Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Past My Bedtime

Today was one of those split-second scheduling days where everything had to fit together just so. Amazingly, it all came together and everything got done. When I got home at 5:30, all I wanted to do was take a shower and crash. It was sheer willpower that got supper on the table. I did snooze on the couch for awhile this evening before I got up to do a few things on the computer.

I'm so thankful that tomorrow is a holiday: Nigerian Independence Day. I will spend part of the day catching up on paperwork in my home office. That probably doesn't sound like an exciting way to spend a holiday, but I know it will make me happy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Feeding the Soul

Tonight I got my guitar out so I could practice a few songs for a presentation I'm giving tomorrow. Lily was right there with me, watching my every move.

She said, "I want to play the guitar."

I said, "When you're older."

"But I'm FOUR!"

I enjoy studying my kids to see what they naturally gravitate towards. It's been obvious for quite awhile that Lily is drawn to music.

I'm still not sure how she did it, but somehow the CD player ended up in her room--permanently. She loves to listen to music as she's falling asleep--Christian CDs and some children's CDs. (We don't listen to the radio, but that's a topic for another post.) It's fun to hear her singing the songs the next day. I believe that music feeds the soul--and I take seriously what we listen to.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Baby Moses

Baby Moses is in the arms of the Lord.

We all thought he was recovering and would be discharged from the hospital soon, but he simply slipped away this evening.

My Little Norwegian

Lily was hanging out with the junior high girls on our compound for most of the afternoon. When they moved on to another activity, she was looking for something to we mixed bread together in the bread machine. While it was mixing, some smoke poured out of the machine due to some flour that had dropped on the heating element. When Lily saw the smoke, she exclaimed, "Uffda!"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Thoughts on Pronunciation

The other day I heard a Nigerian refer to upholstery as 'ufolstery.' I had to think for a minute to figure out how he got that pronunciation. Actually, I think there are two possibilities.

In some tribal languages, they do not make the 'p' sound. One of these tribal groups tends to sell a lot of fabric in the market. When I'm looking for purple fabric, I now pronounce it 'furful' in order to be understood.

The other possibility is that from a phonetic perspective, when you see a 'ph' in a word, it should be pronounced as an 'f' sound as in 'phone.' Interesting. I never consciously noticed before that there is a 'ph' in upholstery.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Care Package

I've been back for just under two why do I need a care package already?

Well, I forgot some really essential stuff: like pepperoni and mapleine! The first Friday night I was back, I set to work making my pizza crust and sauce. Then it was time to put on the toppings. I opened the freezer and knew: I forgot to buy pepperoni in the U.S. How could I possibly forget that?

One morning I was all set to make pancakes and suddenly realized that my bottle of mapleine was finished! I just couldn't bring myself to buy a $5 bottle of imported syrup, not just because of the price, but also because I'm afraid my kids might really like it and then reject my homemade syrup. I guess I could have made fruit syrup, but I wasn't quite motivated to do that yet.

The other day the kids and I were making dill pickles. We're all crazy about dill pickles--with the exception of Bayo. I just about had a panic attack when I couldn't find my dill seed. For a minute I wondered if I had forgotten to buy that too. Thankfully I found some--and I got a lot more today in my care package. Ahh, the essentials of life.

I had made a shopping list before I left Nigeria, but the strange thing is I never consulted it in the U.S. In fact, I don't even know where it is.

But the biggest reason I needed a care package was because so many of Bayo's books for his online class arrived a few days after I left the U.S. I had worked on ordering them a month before my departure, but I had some terrible computer viruses that wouldn't allow my Amazon order to go through. Finally I got everything ordered about two weeks before my travel date, but the books arrived very slowly, probably because it was a large order.

So now I'm content for awhile--I've got my pizza, my pancakes, and my pickles!

Little People for Lily

We received a care package from the U.S. today--Christmas in September! Thanks to the blog reader who provided Lily with black people for her doll house!

