• Archive for June 2008


    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    I have a flat in Africa.... Okay so not as enticing as the opening lines of the movie Out Of Africa, but as amazing all the same. As I flew over Nigeria descending into Lagos I could feel my heart racing. My dream of coming to Africa had arrived. I was eager to get through customs and on to the bus heading to our new home. Travelling the hour from the airport to our home was like no hour I had ever lived before. The things I saw! People everywhere! Cars everywhere! Nothing was familiar! Everything was exciting! In that first hour I knew I would love living in Africa. We were very warmly welcomed by some of our fellow compound livers. Roger had done a wonderful job getting our flat fixed up, painted and cleaned. There was a welcoming card and gift for each of us from Roger. A very thoughtful and loving jester to his three overwhelmed girls. The first week was spent unpacking our things from Malaysia, which had just arrived. We were able to make a home right away, which helped us all feel settled. The girls enjoyed playing with their toys and sleeping in there own beds. We are still waiting on our things from Canada, it is all in customs and we are hoping it will clear this week. I am starting to run low on the food we brought from Canada in our suite cases. I will post photos of our flat later when I have everything set up.

    We met many very nice people in the first week. They have all headed home for the summer months so things got very quite around here. It was a somewhat lonesome feeling for me. But I plunked down and set out a schedule. With the girls adjusted to time change and our house set up it was time to venture out! The first stop was the local market. Wow. The first thing to get use to is how 'white' I felt. Once I got use to being a light bulb I was able to get some shopping done. At the market you are never talking to just one person every decision is made by several people at once. I was bartering with one lady for some mangos and it seemed that every other lady in the area had to argue with me! I was almost in tears by their sterness and loud voices, resolved that I would not spend more then one dollar per mango I held firm. As soon as the deal is done they are the friendliest people! I went to the fish market this last week with my stewardess Patricia. The way she bargained I thought world war three was about to break out, I backed up towards the car but as soon as they struck a deal they were laughing and chatting with each other as old friends!
    I am amazed at how many wonderful fruits and vegetables I can get. It takes a while to get it all cleaned. Upon our return from the fish market this week (we also went to the produce market) we gutted and cleaned the fish which took an hour, then I cleaned the produce which needs to be soaked in a disinfectant, bugs removed, dried and put away. A very big job when you eat eighty-percent raw food.

    Another amazing thing I was able to do this week was spend some time at an orphanage. It is such an amazing place and I am so thrilled to be able to be a part of it. It is primarily a maternity clinic for low income women. They deliver about thirty babies a month and provide pre and post natal care for two hundred or so women each month. The clinic is run on the main floor of a very small building, the second floor is rented out and the income is spent on running the facility, the third floor is the office and home of the founder 'Mama', and a small baby orphanage of babies who were abandoned after birth or the mother died and the family never came to fetch the child. Also in the back yard a very humble shack was built to run a school for low income children ages three to seven. About thirty children crammed into this tiny hut (I have never seen such smiley children before). I had a wonderful chat with Mama on Saturday, she filled me in on her life's work. She was raised in Nigeria and trained in the U.K for mid-wifery she followed up those studies with a nursing degree then headed back to Nigeria where she started the clinic thirty odd years ago now. The whole community calls her Mama, she is showing signs of age and mostly spends her time on the couch with her feet up, but that does not stop her from caring for over twenty women a week. And she does a fine job running the place from up stairs (she has a large booming African women voice!)

    Mama and the nurses were eager to get me involved and equally eager to have Marion and Davina join me. So Monday we went and played with the babies. There are eight right now and the room holds (cramped) twelve. Eight babies seven months and younger. With only two attending nurses these babies spend the bulk of their days in cribs. They are very well taken care of with feedings three times a day and a soft bed. But I could tell with in the few moments of arrival that all the babies were delayed in their development. Marion had brought a bag of baby toys that flashed and sang, the older babied were mesmerized. They had never seen any thing of the sort. Marion read books and sang with them for an hour and those babies kept their eyes glued to her the whole time.
    I spent the bulk of the time cuddling the small babies, three days to two weeks old. I was holding this very sweet little girl, her name is Mary, she is two weeks old and weighs five pounds. As I was holding her I snuggled my lips into the nap of her neck and talked softly and kissed her I was so shocked when her eyes flew opened and she watched my every move. I realized she had never had that sort of affection. It broke my heart. When Davina was born Roger took two weeks off and the bulk of those weeks were spent with us adoring and loving our new baby. And now there is a sweet new baby named Mary with no one to sing sweet love to her in her first days, weeks, months, years? It was a simple morning of playing with babies in an over crowded hot orphanage nursery but I loved it and look forward to more involvement in such a wonderful place!

