Sunday, November 27, 2011

Savor the Cookie

Today Kelli Austin brought me a plate full of cookies (chocolate and butterscotch) for my birthday that passed last week. I have had two of the cookies one before lunch and one after lunch. Prince even likes them.
As I ate that second cookie I though about how yummy it was. I was starting to think, boy I would really like another one, when I said no, not yet to myself. While I can still taste it in my mouth I want to savor it. So I sat with the wonderful flavor in my mouth and savored its soft goodness, sweetness and  delicateness. Then I thought when the flavor was gone, I could have another one. They are my birthday treats, but I told myself wait. Even though the cookie flavor is gone I can still remember it. I want to sit here and enjoy the memory. As I enjoyed the memory of that cookie, I thought about gratitude that we talked about today in church and how gratitude might help fill longings and give us the Spirit by cherishing and remembering the blessings Heavenly Father has given us including the atonement of Christ.
I am very thankful to all of you that love us enough to keep up with us on this blog even if you only read a little. I also really appreciate every comment. Love you all!

Giving Thanks in Nigeria

AUN gave a Thanksgiving meal Thursday at the cafeteria freely to all staff, students, and faculty. The line was tremendous. I've never seen so many people in the cafeteria at one time. It was so packed, the fellow who runs the place was trying to help people find open chairs. The special meal is seen on the right: BBQ turkey (your choice, chicken or turkey) with turkeys specially flown in, rice pilaf or spicy rice pilaf, and the usual assortment of miscellaneous sauteed veggies. Oh yes, and the Coke so cold there were ice chips in it - a pretty good trick around here. I worked Thanksgiving, getting home around 7:30pm - a bit earlier than usual because a neighbor gave me a ride.

Fri and Sat, I spent some time preparing a pumpkin pie using pumpkin I imported from the States during my trip there in October. I also cooked a chicken. Joy prepared some garlic mashed potatoes and deviled eggs. Then the Austins brought over some cookies for Joy's birthday and we had ourselves a family Thanksgiving celebration.
No pie pans, no crusts,
no evaporated milk, no whipped cream
We improvise

I am occasionally amazed at my students' papers. I have never heard any group of people defaming their own country with the vehemence I have encountered here. More than a third of my papers are about how terrible it is here. I've started correcting some of them, showing them real data of how Nigeria is getting better, that real progress is being made, and that some of their stories about why things aren't what they should be simply don't hold up to careful thought and scrutiny. I hadn't planned on coming here to defend Nigeria, but I didn't plan on becoming a defender of Utah in Ithaca either. If people don't believe good things are even possible, what hope is there except to get a degree and get out of town? They need hope, something to be proud of, and a sense of gratitude. The more I study, the more I actually think this place gets far worse press than it deserves.

Joy started off our giving thanks by saying how happy she was to all be together in Nigeria.

We are thankful to be able to talk to family on the internet.

Prince talks about fun

I've been having fun with my DS. And I've been having fun with Daddy. And then I'm having fun with my sister. And I have fun with my mommy. And I love to play with my toys. And I love to play at school. And I love to play outside. And I and I and I love going to the Austins. And I have fun getting Princess Peach. And then ... um, I love playing with Mommy again. And that's it.
 -- Prince (who also chose the picture)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weather: better than advertised

The impression I had gotten from people was that August/September was winter, so we'd better enjoy the cool weather that the rain brought while we could. It all ends in October.

So I did my best to "harden off" in those early weeks. I spent far more time walking outside than any of my more reasonable colleagues, trying to get ready for the big heat soon to descend. The winter was hot enough, with average temperatures in my kitchen at least 90 degrees already at 6am.

So here we are at the end of November and ... it's not bad! It's even better than "winter." Our kitchen is a mere 83-86 in the morning, and there are evenings and mornings when I go outside and it's downright pleasant! What happened?

Well, the rains stopped just like everyone predicted. That means that there is a fine layer of dust collecting in the air and the atmosphere. Just at the bottom of the horizon you can see that the sky is a little more brown than the sky directly overhead. If I haven't had enough water to drink, I can just taste the dust on my mouth and throat, but it doesn't seem that bad otherwise.

