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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Speaking of Sugar Cane...

These stalks of sugar cane are on their way to a market within Jos. First they will be scraped with a knife, and then hacked into 6" chunks for consumption.

Fruits & Veggies

I'm trying to keep the kitchen stocked up with fruits and vegetables these days. It really helps out with meal planning and also just having snacks around.

From left to right (roughly), here are the names and approximate prices of these items:
grapefruit $0.75, soursop $1, pineapple $1.35, a dozen lemons $1.30, peanuts $0.35, papaya $1.35, guavas $1.35, watermelon $1.65, zucchini $1.35, pumpkin $1.75.

I'll have to take a picture of the inside of a soupsop. It has such a unique combination of sweet and sour as well as a really interesting texture. By the way, green lemons are completely ripe.

All of these foods are grown in Plateau State with the exception of the pineapple and the soursop which are grown in more tropical southern climates. Plateau State has an elevation of about 4000 feet so we are able to grow a great variety of foods here.

And here's David gnawing on some sugar cane. Is that a fruit or a vegetable? Sugar cane is a favorite snack among Nigerians. This little piece of cane cost about $0.10. Basically you suck the juice out of the cane and spit out the fiber.

Growing up in eastern Montana, once in awhile we would find a sugar beet on the road that had tumbled off a harvest truck. I remember how sweet that was.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How the West Was Fun

Last weekend we got out of Jos for a special family western outing. We bought bandanas in the market (amazing what you can find here) and headed West~literally.

The sun was setting as we neared our destination~about 6:15 p.m. (Since we live just 10 degrees north of the equator, our days are basically 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. year round.)

We had great food throughout the weekend. For one meal we were served chicken enchiladas, tacos and Spanish rice. Now in our house, that would be three separate meals! Here's a shot of a little 'restaurant' the kids created outside. It always delights me how children can entertain themselves for hours with things they find in their surroundings.
We had a rodeo for the kids complete with bucking broncos (David won for his tenacity in hanging on to a bucking 7th grader!), barrel racing (scooters around cones), calf roping (see below) and a pony ride.

Later we took a hike up 'Boot Hill' to get a view of the countryside below. Beautiful place.

Check out those farms!

We call these formations the extinct volcanoes--who knows? There are no active volcanoes anywhere in Nigeria.

Not all of the time was scheduled. My friend brought her scissors and cape, and we just lined up ready to be 'sheared.' I'm sure she cut about 20 heads of hair that afternoon. She doesn't accept money, but she will take a Diet Coke if you have one handy!

One night we had a country music jamboree, loosely based on the old TV program Hee-Haw. Lots of good music and laughs. The highlight for me was a missionary/pastor who impersonated Elvis. I wish I had a photo for the blog, but I was dying with laughter--especially when he pulled a hairbrush out of his back pocket during his dance routine.

Lily enjoyed the show from her perch.

The next day the little kids enjoyed the slip 'n' slide.
The goat was just a natural part of the scenery.
We won't soon forget our trip to the West. A big thank you to those who planned the weekend. It was fun to do something different for awhile. It was also great to see how creative people can be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Headache-Free Day

Tobi has been having headaches now and then, but even that seems to be too often for a 9-year-old.

For awhile I've been convinced that the headaches might be related to diet. For me, a spoonful of peanut butter can head-off a headache.

So this morning I purposed to put more effort into making sure Tobi ate well throughout the day--and especially that he had protein first thing in the morning.

Scrambled eggs with bacon bits
Lipton tea (diluted)

Indomie noodles (ramen)

Snack: Pistachios

Mashed potatoes & gravy

He didn't have a headache today. I think I'll stick with a similar plan for tomorrow.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Will Power

I decided to give Fatima a break from coming upstairs today. Three of our staff members were out on various assignments, and I didn't want the rest of the staff to have to spend hours cajoling her. I didn't say anything about it at our brief staff gathering as we had a number of other tasks before us. However, I later learned that one of the staff went downstairs and told her to get ready to come upstairs. The good news is that Fatima basically got herself upstairs today on her own volition.

Fatima's trek upstairs this week is made even more significant by the cold weather we are now having. The weather has been very hot for the past few weeks--about 90 degrees F. But suddenly on Tuesday, it began to rain. Generally we just get one or two brief rains in October, but we have had cold, dreary, rainy weather since Tuesday afternoon. The temperature at night is probably about 55 degrees, which is freezing for us!

On days like these, it would be very tempting for Fatima to stay in bed, but she has really persevered in spite of the weather. I think she's getting 'addicted' to the company upstairs.


Yep, I was asked for copies of my marriage certificates today. I'm on my way to drop them off with the lawyer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My First Marriage

When I wrote the date this morning, I suddenly remembered that today is the anniversary of my first marriage.

I got married for the second time 2 1/2 months later.

I'd love to leave you hanging on that for awhile, but I won't.

Bayo and I married twice: first in court and later in church.

That's not a requirement here, but in our international marriage, it was the prudent thing to do. I use copies of both marriage certificates whenever the situation demands it. Since passports, visas, and adoption are a regular part of our lives, I keep plenty of copies on hand.