Update on Baby Moses

On Tuesday I went to see Baby Moses in the hospital. His burn is not too severe but due to his frail health and small body, they will keep him there for awhile. He has an IV in his head through which he receives his pain medication. He had a good appetite and was eager to eat. Our main concern is to prevent infection from setting in. He is doing well considering the circumstances.

I always find it hard to enter the pediatric ward and see so many obviously sick children. Baby Moses is sharing a room with about 6 other children and their caregivers. One child had a head about twice the normal size. The surgical incision on the top of the head looked fairly recent.

This story of a baby girl was narrated to me in English although it was originally told in Hausa. The 3-week-old baby girl was lying on the bed and there was a lit charcoal pot in the room. (Charcoal pots are commonly used to provide heat during the cold periods and especially when there is a new baby because they don't want the baby to get cold.) The grandmother shoved it under the bed so the baby would be protected. Later the other grandmother came in the room, pulled out the charcoal pot, roasted her corn, and left. The baby's older sister, about 3 years old, came into the room and decided to carry the baby, and then accidentally dropped the baby on the coal pot. One arm was badly burned. They tried local village treatments for about 6 weeks before it became apparent that the child was not getting better. So they came to Jos, undoubtedly at great expense. The arm is twisted, and she will be undergoing surgery to try to straighten it.

I didn't find out the stories about the other children. That was enough for one day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Below is a poem I wrote during college ('87-'91).
I find it interesting that I used a Yoruba name (Kemi)
without knowing anything about Nigeria
or the Yoruba tribe at the time.
(There are more than 450 tribes in Nigeria.)
Now I have a Yoruba husband
and an adopted daughter
whose Yoruba name is Kemi.
Her full name is Oluwakemi which means
"God is the One who protects me and takes care of me."

Obviously, Africa was on my heart long before I arrived.


Trials and tribulations? Oh yes, I encounter them every day.
I had a difficult time getting started on my English paper tonight.
Then my roommate and I had a little squabble.
Mom called and said my brother has mono.
Oh yeah, I got locked out of my room too.
Life is hard, but I can make it with Jesus.

Trials and tribulations? Oh yes, I encounter them every day.
Today the supply truck could not get through the blockade,
and we went without a meal again.
Young Kemi's baby daughter took a turn for the worse,
and we have no doctor within 300 kilometers.
Last week the government ordered us to say no more
about our God or face eviction.
Tomorrow we will give vaccinations
to the children of our village,
but we do not have enough for all
so we will have to decide
who the lucky ones are.
Life is hard, but we can make it with Jesus.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Items for Prayer

On Friday night we heard that our 10-month-old niece somehow pulled boiling water on herself. Both of her parents were present, but it just happened so quickly. They spent a day in the hospital with her, and now she is recovering at home.

On Sunday, the wife of a pastor we know died after a very brief sickness. She literally died in her husband’s arms with her five children (ages 1-17) present. She was 40 years old.

This morning, as his bath water was being prepared, little baby Moses suddenly squirmed out of his caregiver’s hands, and fell into very hot (near boiling) bath water. He was instantly plucked out, but the damage was already done. We ran around this morning getting medical attention for him. He is now on admission at the hospital. Although he has improved greatly in his time at Bezer Home, he is still frightfully small—about the size of a normal 2 month old, when he’s actually about 9 months old. We do know that he is a survivor, and we believe that this little guy will fight for his survival this time too. Volunteers are taking turns with his round-the-clock care at the hospital.

(A note about baths: a small amount of water is boiled and then cool water is poured into it to get it to a decent temperature. Bath water is mixed in a bucket or baby basin, not a bathtub.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

All in a Day's Work

Today, Friday, the following interchanges took place:

* A woman I last saw four months ago came by. "Do you have a job for me?" she asked, once again.

* I saw a young lady who used to be David's preschool teacher. I asked her how things are going. "Well, the university has been on strike for the past three months so I'm just reading at home."

