Right now, I am desperately trying to get my feet warm. This has not been much of a problem for the past three years! Actually at first, it was strange to wear anything but flip flops on my feet. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled for cold temps and SNOW! I am thrilled that the kids had a good romp in the nearly 9 inches of snow. In less than two days, we will journey to yet another culture to plant ourselves for the next three years. Strange to think that this may be the last snow the kids play in during their adolescence lives. Not quite sure that it has hit any of us yet, what life in the Philippines bring? Niger was rich in experiences & lovely friends. I am sure our next adventure will not disappoint. So weird that the next plane we board will be going the opposite direction than usual. Even harder for me to believe, we will be boarding that plane on Saturday…yes, THIS Saturday! Transitioning, our family has anything but “cold feet”. Of course, we know it will not be easy and we do have things we are unsure of, but we are expectant, excited and ready to plunge into the unknown once again. As I ponder this transition, I think that my latest picture downloads from my camera speak for themselves (they are very random and it is hard that they all took place in the past two weeks)…..African friends, CURE soccer, funny things to see, camel crossings, goodbyes & then hellos…and of course, back to my cold feet….SNOW. So for the time being, I have traded sand in my shoes for snow. I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz….Toto, we are not in Africa anymore…. truly a world’s apart.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Again, I am up before the sun. Between familiar places. My first thought this morning is how chilly it is. A good feeling but a reminder of how different another familiar place is. It is surreal. Although, our house in Niger no longer holds our things, I keep going there in my mind. It was more than a “container for our things”. It is filled with familiar feelings, noises, smells and well so many memories. It was filled with our LIFE for 3 years.
So weird that some of the images that I am reflecting on, no longer exist in a concrete way. I won’t be greeted today by Ferdinand & Pierre or Birdie, I won’t smell burning trash or hear our squeaky gate. I won’t play frogger getting the kids to school or be greeted by a half dozen roadside “salesmen”. I will not see any bougainvillea or Tuareg men having tea. I won’t have any begging at my car window for their daily survival. I won’t dodge countless forms of livestock. It is certain that I will not get sand in my shoes today and I probably will not sweat. I won’t spot any camels or have my windshield washed by lil boys. I won’t be venturing off to see WILD animals in the WILD (not the zoo): giraffe, baboons, elephants, hippos, crocs to name a few. I could go on…… On the day to day, not very glamorous or exotic at all but it was home and it was good!
I asked B how she was feeling about the move. She replied, “I just feel like I am on vacation at Gea and Paps”. We are truly enjoying the familiarity of “here”. A cozy robe, Tom’s pizza, snuggling with Daphne, winter air, cookie baking, Mom and Dad hugs, just being here is so calming. So really here we are in our PA familiar place thinking about our African familiar place and contemplating an unfamiliar place as our next home in the Philippines. We are in-between. My heart is still torn about the people I will not see for a long time or even tomorrow. It is so hard to reconcile these familiar places. These are both places of comfort and more importantly places of life shared well. BUT truly worlds apart. Today, I will not see a veggie man who knows what I like in my bag, or a fruit man who knows what color of apples I like or a fish monger at my gate. I have not heard “Bonjour, Madame” in days or been asked for a “cadeaux” either. Even the things I thought were a bit annoying bring a smile to my face when I reminisce. But today, I will hug my parents, bundle up in my winter coat & scarf, see old friends and order off a menu that is printed in English. I love both of these places so much.
Now the thought of going to an unfamiliar place to make it familiar. I have to admit, some days I am just a bit numb. I know I have been in this place before but it is hard to remember feeling quite like this. I can’t think of Niger and separate all the familiar faces that helped us so much. Those familiar faces are what make it so hard to leave a place. They are a part of our history now, always in our hearts. But really when we landed there on January 5th, we did not know anyone and everything was unfamiliar. I believe our family did so much more than survive…we thrived. Just thought maybe writing about it would help me think…this is hard, but it is so good and I would not change my life for anything. I know that even next year at this time I will look back and say “WOW” as I see what has transpired in just a year. I will be amazed at what was unknown and unfamiliar has become a part of my life. I am thankful for challenges and change but really love the familiar things that have truly become favorite things.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Yesterday, L & I had the pleasure to chat with the entire staff of CURE Niger. They were a captive audience (required weekly meeting). Well, when asked to reflect on the last 3 years, my eyes welled up with tears. I recalled some of my first days here, when it was just L & the kids & I. EVERYTHING was new & a bit overwhelming. Our driver, Amadou, would get us from here to there. We could not even drive ourselves!! I am sure that he did not have a clue how overwhelming it was…..everything was new; different foods, language, customs, rules & laws to name a few.
I was so filled with joy & yet my heart was heavy. We went from being almost alone here, to little by little amassing what seemed to be a small army to accomplish the task before us. This group of people who were sitting listening to what I had to share have become such a part of my life. We laugh together, blow bubbles together, pray together, eat together, learn together, work together, play together, cry & mourn together, celebrate so so much together…...babies, weddings, holidays, milestones, health & healing. This group of people that I have had the honor & privilege to know are much more than “staff” at a hospital….they are family. We have shared so much TOGETHER!
I have enjoyed being “who” I am & being accepted, no matter how different I may be! It has been an amazing time of learning & asking so many questions (no matter how silly). My Nigerien family has been so patient & gracious, as I have made mistakes & probably caught them by surprise on so many occasions. I will miss being with them & hearing all of the news….babies, family health, who visited & what they did, did I hear this or that?….It is truly one of my favorite places in the entire world…..always greeted with a smile & sincere concern for my life. It is just a wonderful thing….togetherness.