A vacation for the Not-so-faint-at-heart Part 3

I know.  It’s been a whole month.  Memories are fading a bit, so I’ve got to get this recorded!  So, I left off with our radiator driving away with a young boy on a motorcycle.  Would we make it to the beach….?

Here’s what was decided.  Since we already had reservations at Hotel Bel Azur in Grand Popo, and since we had two vehicles, the decision was made that we girls and Tobi would go on to our destination – so as not to run into any problems securing the rooms.  Neal and Don would wait for the 4Runner to get fixed.  But not before a brief trip to the artisanal to see what we could see and buy what we could buy.  Several members of our group found some lovely items.  Neal and I enjoyed the place because there were so many Hausa speakers there.  Nice for us as unfortunately we don’t speak French, which is the main language being spoken all around us.  We even shared the Gospel with one of the traders, and put Pastor Joseph on his case to follow up.

We ladies, protected by Tobi, were on our way by about 4pm.  The drive was less than 2 hours – in spite of the 2 lanes and lots of traffic.  Were we ever glad to see the ocean!!  Here we are, arriving!

A requirement for me when on vacation is working air conditioners.  Especially when in humid climates that our bodies are not at all used to. (We are in dry season in Niger, meaning humidity readings in the single digits).   I have been known to be very scary when a place we stay claims to have AC when all that ‘AC’ amounts to is an AC unit that operates as a fan.  Not good.  Upon our arrival, we tried no less than 10 rooms to find AC’s that worked.  Between the 7 of us, we needed 3 rooms.  Not everyone was adamant as I about having cold, dry air, but they humored me.  After much sweating, stubbed toe, scraped hand, carrying bags up and down stairs several times, we were settled.  Basically.  But wait!  It was almost dark.  And even though all of us could be considered the adventourous sort, none of us wanted to enter the ocean post sunset.  Tobi had been so patient through the whole ordeal I really wanted him to be able to get in – if even for 5 minutes.  After all, it had been 4 days since we left home and we’d yet to see our beach.

The beach at this particular location is quite rough.  It’s very steep and one has to be  a decent swimmer to get in.  Tobi and I are both decent swimmers and I’m also a decent watcher.   I think I had more fun watching Tobi run directly into the ocean, arms outstretched and shouting – than he had doing it.  And believe me, he had fun!   As good of  a watcher as I am, I could not see him in the wild waves once the sun was down, so out he came.  But he was a happy camper.  From there, we relocated to the pool which was lighted and lovely.  Then we waited for the men.  Neal called before they left to let me know that all his car papers/passport etc, was in Don’s car, which was with me.  “So be ready to bring them if I call you”.  What?!  Get in the vehicle again?  In the dark?  On that road?

Those in Cotonou with Neal & Don couldn’t believe they were going to travel without their car papers.  Believe me, I was all for it!  And much to everyone’s surprise, they made it through every checkpoint with no one asking for their documents!  Thanking God here!

They arrived around 10pm.  We had ordered food at the restaurant so it was almost ready by the time they got there.  Boy did we ever enjoy that meal!  Vehicle fixed and we were all safely at our destination.  Tomorrow – Beach Day!

Oh – I haven’t mentioned yet what was wrong with the 4Runner.  I’m not sure I completely understand myself….But the gist of it is that something caused overheating which made a hole in the radiator which caused the water to get in the gear box.  But Ben came through with much oversight by Pastor Joseph and he got it fixed.

Moving on….Here’s the view from our room.

We brought all our own breakfast stuff except for the mangoes and pineapple we purchased in the market.  Here’s where we enjoyed breakfast every morning – right outside our room.

Yep, the pineapple was amazing!

This is where we shopped.

So our schedule went something like this.  Get up (whenever we felt like it), have breakfast.  Watch the local fisherman bring in their nets – sometimes while in the ocean and getting in their way.  Spend time on the beach/in the water/fighting the waves.  Various combinations of us going for a walk/jog on the beach.  Move to pool.  Read.  Swim.  Eat avocados and pineapple and an occasional coconut.  Order lunch to be eaten at the hotel restaurant – semi outdoor with a view of   the beach.  After lunch, retreat to our room for a nap and to cool off in that crispy AC.  Back to the beach until sunset.  Return to the pool for splash contests and more relaxing.  Order dinner, eat it really late.  Crash after such an exhausting day.  The following pictures might tell the story a little better.

