Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Look who's coming for dinner......

 One of my favorite things to do is to watch birds. Growing up in Western PA, there were always plenty of birds to spot and ALWAYS a bird book close by.  So, Mom and Dad...thought you would enjoy this post!
I am enjoying getting to see some different types of birds living here in Niger. For my 40th birthday, Leron had Andy bring a feeder from the states. It just makes me happy to see these little birds....they do sell them at the Baaklini Market, but mine are not confined to a small cage.
 If you remember a few blogs ago.....Nugget has figured out that a great place for her to hang out is under it! Today, when I heard a bunch of cheep cheep cheeping out on the terrace (NOT clucking). I went to investigate and  there were birds everywhere. There was even a bird looking into the house from the screen door. Of course when I decided that I would take some photos, they decided to leave. I thought I was gettting a good picture of some of the younger birds getting food from the ground and this is what I got instead...Nugget was pretty hungry today and has gotten much more bold!
   Well, when we have a flurry at the feeder in PA, lots of times it is dominated by little finches....purple, house an brightly colored gold finches..... here I have been delighted that the finch parties are beautiful red ones. My parents refer to it as a "Finch Party". It seems a though the birds come in pair but judging from the racket and the activity in the hedge is a few families that partake millet from the feeder.
I like popcorn but NOT millet....

Such WONDERFUL creation....I just love it and enjoying it from my terrace.....It was a busy place this afternoon....with all the eating and ALWAYS a favorite place for lizards to bask.....the lizards seemed to be "posing" today.....check it out!
this guy stared me down, he was pretty small and NOT intimidating at all

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


mothers and their baby with casts and the other with a cleft repair
Today, I spent some time with the mothers/grandmothers that are staying at the CURE Hospital Patient Hostel. The Hostel is for patients and their families that come from afar and don't have the means to travel back and forth. It becomes a very neat community. We laughed, prayed and talked. Very interesting to hear the stories of how they learned about CURE and traveled from their villages in hopes of creating a better life for their children. Isn't  that what we want as mothers? To see our kids soar higher and father than we have?

Harmani was severely burned

 Burns, infections, cleft repairs, treatment for club foot..... there was even a girl who came to receive help from injuries sustained from a snake bite that occurred 4 years ago! A diverse crowd but all wanting healing.

 What a privilege to pray for and encourage these mothers.....they traveled and left the familiar for the unknown. It was wonderful to hear them talk about the dreams they have for their own even said she wanted her daughter to become well and get back to school, so she could help other people that are needing help. A grandmother who brought her granddaughter  said she would like her to meet and follow Jesus...those praying grandmas are so em. Another young mother  left her village for the FIRST time and came to Niamey looking for the "Children's Hospital" and now her little 6 mo old son has his first 2 casts in the process of treating his club feet, she said that it is all worth it for the "results." I stood there with the women that I have seen many times and new arrivals. Aren't moms just great? I love being one and I love my own. Nurturing, loving, dreaming, encouraging, sacrificing, challenging.......I am so thankful for being part of the wonderful things that CURE International is doing in Niger!!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Friendly encouragment

On Friday, we welcomed some of our best friends to Niger. They came to experience see how we live and what we do. We have enjoyed some sight seeing but mainly just "living life". They have eaten the local fare, rode camels and a pirogue....visited a village and eaten with a Nigerien family, visited various markets and even observed a few surgeries. Mainly their visit has been an encouragement! What a wonderful thing! Here are a few highlights.....miss you Kim, Paish and Amy and of course all the kiddos....enjoy some of these pics!
College buddies, came from PA  to hang out and see what life is like here.
Beautiful view of the sunset
from the Dunes
Atop the sand dunes the guys chatted and strategized
about how they might change the world!
3 wise men??
This guy was more interested in eating.....
than being a beast of burden 
or the days entertainment.
We took a pirogue ride to catch a glimpse
of some hippos and visit the village of Kanazi.
one was a little close for comfort....
Leron and Drew thought
we were going to glide right over it!
love love love holding hands
with the little ones at Kanazi
mmmmmm, a yummy snack
more kids at the village, such gracious hosts and hostesses

a short "tour" of Niger's only golf course.... sand traps a plenty....

