The main purpose of our trip was for Jeremy to help with the hospital’s computer infrastructure. There was lots of work to do but we had a very productive three months. And the effort resulted in some great accomplishments!
It was a pretty ambitious endeavor to completely re-architect the core business servers. We got rid of some things (like virtualization and clustering) and we introduced some new things (like RAID, encryption, off-site backups, network usage policies, a printed DR plan and a wiki). Most importantly, all of these decisions could be traced back to good reasons – because it’s so important to be using the right technologies – as opposed to the ones that I personally like (for example clustering)!
My work at the hospital in Africa was also a great learning experience for me. Perhaps the biggest thing was learning to make better boundaries around myself and my family in an environment where legitimate, desperate need never ends. It’s something that will profoundly impact how I interact with work for the rest of my life.
At over one month back in Chicago, Jeremy’s gained back a few pounds, the henna (a traditional plant-based temporary tattoo) has faded from Erin’s feet and hands, and Sprinkle is, well, as cute as ever! We’re readjusting well to life back in the States. Air conditioning has returned into a daily necessity instead of a luxury (especially during this Midwest 100°F heat wave!) and black-eyed peas are no longer a mainstay of our diet.
As we continue to process our experiences from our three months in Africa and figure out the long-term impact it will have on our trajectory as a family, we would like to share with you a few snapshots from our time:
Despite the solid ex-patriot community of workers at the hospital, I tried to leave the compound on a daily basis, usually during the 10 o’clock hour for the Nigerien custom of avinci, a late breakfast. I generally opted for waki da shinkafa (rice and beans with sauce) though occasionally I also went with tuo (millet patties smothered in sauce) or a fried egg sandwich on a baguette. By spending time in Galmi village, I learned a little of the Hausa culture and language, and I also enjoyed building relationships with local Nigeriens. Usman was a young Nigerien who worked at the hospital’s machine shop. We went to avinci together several times and he commented how it was meaningful to him that I would venture so regularly off the compound.
Mama Hawaa (“Sprinkle’s Mom”) was the name bestowed on me by an extraordinary group of ladies: the mothers tending their babies at the CREN, a center for treatment of malnourished babies at the hospital. I went regularly to the CREN to visit with these mamas and, even though we shared only a few common phrases, we communicated through gestures, smiles and laughter as we held, kissed and prayed for each other’s babies. One mother joked that her 6-month old son, a smiley, joyful little guy, was engaged to Sprinkle. (Sprinkle seemed more interested in eating his biscuit.)
There are so many fun things in Africa! Every day I found rocks and sticks and leaves and dirt that I just had to keep for always! I started saving my treasures by putting them in my onesie (a convenient pocket, indeed!) but my mommy always found them, usually when she changed my diaper. I also liked the lizards, goats, the big doggies that my mommy said were called “donkeys” and the really big camels. I even watched my mommy ride on one of those camels! When I wasn’t collecting treasures or watching animals, I was playing with lots of friends. We had so much fun together!
We cannot thank you enough for your support during these months. Your encouraging emails, messages on facebook, and your prayers sustained us in the day-to-day of life in a new country and community. We will continue to update our family website with photos and stories of our family. We’re not sure what next adventure God has in store for us, but we are looking forward to pursuing God’s plans as we grow closer to him and closer as a family. We would LOVE to hear how God has been working in your life, too! Please feel free to contact us through email, skype, phone or regular mail!
Our Trip Expenses
Our total trip expenses were around $8,000. (Waiting for exact figures on Niger living expenses.)
We raised $6,215 in gifts to support the trip! We’re giving away more than half the gifts to Galmi Hospital and to another NGO in Niger called Expanding Lives.