I could introduce her to this side of town and this type of buying. We both had pretty extensive lists. We went to one shop, about 10 feet wide by 20 feet long, and told the shopkeeper what we wanted to buy. Then he went around getting everything for us. If he didn't have it in his shop, then he would get it from his neighbors. It took quite awhile because other customers were constantly coming in and interrupting our transactions.

Finally, we had everything we wanted in a huge pile outside the shop's entrance. I hired a young man to put the load in his 'truck' which is a cart that can hold about 3 times as much as a wheelbarrow. He headed down the street towards our vehicle with the load. My neighbor, Lily and I took another route along the frontage of the shops. When we saw our car, we were surprised that the 'truck' hadn't yet arrived. I went back to search and found that they were stuck in the middle of a huge traffic jam. There was really nothing to do but wait for the jam to somehow sort itself out. I have never seen that place so congested before.

So much for my proposed peaceful outing to the market! But at least with all of the shopping I did today, another trip shouldn't be necessary until February!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Albinos in East Africa

A few months ago I wrote about albinos in Nigeria  in this blog post.

Tonight I read a story about albinos in East Africa which has turned my stomach. I pray that this horrific idea doesn't travel to the other side of the continent.  Click here for the story.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Adoption Grant

The Foundation for Hope and Grace is offering grants of $1000 to adoptive families to help defray the costs of adopting.

The family behind this foundation has adopted three daughters from Romania. Tragically, one of their daughters was killed in a car/horse carriage accident in 2008. The family has come to Nigeria on a missions trip.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Today I had the unique opportunity of decorating the Hillcrest chapel for both Thanksgiving and Advent! We start celebrating Advent a little early because the chapel will not be in session for the 4th Sunday in Advent.

The woven shiny white/silver/maroon fabric is called aso oke (pronounced ASHO-kay). Aso oke is produced by the Yoruba tribe. My neighbor graciously allowed me to cut some blossoms from her poinsettia tree in her front yard.

For the mantle of the fireplace, I went with a harvest/autumn theme for Thanksgiving. I purchased the leaf fabric in Nigeria a few years ago and made an autumn tablecloth for our home. I made the leaf quilt a number of years ago from Nigerian tie-dye and batik fabrics.

I purchased the vegetables in the market on Saturday. The two pumpkins will be turned into pie before the end of the week. My mom gave me the autumn leaves a few years ago. This is the first time I have used them. I usually forget to bring out any decorations for Thanksgiving.

Although I plan to do my Christmas decorating next weekend, I decided that I would enjoy even a week of autumn decorations in our home.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Korean Princess

Last weekend we participated in the International Food Fair. Since there was only one Korean family here this year, a friend suggested that a few of us join the Korean family to help them out with the food booth. We all made various donations, got together to cook, and then manned the booth, completely decked out in Korean attire.

Lily was thrilled about the prospect of wearing a Korean costume, even though she had no idea what it would look like. When I brought home the costume, she was not disappointed.

Although there was delicious food from more than eight regions of the world, my kids dined almost exclusively on cotton candy from the North American booth!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Open Hearts, Open Home (Part II)

Whenever I see the Naatz family, I can expect to see a little Nigerian baby in the midst of them. In fact, that’s how I first met Lily four years ago. They had the honor of naming Lily and taking care of her for most of her first nine months.

Rick and Brenda Naatz have five children of their own; four are now back in the U.S. going to college and settling into their independent adult lives. Now their last-born is a junior. And as usual, they have a little Nigerian baby that they are fostering. And then recently some missionaries went on furlough and asked the Naatz family to care for their 10-year-old Nigerian foster son until they can be reunited. All of this is pretty typical for the Naatz family.

Well, then Brenda had to quickly travel to the U.S. for three weeks to attend to her mother’s urgent health needs. What did Rick do with his three boys (ages 3 months, 10 years, and 17 years)? Did he farm them out to other families? I doubt that the thought even crossed his mind. He appeared to take it all in stride--night feedings, diaper changes, and all.