Friday, September 23, 2011

100 Years!

Today, my Grandma, Hazel Howarth, is celebrating her 100th Birthday!!!! What an incredible achievement. So many people ask me what I "miss" about not being in the states and this has to be the hardest thing for me....being away from family. I really wish I was there to eat some ice cream today. I had so many great visits with my Grandma this past summer. She is so sharp and always tells me such interesting things about the past. I love to visit with her. If I was there today, I would  kiss her incredibly soft skin and tell her how much I love her......she won't be reading this...although she has experienced sooo much change in her life...think about it, how much has changed in the past 100 years?? She does not use a computer...but she did tell me that her father BUILT his first car...AMAZING. So here's to 100 years, Grandma....Have a truly wonderful day!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not so shy anymore.....

                                  Who's that peeking at me from UNDER the bird feeder?
Ah, it's Nugget.......she has now figured out that the millet that drops from the bird feeder is the same millet that she eats. She is now not so shy she is ON the porch.She can be there as long as she does not decide to start leaving me any "surprises" and I am not talking about eggs either!
 Leron was just talking the other day about WHEN we were going to eat her! I am sure she will make a WONDERFUL meal at some point......I'm not ready for all that, so for now we will enjoy the egg a day benefit and I guess let her eat the millet under the feeder to fatten her up!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


It was a privilege to go and meet Halimatou's 2nd baby. She is a sweet little girl named Mariama. Halimatou is a nurse at CURE. This is about the 6th birth of employees at the hospital since opening about a year ago.... there are a few more employees pregnant. Niger does have the highest fertility rate in the world! Each woman has 7.8 (how can you have .8th of a child) children. The baby naming ceremony was today! So a bunch of CURE employees met at the hospital and went to Aminatou's home together. Here are some of the nurses and I all "dolled" up....Marie, Rabi, Me, Clarisse and Jamilia.
 The actual ceremony was earlier that morning but there were tons of people just hanging out. We were greeted by tons of children and Aminatou's husband. We walked through the gate and into a courtyard that was full of woman cooking and talking.  The area was full of are a few boys carry wood for the fire.
 We entered the home and removed our shoes and met the new little bundle in Aminatou's bedroom. Mariama was fast asleep in a little baby bed that was covered with netting to protect against mosquitoes. She is truly a precious gift. Leron was handed the baby first.I was a little surprised that he did not remove here little booties....he is a sucker for little tiny bay feet! She was so tiny, precious and perfect. What a miracle.

 When Halimatou took the baby from her bed and handed her to Leron, Halimatou's 3 year old son promptly took the baby's place and brought laughter and smiles to everyone in the room.......what a scamp.

We stayed and visited and passed the baby around....I looked around and felt such happiness for this family but also for all who came with us from CURE. What a happy occasion. People just love to be together here. Relationship is KEY. Most were men and its was fun to be with the group. Lots of laughing.
Halimatou's older sister brought some mutton with a special green condiment for us all to eat.This is such a family affair and everyone was on hand.....all day....

It was a feeding frenzy with everyone just tearing meat from the bone....was a bit if a familiar Abdrahamane's wedding or even Ramadan Fete with Souleyman's family. We washed it down with Sprite, Coke and Fanta and a special yogurt/ millet drink.
 When it was time to go all of the children attending decided that they needed to have their pictures taken. Such a lively bunch. I had a hard time just picking one photo. The little girl in the blue dress kept posing for me the whole time.

Some of kids were pushing and trying to get close up and arrange the smaller ones. They had an interesting way of getting themselves all arranged. They sure do love to have their pictures taken. I love digital cameras because I would show them the shots after and they would just giggle and cheer. Oh they have such wonderfully precious smiles.

Here is Halimatou in the beautiful orange dress and here husband in the yellow.  What a wonderful day to welcome such a sweet little one into the world.

Friday, September 16, 2011


This giant tortoise never ceases to make me smile. Rover lives on the compound of Sahel Academy. Today when I was going to take a break, I was surprised to see Rover was just meandering  around outside the Media Center. Thought maybe you would like a peak......... I think Rover is smiling too.

For more info check out

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I have ALWAYS loved storms and the more thunder and lightning, the better. As a kid, I loved sitting on the front porch swing and enjoying the coolness of  a storm as I watched the wonderful lightning displays in the sky. I also loved the sound of the raindrops on the tin roof that was right outside my bedroom window. I know that my friends in PA have had their share and have even endured hardship as a result of unprecedented rainfall. For that I am sorry.  Sometimes we experience flash flooding here and last year was a particularyly harsh year as people along the river lost their homes and crops. Here is a picture of our compound last year. It can rain so much that the water does not have any where to go, such hard and dry ground..

