Thursday, April 22, 2010

Char's favorite fruit and vegetable stand

Sorry to have been so long without a blog entry.

The rains are returning, a welcome relief from the months of dryness and the days and nights of sweltering heat that builds prior to the arrival of the rainy season. The fields are usually full of farmers at this time, out working together to prepare for planting as the rains begin. It is a truly beautiful sight to wonder at as huge expanses take on the texture of orderly rows of freshly mounded earth, all done by hand, weaving around jumbles of boulders and lone trees left for a bit of shelter.

But this year the ongoing tension and violence in the area have many afraid to leave the security of the villages. In January another major crisis hit Jos and surrounding villages, soon followed by another major episode of violence in a nearby village. There have been ongoing flares of violence continuing through to the present, with victims frequently brought to the hospital and the villages near where we work feeling very much at risk.

As members of a peace church it feels like there is something we should be able to say or do to help respond to what is happening. In the face of the anguish being experienced around us, any small encouragements we might make for peace seem at best puny and inadequate in the face of these complex forces at play, and at worst the disrespectful intrusion of an outsider. We can only pray for safety and peace alongside our friends and colleagues, listen to their stories, and always rejoice with them when we hear stories of hope, believing that we are all a part of God’s creation and that most want the same peace for their families to thrive. Although this conflict is playing out along religious lines, it is really a conflict based in poverty and the difficulties involved in uniting a country with over 250 ethnic groups while still recognizing the strength of diversity that exists in Nigeria. It is our fervent prayer that in our global communities, religion will realize its potential as a vehicle for God’s power of peace and reconciliation, rather than as a tool for human’s power over each other.

We enjoy many aspects of our life here, particularly our friendships, work, and work colleagues that nourish us and form the foundation of our being here. The ongoing conflict and safety concerns have made it difficult for us as a family to focus on the reasons that brought us here, even though we strive to not let these factors define our understanding and experience of the rich and varied life we lead here in Nigeria. For the past month we have been trying to discern what is best for our family in these circumstances, wanting to also honour the relationships and work commitments to those we live alongside. Although we had tried to work out a way for our family to continue here longer in some modified way, we were not able to come to a mutually acceptable solution with our mission organization. So we have made the very difficult decision that our family will return to Canada this summer, earlier than our planned return of the following summer.

We are hoping to spend the following weeks working towards as healthy a closure as we can achieve with work responsibilities and relationships, focusing on the positive aspects of our time here as well as preparing for our transition back to life in Winnipeg. We are thankful for the opportunity to have come here to learn and share alongside the many wonderful friends and colleagues we have been privileged to meet. We are also thankful for the health and safety of our family through our time here.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers during this transition.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blogspot 2010 January

Jos riots-2010

It has been a while since I have written an entry. I had felt a need to sit down and write some of my thoughts and experiences that have happened these past few days.

Our family had a wonderful Christmas break with a trip to Abuja staying at the Sheraton Hotel and then to Yankari wildlife preserve with our MCC team and families. Both places were quite restful with great fellowship with friends. A blog entry awhile back had a funny experience with me and a baboon-but this time the tables were turned and we laughed at Westen. He was sitting in the chalet reading a book when he noticed the door open and there stood a baboon ready to scavenge some food. Westen quickly threw his book at the baboon and then ran towards the door to lock it. He definitely does not like the baboons now. We did see a few animals on our safari and there was an injured elephant roaming the grounds of the chalets.

We were happy when school resumed after about one month off for Christmas break. The kids were happy to be back and see their friends again. But then this past weekend security concerns started to surface and then we started to hear of events occurring in the north end of Jos. On Sunday morning a church was attacked by some youths. There was also report of a soccer game getting out of control with rioting. As I looked out our window I could see people standing and looking towards the north. I ventured out to the street and could see many plumes of smoke rising into the air. At one point I saw a big tour bus come cruising by with all of its windows smashed out along with the windshield cracked. The bus was full of people. The traffic was definitely slowing down and soon there was a curfew ordered for 6 pm till 6 am. We soon started to see smoke rising in other areas. That night we heard few gun shots with hopes that by next morning the military would have things in control. On Monday the riots had ventured into other areas of Jos which at that time did not seem to threaten us.

