Our bus ride to Niamey didn’t start well. It was overbooked and since we weren’t that adapt at squeezing into small spaces and rushing to open seats most of the team found themselves squeezed onto the back seat. I found myself sitting in the front of the aisle next to the driver. In West Africa they sell water in sealed-of plastic bags as opposed to bottles. It was extremely hot and we were sucking those bags dry in the dozens, our bodies seeming to slurp up every drop of moisture available.
Finally, late in the afternoon we arrived in Niamey. Pastor Boureima, whom we had met in Ouaga, was there to pick us up with their church van and we were very relieved that we didn’t have to trudge trough a scorching Niamey in search of a place to sleep. Once again on arrival we walked into the by now well known and typically West African compound. Usually a walled yard with the rooms forming a U shape and facing inward to form sort of courtyard. Unfortunately they had no room for us inside so we had to pitch our tents in the yard again. Which is were most people sleep in Niger since it’s too unbearably hot inside. At night even our tents were stuffy and we found ourselves sleeping under the stars and even then the heat was barely bearable.
We had a few days to burn, excuse the pun, before we were expected in Zinder in the east of the country, our first set up ministry opportunity since Morocco. It was also Tinet’s birthday so we decided to celebrate by eating out- a very rare opportunity. Her family had donated some money for the occasion. It was when we arrived at the market place that we realised that Niger truly was a very poor country. The beggars and lame were lining the streets and the market seemed less stocked than some of the other countries.
While we were celebrating Tinet’s birthday a random man, that had been sitting at a table with his family next to ours, approached us. He had overheard some of our conversation and it turned out he was a Canadian missionary. We quickly became good friends with Tim and were invited for dinner at their house. Our good friend turned into an angel when he arranged for us to visit the Samaritan’s Purse base where they had a lovely swimming pool!
When Tim later visited our compound where we were camped out under the hot sun with almost no shade, it was too much to bear for his gracious heart and he booked us into their ministry’s guesthouse- for free! The cool tiles and the air con’s cool air blowing over us almost drove us to tears. My old faithful travelling mattress that had already survived a trip around the world finally decided to give in, but once again God provided miraculously. I found a stack of these mattresses in one of the guesthouse rooms and Tim accepted my offer to buy one from him. Without one, the rest of my year would have been extremely uncomfortable!
Soon our air con rooms came to an end and it was time to tackle the next bus to Zinder, a massive 890km, 13h stretch.When we had gone to buy the bus tickets the company told us that of all their busses in Niger only one had air con, and there was no way of telling whether we would be driving in it. We didn’t have much choice any way and didn’t bargain on going in the urban legend of the only air con bus in the whole of Niger.
Yet early the morning when Tim dropped us off with his Land Cruiser there it was, seemingly brighter than the surrounding busses. It had an unmistakeable aura around it, it was the mystery air con bus, and we were going to cross the desert of Niger in it!
Pictures from top to bottom: Niger buses (wow!), Wayne helping to fix a door, Johan enjoying the drum, Detlef hair cut in our Niamey compound, celebrating Tinet’s birthday with a cake!