    Back to compound living... Roger and I have started working out together three times a week Patricia comes at six am and we have a date on the treadmill! On the off days Roger and I take tennis lessons. Such fun! But after only one week of all this activity I slept wrong and pinched a nerve in my neck so hopefully this week we can carry on. There is a nice big pool where the girls and I swim almost every afternoon, Marion also started swimming lessons this week. She will be going twice weekly. After just one lesson I could see a difference. Marion has struck up a friendship with a very sweet five year old, her name is Sabrina and she is from Malaysia. Marion and her are very similar in character, quiet and thoughtful. Roger and I are pleased that Marion has found a friend so soon. Sabrina has four sisters, one also being Davina’s age so I think our families will become close. We went to the beach yesterday. It is about an hour out of the city and very lovely. We rented a beach hut for the day, which was a wonderful way to relax.

    These three weeks have been incredible. It has been wonderful and I love it here. I am looking forward to the time of this been my home. Of course there is much to get use to. The noise never stops. There is a lot of poverty. There is nothing, nothing familiar about this place. This is Africa, not America or a wannabe. Nigerians are wonderful, very friendly, have the most beautiful smiles, they sing all day. I have much more to write but I need to make some dinner. I will write again soon on some more of Africa. I hope you enjoy the photos it is a bit hard taking pictures as most Nigerians do not like their photos taken.

    Making waffles!

    Marion and Davina's Play Room

    Across the street from Ife Oluwa Orphanage

    Birds for sale. $1 each...or $10 for Oyibo's.

    "Under the Bridge" or "The Fish Market"

    Patricia (in the pink) striking a deal for us.

    Produce from "Under The Bridge"

    Marion's first swimming lesson.

    Eleko Beach

    View from our beach hut. It's about $18 to rent one for the day.

    Traffic jam or "Go Slow" driving home from the beach.


    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    Being back in Canada was amazing! I hope all can bear with me, this might be a long entry as we covered a lot of ground, visits and made many memories. I do not want to leave anything out...so... here we go.

    Our flights from Malaysia were awful, much too long and a bit hectic as most of the flight attendants did not speak English! I also found on this trip that most people are not very baby friendly. It made me sad to think that one of the worlds greatest assets (children) are valued and treated so poorly. We managed to spend our layover in San-Francisco. We loved the city and enjoyed the comforts of North America! The first thing we did after checking into our hotel was find a health food store.... which was pure enjoyment for me!!!! The next day we toured the city, crossed the bridge, lapped in some sun and of course we hit up Target on the way to the airport. Arriving in Calgary I think that Both Roger and I felt the longing to be home and missed the sweet pleasures of family and friends. We were welcomed by our dearests....lots of tears and many hugs! Marion flew into Timothy's (my brothers) arms and remained there for the following week! Tim and Katherine (my sister) made our house very clean and welcoming... nice gifts for the girls and new towels and sheets for Roger and I. It was wonderful to be home! We had a very full week. Roger was only their a few days before he was off to Africa. But we filled it up. That week we visited, Roger's parents flew out for a weekend, we took possession of a recreational property we have been building over the last few years in Radium, it worked out so amazing that we were able to set it up while Roger was in Canada. My cousin also had a birthday party for Davina and her little girl who was born two weeks after Davina. While we were both pregnant with the girls we would always say how fun it will be to celebrate the girls birthdays together. We were able to fulfil that dream as we had a beautiful party for them. I must say my cousin did all the preparation and clean up for it so all the credit goes to her but it will always be a treasured memory for me! One of the highlights of my Calgary time was being able to spend so much time with my sister Katherine and Josh, we had so many good talks and laughed at stories the way sisters only can. I love Katherine soooooo much and feel sadness not being able to be there while she is pregnant! A note on Josh.. he is so perfect for our family! It takes someone pretty cool to be able to handle the Duits clan but he takes it all in stride and yep he's just one of the guys!