We woke up Tuesday morning with traffic as usual but then started to hear reports from others of gunfire. We had thought of going to work that day but were thankful we stayed home. School had been cancelled since the previous day so we waited out the morning. It did not take long and a 24 hr curfew was issued. As the traffic thinned out we could also then hear the gunshots. The fires started to get closer and then that afternoon we could see scores of youth vandalizing homes-setting them on fire. It was eerie listening to the cheers and excitement from the youth as new fires would start. Gunshots began to get closer and we could see the youth fleeing in different directions. As the day progressed we could see many army, police, civil defense and cadets coming and going in all directions to areas of need.

By Thursday the military seemed to have things under more control and the curfew was lifted for 7 hrs to enable the Muslims to bury those who died and for others to get necessary food and supplies. At the time we were unsure of how many had died- heard reports of at least 200 (Muslims and Christians) . On Thursday and Friday we began to see scores of buses, vans and cars leaving with people and their belongings. We had heard that there were thousands of people who have fled their homes.

As the days progressed more stories keep coming of devastating events experienced by many people. A young man came to our gate asking for money because he was shot in the leg and was unable to pay for medical expenses. A pastor we knew from Vom hospital had sent his family to Vom while he stayed at his church to protect it from vandalism. We had heard from one man that in his village in Tudon Wada the Muslims and the Christians joined forces to protect their area from outsiders coming in to instigate violence.

The city now is still under curfew from 6 PM to 6 AM. Randy and some others have ventured out in the last few days to pick up supplies. The stores are slowly opening up and some of the vendors who sell fruits and vegetables have returned. At this point we are unsure when school will resume but Randy and I will not go back to work until school opens.

We are very saddened by these recent events. I will include here an e-mail we received from a friend of ours who is a pastor of a church here that has been very affected by the recent violence and destruction. He has had many connections with MCC over the years.


Our friends,


What do you say to a congregation that has been shattered by conflict? How do you encourage them again? I stood and read Psalm 88 in Church yesterday. The title of my message was Real faith faces real trial. Here in Jos, we have broken homes, broken walls, broken heart and shaken faith. This is similar to what the returning Exile during Zerubabbel/ Ezra/ Nehemiah went through. We can tell God how we feel, but we must trust that he loves and saves us to go and look for our lost neighbor in love not in retaliation... It is dangerous to preach peace in a time of war. But we have no option. Hold us up in prayer. One of my members openly told me, "Pastor we know you are Mennonite. We have not found anything wrong with your theology but we have found it very hard in our context...” I even find my theology very hard in this context. I am integrating my understanding in my life and asking God to help me remain faithful to his revealed will. I love God. I love his word. I love my members. I enjoy preaching it/teaching it to others. I take it seriously for my own life and it has been a wonderful compass. To God be glory. May we talk about peace and work for it daily.

A student of Theology (now) Pastor Bulus Datiri, now an Elder in his Church, Sang a song that has left an impression on me forever. The Song was in Hausa language GAFARTAWA GAFARTAWA x2 UBANGIJI KA KOYA MANI HALIN MAN HALIN GAFARTAWA ..... This translates FORGIVENESS, LORD TEACH US HOW TO FORGIVE OR THE ATTITUDE OF FORGIVENESS..
May we all find the grace to go on in his strength. in the New Year.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Seems like a while has passed since last writing. During October school break, we traveled to a beautiful rain forest resort in southern Nigeria with 3 other families. Traveling is always accompanied with various worries here in Nigeria, but overall the trip went well. The scenery was spectacular, the food was good and the children had a great time swimming in an amazing pool. It felt like we were living in the clouds while we were there. It was nice to see someplace new but would have been nice to stay longer. Maybe next time.

Upon returning to work, we were faced with the sudden and unexplained transfer of our friend/hospital superintendent, which created a fair bit of confusion at the hospital. In addition to being my direct supervisor, he and his wife have been a major source of support to us and were instrumental in arranging our being in Vom. It has been a difficult transition for everyone involved, particularly since the accountant was transferred at the same time. Coupled with the fact that funds have been delayed in coming to the hospital from the PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Provision for AIDS Relief) program, the hospital has had a difficult time. The clinic staff has held together pretty well and I am still glad to be a part of them. The clinic attendant is often singing as she works. She is a good reminder to me to enjoy the moment for the things that I have. Here is a picture of her with 2 of her daughters. A bright spot is the long-awaited arrival of a new doctor, who hopes to establish a residency program at the hospital. He will also be the new satellite coordinator for our HIV/AIDS program and has already demonstrated that he has the energy and skills to tackle programming issues, so it will be nice to be able to work closely with him to improve the program. As the clinic staff capacity to run things has been increasing, I am now able to turn my attention to larger program quality assurance issues. It seems less and less likely that I will be able to shift away from the HIV/AIDS program to also do general public health work, but it still feels like good work and I look forward to eventually broadening out to a more public health approach in the HIV/AIDS program work.

