Sunday, May 31, 2009
David, who has been counting down the days for about 2 months, actually said today, "Can we leave in 5 days instead of 2 days?" The reason is that he can't find a couple of the toys that he wants to use when playing with their Imaginext castle which is stored at Grandma & Grandpa's house. Since it was causing that much anxiety, I decided I would help him sift through his toys tonight. We found two more pieces; still have two to go.
Lily will not be traveling with us because we do not have all of the adoption paperwork and the subsequent passport. Try explaining that to a 3-year-old.
When Bayo was in Abuja, Lily heard me ask Bayo on the phone to go to the Embassy and pick up David's passport. She took the phone from me and said, "Daddy, get my passport in Abuja before you come to Jos." If only it were that easy.
I'm trying to do a few things that will make her time here a bit special. For example, she's starting pre-school in our home this week. The woman who was the assistant in David's preschool class works half-days in our home. So she will be teaching Lily this summer. Lily is thrilled to finally be starting school. We have the space all set up. I'm even having a school uniform sewn for Lily. That's a very big deal here--unnecessary in our case, but it makes it special for her.
Months ago we had seen the possibility that it would come to this. So we made arrangements for Bayo to travel to the U.S. in April/May. Now the boys and I will go and Bayo will stay behind with Lily. It's not ideal, but it's the best we can do considering the circumstances.
Will Lily ever be able to travel with us? Yes, I firmly believe she will. We are still trying to find our way through adoption paperwork, but I am certain that it will come to pass in due time. We appreciate your prayers for this situation.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Just the other day Tobi gave me his own anecdotal evidence of this theory. He said when his Nigerian friends fall down and get hurt on the playground, they just start laughing and then continue playing. He contrasted that with some other boys who fall down and really make a big fuss out of it.
When our American friend Emily who has grown up in Czech visited us, she was absolutely amazed at the general happiness of people whom she saw along the road on the four-hour drive from the airport to Jos.
Life is hard here, but people still find joy in living. Suicide is almost unheard of.
I think it's safe to say that most Nigerians have been cheated in one way or another, but instead of getting bitter and remaining angry for a long time, they let it go.
Nigerians are constantly joking with each other. The women I work with are always telling stories in the Hausa language, and then cracking up with each other. To me it seems that stories are always funnier in Hausa.
I love it when visitors come to Bezer Home expecting to see end-stage AIDS patients, but instead they are met by laughter pouring out of the upstairs rooms.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Everyone says he doesn't look it. And I guess having young children makes him seem young.
We just celebrated in a pretty low-key way. The day was completely jam-packed with various activities so there was no need to add any more excitement.
Every Monday our women meet for a time of fellowship. Today we said good-bye to Jeanette Wilkinson, fondly known as "Mommy Jeanette." For the past five years she has taken her day off from hostel parenting to teach our women various sewing skills. Jeanette and her husband will be returning to Australia next week. In the midst of our send-off party, Bayo walked in to say his own good-bye to Jeanette, and 80 women regaled him with a hearty rendition of "Happy Birthday!"
Later we went out to eat with some good friends. Bayo's birthday present to himself was a nap on the couch at 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Being albino in Africa is a little more obvious. It's hard to be a 'black' albino. Being albino has its own physical problems such as having extremely sensitive skin and poor eyesight. The albino males I have seen are almost always wearing a cap to protect their facial skin from the harsh sun rays. Many of them have skin problems on their arms and face due to over-exposure to the sun.
As a point of reference, Jos is about 10 degrees north of the equator so it's very easy to get a sunburn here. I really try to avoid the sun between 11 a.m. til 3 p.m. because I can burn in about 10 minutes. I'm fair-skinned, but I still have more protection than an albino.
I visited with two albinos in the last two days, and I was struck by their eye problems. The first albino would only make brief eye contact with me; she would not hold my gaze (well, that's cultural since she is younger than me). I noticed that her eyes did not track together; in fact the two eyes seemed to turn outward--just the opposite of cross-eyed. I saw the other albino reading a book with one eye about an inch off the page.
Surely some of these eye problems could be surgically corrected, but I'm sure it would be very expensive.
A few months ago my friend Ann (from Wisconsin) opened up my eyes to a way to minister to albinos. She put out a group email asking for donations of sunscreen for the albinos. Wow. I had never thought of that. What a great idea! Most of us have more tubes of sunscreen than we will ever use. We donated a few. Later Ann attended a meeting of the albino group (they have a name, but I can't remember it) and presented the sunscreen. They were so grateful! There is a little bit of sunscreen available here, but it's extremely expensive and most can't afford it.
