We arrived back to Niger on Wednesday and my flight was for Sunday night so I had a few days to hang out and get ready to go again. Grama and Grampa were a huge help with that. Our car had a funny noise so Grampa took it to the mechanic. It was something in the engine that we decided needed to be worked on while I was gone. Tobi got in bed with me every night – I think it was more because the AC in my room was cooler than the AC in his room, rather than because he missed me… But it did provide an opportunity to have some interesting conversations. Tanika and Tobi both made birthday cards for me to take to Neal since he’d be having his birthday while in Paris. Sunday morning I went to both of our Niamey churches so I could thank the members for praying and to give updates. I enjoyed seeing all of them. That night Grama and Grampa came over and after saying goodbye to the kids, Grampa took me to the airport. Tobi was already in bed, but kept getting up. I was doing my best to keep from sweating before leaving by staying in the bedroom with the AC on, but gave up when the electricity went out. I highly dislike getting all sweaty before getting on the plane, which is always freezing.
My flight to Paris was fast and uneventful. I arrived before 6am and had to walk what seemed like for an hour to get to baggage. It was 10 degrees Celcius (about 49) when I arrived and I was trying to figure out what Neal meant when he told me it was warm… Finally got my 2 checked bags and made my way out to hopefully meet Neal. He had already come and gone, being directed to a different entrance. I finally figured out how to use the pay phone right at the time he was returning. He answered the phone as he was walking towards me. He had quite a journey to make to get from where he was to the airport. Now we had to make that journey back, with 2 very heavy suitcases and one very heavy carry on. What a journey it was. It wasn’t over the river and through the woods, but it was on the metro, up stairs, down stairs, on the train, more stairs, bus, and walk up a hill. At this point I was glad it was cold. Even after all of that, I never broke a sweat! It took a couple of hours so I was pretty happy to deposit the luggage in our 16th century room.
A pastor of a friend of a friend hooked us up with this not yet operating guest house in Paris called Word of Life. It’s being restored but they graciously offered to let us stay here at no charge, use the kitchen and basically have the run of the place. It has been incredible, and what a testimony to see how God has provided.
After off-loading the bags, we took another journey (one of which I would get very familiar) to the hospital to see Trae. Depending on the timing of all of the transportation types, it takes between 1 hour, 45 minutes to 2 hours. He was at American Hospital of Paris. Quite a nice place. And finally, there was Trae. Laying in his bed, reading. Looked great really. I could see that Neal had been taking very good care of him. They found a place to rent DVD’s (you can get almost anywhere on the Metro’s if you know what you’re doing) so Neal went to return one and I stayed with Trae. I was feeling pretty tired at that point. After Neal got back, he and I went to Pizza Hut to get some lunch. That was about 1 mile each way. Trae’s hospital meal was fine, but for us to order hospital food and eat with him, it would cost us about $50 – each! Trae didn’t mind. He ate his food, and some pizza!
We left Trae that evening with the schoolwork I had brought to him, and his computer. We were expecting him to be discharged on Wednesday, 2 days later. He was ready for that!
Wednesday came and we went to pick Trae up. Came back to our house and got settled. It’s in a really nice area and we enjoyed just walking around. Trae was up for as much activity as allowed. He was still having some pain at the surgery area, as well as down his arm, but he didn’t let that stop him. In fact, Trae’s doctor all but prescribed our sight seeing.
We haven’t had any plans to visit Paris even though we’ve traveled through many times. But we decided it would almost be foolish to be here all of this time and not see the sights. So sights we did see. I considered ourselves very fortunate tourists. Our hosts, Rob & Caira are American missionaries here in France. They are wonderful. They have been so helpful, but yet we feel free to come and go as we like. Rob showed Neal how to use the metro and maps, and recommended things for us to do. This is really the best way to see a new place. Not from a hotel as a tourist, but living with someone who knows the place.