The fishermen.

Children and women are on hand with buckets when the catch is brought in.  They buy from the fishermen and take it directly to market to sell.  Now that’s fresh fish!

Inspecting the catch of the day.

We even saw some shrimp in there!

I’m including this video because I found it fascinating.  The nets were pulled in very systematically using a whistle and a type of chanting.  Everyone knew exactly what to do.  This was done every morning.

Here’s the view of our rooms from the beach.

Here’s a view of the ocean with Neal ready to take it on.

Don contemplates.

Neal and Tobi contemplate….separately.

This is the restaurant where we ate many of our meals. Viewed from our balcony.

Another shot from our balcony.  Erin and Tobi.

Tobi LoVeS the ocean.  It didn’t matter that he was on vacation with a bunch of ‘old’ people.  He loved every minute of it.

‘Riding’ these waves was quite the challenge.  More than once I felt like I was being tossed around in a washing machine and didn’t know which way was up.

Sand crabs were EVERYWHERE and I found them fascinating.  These are only a couple of the pics I have of them.  I even have video of them digging.

Here’s the little guy digging.  They do everything sideways, and are very quick.

From salt water…

To fresh water…

Howdy!

Being silly.  Very silly.

Check out the painting on the wall behind us.

One must keep up one’s strength whether with pineapple…

Or avocado…

For all the fierce competition.

Points were awarded..and if memory serves, Tobi had the biggest splash.

It’s a well known fact that no poolside time is  complete without a good book.  Jessica had the right idea.

Everyone had the same idea.

This beautiful sunset could be viewed from the pool…

Or the beach…

Now everyone knows that a trip to the beach is not complete without someone being buried in the sand.  Tobi was the, ummm, volunteer.

I’m pretty sure Neal was having more fun than Tobi.

Guessing Tobes is feeling quite vulnerable about now…

But it wasn’t all bad, having those big shoulders and all.

Wonder how long it would take the sand crabs to dig him out if we would have left him there…

But it wasn’t all fun and games at the beach…it was fun and games in other places too.  Other than our trusty hotel restaurant, here are some of the other places we ate…

It’s dark, but we’re eating chocolate mousse.  And according to Erin, it’s the best chocolate mousse she’s ever eaten in her life.  I may have to concur.

Panini in Benin!

We enjoyed us some fish.  Lots of fish – being right at the ocean and all!

Hungry yet?  Fish brochettes (shish-ka-bobs).  Tobi was begging for my broccoli – and everyone else’s.  What  a deprived life he lives.

Just for comparison sake, Erin and Jess had to have mousse at another place.  I believe it came in a close 2nd.

Nothing like a rousing game of giant checkers after a good meal.

I’m not sure if it was Kerrianne or Jess that came out a winner…

Happy tummies are conducive to silliness.

They are also conducive to napping.

Here are some other things we did…

Shopping on the beach.  Nothing like it!

Don was the best shopper.

It made more sense for all 7 of us to cram into 1 vehicle when going somewhere, so Tobi would get tucked in the back.  He used his time wisely.

Just a reminder that wherever we went, we were still at the beach.

We visited the Slave Museum in Ouidah.  Very sobering to hear how one human could treat another.

This is the tree that the slaves were brought to and sold…

 

A  restored cannon at the Slave Museum.

A really cool monument in Ouidah built in memory of the slaves.

Time to go.

Next stop – Casa del Papa for 4-wheelin’ on the beach!  This is the road to the beautiful resort.

When we got there, they told us none were available.  Can you believe they were able to deny this face?!

We made the best of it and enjoyed ourselves anyway.  I was really wanting these guys to be able to do the 4 wheeler’s though.  Neal and I have done it here twice before and my goodness is it fun.  As in F-U-N!!

Time to be on our way.  After all, we have a beach waiting on us.

Our last night at Bel Azur there was a buffet dinner with traditional dancing from the Beninoise people.  We thoroughly enjoyed both the food and entertainment – once again on the beach.

Serious percussion!