* One of my HIV+ colleagues is currently bedridden with a bad case of malaria. Another HIV+ colleague commented: "Wow, this malaria, it really manifests itself when you have HIV." With a very low immunity, the HIV+ body has to work very hard to overcome any sickness.

* A gate guard met me with this news: "My brother's wife was a nurse at the hospital, and she just suddenly died this morning. She left behind four children ranging from 10-20 years old.

By the way, have I ever mentioned that life is HARD here?

On a lighter note, the following interchanges were heard later today at our dinner table:

* Tobi: There is really good pizza in America.
Lily: Is it pink?

* Five-year-old David was trying to explain how he fell down on the playground. He finally got up from the table and said, "Let me just demonstrate."

* Lily: Mom, why didn't you drive to America?

* And my personal favorite: The last two evening meals have been pretty mediocre so I really worked to make tonight's something special: little Swiss steaks, mashed potatoes and gravy, sauteed green beans, and candied carrots. Not only was the food good, but the arrangement was also pleasing to the eye. The kids had just finished complimenting me, and then Bayo chimed in, "Great food, Grandma--oh, I mean Honey!" He did not intend to make a joke, but it sure was a good one. I guess I'll have to pass that compliment on to Grandma in Minnesota! Come to think of it, tonight's meal was reminiscent of Grandma's cooking.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Low Suicide Rate

I have lived in Nigeria for 14 years, and I have yet to hear of a suicide of someone I know. I have discovered that suicide is relatively rare in Nigeria. Once in awhile I find someone who has heard of a suicide somewhere, but it's just not common.

In contrast, I could name people I personally know from the U.S. who have committed suicide. In fact, I don't even want to search through my memory too far to remember these painful situations. Ok, I just thought for 30 seconds and I came up with 5: a teacher, two schoolmates, and two students.

The thing that boggles my mind is this: life is HARD in Nigeria, but people don't contemplate suicide. Here are a few of the factors that make life hard here:
1. Food: Much of the population spends about 90% of their earnings on food. This is their concern: How am I going to feed my family today?
2. Housing: Many people live in 1 or 2 rooms in crowded compounds.
3. Job search: Some people (with college degrees) search for years before getting a job.
4. Very few leisure activities--very few affordable vacation destinations
5. Electricity: Epileptic power supply--2 hours a day these days
6. Water: City water once every 3 weeks is not enough.
7. No recourse for unfair treatment or practices
8. Armed robbery is a daily reality
9. Vehicle accidents are common
10. Complex relationship situations
11. Let me not continue...

I've been bringing this topic up every now and then for the past few years, but it was just last week that I finally heard a new answer as to why this may be so.

A Nigerian missionary doctor and his family dropped in for a visit, and we eventually ended up on this topic. This is what he said: Nigerians have a fear-based culture in which any time something bad happens to them, they are looking for the person who caused it. They believe that evil forces are against them, and they fight those forces at all costs. The worst thing that could possibly happen to them is to die because that means their enemy has won. So if you take your own life, that is helping your enemy to triumph over you--and that is the last thing you want.

Bayo says that's partially true, but he believes it's more that Nigerians are simply a resilient people. They have a common saying in broken English "E go beta" (It's going to get better). They tend to look at the bright side. When things are so bad, they have to eventually get better, right? They want to live to enjoy the pleasures of life which they believe will eventually come their way. Nigerians have a strong belief in God. And this is the basis of their faith that things will get better.

When someone is down and depressed, their friends and colleagues will surround them not so much with sympathy, but rather with a pep talk.

It's not possible to make a broad sweeping statement about suicide for all of Africa. In my discussions with the few Kenyans I have known, they tell me that suicide is a real problem in their country.

