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.