During the few times that our paths have crossed, Rick and his 17-year-old son appeared to have everything under control.

By the way, Rick and Brenda are missionaries in Jos. Rick works as a clinical laboratory technologist and also teaches at the international school. Brenda works in their mission’s office as travel coordinator and takes care of her family as well as the extras that they always welcome.

Hats off to the Naatz family for their open hearts and open home.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Eventful Day

Today was an eventful day, ranging from Bayo meeting the First Lady of Nigeria to David breaking his arm.

I was fully engaged in giving an extensive tour of the ministry and providing lunch to 8 visitors from the US--until I got a call from David's school.

I met a missionary doctor in the hospital, and she greatly streamlined the process of getting David's x-rays. Amazingly, we were out of the hospital within an hour. Under other circumstances, we could have been there for hours. Cost so far: $17.

Thankfully David's break is quite minor, and the bone does not need to be set. We don't know yet if he will get a cast; for now he's in a sling. He is amazingly chipper and hasn't even needed any pain medication.

David's experience brought back memories of when Tobi was 6 and broke his arm diving out of a treehouse window which was about 6 feet off the ground. In David's case, he was swinging on a 6 foot bar at the playground with one hand, lost his grip and landed on his elbow. So both of my boys broke their left arms while they were in kindergarten.

Let's just hope Lily doesn't follow in her brothers' footsteps!

The Story Continues

A few months ago, I searched Facebook for a college friend who lived across the hall from me freshman year. I'm sure Kristi and I haven't corresponded with each other since we graduated in 1991.

With her permission, I'm sharing part of what she wrote to me:

Hi Mary Beth,

I've been meaning to write you a message since you found me on Facebook. But yesterday clinched it for me that now is the time to get to it. I've been reading your blog these past few weeks... came to my mind yesterday when I was sitting in church. You see we have this gigantic quilt hanging in our sanctuary and they were talking about how it was stitched by these HIV+ women in Nigeria. Knowing your love of quilting/sewing and your work in Nigeria, I wanted to tell you about it. But before I started to write you this email, I started looking at some of your older blogs and what did I made this quilt!!!! I was in shock. Obviously you know what I'm talking about.....the He Qi painting. When it first arrived at our church a couple weeks ago, I looked at it up close to admire the stitching but then because of its size, had to step back quite a ways to admire the scene. Amazing work! I am so impressed.

And then I got this message from her on Monday:

I have another story about your quilt I thought you might like to hear.....God works in mysterious ways! Yesterday was to be the last Sunday it was hanging in our church, but it wasn't there. Earlier in the week, my choir director had told us about Kathy (a woman on staff at Calvary Lutheran in Golden Valley) who had just lost her niece -- a 20 year old college student who suffered an unexpected seizure. As they were preparing for her funeral (in Montevideo, MN), they had to move it to the school as the church was too small for the anticipated attendees. That pastor was looking for a way to make the venue not seem so much like a school, so began asking for a large banner....just anything that could be a big presence in the room. He was told about your quilt and was directed to Calvary in order to get it....little did he know, Kathy was on staff and could easily facilitate getting the quilt to her funeral.

But the story doesn't end there. Apparently, when the kids graduate from this school, they are presented with a quilt as a blessing to wrap around them and take with them to college. But for some reason, this girl never got her quilt.....until her funeral.....she got to have your quilt as a blessing for her going home.

For a previous blog post about the quilt, click here:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Family Mealtime

Thanks to my menu plan on the fridge, we had an enjoyable, tasty meal tonight. I haven't made Lil Cheddars for quite awhile, but when I looked through my recipe box, I remembered that they had been popular with the kids. I'm not really a fan of meatloaf, but my kids all really like it. This one is a little more exciting because it has cheese in it. I think our cheddar (imported from Europe) is pretty mild because I couldn't really taste it. Before we started our meal, David had his fork and knife in hand, and said, "I'm ready to attack!" I enjoy it when my kids enjoy my food.