Charlotte continues to do good work in the Tuberculosis Unit, although they will need to be looking at ways to ensure the work continues when she and her colleague are away. Apparently at a recent TB training in Jos that Char’s work partner attended, they used the Vom program a number of times as an example of how a program should be run. Just a couple of days ago a mother, father and child were all diagnosed with active TB, so there is never any question of whether the work is useful and needed. I sometimes envy Char’s more frequent interaction with the patients, since other than greeting the clinic patients as a group in the mornings, most of my interaction is with the hospital staff. A couple weeks ago we helped out with a medical forum for the Hope for the Deaf program, run by an MCC Colleague. It was fun to see Charlotte interpreting again (they use ASL here), bringing back memories of when I first fell in love with her while watching her interpret.

The children had their mid-term evaluations and are approaching Christmas break in less than a month. They are all doing well and continue to really enjoy school and friends. One of the kids, however, (I’ll let you guess which one) did come home with a sealed envelope (usually not a good sign) which requested we meet with the principal to discuss behavior issues in class. Nothing incredibly serious, but still not a fun thing for all involved. I guess we need to see such occasions as “growth opportunities”, right? There have been a number of recent fun activities based at the school: An international food fair, a crafts sale where we were able to buy quite a few Christmas gifts, the senior play, a performance of the Messiah (a wonderful ful chorus of 100+ strong voices), a music recital on Sunday, school Christmas concerts coming up… It’s a fun time of year, even without the cold and snow. (Yes, I do miss them, although I have heard it has been a long, pleasant and mild fall in Winnipeg.) Later today we will join some folks to celebrate US Thanksgiving.

This weekend is the anniversary of the Jos crisis from last year when hundreds were killed and we were trapped away from home, watching fires spread throughout the city. It also happens to coincide with a major Muslim Holiday. We expect the weekend to pass peacefully, but have learned to do a bit of emergency planning just in case. It must be a hard time for the people that lost family members and property- Easy to understand why such conflicts can repeat and escalate. It is also clear how important the peace and justice work of Mennonite Central Committee and others continues to be.

Kyra continues to grow and Westen has done a good job of training with her. He wants to try some agility training soon.

We continue to enjoy good family time. Conversation often includes ideas of God and we are thankful for the opportunity to be able to experience God in different ways each day. Although we treasure our new relationships and experiences here, we do miss our friends and family back in North America- Holiday gatherings and family reunions, Chicago friends reuniting there next summer, my parents’ 50th anniversary... I read something recently about “the terrible sadness of time” and place. I guess there will always be those bittersweet connections to other people, places, and times elsewhere.

Last weekend we went out to Vom for a hike to the top of the mountain (a favorite hike for us which we have posted photos of previously). My knee is in such bad shape now that I do not feel I can risk such hikes (which is a difficult transition for me), so I just stayed at the bottom of the hill and walked around chatting with people in the village while the group went hiking. I realized that I haven’t taken the time to do that very often. It was a lot of fun- I was asked to bless some newborn twins, played games with the 50-odd kids that hovered around where we had parked the cars, followed a scavenging young pig for a while, checked out the nearby spring/water source at the base of the mountain (looked pretty clean) and best of all, got a tip on a local food that will increase my “MAN POWER”. (Although I was not immediately sure of what the woman was referring to, her increasingly sly grin and the rising level of amusement in the group surrounding us soon left little doubt of what kind of power she was referring to. She did mention that it will also improve woman power.)