Before I arrived Neal and Trae went to the Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. We toured a castle, went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, went to Notre Dame, Sacred Heart, the Louvre, the Arch of Triumph, Champs d’leysees, and saw Paris from a boat ride on the Seine. We got to know the transportation system quite well. It is really an amazing thing. Paris is really beautiful, and the people – well, we were pleasantly surprised by their kindness. We ate in sidewalk cafe’s, enjoyed chocolate e’claires and croissants, and had our portrait drawn – a 19th anniversary gift to ourselves. In addition to all of that, I was able to see Paris from a resident’s point of view. I have never been to an Ikea store, but was able to go with Caira. I was impressed! It was there I learned you had to pay a deposit to rent shopping carts. You got your money back when you returned the cart to the cue. Also went to a big grocery store. I enjoyed seeing many of the same products we have in Niger in our much smaller stores. But they were a fraction of the price here. I am attempting to bring cheese back to Niger with me in our checked bags. It is so much cheaper here. We were able to buy groceries and do some of our own cooking – not something that most tourists have the ability to do. And what a money saver! It was there that I discovered that not only do you bag your own groceries, you buy the bags. If you don’t have bags, or don’t want to buy them, you unload your cart to pay for your purchases, then you throw them all back into the cart, one by one , and from there, into your car, one by one. It’s good to remember the bags!
One night we wanted to see Paris after dark. We knew it would be a very late night as it doesn’t get dark here until nearly 10:30. But it was worth it. We went up the Arch of Triumph and saw the 12 roads that fork off from there, as well as the lit up Eiffel Tower. It was pretty cool. That put us back to our suburb at 12:30am. No buses run at that time. So we made the 1 mile track at the end of our trip through what is known as ‘the forest’. We became very familiar with the forest, day and night.
On the metros, especially during rush hour, one can be close enough to smell what others had for breakfast as well as see whether or not they trimmed their nose hairs…It’s funny how we can be so close to people, pressed by bodies on all sides, but have no idea even what their names are.
On one Sunday we visited a baptist church with Rob and Caira. It was enjoyable, particularly since they translated for us. They unexpectedly invited Neal to come up and greet the people and share about what we do in Niger.
Through another one of our partners, we learned of another church in Paris – American missionaries. It was through their website that we learned of meetings that were being done by a group called Shekinah Glory. And Kenneth and Lynette Hagin were speaking there. We were encouraged by the 2 services we attended. Yesterday we went to the American Missionary’s Church (Pastor Tim and Vickie Kilstrom) and had a great time. Neal was invited up again to share testimony. It was yet another journey to get there, but was well worth the effort. They invited us to lunch afterwards which we thoroughly enjoyed. Trae also, enjoyed a break from us as he joined the youth for a picnic (McDonald’s) in the park. We went to a wonderful restaurant, actually only my 2nd sit down restaurant since being here. It was Italian and we loved it. It was so much fun getting to know fellow missionaries. We found that we know many of the same people. And Trae made some new friends too. We didn’t get home until 7pm, and Neal cooked rice and stew. We had planned several days earlier to do that for Rob & Caira – wanted them to experience African cuisine. It was a great day!
A highlight for Neal and Trae, I am quite sure, was their attending the French Open. They mentioned it when Trae was still in the hospital and it was just one of those ‘that would be cool to do’ kind of thoughts. But then we started to really consider it and looked into tickets. It was less expensive then we thought. And Neal did have his birthday coming up. He had some money for that so we decided it would be a great idea for them to go. They got tickets for Tuesday and even though it rained most of the day, they still had a blast. On Thursday, Trae had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, which dawned bright and sunny. The plan was to go to Roland Garros, the stadium, and see if any tickets were available for the outside courts. They scored the cheaper tickets and saw lots of their favorites play throughout the whole day. Neal even got hit by one of the balls, and it dropped right into his hand. What a great souvenier – and it was free! Speaking of free, entrance to all of the Museums for Trae was free, and the prices for us were less then we thought. Some days were free for all, and some were half price after a certain time. We were pleasantly surprised.
Back in Niger…Grama and Grampa are working hard and taking great care of Tanika and Tobi. They have had to do all of the end of the year running around and helping to study for exams. On top of that, I’m quite sure they (Tanika & Tobi!) are both spoiled. Grampa makes them chocolate shakes and mango smoothies every day! That’s gotta stop! Don’t really know what we would have done without them there. This really wouldn’t have been possible for us. But now that we’ve been here, we need to come back and bring Tanika and Tobi with us. Paris is an impressive, old, historical city, well worth visiting.
I have to say that we are ready to be back to normal. Whatever that means. We have the doctors ok, confirmed tickets and we are packed and ready to go. We leave tomorrow morning for the airport at 8am. We will be in Niger by 3:30. We all, for many reasons, are ready to be there! But we are thankful for the leaders we have in the ministry that have been able to carry on through all of this, all while praying for and encouraging us.
God is good!