Since moving to Niger my love of storms has increased. Maybe it is becasue this land is sooooo dry and thirsty? The water is so needed? The refreshment of a storm just can't be beat. The children dance and play in their fresh shower from the sky. Pure delight.... laughter and joy. As I write it is only 11:30 AM and it is growing very dark.....ahhh there it is, the rain.


 Funny, but just about an hour ago I was out and about and there was not even a hint that rain was on its way. After coming home and getting the laundry started, the house became quite dark. It grew even darker as Ferdinand closed the big shutters that are over my windows. They make our house so dark. They are like hurricane shutters. The do a great job keeping the elements OUTSIDE especially all of the dust that a sand storm brings!

Ahh the rain. The temperature outside is not at 72 degrees (it was already 90, a 20 degree drop feels wonderful). I love love love storms. The rumble of the thunder, the smell of the dust now making banco (mud), BIRD making all sorts of racket but mainly cheerfully whistling as he enjoys the rain, the sound of the drops on the roof, flashes of lightning and water falling and making small puddles....

just so soothing to me..I  know that it will bring joy to the farmers and to many living in the Sahel. Storms and rain are not very plentiful even though it is still rainy season...this storm seems to be coming to an end as quickly as it began.  We have had some more substantial rain but it is not enough and that will cause farming problems in the near future. Lasting less than a hour hour it brought refreshment and cooler air....oh wait the thunder continues and now more rain. What an absolutely wonderful treat! Well, I guess the clothes will not see the line today.....indoor drying racks too can be rather wonderful on a day like today.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

slow days

 Today is a nice slow day! No "to do" lists, no laundry, well stocked kitchen, no where to be and so, I treated myself to a little extra sleep after the kids left.  So, now that we have our internet problem solved (for the time being) I checked my emails and caught up on some reading. Now to make some goodies. Drew requested some baked oatmeal with cranberries, my pleasure......mmmm, haven't had grandma's noodles for a bit and well, we have some baguette that needs to be transformed into croutons. I like cooking and baking when there is no rush, so I enjoyed creating some things to please my family.

I took a break when the oatmeal was baking to watch the birds on the terrace. I am so enjoying the flutter of activity and the little Finches who are loving the feeder that I hung. I think it is a family or maybe a few families.....lots of activity and I am loving just watching them. I took a break when the oatmeal was baking to watch the birds on the terrace. I am so enjoying the flutter of activity and the little Finches who are loving the feeder that I hung. I think it is a family or maybe a few families.....lots of activity and I am loving just watching them.

    Back to the kitchen.... clean up... then, I decided to spend a few minutes to chill out on the piano. Ahhh, It has been a while since I treated myself.  Feeling quite relaxed, I decided it was time to sweat a bit, so I worked out for about an hour. Sometimes I have to make myself exercise, but I really need it and it makes a big difference in how I feel. I could go on about how I would prefer to be running  down along the banks of the  the Yellow Breeches, all shady and cool, but I can just imagine it for the time being. A struggle....exercising when I am already so hot and not really interested in more heat. But, that is they way it is and worth it in  the long run. But, I cannot complain, there is beauty all around...birds on the terrace, beautiful flowers in bloom, fresh clean water and wonderful aromas from  the kitchen.  Just yesterday Drew and Becca spent time just looking at the water droplets that would form on these leaves. Wonder in the simple things.

So now I am finished and anxiously waiting for the kids to come slow day is about to change pace a bit.  They are one of the BEST parts my day with all their stories and excitement and well, I just love being with them. They are truly wonderful.

 Thankful for so much....finches, oatmeal, blogging, great health, cold showers, family.... and a nice slow day! It was WONDERFUL!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Today I had a wonderful surprise....Boucari came to the CURE Hospital! I had not see him since June when he left after staying with us about 3 months. When I first met him he was shy and did not give  me eye contact. You see, Boucari had been so severely burned in a cooking fire when he was 4. His face was disfigured. His face was actually fused to his shoulder and he could not even hold his head up. His face looked almost like it was melted as his mouth and eye drooped. His scar tissue continued down his face and onto his torso. A pretty sad sight! He had never been to school and spent his days begging on the road. A missionary couple saw him one day and asked if he would like to be helped and of course he did. It took them 2 years to get him there. The timing worked out though, as our hospital just opened last October.

