Saturday, September 22, 2007

Niger traffic test

I have been doing a lot of driving in Niamey lately (I usually let Dave do that for me, but sometimes that doesn't work out). Between that and thinking about Dave's nephews back home starting to drive I thought I might ask a few questions to give you a sense of driving in Niger.
Traffic stop
What takes priority at an intersection?
a. the traffic light
b. the police officer directing traffic
c. the stop sign (located with in two feet of the light)
d. the traffic the is trying to go the other direction
e. the truck that broke down in front of you
I am still not sure that I know the answer to this question but I suspect that the answer either varies from day to day or “what ever works”.
Traffic Circles
Who has the right of way at a traffic circle?
a. the person entering
b. the person leaving
c. the traffic light
d. the person with the nicest car
e. taxis
This is an especially interesting question because in Niamey “most”of the time the person entering the circle has the right of way, except when there is a traffic light that is working (hopefully at all the points of entry) or on the two traffic circles in town that work the opposite way. Please note that these trafffic circles were marked at one point in time and if you look really hard you might find some remains of a sign but otherwise you just have to know which ones are different.
Where is the worst and most likely place for your vehicle to breakdown?
The answer to this one is easy so I won't make it multiple choice: The JFK Bridge. It is the only bridge on the only river in the entire country and about two blocks away from the boys school. It is supposed to be one lane in each direction but that can be debated based on your chosen mode of transportation. I have a friend that suggested that vehicles that are getting ready to breakdown migrate there like spawning fish.
Needless to say that it took me eight months before I got up the nerve to drive in Niamey the first time we lived here. Luckily at that time we lived with in walking distance of the school that the boys and I were connected with.
I have to give thanks to God for His provision. This week our car went into the shop to have a much needed tune up and oil change and while it was there the mechanic looked at the steering wheel (because we had just noticed it doing funny things). We took it in after we took the boys to school and planned on spending the day in town because our language class was in the afternoon this week and not that far from the mechanic. So the plan was to pick up the car after class and then get the boys from school. However the mechanic called us after looking at the steering and told us that “IF he could fix it” he would need to have the car for two days! We thought our only other mode of transportation was to take taxis. Note: our house is on the opposite edge of town from the boys school—taking a taxi to school means you take a form of “bush” taxi to the Grand Marche (the big market downtown). Walk across the market to the other side (about two blocks)and then try to find a taxi going in your direction that is full enough for the driver to think it is worth leaving. There is one other complication for getting the boys to school on time. There school day starts at 7:30am before the market opens and about the time that the taxis are starting to run. But God stepped in and friends at the school lent us there second car while ours was in the shop—so we didn't have to figure out the taxi situation after all!
Please pray for our safety on the roads and continue to remember us as we study Zarma. We still haven't got our e-mail/internet situation figured out—sorry if you have been waiting to hear from us!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Finally Moved

This has been moving week. We're finally into our new house. We bought a new fridge without seeing it, borrowed a gas stove from friends, and hired a night guard. The house is starting to feel like home. Ben said, “This is the best house we've ever had!” When asked why, he responded, “Because we don't have to move again. This is the sixth house we've lived in since the beginning of July. All those transition have taken its toll. I'm concerned that Cole particularly is struggling with culture shock on top of all the moves—his emotions seemed to get the better of him more than usual.

The house is still a challenge however. It seems like all the faucets leak in one way or another, and monster cockroaches keep going belly up in our living room. The gas stove has an electric starter which is great for the stove top but impossible for the oven with the fluctuating electrical current—I currently have it plugged into two voltage regulators and it is still unpredictable.

Our new guard is named Mohammed—how ironic—Jesus is my saviour but Mohammed is my night guard! Mohammed, as best as I understand, has come into the city to find work, while his family (ie wife and kids) still live in the bush. He is a Tamajek/Touareg who speaks just enough French for us to get along. Touareg's are traditionally nomads who ride camels through the desert and have a reputation as raiders and warriors. (Currently, in Niger there is some political turmoil over a 'Touareg rebellion' in the northern regions of the country, which has included running gun battles and the use of land mines to blow up army personnel vehicles.) I told Mohammed he would have to teach me a little Tamajek and so far my lessons have been how to say hello and the word for “sword”. (He carries one to work with him everyday.)

Despite my expanding Tamajek vocabulary, we hope to work in Zarma here in the city. Tomorrow we start our first Zarma lesson with two other missionaries who also would like to learn. Different people have told us that we should expect a certain degree of fluency after six months but we also have a friend who spent the entire year the last time we were here and still didn't fell like she had a handle on it. Please pray that the former holds true for us.

Sorry we haven't been able to communicate the last little while we haven't had an internet connection since the end of August. (We hope to correct that soon!)