    From Calgary I flew to lovely Victoria where my older brother picked me up with his massive truck, I needed something big to haul my luggage around. Jason and Shannon lent me their vehicle while I stayed on the Island, having my own car really made things go much smoother! I think Jay would have disowned me if he had to drive me around for six weeks... but hey it would have brought back memories of our teen years! I stayed with Roger's parents for the whole six weeks, which was amazing, they were very generous and allowed me and the girls to move right in, noise luggage and all (even salad right Dad?) Marion and I loved all the stories Grandma Milner would read. Davina loved Grandpa! I was so blessed to see how close the girls got with Grandpa and Grandma Milner. The girls really enjoyed staying at their house, by the end of the six weeks they were talking as if they owned the house. Marion completely took over the purple room and felt a bit territorial when Meg came back and claimed it.
    I spent the first few weeks visiting with the Island folk. Every Sunday my Grandparents (Hordyk) would put on lunch for anyone in the family who could join. I think in the six weeks of lunches the smallest crowd was fifteen people. Every week the food out-shined the last. But the best times were after dinner and we would all sit and talk and catch up with each other. I have a very interesting family, I loved the visiting. The generosity and hospitality my grandparents showed made enough sweet memories to last me through the next year of being away. I also had a few very lovely 'high teas' and lunches with Grandma Bulough. She is a very dear person to Roger and I. I am never disappointed by dullness when I am around her. She is just as colourful as always and I love being with her.
    I got three very sweet visits in with my Grandparents (Duits) they both had very serious operations while I was in Victoria. It was wonderful to see them doing so well by the time I left for Africa. I visited with many others and felt like every visit had a special place in my heart.

    The time was drawing near for my family to come to Victoria from Lone Butte. My Mom's due date was coming soon...expecting her eleventh! My Brother Jason and his wife Shannon opened up their beautiful new home in the country so my Mom could deliver her baby in Victoria with her dear friend and trusted mid-wife Angela Spencer.

    Like organized sergeants Shannon and I flew into gear, the goal: Put thirty dinner meals in the freezer, thirty soups for lunch in the freezer, twenty dozen cookies, three large trays of brownies, and get the house in order for the troops. All while tending to our own children, Marion being four, Case being two, Davina and Dallas still nursing! Did we get it all done YES! It does help when you are working hard, to be with the finest of company. I have fallen in love with my sister Shannon. She is of the highest quality character. I have always known she is a gem but being able to spend so much time with her I have not one thing slightly negative to say about her. I wish I could be as sweet and lovely as her. She has become my dearest of friends...so time passed fast when I was working hard with her.
    We knew things would go smoother if we did not have to cook. We also wanted to MAKE SURE my Mom stayed resting. When my family did arrive I was sure glad to see them. It was the longest I had ever gone without seeing them. They were all so beautiful and healthy looking. The wilderness air sure seemed to be doing them well. My brothers Bradley and Kristopher 17 and 15 towered above me!!! We had a very festive time in the days that followed, lots of coffee and talking! The twenty dozen cookies we had made lasted four days!!! I guess Jason, Brad and Kris thought it was important to have a few dozen each a day.
    One thing the younger kids and I planned to do was have a 'junk food party' we invited some cousins and planned it for Friday, I took the kids over night on Thursday. On Friday morning I got a call from my Mom saying she was feeling a bit off and thought she was most likely going into labour. I asked her if she had any contractions or if she was heading to the hospital? She said (very calm) "oh no nothing that serious, just a thought that's all" at this point she is two weeks early and I thought probably too much time for her to think seeing as I had all the kids and no cooking needed to be done. We went off to do some errands and when we returned at ten I called Shannon to see what was up. Shannon explains that the mid-wife was there but nothing was happening and Mom was having a nap, while on the phone with me Shannon says "oh your Mom has just called Angela and your Dad" within a few seconds we heard a baby cry..... born in fifteen minutes and three contractions! A baby girl! Josephine Grace! I got off the phone and told the kids, they were thrilled jumping up and down! We all ran to the car and flew out to meet the latest Duits girl....
    I had a very excited crew as we drove. When we got to Jay and Shannon's we were ushered into my Mom's room and got to see Case my parent's second grandson holding his newborn auntie! All the kids got to hold her. She was perfect, looks just like the rest of us. It was fun to find the uniqueness of the situation, she was born at her older brothers home, born an auntie four almost five times over. As all the kids were taking turns holding her my parents were going between being new parents again to grandparents.... it really is so much fun. It was such a blessing that Angela could be part of it again.... I guess my parents will need to end the baby making because Angela is retiring!!!

