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

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.


4 comments:

deb said...

This is incredible...

and I'm simply in love with the colours .

you never cease to amaze..

tea said...

Wow! That sounds like such a neat experience!! ..You were up really high!

Sarah said...

So cool, Roo! I love it!

Abigail Jasmine said...

I love reading/knowing your blog!
You inspire me & I see Christ in you!

Wow..What experiences you are having!

<3