Boucari had extensive skin grafts. I was amazed to see from week to week how Jean Francois Negrini, our surgeon, treated him. He used a skin expander in his neck that he implanted and then blew up little by little to stretch the skin. He then used that extra skin in the grafts. AMAZING. I have to admit, I am not medically trained and so I may get this a bit off, but this is what I observed. While Boucari stayed at CURE, enjoyed blowing bubbles with him and teaching him how to play Frisbee. He spent a lot of time just chatting with staff and other patients. He was so delightful and full of joy. I just loved having him around. As his treatment continued you could see a real change in his demeanor. More confidence. He could often be seen carrying little babies around and helping others. He spent a lot of time with Hassane, our Spiritual Director. Hassane speaks fluent Hausa. Boucari does not speak French and definitely not English, but when the Hausa started flowing....he just came to life!

So today, I almost did not recognize this young man.  Grinning and confidently taking my hand. I loved it! He returned to have the droopy skin around his eye fixed. He is healing up well and I am interested to see where his life takes him. He has definitely been touched and changed from  the inside out.  He was once very hopeless and now he has hope. He not only had his burns cared for but he experienced Jesus! The seeds of the gospel have been planted in his heart. This is truly something wonderful.....a transformed life!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

BIRD Nugget!!!

So our new addition to our family is clucking up a storm and eating lots of millet. Nugget has managed to survive the week dodging kids and cats and our night guard, Pierre. Pierre insists on putting her in a box at night for her own protection. She protests quite a bit and gets quite vocal. She is pretty skiddish. It took me a while just to get his photo. She is quite fast! She seems to respond to my clucks and attempts at chicken communication.  I am still getting used to hearing her out in the yard. Although she is a bit shy, she does take the opportunity to greet people who enter our compound. she keeps her distance but definitely lets them know she is there. Maybe she is warning them? Attack chicken?

BIRD, our African grey parrot, has grasped a perfect impersonation of  Nugget.  Now he speaks in three languages, has all 5 of the Lehman voices down as well as laughs, whistles, car alarms, other birds, cats, ducks, ambulance, screeching gates, cell phone beeps, coughs, sneezes, little girl squeals, phrases like "Birdy is a goood boy" & "here you go" and now my bad impersonation of a chicken!  He is so good he often fools me with the children's voices. One time he was saying "Hey Mum" in Ben's voice and I looked all over for him before finding out  that Ben had left with Leron and was not home.  I better watch what I say......He is a real kick! I wonder what his voice is like....he will soon have a real identity crisis becasue right now, I think he thinks he is a chicken! I am sure glad we picked the hen.....

We have a lot of birds in our yard thanks to the trees and plants as well as the pool.  Ferdinand told me that when we were home in the US another parrot flew in from who knows where. It entered our terrace and BIRD promptly squawked and scared him away. The AWOL Parrot left immediately and found it's way to our Flamboyant tree that has yummy red blossoms. He had a snack and departed.  Maybe he escaped from the market?? You can buy parrots of different varieties, doves, finches, love birds as well as bunnies, turtles, guinea pigs, etc at the market. Their cages are so overcrowded and from I have heard over priced!

Unlike Nugget, BIRD is not shy at all. As you can see in his pictures, he is quite handsome and photogenic.  He really is quite a novelty and part of the family. Everyone greets him and tries their best to get him to say what they want...but he has a mind of his own. His ramblings when he thinks no one is listening are quite amusing.

I just love birds of all types and love the many flowers that Ferdinand has planted that welcome many varieties.
I have little finches that live in my bougainvillaea (above) and the African honeysuckle (below) attracts these little hummingbirds as well as butterflies.

 I have been pretty unsuccessful photographing our garden visitors but will keep trying and will post when I can. Such a little oasis that i have here. Doves frequent the pool and we have flying rodents at night (not my favorite, but interesting). There is a little black and orange bird that sings me a happy tune while I hang out laundry and I can often hear the peacocks that are at the market not far from my home. I love the birds down by the river too .....heron, ibis, rollers and the huge flocks of weaver birds at the Riding Club. It is so wonderful to see all the wildlife. Niger with it's dry, sandy, scrubby, dusty Sahel conditions; boasts some wonderfully beautiful flowers and birds.