Take me out to the football game!

For the past year I have wanted to attend a football match at the stadium in town.  It finally happened.  About a month ago, the Niger national team played in an African Cup qualifier against Cape Vert and I went along with my dear friend Brian and Valerie (now residing in DC…so sad).  Brian had a friend who is connected to the football scene in Niger and we experienced the VIP treatment: sweet seats and A/C refreshment room at half time.

We got there in African fashion, just before the players came out to the pitch.  They played both national anthems and then it was time for kick off!   I was surprised how well both teams played.  Not quite Premier League but better than MLS.  Of course, Cape Vert scored three goals in the first 15min but the crowd never died down.  After each goal, the people in the stadium would clap and pump up the Niger players.  They even had a “marching” band that played music after the goals of the opposing team (I say “marching” because they were all dressed up but never marched…I was disappointed).

 

The crowd was electric and contagious.  I couldn’t help but get into the spirit.  Niger did finally score a goal and everyone went wild!  What a glorious moment.  You would have thought we won the African Cup then and there.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I ask, beg, plead…

IMG_1200Rather than write an incredibly long post about our summer in the States, I just want to bring up one point in time.  It only lasted about twenty minutes but I will never forget that moment.

Our visit went like this:  Montana, New York, Ohio.  Sandwiched in the middle of our home states, we visited my grandparents in New York City.  It had been a few years since I saw them and since we traveled this far, I didn’t think it would be out of the question to see some of my East coast family.

With an extra day in the City I decided it was time to visit the 9/11 memorial.  And when I say “it was time” I really mean that I had been avoiding it since it opened.  You see, it’s the final resting place of many people but one that I knew personally and to this day it is difficult to grasp that he is actually gone.  And it’s not like he was a person I saw every day, just once a year.  He was the husband of my cousin.  I know that sounds rather distant but there is nothing distant about the relationship I have with my cousin, actually the cousin of my father.  However, she is like the older sister I always wanted: someone who deeply understands me and still loves me.  (And yes, I do actually have an older sister but it took us a while to become close so in the mean time, there was my cousin.)

I don’t want to tell you my story.  It’s long and I’m just not willing to share at the moment.  But here is what I want to tell you:

IF YOU EVER VISIT THE 9/11 MEMORIAL DO NOT TAKE A SELFIE WITH THE MEMORIAL IN THE BACKGROUND.

Even now while typing this all caps message to you, my heart is racing and my breath is short.  Searching for his name on the metal plates, dodging tourists, was as if I was searching for a lost treasure.  I almost started to panic when I couldn’t find it.  My dad was there, telling me he knew where it was but we couldn’t find it.  My hands passed over each name like I was reading them with my fingertips, asking them if they knew where he was.  And then, spelled out before my eyes:  First Middle Last.  I wept, as I wept then, as I am weeping now.  The tragedy is still fresh for me and I don’t know if it will ever go away.

But there, as I wept, were people all around me taking god damned selfies.  Families standing before the roaring fountains, smiling for the camera.  I get that I was standing in the middle of one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world but I couldn’t help but hate every person I saw.  Perhaps hate is a strong word.  I guess really, I just felt sorry for them because they were clueless.  Didn’t they know that they were standing on the graves of so many people?  Would they take their selfies in the gas chambers of a concentration camp?  Or the USS Arizona memorial?  What did they think this was, Rockefeller Center?

However, I love freedom.  I love living in a country that respects the rights of people to express themselves freely, without fear of imprisonment or persecution.  This is why I ask, beg, plead with you to take the time to visit the 9/11 memorial and try to respect it as the final resting place of people who had nothing to do with war but died in a fight that will never be truly won.  You may or may not know someone who was never found but now you know someone who does.

I’ve seen ground zero from the beginning, middle and end of it’s progression after 9/11.  Yes, it is a grand memorial but the roar of the waterfalls is too terrifying for me.  It drowns out the cries of the past and clouds the eyes of the living.  It washes away the destruction and the death.  Perhaps some day those things will be washed out of my memory too but I hope to god I never see that day.  I, for one, will never forget.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Sadness

IMG_1108This past week has been a rough one for Team Osweiler.  Last Saturday Victor’s step-father died from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident.  It was very shocking and I’m not sure the true weight of the news really sunk in for a few days.  This summer we visited him and his wife (not Vic’s mom) while we were in Great Falls just like we would every other visit.  But this time was a little different.  IMG_1090Yes, we went out to eat, as usual but the next day Tom took us to the Railroad Museum at the county fair grounds where he volunteered.  It was magical.  The building was filled with memorabilia from a time gone by with two rather large model train sets.  I have always loved trains and the nostalgia they bring. Living in Europe was so fantastic for train travel that I long for the days I could hop on a train in the morning and be in London by lunchtime.

IMG_1065

IMG_1106

 

 

 

 

 

This was a side of Tom I had never seen before.  He was like a kid in a candy shop, so delighted to share this passion with his kids.  I went wild, taking photos of every little model building, tiny cars and even an alien space ship!  Without that visit, I’m sure his death would have been even more tragic to Victor and perhaps myself.

