The thoughts of a woman trying to live simply yet abundantly, contentedly yet expectantly, wisely yet adventurously... all for His glory.

10.06.2010

fish lips

Continuing to blog about my time in Niger working with the Worldwide Fistula Fund.

Saturday (day 10): fish lips

After all the hullabaloo of riding camels yesterday, we had to say goodbye to part of our team as they left to fly back to the US. Our team is splitting up now, before our patients are fully healed, because we have to maximize space (and thus finances) on the small plane it takes to fly from Maradi back to Niamey, the capital of Niger. It also doesn't take as much manpower to care for our patients now that the surgeries are finished, so it makes sense to have a smaller team. Three nurses (including myself) remain, and Dr. Steve.

From L to R: Dr. Steve (surgeon), Alainie (RN), Sarah (RN), myself (RN), Ginger (RN), Dr. Lewis (surgeon), and Greg (anesthesiologist)
Although today is Saturday, those of us that are still here in Danja still have to work. After breakfast we head down to check on our ladies and do whatever nursing tasks need to be done for the day. But today is much more leisurely than last week and we spend more time playing with the kids than anything. 

So without any further ado let me introduce you to the phenomenon known as "fish lips." This is Sarah's brainchild and a great way to make people laugh, regardless of culture or language. 

Sarah (on the right) started it all!

Everyone in Niger that we've met loves having their picture taken, but all smiles disappear when you aim the camera (except Sharifa on the far left--I caught her off guard).

But little girls love to laugh, and when the crazy nurses start making fish lips of course they will join in!

Hauwa and Sharifa with varying levels of success... but trying really hard!

Me and Hauwa, two of the bestest fish-lippers you ever did see.

10.01.2010

queen of the orient

Friends, I've been traveling with only intermittent internet access for the last several weeks, so I'm sorry for the long pause! Continuing to blog about my time in Niger...


Friday (day 9): queen of the orient

Today we did three surgeries on Abou, Marimouna, and sweetly timid Miriam from the Tuareg tribe (one of the nomadic desert people groups). We have arranged to ride camels after finishing work today, so we do two surgeries before lunch so that our afternoon workload will be lighter. It's only after our third surgery is over that we realize that we're done, not just with that particular surgery but with all of the surgeries for our trip! It's been so hectic that few of us have been really keeping track of the days, but we're now halfway done with our time here in Niger.

Since we front-loaded our work, we are able to leave our patients a little earlier in the evening in order to meet our camels. I have desperately wanted to ride a camel for, oh, about five days now since we first heard it was a possibility. As we're walking up the road towards the guesthouses we suddenly see camels, three of them! The camels have an eclectic group of men, teenaged boys, and even a school-aged boy caring for them. My particular favorite was this one sporting a snow-coat hood as his head covering. Only in Africa!

Gotta love the snow-coat hood. (Just in case it snows, you know.)

The camels themselves are ever so much bigger than any of us imagined and we each begin to have second thoughts. Then the camels notice us and start making the most un-animal braying, gargling, and even drowning noises we've ever heard. At this point I'm remembering all the stories I've ever heard about camels being bad-tempered, mean, and loving to bite.

I count the knobby joints in each sinewy leg and inspect the saddles, precariously secured with one lone leather strap around each camel's ribs. The saddle seats hardly look big enough for anyone's rear end, much less mine! But now that I see the camels in real life I imagine turbaned people riding these ungainly creatures through the vast expanses of the Sahara and Sahel deserts, trading spices, leather, and salt. My mind is made up: I can't wait to experience this!

Since there are only three camels, Sarah, Greg, and James (our Australian physical therapist missionary friend who lives on the compound) bravely volunteer to go first. Greg swings his leg over the absurdly high saddle, and before we know it he's miles high in the air but as relaxed as anything. Sarah's camel makes all sorts of dreadful sounds-- and Sarah makes all sorts of faces-- as she gamely tries to climb into the saddle in a skirt. The rest of us in are hysterics, including the men holding the camels. Finally all three are seated on their camels and the men lead the camels down the road for a quick jaunt while the rest of us take pictures in between bouts of hysterical laughter.

And now it's my turn, along with Ginger and Alainie. My camel is the tallest of the bunch and a beautiful off-white color with the longest eyelashes I've ever seen. I've learned from Sarah's experience  and have on a pair of scrub pants underneath my skirt, a fact for which I am immensely thankful as I try throwing my leg over the insanely high saddle. The men place my feet on the neck of the camel, and as I hold on tightly the camel slowly begins to make its way to a standing position. It's rather like riding a seesaw and I tilt precariously backwards and then forwards as the camel unfolds its various knobby joints. Already I love this! I can picture myself riding across the desert, shielded from the sun by robes and a turban. Ginger, Alainie and I joke that "we three queens of orient are," and we set off down the road.

Holding on for dear life as the camel see-saws its way to a standing position.

Our ride on the camels is over much too quickly in my opinion. The camels saunter away with their owners, and our bellies are aching from having laughed so much. I imagine we have provided the camel owners with some stories to tell back home!

a queen of the Orient... or something like that!
What a gift this whole experience in Niger has been so far. I'm realizing that as I continue to explore the Nigerien culture and worldview, I keep falling more and more in love with it all. I love the Hausa language, I love the relaxed yet conservative nature of the Nigerien people, and I even love the head wraps. I hardly notice my own head wrap any more, and am quickly becoming proficient in various ways of tying it.  It's amazing how much I've experienced in just nine short days, and I can't wait to see what next week holds.

Heading home after much laughter.