Thursday, April 23, 2015


She came in with tears pooling in her big eyes, scanning the room full of unfamiliar faces.  She spotted the one she was looking for and dashed over.

Mommy reached out and pulled her little girl close.  She tilted her ear in to listen, soothing the tears, gently reassuring her daughter.  It's okay.  I'm here.

And that was enough for the girl.

I watched the little scene from my seat in the back row.  That's not so very different from our Heavenly Father, I thought.

How many times lately has my heart been full, too full to do more than run to Him, the tears welling up inside?

And He cares.  And He listens, bending in close to hear.

He speaks comfort and reassurance.  He is not removed from my pain.  In fact, my pain is His, too.

He is there, my Father, my Emmanuel, the God of all comfort.

And that is enough.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Making Ngalax

Once upon a time, we made ngalax...
Ngalax is a traditional Easter drink/dessert.
Ingredients: monkey bread fruit (what's used to make bouye), peanut butter, sugar, water, nutmeg, vanilla flavoring, coconut flavoring, thiakary (small balls of millet flour - they kind of look like Grape-Nuts), butter...I think that's all.
In case you're wondering, yes, I know it sounds like a really odd combination, but I do actually like it.
Ready to start! :)
Stirring a touch of water into the thiakary before steaming it
The thiakary gets wrapped in cloth and steamed in a couscousier (which is also used to steam, as you might suspect, couscous)
After the thiakary was steamed, she added butter and nutmeg
Mixing the peanut butter with the monkey bread fruit and water
Ruth was having way too much fun getting her hand messy
The liquid was strained three times
Second straining
Third straining
After the final straining, we added the other ingredients (sugar and flavorings), then stirred in the thiakary and poured it all into bottles.
It was quite a time-consuming process.  We started around 10:30 and by the time everything was cleaned up, it was about 4:00.  Granted, we did stop for a bit to have lunch, and we did run into a couple glitches along the way (like not enough filtered water, and no pots that were big enough, both of which necessitated a walk around the corner to Rachel's apartment).  But it was a fun experience.
And they all lived happily ever after...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Easter Memories

Once upon a time, it was Easter Sunday...
Not many people were at church - compared to last year.  It probably had something to do with the fact that our church Easter party was Saturday night, and it went late.  Like...early-the-next-morning late.
I wasn't there for the party, since I was at Angèle's family's for their pre-Easter preparations.
Anyway, back to Sunday morning at church...
We posed for pictures...
Nobody knew which camera to look at.
And there's the lovely closed-eyes look.
 Ndèye, Siré, and I
She was pretty taken with him. :)
After church I joined J&A and went spent the rest of the day at her family's.
The picture doesn't really do her or her outfit justice, but she totally looked like a princess.
Our Easter menu: chicken, pork, onion sauce, two different cold "salads" (veggie mixtures with light dressing), bread, fries, several dipping sauces, and tons of juice - bissap, bouye, orange, ginger (which I adore!), mint, and some reddish-pink juice (strawberry? pomegranate?).  We ate well.  Very, very well.
Our Easter activities: eating (of course), drinking round after round of tea in tiny glasses, watching tv, talking, watching the kids run everywhere
Other Easter tidbits: The Easter greeting was Alléluia!, followed by a kiss on each cheek.  There was a big wrestling match in the evening, and it just so happened that "our" wrestler won.  I was in the living room with the ladies (the guys were watching the match in another room), and my word...I had no idea a room full of ladies could go that crazy over a sporting event of any kind.  They were jumping and dancing and whooping and hollering.  I was sitting calmly on the couch ('cause that's how I roll), and one the aunts came dancing towards me and pulled me to my feet, as if to say, "How can you just be sitting there all calm when he won?!!"  It makes me laugh just remembering it.
At one point, I was sprawled across a bed with Angèle, the baby, and one of the aunts, and it suddenly hit me...This is my last family holiday I get to spend with them before I leave.
I never imagined that one day I'd find it so hard to face the prospect of leaving.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Birthday Party

Once upon a time, my friend Siré's baby had a birthday...
We celebrated after church that day.
We drank juice.
We ate cake, beignets, and savory appetizers.
We played the music loud.
We danced.  (Okay, I didn't dance, but some of us did.)
We took pictures.
We blew out candles.

I'm savoring these kinds of moments, these special times that remind me how much God has given me during my time here.

It hasn't always been a bed of roses, and I don't want to seem like I'm just romanticizing everything about my experiences here.  But I do want to make the choice to see God's hand at work, to notice His gifts, and to treasure them.

And so I take pictures and blog and tuck memories away and lift up thankful hands to receive the gifts He spills out every single day.

- - -

L-R: Naomi, me, Siré, Simone, Darline, Esther, baby Suleman, Angie
2nd row: Elisabeth, Rebecca, Johanna

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Day We Made Juice

So I'm behind on blogging.  These pictures are, three-and-a-half weeks ago.
Once upon a time, us girls from the language center got together and Rachel showed us how she makes bissap and bouye.
Disclaimer: this post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease be a step-by-step explanation of how to make said juices.  It's simply a bunch of photos from that afternoon.
Here we are, removing the extra fibers from the bouye.
Most of said fibers ended up on the floor.
After we'd sorted through the fruit, we put it in water to soak while we ate.
Menu: Stromboli made by Benedicte and yours truly.  (And pretty delicious, if I do say so myself.  Not that I'm bragging here.  I mean, it had cheese, and I can hardly take credit for the inherent deliciousness of cheese.) 

After lunch we got back to work.
Here Rachel is rinsing the bissap.
So after the bouye had been soaking for a while, we started working it with our hands, so the powder (which we use for the juice) would come off the seeds.
It totally looks like Rachel is either about to ambush Marie-Claude or give her a hug.  Neither of which were true. :)
 Not everyone was done eating, apparently.
Good times.  Good friends.  Fun memories.
Two buckets, five sets of hands, four countries.
After working the bouye to the point where pretty much all the powder was off the seeds, we strained the liquid and tossed the seeds.

It was quite a process.  Not complicated, just time-consuming.  Oh, and we had to keep adding water because the "juice" was so thick it didn't strain very easily.
Our kitchen, the salon. :)
The bissap leaves (or technically flowers) were boiled along with mint leaves...

...then strained.
Here we're opening packets of guava juice powder to add to the bouye for flavor.
Benedicte is stirring the guava powder with powdered milk and a bit of water before adding it to the juice.
"A little more water in there, Lily!"
Sorry.  That was a line from a science video my sisters and I watched when we were kids.

Sniffing one of the aromes (extracts/flavorings) - coconut, corossol, orange blossom, vanilla - we added to the bouye.
And we wrapped up the afternoon with a birthday cake for Janel - chocolate, of course.  Because that's the only kind of cake.

...So my mom told us repeatedly when we were growing up.  When I was little I actually believed her.  It was traumatic to realize chocolate wasn't actually the only cake, and I had been deceived.

I still haven't quite got over it.