The dust keeps the sun's rays out, which keeps things cooler. The humidity is normally much lower too. It won't be until February or March that winds blow the dust out of the way and the terrible heat hits. At least, that's the story that is now explained to me.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old Testament Reading Plan

One of the goals I set myself was to read the full set of scriptures before my current contract with AUN is up (so even if we renew, I still need to get it done by about May of 2014) and the Book of Mormon every year as usual. Doing it over a 3 year period means I can be flexible and give the Doctrine and Covenants 9 months and the Old Testament 15, for instance.

I have read the OT completely a few times, so I see the wisdom in the Church's seminary program, missionary recommendations, and Sunday School class of not requiring people to read the entire 1200 pages in one year when it's only 300-500 for the other books. While there is an important lesson in seeing the lists of names and in reading the fullness of the Mosaic law, there are other scriptures that I would likely profit by reading more often. At the same time, in whittling the material down to the point that people don't get bogged down, some good stuff gets cut or skimmed.

So today I have been working on expanding the seminary recommendations to create my own shortened-but-not-that-short version. I was surprised to learn that there are exactly as many chapters recommended for the OT in the seminary program as there are chapters in the NT. Pretty clear that was no accident. I've been reading through the chapter headings to identify some additional chapters that are interesting or important for me at this time in my life. I include more chapters on the temple, for instance, that wouldn't mean much to seminary students, some history chapters that I find particularly memorable that talk about how God wants His people to be governed, a lot of Isaiah, and a few random verses here or there that I just want to remember where they are.

I tried Google first to see if anyone had any comments on what is "missing" from the seminary program, but you can imagine that didn't turn up much I wanted to read. Maybe for my own future reference, and maybe for anyone out there who wants "Seminary plus 25%", here are my recommendations for expanding the set of OT chapters to read:

An Unexpected Visitor; or Hospitality Isn't for the Weak

We had a surprise visitor last Sunday immediately after church. The guards called up that there was someone to visit. Joy tried to speak to him, but the guard told her that there was someone here for her husband and he would only talk to her husband. I spoke to him on the phone and he indicated I had told him to come by any time he was in the neighborhood. Now that doesn't sound very much like me, and I couldn't remember saying that to anyone here. He proposed that I might remember him when I came down.

Fair enough.

I still didn't recognize him when I went outside, which he could obviously tell. He told me that we met at immigration as we first arrived in Nigeria three and a half months ago. He had been pleased to welcome us to Nigeria and wondered if he might visit us sometime. That jogged about half of a memory. When he said I had responded that he should stop in any time he was in the neighborhood, I realized that it actually did sound a lot like something I would say. We didn't even have an address at the time! I treated it like the casual conversation it would have been in the US and was friendly and grandly flippant about the whole thing. In Nigeria, people take you at your word a good deal more.*

Well, now. Fair's fair. I have host-duties to see to and I have no idea what a good host does in Nigeria. Thankfully, my guest was right at hand with a suggestion: how about being invited inside for some water? Delightful. Yes.

Growing Up: First Bite, First Bed

I think we've mentioned the dinner game I played with Princess, of offering her some of my food and how she will reach out to grab it. Thursday she was more successful than usual. She grabbed Mommy's banana and chomped on it. Lacking teeth, this wasn't a bite. She just sucked the banana a bit.

Friday, Joy was deliberate about it. She offered Princess the banana. Princess took it, gnawed it for a bit, and succeeded in pulling off a piece and swallowing at least some of it. I happened to present -- it being Joy's birthday, I took the day off. So here is Princess eating her first bite of real food. Baby Derrill also literally cut his teeth on bananas.

This other picture is a staged one. While waiting for the Prince to come to bed, I laid Princess in his bed. She was confused and disturbed at first. Eventually she decided this was kind of fun. I caption it:

Someone has been sleeping in my bed, and she's still there!

Nigerian English 1

Prince is learning to speak Nigerian. For instance, he counts "five, six, sevwon, eight" and the days of the week include "Monday, Tuesday, Wen-es-day, Tursday...." And thus the immigrant battle to maintain cultural/linguistic purity begins! (Y'see, son, there's school English and there's home English; at home, you speak home English...) At least I have the advantage of coming from Southern California where I've debated the importance of both blending in and maintaining cultural ties before.


Yes and No don't mean quite the same things. If I ask the guards if the bus has already come and left, they invariably say yes. So I call the bus driver, who informs me he is still on his way. The guards either mean that "Yes, the bus is still coming," or "Yes, the bus came an hour ago," but that's not the question I ask. Several other expats have confirmed that Nigerians have a different sense of reporting on the past and future than other (US/India) cultures.