I made the macaroni and cheese on Sunday night. I'm all out of Kraft mac and cheese packets, so I made it from scratch with cheddar cheese. The kids didn't really like it. Tobi said it was "too grainy." Well, I had so much left over, and I wasn't about to waste it, so I sprinkled Hormel Real Crumbled Bacon on top to give it some more zing. (That was the end of my last bag of bacon from Sam's Club--can't wait til Mom and Dad come and bring us some more!)

Just recently I realized that October/November is prime watermelon season. For a number of years, I completely stopped buying watermelons because I got so tired of getting pink or even white melons. I've been buying them steadily for a few weeks now and almost all have been a deep juicy red.

And to round out the meal, we had our full-cream powdered milk.

For the Record

For the record, it is 6:34 and pitch black outside. I guess I should call the kids in for dinner, huh?

And to think that the darkness is going to come progressively earlier for the next 6 weeks. The other day someone said to me, "I like to think of Dec. 21 as the first day of Spring because the days start getting longer from that point."

We are about 8-10 degrees north of the equator so our daylight hours only fluctuate about 1 hour at the beginning and end of each day as the seasons change.

Welcome, November

October is usually my favorite month. I just love autumn colors, scents, and temperatures so much--at least that's what I remember about the U.S. But this past October was just too busy. That became apparent to me when I looked at my meal schedule on my fridge at the end of October. Judging from that, it looks like my family didn't eat. Well, that's not true, but I sure was living just a day at a time, with no thought for planning ahead.

Even the beginning of November got away from me, but now I have the reins of my household firmly in hand, and I'm hoping this will be a more organized, deliberate month. Generally November is a nondescript month for me. We don't have any family birthdays. I know we have Thanksgiving, but since I've lived in Nigeria for so long, and it's not a holiday here, it just seems to get rolled into all the other days.

Today I planned out our menu for this week at least. I hope that will give a little more semblance to the week.

This November we actually have plans for every single weekend--which is something I usually try to avoid. I really enjoyed the ones that already happened, and I'm looking forward to the next three weekends.

1st weekend: family trip to Yankari with Minneapolis visitors

2nd weekend: mini-retreat at our house for 10 staff members I work with

3rd weekend: International Food Fair (we're going to be honorary Koreans this year!)

4th weekend: Craft Sale (usually a good day for our sewing program)

5th weekend: Thanksgiving dinner at our compound for people who are looking for a place to celebrate with others.

Each weekend deserves its own post--I'll see if the month of November allows for it!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Orphan Sunday

I have to confess: the emotions that came with motherhood 9 years ago took me by surprise. The love I felt for my first baby was different from the love I had for my parents and different from the love I had for my husband. Maybe it surprised me so much because I wasn't expecting it to be any different from my other significant relationships.

As a child, I never really played with dolls. I didn't dream of becoming a mother one day. I figured I would have kids one day--just because that's what most people do. But I also could have easily missed motherhood simply because I didn't think it was important to me.

I didn't realize I was entering a sacred profession that would forever change my life. Now, standing on the vista of 40, I wish I would have started younger and had more children. I can't imagine a bigger blessing in life. I love being a mom!

I have a friend who turned 35 today and also announced that she is pregnant with their 7th child. By the way, she and her husband also have 7 adopted Liberian children. Their oldest child is 13 years old. I'm so grateful that this family has provided a loving home for these children from a war-ravaged nation. At least one daughter has hepatitis and another accidentally drank lye as a small child, resulting in a severely scarred and constricted esophagus.

Thanks to a couple of my cousins, I learned that November is National Adoption Month in the U.S. and that today is Orphan Sunday in the U.S.

While looking for more info on the internet, I found this: "Before reaching the United States, the vision for Orphan Sunday was birthed in Africa, where there are more than 80 million orphans – 12 million of which lost their parents to AIDS, according to the United Nations. The U.N. Children’s Fund predicts that by 2010, half of the orphans in Africa will be orphaned because of AIDS." (Christian Post)

I discovered that the U.S. has honored National Adoption Month ever since 1990.