Disregard the look on Tobi’s face.  The food was great and we all loved it.  Just a bad camera shot but the only one I had.  Or maybe he’s really savoring it.

So – that was our last night.  However, the adventure is not over.  I have not mentioned anything more about our 4Runner.  But while it was sitting in the parking lot and being driven occasionally, it was having it’s issues.  But I must stop now.  We had an awesome time in Grand Popo so for now, I’ll leave it at that.  I will get to the ‘rest of the story’ some time soon.

For now,  I leave you with this.

A Vacation for the Not-so-faint-at heart.

We went on vacation.  But it wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill ordinary type family vacation.  No siree.  Nothing boring and average for us!  Our final destination was Grand Popo, Benin.  The beach – ocean included.  We’ve been there before, so we knew what was ahead.  Sort of.  It’s a 2 day drive over pot-hole infested roads – dirt and otherwise.  We started out on Friday morning, March 23rd.  Day 1 would consist of a 10 hour or so drive to Parakou, Benin .

Map of Benin Español: Mapa de Benin
Here's Benin. Niger is the large country directly to the North. Parakou is about 1/3 of the way down. Final destination was the coast.

By ‘we’ I mean Neal & I and Tobi, Don, Erin, Jessica & Kerrianne.  We drove our Toyota 4Runner and Don drove his Ford Explorer.

Leaving Niger — it’s obviously very dry and dusty.

VERY Dry and Dusty.

Off-roading anyone?

Or how about off-roading while on the ‘road’?

We’re getting close to the Niger/Benin border.

And here it is!  The bridge in the distance connects the 2 countries.

That building on the right is immigration – but I need to put the camera away so I don’t get into trouble!

Crossing the bridge into Benin.

The road is still ‘interesting’ on the other side, but it’s getting greener!

Jessica and Tobi chomping on the chocolate chip cookies!

Now that’s a road!

Getting closer to our destination (for Day 1).  That’s tapioca being sold on the side of the road.

And Pineapple!

Parakou!  It’s moving day for someone here.

The green and yellow guys are motorcycle taxis.

The SIM missionary guest house!  So thankful for this and other guest houses for missionaries all over.

Lovely place after our long journey.

We found a place to eat dinner, then someone in our party (who shall remain nameless except to say that he is the biggest among us) really wanted ice cream.  After all, we are on vacation!  So the search begins.  Our diligence paid off and we scored 2 containers of very tasty vanilla ice cream.  The 2 ‘containers’ amounted to maybe 2 cups of ice cream.  So we had to get creative.  We found some pom pom – a soft drink that we always enjoy getting when we’re in Benin.  It’s sort of an apple/cream soda blend.  We made pom floats.  They were yummy and everyone got a bit of ice cream.

I think Don found some orange Fanta -he’s transferring it into a more suitable drinking receptacle.  Don and Tobi were roommates for the whole trip.

Day 2 will begin tomorrow – but since we’re only expecting about a 6 hour drive, we don’t plan to leave until 9am.  We had a nice evening talking about books, then we went and read some of them.

Let the journey continue.

TTC & Vie Abondante The Finale. Finally.

I know, I know.  Will there ever be an end to this drama?  Pun intended.

The team is now home – and I’m still writing!  Just so much to say.  Thing is, we’re also getting ready to travel.  We’re leaving tomorrow morning for Benin Republic.  We’ll spend the weekend in Cotonou where we’ll minister in our friend Rev. Joseph Nwobodo’s church.  Then  Monday we’re off to Grand Popo – to the beach!  And by beach I mean the real thing –  complete with ocean and all.  I enjoy sand a lot more when it’s accompanied with a large body of water.  Quite looking forward to getting out of this dust for a bit.  In spite of the 2 day drive on rough roads.  But one thing we’ll be giving up is the dry weather.  It’s hot now, but it’s also dry.  Benin will be humid.  Very humid.  But it will be tropical.  But I digress.  Let me get back to the story at hand…

The youth meeting on Friday was great – and Saturday was just as powerful.

Neal and Scott opening the meeting.  They’re both wearing dresses.

TTC performing King of Hearts

Vie Abondante performing Thank You.