By the way, Bayo doesn't have a clue that today is our court marriage anniversary.

(He's laughing now after reading this because I was right!)

Pressing On

Lois and Nanwor once again got Fatima ready to come upstairs today. I heard that it was quite a battle of the wills. Once Fatima arrived upstairs and got settled in her chair (no longer a mattress), she actually told them: "It's good that you're forcing me to come upstairs because I actually enjoy myself once I'm here."

That reminds me of a swimming incident with Tobi this past summer. I kept trying to convince him to jump off the low diving board, but he just refused. After much cajoling, I finally got him to try it. As soon as he came up for air, he shouted, "That was FUN! I'm going again." And he probably went 100 times after that throughout the summer.

Sometimes we need that extra push from another person. If we have enough willpower and determination, we can even give ourselves that extra push.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


This morning I asked Nanwor & Lois to get Fatima ready to come upstairs. We were so busy all day that I never even heard if it was a struggle. The main thing is that she was with us. It will be awhile before she can do any type of sewing, but in the meantime she has joined in the community and conversational banter of the women. These women can laugh and joke like you wouldn't believe! They find so many things to be hilarious, especially good-natured jokes about themselves.

Happy Birthday, David!

David turned 6 on Monday. He had a few friends over on Sunday afternoon. I think my days of the large group parties are over.

I enjoy having my three kids' birthdays right in a row: August, September, October. We can now rest until the spring when Bayo and I will celebrate our birthdays. Now when someone asks me how old the kids are, I can just rattle off their ages for the next 10 months without any changes. For the record, they are now 9, 6, & 4.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


We made a brief stop at Bezer Home on Saturday night, and I decided to pay Fatima a quick visit. Surprisingly, I did not find her in her bedroom, but rather she was sprawled in a comfortable chair in the living room.

The pleased look on her face reminded me of an athlete basking in the afterglow of yesterday's victory.

We made a deal that she'll be going upstairs again this week.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Open Heart, Open Home

"Nanwor, how many people do you have living in your house right now?"

"Well, let me see...there's Tabby and me, my brother, my sister and now the girl from my village.

Nanwor lives in a two room house (a parlor and a bedroom). About three and a half years ago she took in baby Tabby as her adopted daughter. She is now taking care of two of her teenage siblings. In Nigeria, a responsible older brother or sister is supposed to take care of the younger siblings and thereby release the aging parents from financial burdens.

About five years ago Nanwor was completely dependent on her parents and other relations. Since she has been working with Mashiah Foundation, she has been able to live on her own and open her door to others.

And just recently she agreed to take in a young woman from her village whom she had never met before. When the young woman tested HIV+, no one would accept her in their home. She survived by selling hard-boiled eggs. Someone thought of calling Nanwor in Jos, and Nanwor immediately invited the young woman to come and stay in her home. This was beyond comprehension to the young woman. She didn't bring any of her belongings to Jos because she didn't think it was true. To her amazement, Nanwor was actually genuine in her invitation. The young woman is now receiving sewing training at Bezer Home while she is living with Nanwor.

By the way, did I mention that Nanwor has HIV herself?

Thanks, Nanwor, for letting Jesus shine through your life.

(I took this photo of Nanwor modeling one of the wedding gowns a couple months ago. She dreams of being married one day.)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rise Up and Walk

On Monday at our staff meeting, I asked the staff to get a mattress and bring Fatima upstairs. Enough is enough. Fatima has lived at Bezer Home for more than six months and is yet to go upstairs even once.

The upstairs of Bezer Home is where all the action is: over 100 HIV+ women pass through the upstairs every week. Treadle sewing machines hum along while women tell stories and laugh. Beautiful things are created in this homey atmosphere. Hope is born upstairs.

Later in the week I asked the staff why they haven't brought her upstairs yet, and they said that Fatima always complains, and says she can't make it.

On Thursday, I received some donated sheets and pillows, and that was the impetus I needed. A plan began to form. I would wash the sheets and pillows, get a mattress and heavy plastic to cover the mattress from my garage. I found a black pencil skirt (size 1) and a bright orange blouse in our give-away clothes. Perfect. This would help her feel better. I found a bottle of perfume that I'm no longer using and packed it all up.

When I entered Fatima's room this morning and told her she was going upstairs today, she gave me the usual excuses, and mainly complained about her leg. One of her legs is at a permanent 90 degree angle: she cannot straighten it. But I was resolute. I said to her roommate, "Janet, please help her take her bath." Then Angela came and dressed her in her new clothes. Then, slowly, she began the trek upstairs. This would take a healthy person 1 minute, but it took Fatima about 15 minutes--and she did it all by herself with lots of encouragement along the journey. The women upstairs started singing to encourage her. I got tears in my eyes--but that's normal for me. She made it through the main sewing room and then plopped down on the mattress prepared for her.

Finally, Fatima has moved herself to a place where she can catch glimpses of life going on around her. It's not healthy for her to stay in her room downstairs day in and day out. She spent the entire day upstairs with our women. After four o'clock, she began her slow journey down the stairs to her room.

Fatima's horizon was expanded today. Next week when she comes upstairs we are going to plait her hair. That's another step in getting her back to the land of the living.