Now that Lily's adoption is actually in progress, I find myself wondering if there might be another adoption in store for our family. We'll pray and leave that in the Lord's hands.

There are millions of children around the world in need of a loving home. Do you have room for more?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One Reason Why I Love Living in Nigeria


We fix things here! Cost of repair: $1.33.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Wow. I have major projects coming at me from about four different fronts right now, and all have deadlines looming. So much for a quiet evening with the family. I'm going to get to work now, and see if I can clear one project off of my list tonight--that would improve my outlook. Apologies to my family for Indomie noodles (ramen) and movies tonight.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Parade of Nations

We are very thankful that it didn't rain on Multi-Cultural Day!

David went as an astronaut and at 8 a.m. Tobi changed his mind and decided to be a baseball player instead of a soccer player. (This photo was taken later.) They both waved their flags representing their dual nationalities. More than a dozen countries were represented. And within Nigeria, many different tribes were represented.

The students had their program in the chapel/auditorium and then proceeded to the courts to watch the Tiv cultural dancers. The Tiv tribe is one of the 800+ tribes in Nigeria. Their dress is very distinctive. Anywhere you see this dress, you don't have to ask, you just know: these people are Tiv.

At noon each class had a multi-cultural lunch with foods representing their various countries. Those are our 'pigs in a blanket' in the front. It was a fun day of celebration for the students.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

'Tapering Off'

Well, it only rained for 3 hours this morning.

We'll see how things go tomorrow with the weather. At the boys' school we are celebrating Multi-Cultural Day. The kids will dress up in costumes that represent someone/something from their country. Later there will be some Nigerian Tiv cultural dancers on the outdoor basketball court. And then we'll have a huge multi-cultural lunch, once again outdoors. I hope it works!

Halloween is virtually unheard of in Nigeria--and I'm not about to introduce it. When I first came to Jos, the international school used to have a Costume Parade at the end of October. I think there was a loose connection to dressing up for Halloween, although I never heard that verbalized.

I like the Multi-Cultural idea. It moves it yet a step further away from Halloween. I just wish it had a catchier name. The other night we planned out the kids' costumes: David is going to be an astronaut--we already have a costume in the closet. Tobi will probably be a Nigerian soccer player--wearing a green/white shirt, of course.

I found some little American flags tucked away in one of my gift boxes. Later in the day, I drove to a place on the highway where I've seen little Nigerian flags for sale. The boys will be able to wave both flags representing their nationalities.

I'll be making a batch or two of 'pigs in a blanket' for their multi-cultural lunch.

We pray the rain holds off. But if not, I'm sure the principal has Plan B and C, and possibly D. Having back-up plans for back-up plans is generally our default mode around here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away!

This has been the most unusual October I've ever experienced in Nigeria. Generally we just have a couple tapering off rains in October, lasting maybe 15-30 minutes.

Well, this October we have had at least 6 major downpours, with various short sprinkles in between. Today's downpour lasted from 11:30 a.m. til 4:30 p.m. Tobi said he didn't have any math homework today because the rain was so loud on the tinroof that the teacher couldn't teach!

It was so dark inside my house at noon that I had to use my phone to see inside the freezer! (Of course, the electricity was off.)

As much as I like it that the vegetation is staying green for a longer period of time, these rains are really hurting our farmers who are right in the middle of harvesting a lot of their crops. I'm concerned that some food prices may go up in the near future, making life even more difficult. Many people already spend 80-90% of their income on food. Food prices have already been on the rise, and if they go higher, it will be hard for the vast majority of people here.

Interestingly enough, dry season produces an abundance of great vegetables. All of the dry season farming is done with irrigation.