We buy our milk in cardboard cartons. It's been irradiated so it can keep on the shelf for 6 months without refrigeration. Joy went to the store and asked for two boxes. They pulled out two cases filled with boxes. Finally she learned the correct terminology: Give me two pieces of milk.


Joy's driver advised her to stop asking around for Oatmeal. "What is this ~oat-milk~ of which you speak?" They just call them oats. To me, oats are for horses, oatmeal for humans.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Prince's Prize: student of the month

 Hi there! Prince here!

I was Student of the Month this month. That meant I got a free chocolate at the AUN Club.

I chose a Twix. I didn't quite understand that the chocolate was frozen hard ... or that Twix are naturally hard anyway ... or that nothing else was less hard. So Mommy and Daddy got to eat my treat. I was very proud anyway.
Hmmm, how much is that in Naira?

Princess' Big Month

For Halloween, Princesss dressed as her brother. You can see her dancing to Selena singing Aretha Franklin songs in the video to the right. Daddy's dance moves always make her happy, and that night they made Prince fall off his chair laughing. At the end, you can tell that Derrill has not repented of his boisterous fathering ways, but Princess complains about it a lot more than the Prince did, so I am getting much more circumspect.

Princess doesn't like to be alone, so even though we don't have a car, she spends a good deal of time in her car seat watching us do chores. Now, recognize that this is from my perspective - she is nearly always in Joy's arms in reality, but by the time I get home, the arms are getting pretty tired and the car seat gets loved.

Princess also doesn't like to sit upright (until this very morning), so she very quickly skootches down to this position.

Another shot of Princess in her Halloween costume. At 4 months, she is growing out of her 3-6 months clothes and heading for her 6-9 month.

If I remember correctly - and I may not - Prince didn't grow into this until his 5th month.

Nov 5 - Princess grabbed Mommy to give her her first kisses. She grabbed Joy's lip and pulled herself in. She gave several more kisses to her cheeks and chin.

How thankful I was to be home that day to get pictures.

Nov 8 - Our little darling gets cuter all the time. This was during the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations last week. I asked my students what it was, and I was told "Muslim Christmas." Checking more knowledge sources, I learned it is called "Festival of Sacrifice," celebrating when Abraham was willing to offer his son and God spared them both. Many families have or have access to a goat, and they will slaughter at home, enjoying the meat as a family that day, I learned from the chairman of the board of education for AUN who also runs a ranh.

Some day in the last couple weeks Princess rolled over by herself for the first time. I was unpacking some boxes and watched her roll over onto her tummy, then roll back the other way.

Princess also figured out in the last two weeks how to pass a toy from one hand to the other. This is months and months ahead of her brother.
Princess standing with Kelli ...
and sucking on her fingers.

This week she got her toes in her mouth for the first time. She is very excited about this. Last night we had dinner with our upstairs neighbors and she started to moan about something while sitting in their lap. I thought she was trying to get her foot in her mouth, but couldn't reach while sitting up. So I directed them to lay her down on the couch cushion. Sure enough, first chance she got, Princess grabbed her leg and brought it up to her face. I took off her sock and helped her tap her nose with her foot, which she loved. (For those keeping score, Prince still isn't interested in putting his feet in his mouth.)

This morning Joy propped Princess up with a pillow at her back and two pillows to her sides. Princess sat up for a moment, then reached out her hands to brace herself tripod fashion. She managed to hold that position for a couple minutes and was quite pleased with herself before succumbing to inevitable gravity. After that, she had a lot more fun trying to control her fall than preventing it.

Princess' cries are also being more communicative. 1 - Mommy is recognizing a different cry when she wants to be fed vs. other cries. I can hear it too, though not as well. It has more ooo and moan, while the other is more waaa and cry. 2 - Normally she is very happy to see and be with Daddy. But one day she was not. She wanted Mommy, and somehow communicated it to me. We handed her over, and she stopped crying right away. "I didn't have to do anything but hold her and she stopped."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Prince discovers Inductive Reasoning

We have three bathrooms. One is by our room, one is by Prince's room, and one is by the living/dining room - the guest bathroom. Prince for some reason decided a few weeks ago that he really prefers the guest bathroom. Joy tells me it's because the sink and toilet are lower, so the room is more preschooler friendly. He is not allowed in our room, let alone our bathroom. I don't think he knows a bathroom exists there.