    Of course there is never a slow moment when there is eleven in the family, as soon as Josephine was born we were preparing for Brad and Kris to go to Guatemala for two weeks with their school on a building/missions trip. I was very proud that they would take on the challenge of humanitarian work. And from the stories and pictures it seems as though the trip impacted them for life. After we sent the boys off my parents, along with me and the girls, headed up to my parents. They live in eighty acres surrounded by thirty thousand acres of crown land. They are very isolated. But what beauty! It was exactly what I needed after being in Kuala Lumpur, no noise, see the stars, enjoy nature at it's purest. I loved being at my parents. They have such a wonderful place. Their house overlooks a small lake where I would sit and read and watch the birds or whatever animals ventured for a drink. I had only been to my parents ranch once right after they had moved. It was really nice to see how clean my Dad and the boys had made the yard. My Mom had made the house so organized and efficient, my Mom is very creative and all her little touches sure make it cosy. Roger joined me at my parents after eight long weeks of been apart, the world finally felt right again, my love was back near me. He looked so handsome and older (in a good way) I could see he had been on an adventure! The girls and I soaked him up for the next few days. When we had to leave my family it was as if a part of us was been left behind. Roger and I loved my parents ranch and lifestyle, it was very peaceful. My family is truly amazing each one so thoughtful and caring. I felt so lonely driving away. If only I could capture them all and take them along for my travels! One condolence was that I took KateLynn with me for the next week. We were Victoria bound. Meg (Roger's sister) and Andrew's wedding was on the weekend and we only had five days on the Island. The wedding was beautiful and peaceful. It really suited Meg and Andrew. It was a pleasure to be part of. I must say that they had this amazing flower girl! And there M.C was extremely good looking....wonder if he is available? We had a really fun breakfast with the Smiths (Roger's relatives) the morning after the wedding. They are all cowboys and all had a hand in raising Roger. It is a rare and spectacular moment when you get most of them together. We laugh a lot and everyone leaves feeling as if their language had been spoken! Another fun memory was Milner Christmas in the spring. Christmas is a very big deal at the Milner's and there was no way Roger was going to let the festivities slide just because he was away. One evening we all opened gifts, of course we got spoiled. A big disappointment was all the gifts we had purchased did not arrive from Malaysia into Nigeria in time for Roger to bring all the Christmas gifts to them. But I guess next year when we have MILNER CHRISTMAS IN THE SPRING you will all get two years worth of gifts! What a fun obscure memory we made!

    We spent an evening at Jason and Shannon's they had this really awesome news, remember how Shannon and I made all that food and worked so hard, well all along she was pregnant and knew about it but would not breath a word to anyone so that she would not be a burden! She is amazing! I tell you in my family it is all about compound interest! It was wonderful having lots of time with Roy and Lisa and their two kids, the kids always play really well together. Lisa and I can talk for hours on health and cooking, Roger and Roy can talk for hours on music. It was hard to say good-bye to everyone dear to us. We will always cherish the time we had with everyone. From Victoria we headed to Radium it was a dream come true for us to own property in the mountains and so amazing that we got to spend a weekend there before we left North America. We met our close friends (cousins) Derek and Tinika for the weekend. We enjoyed how relaxing it was to just walk, and enjoy the views. We went to the hot springs which were very refreshing. Just a small advertising plug, it is a fully furnished three bedroom two bath condo on the top floor located in Radium B.C. Full Mountain views from every window. We are renting it out so if any one is looking for a great place to holiday just let us know.

    After Radium we returned to Calgary for seven days. We spent a lot of time soaking up friends and family. I loved it that every night my brother Tim would come and visit. It was also great to go to church and see so many people we love. First Assembly feels like home. The main highlight of Calgary was our friend's wedding, Regan and Travis. We had a small hand in getting them together...man are we happy about that! Both Roger and I were honoured to be in the wedding party. It was an incredible day. No hitches other then the marriage! Regan and Travis were the coolest bride and groom! They were so much fun. I must say that I have never seen a more beautiful bride! She really encompassed purity and joy, a true bride! Thanks guys for including us! The wedding was Saturday and on Sunday we were off to Africa. It was a very emotional good-bye I was truly heading into the unknown and leaving a lot of treasured people and wonderful times behind. But as I flew away from everything familiar, I felt God's peace that he was leading me away with him again.....

    We stopped in San Francisco for a couple days on our way back from Malaysia.

    Just enough time to see the bridge...


    ...and trollies.

    Davina happy to be back home in Calgary.

    Books with Grandma and Grandpa Milner.

    Marion at the market.

    Bethany and her baby sister Josephine

    80 acres in the wilderness.

    From motorbikes...

    ...to flowers. More pics of Meg and Andrew's wedding: http://traceylheppner.com/megandrew/

    Condo in Radium Hot Springs

    More pics of condo: http://www.highcountryproperties.com/properties/feature.php?propcode=R2309

    Davina with second cousin Kiara, back in Calgary.

    Regan and Travis' wedding!