I don’t think I have posted on the blog a little encounter with a bunch of kids I had on a previous hike up the Vom Mountain that I had written up for a progress report, so maybe I’ll stick it in here-

A group of expats was visiting for lunch and a hike up Vom Mountain, a 2-3 hour round trip hike. We had invited two young Nigerian friends to guide us up the mountain, Dung (the former matron’s son- a geology student) and Paul (the assistant chaplain at the hospital). Although the hiking was fairly steep and required a bit of rocky scrambling, it was through beautiful countryside. The final payoff (in addition to some much needed exercise) is spectacular views across the village, hospital compound and open plateau as well as back into the rugged mountain regions reaching towards the Plateau’s edge. We drove through the village, parking next to a church tucked against the base of the mountain and prepared to set off. As usual, children began to quickly gather, word somehow spreading throughout the nearby area. As we set off up the trail more children joined- smiling, looking, sometimes touching, trying out their “Good afternoon!”s amidst much laughter, running ahead up the trail, back and forth, enjoying something new in their day. We were certainly a bit of an oddity, hiking up the path with no visible motive- no cattle to herd, goats to tether, wood to gather, fields to prepare, or village to walk to. Since my arrival in Nigeria, my feelings have varied during such times of scrutiny, although usually the smiles, children and adults alike, are irresistible and infectious. Our children often experience this differently, feeling uncomfortably on display. On this particular occasion I asked one of our expat friends whether it was safe for the children to follow us out of town without their parents knowing where they were, or whether I should ask them to return to the village. I knew that some villagers thought witchcraft was performed up in the hills; there were also some parts of the hike that could be a bit dangerous. My friend replied, “Do you think they would listen to you?” The thought had not even occurred to me that they wouldn’t! On their own initiative our Nigerian guides made a few perfunctory attempts to send the kids home as we hiked but only succeeded in momentarily slowing them. Later while at the back of the group as we turned to start the steep ascent to the summit, I stopped and told the children (only a dozen or so remaining by now) that they needed to return to the village, pointing back down the hill. They looked crestfallen but still with a glimmer of hope that I was not serious. I repeated myself firmly, with them likely not understanding my words but clearly understanding the intention. They turned and slowly started back down the trail as I said goodbye in Hausa- Sai anjima!- and turned to continue up the trail, thinking, “That wasn’t too bad.” After a couple minutes of strenuous hiking I paused to catch my breath and appreciate the view of the valley stretching into the distance. I was surprised to see that the entire group of children was cautiously coming back around the corner of the hill, looking up to see what we were doing. As I spotted them and shouted for them to head home, most of them scampered away again, but a couple stayed, willing to take their chances. After another short expenditure of energy up the side of the mountain, I turned to see what was happening. They were all now at the base of the hill, sitting on some boulders and intently watching our progress. It seemed that success would not come so easily after all, but I was sure they could still be reasoned with and once again instructed them even more firmly that they must return home to be safe. They seemed to be enjoying the interaction with increasing amusement. I resorted to flinging my arm towards the village with finger outstretched, pointing and shouting, “Go!” There was a pause as they gauged how best to react. The suspended moment was broken when a bold young boy of about 10 stepped forward and flung his arm melodramatically up the mountain, pointing and shouting, “Go!” in an altogether pretty fair caricature of my stance and voice. The base of the hill was quickly filled with animated children flinging their arms in all directions and firmly shouting instructions, then breaking into fits of giggling. I couldn’t help but break into laughter myself, which of course put a final end to any pretence of their following my instructions to return home. (I can’t help laughing even now as I think about it.) As we continued our slow ascent at the tail of the column, the children soon scampered around the side of the hill to reach the top before us. They hiked mostly out of my sight, perhaps in an attempt to preserve my feelings of authority. As far as I know, no one was injured and all returned home safely, as did we, hopefully having enjoyed their afternoon of verbal sparring as much as I had.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Infectious Disease


Here is the mandatory warning that this blog post is not for the squeamish and may leave you with unsavory images for some time (it certainly has me). We have been experimenting with some more infectious disease here that we would like to share with you (just via the web). In addition to more giardia and some sort of nasty cold that is circulating (don’t want to ignore the run-of-the-mill infections), one of the girls had noticed some increased anal itching, so her sister did an inspection. We found them trying to wipe away dozens of visible small white worms crawling in and out of the sphincter. We think it was either hookworm or whipworm (we’re not too good at our helminth identification). The females apparently crawl out the anus at night to lay 10-20,000 eggs before slipping back in to a comfy evening of sucking blood or secretions from the intestinal wall. We treated the entire family just to be on the safe side and haven’t had a problem since.