But that wasn’t the only death this week, was it?  Of course, when any celebrity dies you can’t escape the tributes, news articles and facebook updates.  The death of Robin Williams was also very tragic but also hit a personal note for me as well.  Just a little over a year ago, my uncle committed suicide and the wound inside of me is still very fresh.  With all of the outpouring of “how could he have done this” to “I can’t believe” to “but he was so happy” it seems that mental health education is lacking in our society.  We can’t understand unless we have also been in the shoes of the person suffering.

This week my sadness was overwhelming and as I sit at home alone, it only increases.  However, I am not going through a depression where I am not able to get out of bed, I am just really sad.  But I’m not the type of person to hide my feelings.  When people ask me how I’m doing I will tell them: I am very sad.  That does not stop me from laughing or having fun but it does make it a little harder to breathe.  It makes the alone times so much more lonely.  I am a total extrovert and I know that if I am around a group of people it will give me energy, therefore I have been conscious to surround myself with people each day this week.  It seems to be working…not to mention the huge nap I took today.

The most difficult thing about being sad where I am right now is that, even on a normal day, I experience a moderate amount of sadness.  Just driving down the street I am aware of the poverty in this country.  I witness children wandering the streets sometimes half clothed.  I see people walking in-between cars, begging for food, money or anything to survive.  But I don’t look at them and say, “I should be happy because I have more than they do” I try to imagine how I can be part of the solution, not causing the problem.  And with the sadness I feel for the losses in my family, I look outside and think about not only the poverty but what losses others may have faced in their lives.  Not just the people on the streets but all of the people I see every day.  That is not a problem to be solved, or a program to develop.

And like Job, I have friends who will sit with me in my sadness.  That is the only good thing about suffering: with the right people, you don’t have to do it alone.  I thank my friends here who sit with me, share scones, give me tours, and just hang out while eating good pizza.  It’s when you’re alone that the suffering becomes unbearable and I hope that day will never come when I have to do it by myself.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

First day of school…and I don’t have to be there!

Last year I took a job teaching 2nd and 3rd grade at the American International School Niamey and it was quite the adventure.  This week school started again and I reveled in the fact that I didn’t have to be there.  When I took the job I agreed to one year of teaching since I was really just a glorified substitute.  I still don’t know the whole story but there was a great need for a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher since the young lady teaching 4th and 5th grades took in the class due to the absence of a 2-3 teacher.  When I visited her classroom with the director she looked at me as if I were her Fairy Godmother coming to grant her wish of whisking her off to the ball.  How could I refuse the job after that?

It was a year of invention, determination, laughter, tears and beauty.  Those children were my biggest challenge and my greatest accomplishment.  Even now that I’m not teaching, I do have a bit of an empty feeling that I won’t be entering a classroom full of kids that are either excited to see me or dreading our next writing lesson.  I can honestly say that I miss them being in my life every day.  Some of them I still see because they are part of the Embassy community.  Of course they are the introverts whose love language is NOT hugs but I pick them up and hug them anyway.  My excuse is that I am no longer their teacher and I don’t have to be nice to them.  I can ignore the fact that in school picking them up and hugging them might be frowned upon.  It’s the real world now and I won’t have any repercussions of the law in the back of my mind.  Hahahahahaha!!  Yikes, that makes me sound like a pedophile.  Trust me when I say that my hugging is purely for embarrassment and not for any harm.

Another fantastic addition to randomly getting a job at AISN were the people I worked with.  What a great group of people!  I loved going to school everyday because I had such a wonderful time with my fellow partners in shenanigans!  There are so many great memories and friendships that will live with me.  I couldn’t have done it without them and I will have to say, the fact that so many of them have moved on to new teaching positions, marriage or moving back to the States, is one of the reasons I didn’t sign up for another year!

Here are a few photos from the year that summed up how amazing it all truly was.

IMG_0026

International Day!

IMG_0244

An art lesson about tattoos turned into a writing lesson and henna on our hands.  (By the seat of my pants lesson)

IMG_9685

I was never in the Science Fair as a kid so I really had no idea what I was doing.  Good thing my kids were amazing!

IMG_8832

Why yes, I did show everyone my basketball skills.  And yes, they were impressed.

IMG_7895

The campfire at Week Without Walls might have been my favorite moment.
IMG_7544

This might be my favorite photo.IMG_7166

I don’t know how our door for Halloween didn’t win!  They were so creative.
IMG_7348

How could you not love working with these crazy people?!IMG_8178

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How Downton Abbey prepared me to live in Africa

downton-abbey-season-4-ftrIf you know Team Osweiler, you know we are not fancy people.  We usually can take care of ourselves and don’t mind if a thing or two around the house is out of place.  However, we are also very obsessed with watching the TV program Downton Abbey.  Perhaps it’s because we enjoy the escapism of another time and place with other problems and complication.  Either that or we miss England terribly and can’t wait to get back there some day.  But whatever it is, I am glad for our obsessions.