Bayo asked me to keep a few tubes of sunscreen in my car and give it to the albino lady who lives on the road to Bezer Home. I kept my eyes open for a good month before I finally saw her fetching a bucket of water one day. I stopped the car and gave her the sunscreen. She said thank you and curtsied with a full bucket of water on her head.
This past week she traced me to Bezer Home. She wanted to know if I had a job for her so she could earn some money to further her education beyond high school. I told her I would keep her in mind if anything comes up.
Later I mentioned this interchange to Bayo, and he immediately responded, "Let's find something for her. These people are so marginalized." That's something I'm only vaguely aware of, but I would like to learn more about how life is difficult for albinos beyond the physical issues they face.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Just before we married in 1996, Bayo and I agreed on the two verses below as our "life verses" for our marriage and family. We have prayed these two verses nearly every day of our 12 1/2 years of marriage. After family devotions in the evening, we pray about various situations and then our family of five prays these verses in unison.
"May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us~yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17) One thing we ask of the Lord, this is what we seek: that we may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)
It has been exciting to see how God truly has established the work of our hands over the years. We have discovered that God's plans are always far better than anything we could ever dream up.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I should have put the shirts on 3-year-old, stocky Lily. I'll bet they would have fit her perfectly. But I've already given them away so I won't be able to do that. I'm planning to give the dress to a Nigerian friend who is about a size 7.
I'm quite sure I haven't changed (still wearing the clothes I bought in the U.S. two years ago), but I'm positive sizing/style has changed in the U.S.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Weddings are a very big deal in Nigeria. Brides want to look their absolute best. We know that we definitely have a market for wedding gown rental. Currently we have five wedding gowns that we have purchased from second-hand stores in the U.S.
The ladies I work with had a wonderful time trying them on. They are all dreaming of the day they will wear one.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
We do Lily's hair once a week if we're just plaiting her own hair (braided to her head--cornrows or a variation). We try to do it on Friday or Saturday so it will look nice for church--that's really important here.
This week we used attachments (fake hair). Lily went with me to the market and looked at the types of hair to choose from--there are at least 50! She wanted to buy blonde attachments so she could be like Mommy, but I think it looks better to use just a little bit of blonde as a highlight . However, I did let her get purple attachments! When Esther braided her hair, she used two sections of black and one section of purple on each braid. It's a purple-black and it actually looks really nice. You can't see it in the picture--you have to see it in just the right light. This hairstyle should last her about 2 weeks. An adult could possibly keep it for 4 weeks. Lily has to wear a stocking cap at night to keep it from getting messed up. By the way, Esther (in the above photo) is wearing fake hair.
Lily is amazingly patient for a 3 year old. This particular style took about 4 hours. I'm told it's a bit painful--I've never tried it myself.Later in the day, we put the rubber bands in and that took another hour--she fell asleep during that procedure.
This is one of my favorite styles on Lily. Every hairstyle has a name. When you make individual braids that come off the head, that's called "Bob Marley." The little cornrows framing her face are called "babyface." I guess I could call this style the "double bob" since it's Bob Marley done like a bob. I often request the "babyface" style so her hair is not hanging in her eyes.
Over the years I have learned that black hair and white hair are extremely different. Black hair is very dry. Women are always putting cream or vaseline on the scalp between the braids. They also put oil directly on their hair regularly. My friends are shocked that I wash my hair every day because it's so oily. Black hair breaks very easily. It is very rare to see a black woman whose natural hair is shoulder-length. The women I work with always cringe when I cut my hair. They would never cut their hair on purpose. Black women get a perm to straighten their hair--and they cannot get their hair wet when they have a perm. During the rainy season, it's common to see women wearing plastic bags on their heads when a rain suddenly comes upon us.
One day I hope to learn how to make a few simple hairstyles for my daughter myself.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I ended up writing 39 emails today. That's pretty amazing considering that we only had about 2 hours of electricity today. At least the compound gen was on for another 2 hours, and our own gen was on for another 2 hours. Besides those power supplies, I'm extremely grateful for the inverter Bayo installed which runs off a truck battery. My computer battery is now at a continual 1%. It always amazes me that the HP Total Care Advisor says that my battery condition is "Good." I can operate on the power from our battery/inverter system almost all day. I can even use the printer on the inverter. Life is good!