Although life truly is hard here in Nigeria, it's a pleasure for me to live and work among such a resilient people. I have learned much.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rainy Season Beauties

At the end of the dry season, I wrote a blog about the dry season flowers. Well, now we're at the end of the rainy season which displays its own unique kind of beauty.

I have to admit that I never really noticed these flowers until a few years ago when I was riding with a friend, and she mentioned that these wildflowers always bloom at the end of the rainy season.

The yellow and orange wildflowers start blooming in the middle of August, which is actually the heart of the rainy season. They continue to bloom until sometime in October. They really beautify the rocky hills around Bezer Home.

If you take a good look at the hillside, you can see the yellow hues from the wildflowers.
A type of sunflower.
A dainty little yellow star.
The kids enjoyed stopping to pick wildflowers today on our way from Bezer Home to our home. When we got home, David asked for a vase and got to work arranging the flowers.
These vibrant red flowers congregate in ditches and low-lying swampy areas.

And these orange blossoms are some of the most unique I've ever seen. Notice their oblong finger-like shape.
Whenever I see the poinsettia plant, I feel like Christmas is just around the corner. The poinsettias will continue blooming all the way through December.

The sky reminded us that we're still in the rainy season, although we didn't actually have any rain today.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sweet Food, Mom!

As a mom, I love to fix meals that my family really's just that it's often a challenge to find all the ingredients/make substitutions, and it takes so long because everything is done from scratch.

A couple weeks ago I worked really hard on making hamburgers, buns, french fries, and salad. It's hard to make a good tasting burger here because there's not enough fat in the beef. Anyway, I did the best I could and was quite pleased with the results. Midway through the meal, David said, "This hamburger tastes burnt." I didn't respond. A few minutes later Tobi said, "Oh yeah, hamburgers aren't very good here because they don't have enough fat." (Now it's ok for me to say that, but not the recipient of my food!) Lily, being a very perceptive 4-year-old, noticed the thunderclouds forming on my brow, and piped up, "Sweet food, Mom!"

So I'm always on a quest for a good, satisfying meal for my family. On Sunday afternoon I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks, Taste and See that the Lord is Good by Jane Hunter. I just happened to notice the author's note that she never makes potato salad because she can buy the best potato salad she's ever had from her local deli.

Now that's an idea. I realized that I have never made potato salad for my kids before. Personally, I've never been a big fan of potato salad, so it's not something that I ordinarily think of making. This summer I noticed that Tobi really enjoyed my mom's potato salad so I tucked that away as a note to try it sometime.

Well, I just got a big bag of potatoes from someone who came from their village--this is potato harvesting season--and I had lots of eggs on hand. All I had to do was go out and buy some mayo. I haven't bought mayo for years because it doesn't last long in our electricity-challenged environment.

While I was mixing up the potato salad, my kids wandered through the kitchen, saw what I was doing, grabbed spoons, and started eating out of the mixing bowl! I grabbed plates and served it up. Tobi didn't even sit down at the table; he just plopped himself on the floor and wolfed it down.

No, my kids aren't starving, it's just that they really appreciate it when something tastes really good. As I watched them, I resolved that I would put extra effort into our evening meals this week, but alas, we've only had a couple hours of electricity every day, so I had to resort to leftovers on Monday night or risk losing the food. So much for my good intentions...anyway, let me see what I can come up with for tonight.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Recently Bayo attended the funeral of a woman who died of AIDS complications. She and her husband have two sons, one has HIV and one doesn't. The husband has disowned the HIV+ son to the point of changing the boy's last name and refusing to care for him. This boy not even up to 10 years old.

The dad has HIV himself although he doesn't want people to know. The son has HIV because of his parents. How can his dad just send him away? I cannot justify this man's behavior in any way, but I just wonder if perhaps he feels too guilty and sad when he sees his son.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Road Rage--Nigerian Style

In my two-month absence from Nigeria, I really believe that traffic in Jos increased. Or was it just that driving in the U.S. was so pleasant compared to here?