The youth responded to the call to GO into their world with the Gospel.  It was a powerful time of impartation.

Our pastors were very encouraged by the youth.  One of my favorite parts of the day was when Scott had everyone learn the sign language to the chorus of ‘Thank You’ and then he asked everyone to go and thank people that made a difference in their lives while the song was being played.   As soon as the music started, it’s almost as the youth all rushed together as one over to where all the pastors were standing – to say thank you.  A teary moment and one that I believe had great significance.  Here they are.

Then there was a time of prayer where the TTC team prayed for the Vie Abondante team.

The next generation was there to.  This is Bulus and Abigail – children of 2 of our pastors.  They responded to GO as well.

TTC & Vie Abondante.  What a team!!

It wasn’t over though.  Sunday morning we took the team to 2 of our churches in town.  First, it was Vie Abondante – Ali Dan Tsoho

Then it was on to Vie Abondante Maradi to minister with more dramas.  The people loved it – even though we went beyond the normal time to dismiss.

Taylor, Nichelle, and Emily have collected several kiddos they’d like to take home.

At the end of the service, the church prayed for TTC.  It was a special time.

After the service, TTC leaders met with Vie Abondante pastors and youth leaders to talk about how to continue what’s been started.  The training provided tools and now our youth will use those tools and will do greater things than any of us could have done alone.

For lunch, we headed to the French Club.  The term ‘French Club’ could conjure up all kinds of images  – likely none of which are correct as it applies here.  I didn’t get pictures of Neal & Scott playing tennis on the clay court but I wish I would have.  Actually, video (at least sound) would have been even better.  They used to play each other many, many years ago.  Who thought they’d ever play tennis together in Niger!  Here’s where we ate – and you can see the lovely pool in the background.  And it really was lovely.  Too cold for me to go in until I commandeered Emily to work out with me so we’d stay warm.  We did dorky laps.  Sort of.

Now, not just any French Club comes equipped with camel rides.  This one doesn’t either.  But Mainassara, the man who has worked at the club for over 30 years, was able to contact some friends in a nearby village and they brought a couple of their camels over for our team to ride.  If you’ve ever been on a camel before, you know it’s just for a photo op.

Pretty sure Taylor is loving it.

Josiah – and that ‘saddle’ really is that uncomfortable.  And crooked.

Nichelle

Keagon.  Ride ’em —-cowboy?  Check out the guy on the left.  Wonder what he’s thinking…

Look Ma!  No hands!

Emily – really, she’s enjoying this.  I have no idea what’s up with the santa hat though.

And the fearless leader.  I think.

Take The Challenge!  I’m talking about serving God, not riding a camel.

This is the SIM guest house – their home away from home away from home.  One is never too old to enjoy the merry-go-round.  I take that back.  I’m too old for that.  I can NOT spin like that.  But looks like they’re having fun!

Monday morning we packed up for our return trip to Niamey.  It was a long one.  It was without incident, if you don’t count being asked for papers at the police checkpoint and having to return to Maradi to renew our insurance and start out again 2 hours later.  But we made it.  If you want pics of that – refer to the previous post about our journey here.  Not sure which one that was.

Tuesday morning Scott taught 4 hours at our Bible school, while I took the team to the National Mussee.  They saw some cool stuff, saw some crafts being made and did some shopping.  Didn’t take any pictures because frankly, I was tired of carrying my camera around.  We met Scott and Neal to finish up souvenir shopping then had lunch at Chez Chin – yep, a Chinese restaurant.

After that, we took the team to see our primary school.  It’s a great vision and a work in progress.

All too quickly it was time for everyone to pack up and get ready to say goodbye.  Several of our pastors came by to do just that.

Jenga – passing the time before going to the airport for the 12:45am flight.

It was pretty hot… and this was with the AC running – the one you see at the top of the picture above.

Here we all are together.

Some sad faces ready to go to the airport…or not.

Me and the girls.  And what great women of God they are!

This is the temperature on the porch after we got back from the airport.

TTC has arrived home and our team members have returned to their villages and homes.  But no one has returned the same.  God used each of them to effect the lives of each other.  And they have all made an impact on the nation of Niger.  And this is only the beginning.

To God be the glory great things He has done!