I have had my first encounter with the dreaded mango worm. The kids not too infrequently find one on the dog and pop them out like a giant zit (somewhat satisfying). We have been well cautioned to make sure that we iron all clothes (yes, particularly underclothes) to prevent infestation/infection with mango worms, which we have done faithfully. Nevertheless , I somehow ended up with 5 gradually enlarging lesions on my forearm which I initially took for mosquito bites that had become infected. As the days passed the pain increased, at times feeling like small knives stabbing my arm. Eventually I was able to “pop” one out along with the rest. “Cordylobia anthropophaga, the mango fly, tumbu fly, putzi fly or skin maggot fly is a species of blow-fly common in East and Central Africa. It is a parasite of large mammals (including humans) during its larval stage. At the site of penetration, a red papule forms and gradually enlarges. At first the host may experience only intermittent, slight itching, but pain develops and increases in frequency and intensity as the lesions develop into a furuncle. The furuncle's aperture opens, permitting fluids containing blood and waste products of the maggot to drain.” (Isn’t that a tasty description- For more information, see ) The lesions are gradually resolving, but all told it will be about 6 weeks of sporadic intense itching and pain. Here's some photos I managed to take:

On a sadder note, we had been thoroughly enjoying the surprise addition of 2 new kittens to our household. (You may remember we had tried to prevent her from becoming pregnant by asking our neighbour vet friend to help us- Apparently you can trick a cat’s hormones into thinking that it has been bred by use of a thermometer. Use your imagination, but let me just say that it was an experience I will never forget and I was not even on the business end of the thermometer.) Last week one of the kittens fell ill and died within 36 hours. A couple of days later the mother did the same. The vets seemed a bit baffled- kind of an uncommon presentation. Yesterday, just when we thought that the other kitten was out of the woods and not going to be sick, it also became ill and we expected it to follow the same course, but by this morning it very surprisingly seems to be well on the way to a full recovery, so we are hopefully optimistic at this point. Although the kitten had been promised to another family, they have graciously offered to let us keep this kitten that has survived.

School and work continue well. A team from Abuja (the capital) will be coming next week to do a quality assurance inspection tour of the HIV clinic in Vom. I’m sure we will learn a lot. Here are some pictures of our staff and a mom with her daughter (“Joy”) who said I can show their picture. Nvou, our clinic attendant, is in the sweater, who is doing her best to teach me some Birom, the local tribal language. She said to tell people that this is a picture of a "very fine Nigerian woman". Dr. Bot is our medical superintendent and my boss/support who works incredibly hard to keep everything running (from surgery to administration to clinic to filling the generator with fuel). Our pharmacy staff (Deborah, Dinatu, and Cabala) have some of the nicest smiles around. I'll leave you with a final image of "Joy" for this blog entry.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Home

We are unpacking the last of our boxes as we move into our permanent housing for the rest of our term, and are very grateful to have had Matthew from our MCC team mobilize a team to help us move.

We spent the last 2 months only a short distance from here on another compound. Our kids had a great time playing with friends through the summer holiday- Tire swing, football (soccer), water fights, cooking lunches together, video games, ultimate Frisbee, another trip to the Yankari game preserve and warm springs, and watching old reruns on DVD in the evening (anyone remember the Flying Nun?). Just the kind of summer I would wish for them right now. The girls came out to the hospital a couple of times to help in the clinics and I hope next summer to involve all of the kids even more- lots to learn and the staff and patients really enjoy seeing them.

The last couple of weeks have once again seen more violence breaking out in northern Nigeria, although fortunately not in Jos. Sadly, there was quite a lot of loss of life. The clashes seem to have been mostly between a very fundamentalist Islamic sect and government forces.

We are still enjoying our work at Vom very much. I have increasingly little to do with the TB Unit as Charlotte and Nurse Vick become more familiar with the TB program. The HIV/AIDS clinic has added another day to see patients and we are hoping to open the expanded clinic space for use by the end of the month. The clinic functioning continues to improve as the staffing has gained more consistency. There are still lots of challenges, but it feels like we are moving forward. (You may recall that the primary physician, Dr. Young, who was instrumental to the clinic’s start and running, needed to move to Australia recently- So we are still very much adjusting to her absence as well.) We enjoy the deepening relationships with work colleagues as well as getting to know some patients, although we have also begun to experience seeing patients that we know dying from their illnesses.