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I responded, "I work with a very competent staff. They will handle everything beautifully while I am gone."
Surely they will face some challenges, but they will work through them, and be better off because of them.
I know they can maintain our current training program and our shop while I'm away, but I've challenged them to go "beyond maintaining." At our staff meeting we came up with more than a dozen challenging things they can do in my absence. They really caught the vision and got excited about everything they can do if they really put their minds to it.
Here are a few of the things we came up with:
*Get our downtown shop up and running
*Make progress on our new building for the Self-Sustainability Program (SSP)
*Start our dry-cleaning business
*Start our wedding dress rental business
*Do the video for our new album and plan for its release in Nigeria
*Figure out a way to get constant electricity for our sewing center
*Get all of 12 SSP staff members to be able to type and be computer literate
Over the years I have realized that there's no virtue in saying: "If I want it done right, then I guess I'll have to do it myself." As a missionary, I have no business saying that. My job is not "to get the job done" but rather to come alongside others, build them up, seek out their own ideas, and work together with them to get the job done. This latter approach takes a lot longer, but it is SO rewarding in the end when people think for themselves and take pride in figuring out a challenging situation.
Friday, May 8, 2009
The woman on the CD has been living with HIV for more than 6 years now. Currently she is taking care of 12 children and 3 women who live in Bezer Home. She has found strength and dignity in the midst of HIV.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Yesterday Sarah decided that staff devotions would be held in Fatima's room. What a great idea! It helps to get Fatima more involved with people.
Sarah leads a Bible study with the women in the sewing program from about 9:30 til 11:00. She decided that they would meet in the parlor (living room) of Bezer Home and Fatima would join them. She assisted Fatima in walking from her bedroom to the parlor. Fatima sat in a comfortable chair during the entire Bible study. Afterwards she walked back to her bedroom with very little assistance.
I have recently seen improvements in other areas of her life as well. She is now bathing more regularly.
This morning I told Fatima how proud I am of her. I asked her when she was going to walk again. She said she was just waiting for Sarah to come and get her.
Sarah is great at encouraging people and refusing to allow them to wallow in self-pity.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I sure can't complain about the price of the corn flakes though:
Good Morning Corn Flakes: $2.29
Nasco Corn Flakes: $1.66
When we travel to the U.S., we prefer to eat cold cereal almost every morning. Our hosts always want to make big, delicious breakfasts for us, but we really prefer cereal just because we don't have much cereal variety here.
These are our usual breakfasts in Nigeria:
Hot cereals: acha (a local grain); wheat cereal; Golden Morn (a corn cereal); oatmeal
I know the kids are going to be overwhelmed when they see what a cereal aisle is like in the U.S.!
(In case you're wondering, those red things in the blue bowl are hibiscus flowers that David was trying to revive.)
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I said, "Here I am." Obviously she meant in private, so we moved away from the crowd a little.
She said, "The bank has the wrong phone number for me. They always send a text to my husband's phone every time you deposit money in my account for my work."
"Well, you two are married. You don't have any secrets from each other do you?"
"I just don't want him to know when I have money because then he always wants to use it for the house he's building."
"Oh, are you building a house? When did you buy the property and whose name is on the property?"
The husband purchased the property shortly after their wedding a few years ago. He used the money the couple was given to make the purchase. Amazingly, the wife's name is not on the property. I was dumbfounded when she told me her husband put his own name and his brother's name on the land.
I'm a firm believer in joint accounts and open discussions about money matters in marriage, but that's far from the norm here. Generally a couple comes to an agreement about who will buy food and pay school fees in a family. But beyond that, they do what they want with their money. Women are horrified at the thought of dumping their salary into a joint account. Sometimes they are afraid that there will not be enough money to feed the children for the month if they do that.
The property issue: this is a sad, but very common case. The husband is not necessarily trying to get his wife out of the picture any time soon. It just means that in the long run, if anything happens to him, the house will go to his brother.
I've never been able to understand how a brother is closer than a wife. It's extremely common for a man to name his brother as his next-of-kin instead of his wife. In some tribes, if a husband dies, leaving his wife a widow, his brother often takes possession of the house and property. There are some Nigerian tribes who do not follow this line of thought, especially if the marriage has produced children who will inherit the property.
My husband and I have joint accounts and joint property ownership. It would never occur to us to do any differently. To us, it's even a symbol of our marriage.