You see, at Downton there are rules when it comes to Upstairs life and Downstairs life.  Service is not a position to look down on, it is a job to be respected.  People take great pride in their work and the running of a household.  Of course, the Crawley Family is rather kind and gracious to their staff, which I’m sure was not always the case back in the day, but none the less, there is a lesson to be learned by us in the middle class who find ourselves thrust into an upper class lifestyle.

Here in Niger, Team Osweiler is in the upper class.  No, we don’t have butlers, ladies maids and valets, but we do have house staff.  Even before we moved into our home, it was highly suggested we find domestic help for cleaning, cooking, laundry, gardening, etc. and I was one to be very hesitant.  “I can clean my own house,” I thought, “and cook my own food.”  Little did I know the extent to which these tasks could very easily grow.

However, it’s not just about the cooking and cleaning in this lifestyle.  It’s also about creating jobs in a place that is difficult to find good work.  We hired a housekeeper who works three days a week here and three days at another home.  She cooks the most wonderful meals and works very hard to keep the house in top shape.  Our gardener is here every morning watering our plants, washing the car and taking care of the pool.  They have great pride in their work and I find that it is an honor to be able to afford their service.

At Downton, service is not about working against one’s will, it is about the ability to do one’s job to the best of one’s abilities.  As an employer, if I do not find the respect in that, then I am just another prat who is able to throw some money at a lowly servant.  I learned about the responsibility of the upper class to use money to create jobs for the community, rather than lock it up in a bank account, never to be seen.  Perhaps if we had more wealthy people investing in the working lives of others and not hoarding millions for what reason, to ship it off shore and avoid being taxed?  Maybe the Crawley Family can teach us all a thing or two about what it means to be wealthy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Adventures in Ghana

When we moved to Niger I hadn’t decided wether or not I would get a job for the first few months.  After meeting people those first few days it was suggested that I visit the American School and see if they have any positions that need to be filled.  Sure enough, the director right away asked me if I just so happened to teach 2nd and 3rd grade.  Well, since I’ll try anything once, I took the job.  Not sure if that was the smartest thing to do but it’s been an adventure ever since.

This job, as most of the ones I’ve had in the past, has lead me to some fantastic opportunities.  The first one was an education conference in Ghana.  After the conference was over, I stayed in country with two other teachers and we had a relaxing mountain adventure.  Here are some photos of our time in Ghana:

IMG_7017

This was one of those times when you think “I might not survive this” and then throw caution to the wind.  We scaled down a rock wall to get to a waterfall.  Luckily, it was totally worth it.  Of course, I didn’t upload a photo of the lovely waterfall…I have no idea why. IMG_6949

The view from our Mountain Paradise Resort that was more like camping with concrete walls.  But it was so quiet and peaceful I could have stayed there for days.
IMG_6947

Just a little friend I found in the bathroom of my room at the mountain resort.  He didn’t last long. IMG_6928

THE SEA!!!  I ate more lobster in Ghana than I ever had in my life!  It was cheap and plentiful.  Just how I like it.

IMG_6924

The weather was amazing and it was nice to be hugged with humidity for a few days.

IMG_6914

Just a little bar we visited one night but it was such a fabulous time.  The best part was being out and about in a city with a lowered security threat.  One night I actually walked from my hotel to a restaurant all by myself.  It was like I was a real person.  IMG_6910 IMG_6909 IMG_6913

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Once again, we take a trip back in time…

Before we moved to Niamey, I was informed that our Embassy had a softball team: The Niamey Sandy Sox.  I could hardly believe it.  It’s the middle of Africa, how in the world could softball be a part of this life?  Well, it is and I couldn’t have been more excited.  Our first tournament was in October and even though we didn’t win, it was a fantastic weekend.  Here are some action shots:

IMG_6812With the constant turn around at this post, a few of the people in this photo have already headed home which makes our team rather like the Bad News Bears.  But there was never a dull moment!  The name of the tournament was NUTS: Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball…it was totally nuts!

IMG_6815

This field is at a local Christian school and the grass is REAL!  This, of course, is right after the rainy season.   IMG_6869

Yes, that is a giant turtle crossing the outfield.  We have a few at our school too and I’m sure you will see more photos of them in the future.  We kept playing like it was a normal occurrence but I was glad we were up to bat rather than in the field.

IMG_6873

The winners get to take home hand crafted trophies of camels!  We’re very classy here in Niamey.

IMG_6880The tournament banquet was held at the American Rec Center (the second playing field was there too) and it was a fabulous evening.  I got to MC with my colleague Mr. Oumarou and they even made me draw the raffle tickets (in English and French).

 

The second tournament of the season was in Burkina Fasso and this time the Embassy didn’t have enough people for a team so I played for the school’s staff team.  However, three days before the tournament I decided to pass a kidney stone.  Yeah, it was awful.  But our team won the whole kit and caboodle and I can’t wait until we face them again next year!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment