Submitted by Joy Falk
Editors note: Invermeres Falk Family parents Joy and Stacy, and daughters Brianna, 12, and Rebekah, 9, arrived in Niger last June for a two-year adventure. Joy is teaching kindergarten and Stacey is managing construction projects. This is the first of a two-part series.
It is hard to believe that we left the Columbia Valley and arrived in Niamey, Niger six months ago. As I am sure most of you can imagine, the weather here in West Africa is quite different from what it is in Canada. We are a mere 15 degrees north of the equator.
When we arrived at the end of July, Niamey was in the midst of the rainy season. Temperatures still remained high, but periods of rain snuck up on us and would quickly saturate our clean clothes on the line with sandy raindrops. Our first night here, we experienced a sandstorm that took us from daylight to a brilliant orange sky to darkness in a matter of minutes. It was a wild experience.
Then we headed to a mini hot season where we learned to deal with constant sweat (this is not an exaggeration) and many power outages. We are now in the cool season; where we find ourselves in sweaters in the mornings at 17 degrees, many locals will be wearing toques and down jackets. Soon we will be heading into the hot, hot season, more sweat, more power outages and more dry skin.
School started in August; two weeks later, the Niger River flooded. This changed many lives unexpectedly. As the river rose, we watched water pour into the school campus and take out hundreds of local homes. It was a sobering week, as there was very little we could do but watch it all unfold.
In the weeks that followed, staff worked hard to salvage what we could from the campus and set up new buildings so the school could re-open. Stacy spent many days working in sewage water up to his waist, moving furniture and school supplies by canoes to larger trucks that would then deliver the contents to a holding ground where everything was bleached and prepared for future use. It was a miracle to have school start only one month after the flood.
My job has remained the same, teaching Kindergarten. I have a lovely international group of 12 children. Stacys job, on the other hand, has taken a dramatic switch. He was to build a playground structure and staff housing; as a result of the flood, neither of these projects has begun. Instead he has been doing maintenance at the four different campuses, learning the ins and outs of dealing with termites, replacing locks and fixing doors, dealing with plumbing and electrical issues and many other constant challenges here in Africa. It has been a steep learning curve for him.
Look for part two in the series next week.