MCC team meetings were held in Miango at a retreat facility at the end of July- It is a very relaxing place with good food and even a good electricity supply there. We had a nice time getting more acquainted with the other team members and their families. Our family had also been out to Miango with some other friends for a couple of days earlier in the month. Things are especially beautiful here during the rainy season. There are few things I enjoy more than to be working in the clinic during a downpour, with a fresh breeze blowing through and the sound of the rain on the zinc roof (OK- perhaps a Sunday afternoon nap, in bed with the cool breeze and the rain pouring down). Harvest is also coming in- lots of potatos and other things- some of which make tasty snacks sold roadside.

Our cat had kittens last month (in spite of our attempts to prevent that). She seemed too small and young but did very well with the 2 kittens she had. It was amazing how this somewhat cantankerous, finicky, “it’s all about me and what I want” cat suddenly knew exactly what to do and had never looked so happy in her life as she luxuriously curled around the kittens, purring away, taking perfect care of them. They’re now just old enough to start jumping around and are exploring the house- a pretty fun time.

Our new home is called “the Blue House”- in reference to its color, not mood. It is the second story flat on a Danish Lutheran compound, located at a very busy intersection called the Secretariat Junction. The flat is high enough that we have an
interesting view out over the hustle and bustle of city life, along with an unimpeded access to the hundreds of horn blarings that go on throughout the day. (Horns are used much more liberally here as they are in many countries. The Lorry drivers in particular like to announce that they are coming through and the horns can be quite piercing.) The view to other side is of the
beautiful compound- Mango, frangipanni and orange trees. We share the compound with a Danish family, the Lauritzens, that we are friends with. The flat below us is used by a couple who come sporadically throughout the year for short stays. We now have a generator and a bigger fridge that MCC has provided for us- We are very grateful. Electricity supply in Jos continues to be sporadic.

School has just started for the children. They were a bit anxious but are enjoying seeing their friends. I attended the chapel service yesterday morning- lots of new kids as well as staff. I guess that is an important part of life in such a mission community- getting used to people coming and going. We continue to be grateful for the opportunity for our kids to school with children from all around the world as well as Nigerians.

Hope you all are doing well where you are. Randy

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Well, it has been an eventful last couple of weeks. The kids have completed their first year at Hillcrest- It was a good year for them all and a lot of work as well. It is a relief to not have to struggle helping them to get homework done every evening. Their hard work paid off, though; all did well and received recognition for their efforts. Westen also had the 8th grade banquet, I guess intended to mark the transition to High School. It is a very big event at Hillcrest and he went through the stress for the first time (likely not last) of asking someone and all that entails. We were happy that he seems to have shown good judgment for choice of companionship. (Hillcrest’s website is, for anyone who is curious.)
Rainy season is well under way, with rain coming most days now. The downpours are beautiful and refreshing and the green transformation is amazing as everything springs to life. The fields are full of people getting crops in. The amount of work that goes into transforming huge expanses of land into neatly hand-tilled rows is humbling. When we first arrived last fall we enjoyed watching the progression of crops being harvested, so we are now enjoying watching people and the land move through this part of the cycle. The mango trees are filled with an amazing abundance of fruit, which the kids are enjoying very much.

Unfortunately there was an armed robbery on the hospital compound a couple of weeks ago. (There was another one within the last year, but before we came). We are thankful that no one was hurt- the people who were robbed are good friends of ours. The dangers of the kids spending so much time on the roads here (traffic fatalities are very high with treacherous driving conditions) had us already considering whether a move into Jos would improve our family’s safety, so we decided our family would feel safer being in Jos at this point. Although we are relieved to be in Jos now, there are many things we will really miss by not living in Vom. Our own and MCC’s vision of service and ministry is very much about presence and connections, so not living in the community where we work will change how we are able to go about that. The hospital community has been very supportive of our family throughout our time at Vom, and continues to be very understanding and gracious in that support. Charlotte and I will continue to work in Vom and we look forward to maintaining our work relationships and assignments. Housing is scarce in Jos, so we feel fortunate that MCC has found us very nice temporary housing until the end of July when we will move onto another compound and will likely be able to stay there until the end of our term. Both places have friends of the kids, so they are enjoying having more playmates.