A couple weeks ago I was driving down a very narrow dual carriageway. Because of how cars were parked, I swerved a bit into the left lane which made the taxi driver coming up behind me very angry. He let loose a string of curses in Hausa. Thankfully I don't know exactly what he said, but his anger sure was evident.

Last week I was trying to get to the bulk foods market. I made three attempts to get into that area of town, but eventually abandoned the idea as the traffic was just horrendous. Since I didn't want to get stuck in a traffic jam, I took another turn and tried to get out of the way. Somehow another car and I 'brushed' each other on the very narrow dual carriageway. It surprised me enough that I slammed on my brakes. That made the motorcycle behind me bounce off my bumper. I hastily checked my rearview mirror and saw that no one was too upset, so I didn't stop. Besides, in Nigeria, the person at the rear is always at fault. The whole thing shook me up a bit, and I decided to get out of that part of town. I haven't yet attempted it a second time. I think I'll go with a driver the next time.

Last night when Bayo came home, he said, "My arm hurts," and then proceeded to relate what had happened. He was making a right turn and had his blinker on. A motorcycle was trying to overtake him at that moment. Thankfully they did not collide, but the biker sure was angry. While Bayo was turning around in the dead-end, the biker got off his bike and came around to Bayo's window and gave him a hard punch in the upper arm. Thankfully Bayo is able to keep his cool in these situations and did not retaliate.

Actually, to put things in perspective, driving in Jos is really not that bad compared to driving in the teeming, coastal city of Lagos, Nigeria, which boasts a population of 12 million. People from Lagos would laugh at me for complaining about traffic in Jos. I guess it just depends on what you're used to.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's Fun to be 4!

Lily turned 4 on Saturday. Here she is checking out the presents...hey, everyone, notice the cloth gift sure makes wrapping gifts easy! You can purchase your own at your nearest Women of Hope gift store!

Lily's biggest gift was a 1970s Fischer-Price dollhouse which I bought from missionaries who left Jos. Lily and her brothers played with the dollhouse for hours that day. The only problem is that all the people that came with it are white. I need some black figures for her to play with!

I had a very low-key birthday party for her on Saturday. She had a few friends come over and spend the day with her. They each got a red velvet dress thanks to some great garage sale finds this past summer.

Here's an interesting observation: in general Nigerians don't show their teeth when their photo is taken, even though most of them have beautiful, white, straight teeth. Lily has not been raised with that instruction.
Happy Birthday, Lily!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


On Friday night, a powerful blast of lightning wiped out a lot of our internet provider's equipment. His three meters were all blown off the wall by the blast! I'm sure it was also quite a blow to his pocketbook.

I'm thankful for all the efforts made to get new equipment and get the system up and running once again. I do like to stay in touch with the world via internet.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Update on Baby Moses

Some people have asked for an update on Baby Moses. I'm happy to report that in his first month with us, he is doing great! (See Aug 14 post.)

He's keeping his food down, and responding very well to all the love and attention he's getting. Whenever I hold him, I notice that he loves to make eye contact, and he also likes to be reaching out and touching people.

Please pray for this little guy's future.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mary's Pattern

When I first started the Mashiah Foundation sewing program in 2003, I introduced the women to paper piecing as a way of making their quilt blocks. Paper-piecing actually involves sewing on paper. It's a fantastic way to get very accurate blocks--great for beginners!

The first major job we were given was for Miango Rest Home. We were asked to produce 13 quilts and wallhangings for their dining hall. Wow! We were thrilled. I had a great paper-piece pattern book so I started selecting different patterns and photocopying them. Early in the process I suddenly had a thought: I'll be these patterns are copyrighted! Well, sure enough, they were. As the purchaser of the book, I was given permission to make the patterns for my own personal use, but sale of such products was prohibited by the copyright. AAAHHH! And I had already given our customer a date that we would have the project completed by.