I was thinking that this is the wettest October I have ever seen here, but sometimes I have a faulty memory. That was put to rest when I was chatting with someone who has lived in Nigeria for nearly 50 years. He said, "I've never seen anything like this in all my years here."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Justina spent the day at our house, sobbing and sleeping. She is exhausted what with just giving birth 6 days ago and then spending 2 days in the hospital with an infant hovering between life and death. As I held her in the morning, she kept saying things like, "Is this life?" She's walking through one of the most painful things a parent can experience.

In the evening I sat and reflected with the parents about what happened. Baby Joshua's death seemed preventable to me. I started asking more questions about her medical care at the hospital that she chose to attend. To my shock, I discovered that she never saw the same doctor twice during her prenatal appointments, delivery, and discharge. Yes, there was a written record that followed her, but there was no one who personally recognized her and knew her case.

The day before she delivered, she had shown me the lab result for her yellow eyes and dark urine. I saw numbers and acronyms, but none of it was familiar to me. I told her she would have to ask the doctor what it meant. Well, she unexpectedly delivered the next day. I asked her if she ever showed the doctor that lab result. She said when she went to the hospital in labor, she kept trying to show it to him, but he was very busy writing, writing and never looked at it. How I wish the parents had been more assertive and the doctor more attentive. There could have been a very important connection between the lab result and the baby's sickness.

Since the baby was born 4-6 weeks early, he should have been checked much more thoroughly before being discharged. If the jaundice had been detected at that point, he would probably be alive today.

I asked the husband if he ever went with his wife to her appointments. He told me he did go to some of them, but husbands had to stay in the waiting room. There are literally hundreds of women who come for their prenatal appointments every day--I guess it's kind of a classroom setting and men are not allowed inside. I urged them to register as a private patient next time--so they can see the doctor together and be sure that all of their questions get answered. They will need to pay a little more, but they should get more attention.

I even chide myself for not being more observant on the baby's second day of life. Why didn't I open up his clothes and take a good look at his body in the sunshine? Why didn't I press my thumb into his skin to check for yellow hues? Why didn't I ask more questions about his response to nursing?

When I took a good look at Justina's eyes today, I could still see some yellow. I'm going to ask them to go back to the hospital to follow up on her own health concerns. Through this very painful experience, I know the parents will be much more assertive when they seek future health care.

There are many, many excellent doctors in this hospital and throughout Nigeria. I think Justina and Baby Joshua just slipped between the cracks of an over-crowded system.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baby Joshua

Baby Joshua has gone to be with the Lord. Bayo has gone to help them bury the baby this morning. Please pray for these deeply grieving parents.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


We got word from Baby Joshua's father that he has improved a bit. For that we are grateful. The whole family slept at the hospital last night.

Diagnosis: jaundice. It sounds like the hospital is questioning why the baby was discharged last Wednesday since the baby was at least 4 weeks early--and jaundice is so prevalent among newborns who are born early.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Please pray for Baby Joshua

Please pray for Justina's baby--I'm calling him Baby Joshua because she said that is a name they are considering.

The parents rushed him to the hospital this afternoon. We arrived a couple hours later and discovered a very sick baby. He is extremely yellow and dehydrated. His symptoms seemed to have developed within less than 24 hours. When we saw him on Thursday, we only saw his face which was fair in color, but not actually yellow.

I've heard that jaundice is quite common in premature babies. In fact, Tobi even had slight jaundice when he was born 4 weeks early.

Justina noticed that she herself had very yellow eyes a few days before delivery. I'm wondering if there is any connection.

The baby is on admission at the hospital. We pray that he will recover from this threat to his system.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Welcome, Little One!

Today we went to greet Justina and her new baby boy. We thought he was going to be born in December, but he decided to come early! He is small, but still a decent size. I think the due date may have been a bit mixed up.

My kids couldn't wait to meet the new baby. They kept asking what his name is, and I kept shushing them because you don't ask that question during the first week. Justina finally told them a name they are thinking about, but they're not sure yet. Generally by the 8th day, babies have a name, but not always. Obviously we don't get birth certificates before the baby is discharged from the hospital!