Our experience here will now be different than we had originally thought, but we still want very much to be in Nigeria and continue with our mission (i.e. sharing our lives in God through relationships and work in a mutually transforming way). The entire process has and continues to provide many opportunities for growth- Life rarely goes as expected, especially here in Nigeria. Even when I cannot control what is happening, knowing that God is always with us, every breath, has been very comforting- That is the fundamental truth of my life and it has been good to experience that at a deeper level again recently. Just as our entire time in Nigeria has done, the recent weeks have also enriched and strengthened our family relationships. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Yankari Game Park

It has now been 6 months since we arrived to Nigeria. There are some things I have become accustomed to but still many things which require more effort. We are just now beginning to build some relationships at work which has been a big plus. I have learned more about how life exists for the majority of people here in Vom. Life would seem to be a constant struggle when hearing their stories, but I have been amazed at how well villagers continue on from day to day.
For the past 2 months I have been in the TB unit. About half of this population is HIV positive. I have heard many sad stories where a husband is HIV positive and has not disclosed this to his wife and it is only discovered after he dies. The wife then tests positive and is left with this stigma trying to raise children. In some cases the possessions along with the children are taken from her by her late husband’s family. There is much difficulty with the TB population to stick to their 6-8 month treatment regimen with limited cash flow in paying for transportation. The TB meds though are paid for by the state.
It is frustrating trying to work with a system where there is a shortage of staff, limited funds for equipment, and people not following through with what is expected. The nurse I am working with is still putting in time in pharmacy because they have not yet filled her position. It was expected that Sister Vic would be trained to manage the TB unit. Our local supplier of items for the TB unit states she will visit us monthly to replenish our stock but we have been left close to empty at times if not for Randy making a run into Jos. Water and electricity is in short supply. There have been days where we have had no water for pts to take meds so I have carried a bucket from home one day. Other days the electricity turns off and pts are unable to get chest x-rays. The hospital does have a generator but is only able to use it when urgent due to limited money for fuel.
Traffic is still a major concern for me to overcome. We still come across many accidents and every time we are on the road my body tenses up. Just recently on a trip back from Yankari we were side swiped by a lorry (semi truck). We were waiting to make a left hand turn across traffic and the truck coming toward us lost control of the steering and came into our lane, just glancing off the side of the car (luckily). The driver did not stop to check on us but continued on. I am so thankful that no one was hurt. Randy and the kids were also in a crash yesterday on the way home from school when a car came off the shoulder to do a u-turn right in front of them while they were traveling at highway speed. They glanced off the other car but then ricocheted across the oncoming traffic lane- luckily there was a gap in the traffic and they just continued on across without further collisions. No one was injured and the other person was very nice about arranging repairs, but it was still scary. Now that I work in the hospital I am constantly reminded of how unsafe the roads are with the motor vehicle crash victims coming in to be treated. One day, 3 people came in all bloody from head to toe and one man’s arm almost severed off. There are no ambulances so they come in quite fresh, usually in the back of someone’s pick up.
Our trip to Yankari wildlife preserve was quite exciting. We were lucky to see many different types of animals on our safari. At one point we saw baboons, monkeys, water bucks and elephants all in the same area. It was quite a privilege. At the accommodations baboons and wart hogs roam the grounds scavenging for food. One time I was on the step of our chalet and was startled when a baboon jumped up right next to me. I quickly opened our door and ran inside screaming. When I closed the door the baboon was wrestling with the door handle and pushing up against the door. Randy and Westen just sat there laughing at me while I was trying to bolt the door shut. We have even seen them attempting to open our window. They are quite aggressive. It is odd when one feels we have become the caged animal with baboons looking in the windows. The water springs at Yankari is quite inviting with the constant temp at 31 degrees Celsius. At our first swim Kezia yells out elephant. Sure enough there was an elephant grazing at the far end of the spring.
The temp here is still hot and sticky. Every so often it cools down and it feels like the rains are soon to come. The trees continue to bring forth wonderful flowers and I am surprised to see them bear new fruit. We are enjoying the mangoes. Right now though, I could go for a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.-charlotte