Well, that night I sat down at my kitchen table, drew a six-inch-square block, and started making my own original patterns. The next day I had the women try them out, and they worked! I made 13 different patterns that we used for that job. Over the past six years, we have used the patterns for all kinds of quilts and various projects.

Our most popular block is Mary's pattern. I named each pattern after one of the HIV+ women in the program. A good friend in Iowa made these stained glass windows using Mary's pattern.

I have the copyright on the patterns that I drew. I have given the HIV+ women in the Mashiah Foundation sewing program permission to use the patterns to support their families. However, I have not given permission to other organizations or individuals to use the patterns for their business--even if they are helping HIV+ women. Organizations need to come up with their own ideas and patterns.

If you ever see this pattern, you will recognize it as a trademark of the Women of Hope in Jos, Nigeria.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Snow Days and Variations Thereof

Attending high school in southern Minnesota, we could expect about 3-5 snow days a year. Those were the only days that our family turned on the radio in the morning. We kids waited with eager anticipation for the announcer to start going through the list of late starts and school cancellations. We were always one of the first schools called since our name was Amboy-Good Thunder.

I don't remember snow days during my schooling in eastern Montana. Perhaps some of my former classmates can share their own memories on that point.

I also don't remember snow days at college in Iowa because 95% of us lived on campus. I do remember one day when there was a pretty bad snowstorm, but all of us students still showed up for our literature class. We waited the requisite 15 minutes for our professor, and when he didn't show, we all left. Later we learned that our professor had cross-country skied about two miles across town to make it to his class, but we had all just left. Talk about dedication!

We don't have snow days in Nigeria, but school (and work) have been cancelled for the following reasons: riot days, census days, and election days.

Well, I heard a new one today. Bayo is taking an online course with students from around the globe which is based in southern California. Due to the current fires in that area, the school has informed students that if they have a paper due on Friday, it can now be uploaded by the following Tuesday.

After reading the email and accepting the information as true, a few minutes later I had to stop and think, "What's today's date?" Then I remembered it's September, and nowhere close to April Fools. Then I had to ask, "Who sent this email?" It's from someone we trust. I've been gullible at least once this year (see April 1 post) and don't intend to be taken in again if I can help it! It just seemed so highly unusual, but I guess each part of the world has their own version of 'snow' days!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Have You Seen Jesus Today?

Have you seen Jesus today?

Perhaps I should say, "Have you seen Jesus in someone's life today?"

I put this question to the women during our Monday gathering. After a little initial confusion, they understood what I meant. Then in English and Hausa their stories began pouring forth.

Rose, an HIV+ widow, shared that as she and her three children were preparing their breakfast, their neighbor knocked on their door and gave them a food warmer containing a delicious bean and corn dish. They forgot their own preparations and fell upon the hot food, savoring the taste as well as the warmth of the gesture.

Esther, HIV+, said that that morning she just decided to make a cup of tea for the youngest child of her neighbor. In the small boy's excitement over the tea, he accidentally spilled it all over the rough ground. Distressed, he frantically began trying to scoop up the tea with his plastic spoon. Esther was filled with compassion and made him another cup of tea. Later she learned that the children's mother had left their home early that morning in search of food to feed her children.

(Tea is a common breakfast drink for all ages in Nigeria. Generally, it's a brown tea with milk and sugar added.)

Jummai shared that her neighbors always verbally abused her because of her HIV status. She never fought back. She decided to cook some food for the family. To her surprise, they were very grateful, and even ate all of the food.

It was interesting to note that the common thread in most of the stories was food. You know, food was pretty important to Jesus too. The night before during our family devotions, we had read the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. Why was he concerned? He knew that people couldn't really absorb his message if their stomachs were hungry. He met their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs.

In the evening at home, I told the kids these stories around the dinner table. Then I said, "So those are just a few of the stories from today." David said, "Please tell us ALL of the stories."

How about you? Have you seen Jesus today?