For those of you who are wondering, the baby's parents are black, and he will be as dark as Lily is in her picture. Most babies here start out a bit light and get darker in the first couple of months.

Justina is a new mother, and I gave my standard piece of advice: Don't keep a lit charcoal pot in your room. She was interested to hear what I had to say because she had already had countless women tell her to bring a charcoal fire into the room to keep the baby warm. Mothers are generally overly cautious about temperature. Babies are bundled in numerous layers--anywhere from 3-6 layers--and then the windows and door are closed while a charcoal fire is lit in the room. I always tell new mothers that the charcoal fumes and lack of ventilation are harmful for the baby.

As we exited the two-room house, I noticed a neighbor preparing the charcoal pot. I'm one voice in the midst of a community of women who all do things the same way. Will this new mother have the inner strength to make up her own mind concerning her child?

Here's the cultural ramification: If she doesn't use a coal pot and her baby gets sick, everyone will blame the sickness on the fact that she didn't use a coal pot. If she does use a coal pot and the baby gets sick, no one will make any connection between the two because it's taken for granted that of course you use a coal pot when you have a new baby.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When Drugs Fail

In our Mashiah Foundation sewing program, 8 of our 12 staff members are HIV+. We have been very intentional about hiring HIV+ women. In general, their health has been quite stable, with just an occasional sickness now and then. All 8 are on anti-retroviral drugs which work to suppress the virus. Once a month, they each go to a major hospital in Jos to queue with hundreds of other HIV+ people for their next dose of drugs, compliments of the U.S. government PEPFAR program. (Our Mashiah Foundation clinic does not yet have anti-retroviral drugs, but we do provide free drugs for opportunistic infections.)

Larai had her appointment this week. When she came to work the next day, she was quite down as she shared that she was told that the drugs are no longer working in her body.

The nurse had two main questions for her: Are you using condoms? Are you taking your drugs correctly? Apparently they were concerned about a possible cross infection from a partner. Larai asserted that she has not met with any man since her husband died (around 2002). And she faithfully takes her drugs at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day.

Larai began taking the anti-retroviral drugs in 2004. In 2008, the hospital changed her drugs, but she doesn't know the reason why. And now she has received this news. There was really no alternative given. Perhaps she is already on the final line of drugs currently available here.
Larai was told to start taking a multi-vitamin. She has also resolved that she wants to try to eat better food.
Here she is (red/blue in the middle) singing her heart out.

The interesting thing is that Larai's body has given her no indication that the drugs are failing. She still feels fine as usual. I'm concerned that this news may give Larai a bit too much to think about, and she may even get sick just because she's expecting to get sick.

Larai is the mother of four children, ranging from about 8 to 15. Her passion in life is to raise her children. My passion is to equip her to do that.

We'll be giving Larai more sewing projects so she can earn more money to buy better food. And we'll work on keeping her 'hope quotient' up as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Basket Making

We were recently blessed to have a basketmaker visit Mashiah Foundation and train a few of our women on basketmaking. Jane has made numerous trips to Nigeria with her husband over the last 5 years. She had a little extra time on her hands this trip, so we searched for some basket materials, and she went to work.

It's quite difficult for us to get the cane materials here, but with a lot of perseverance, we were able to get a little bit. We're still trying to find someone who can supply us regularly.
Our women caught on to the techniques Jane was teaching. Now the key is to keep them practicing so they won't forget their new skills!

Here the women are attempting a 5-strand braid which they eventually figured out.

Jane even taught herself something new while she was here: weaving fabric into the baskets. I'm quite pleased with the results.

Jane struggled with the quality of cane we were able to find here--it was not up to the caliber of cane she orders from China. She said she toyed around with the idea of bringing some with her, but I told her I was glad she didn't. If the women had learned with the higher quality cane, they may have been easily frustrated with what is available here. I feel it is better to learn to work with local materials rather than be dependent on foreign supplies. This also helps our work to be more sustainable in the long-run.