[If stories about preschoolers and bathrooms are not your idea of good time, don't click on the Read More link.]

Monday, November 7, 2011

An evil blog post

Making fellow ex-Ithacans nostalgic and homesick since 3:34pm, Nigerian Standard Time:
Why Wegmans is the best company in the world.
I'm still not a convert - shopping at Wegmans always made me more than a little uncomfortable on several levels - but a few months out here will make even me perk up at its name and smile.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Epic Vacation

Symptoms of an Epic Vacation: years later, you remember and honor every anniversary of the Epic Vacation. In September, I was saying to Joy, "Do you realize, it's been two years since we were in Italy?" No way. It can't have been that long. I wanted to post some more pictures from that trip back then, but life being always too hectic, our intentions sometimes get put off by 2 months.

Another symptom: When you tell your wife you're talking about Epic Vacations, she guesses which one.

It was such a great trip! "It was fun."

"I'll always remember going to Holland," Joy says. Our honeymoon in Germany was also Epic of course, but there's a lot to celebrate when it comes time to commemorate that one again, and there were memorable (if not quite as Epic trips on subsequent anniversaries).

For some reason that year [reasons that we now understand only too well], the Spirit nudged Joy to suggest something that would never have entered into our heads otherwise: let's take our tax break and splurge - spend it all (nearly) on a trip to see her brother in Italy. Somehow we did it. Totally out of character for us. Then again, 5 years ago I'd never have guessed I would be living here either.

Below the fold are some new, random pictures from our trip that never got posted at our old blog. Because they are random, they are totally out of order.

Kimball on LDS in Nigeria

When we first moved here I shared some of the early efforts of faithful people in Nigeria to get the Church to come here and bring them the fullness of the Gospel. In a Sept 1978 training meeting, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball - the prophet at that time - shared his thoughts about the importance of bringing the gospel to "The uttermost parts of the earth." One of his most famous statements* from that talk was this:
I believe the Lord can do anything he sets his mind to do.
But I can see no good reason why the Lord would open doors that we are not prepared to enter. Why should he break down the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain or any other curtain if we are still unprepared to enter?
And so he urged first those whom we would now call the Seventy and then the rest of the church membership to get ready. That recommendation included learning Mandarin Chinese -- he praised the Chinese quite highly for their many attainments to keep their societies morally and physically clean. He prophesied that "Our brothers and sisters in Russia must hear the gospel; and if we are attentive and prayerful, the Lord will open the way" and now our best friends are there. He also shared this about bringing the gospel to Africa:

Joy's First Market Day

Joy wrote this post in August, but for some reason it never posted, so I'm attaching it now:

A week ago Saturday Derrill was feeling really sick, with a fever and so we elected me to go to market. The shuttle takes people to the market on Saturdays. Our concern was feeding Princess since she is nursing. I fed her before going down for the shuttle, but it never came (I learned later that it already left or wasn’t planned for that day). We called a couple times. I fed her an hour later, then pumped. I got with my shuttle between 11 and 11:30 to arrive home after 3pm. Poor Derrill and Princess - she had cried half the time I was gone. We plan on sending her with me next time.
I was so grateful that I had been persistent. There was no one else on my shuttle and my driver went everywhere with me. He took good care of me and helped me get better prices :). I found all that I was looking for except for a crock pot and it was a pretty good list. I even found two small step-down transformers that will be life savers for us and were inexpensive.
I was amazed to be in the shuttle when it turned around at the market when there didn’t look like there was any space between shuttle, people, cars and motorcycles. Buying meat at the market was an eye opening experience. It didn’t seem very sanitary, but it is very fresh. I chose my own chicken as it walked around (I could have named it) and they cut it up for me. I did not see the cow my beef came from, but that was fine. I was excited to find green beans, carrots and onions.
I bought things for a baby carrier and got a phone for myself. It was a productive day even though it was much longer than I had expected. I even found a husband more understanding of my 2 child family plight when I arrived home. Success!
 -- Joy


Two professors, one a Cornell-trained BYU professor of nutrition, have been working to improve the Atmit porridge that is often given out in care packages. The hope is that it will be even better for small children with a better mix of micronutrients (particularly more iron) but without compromising on shelf-life. Another article describes its dissemination in poor areas of Peru.
A single serving provides 34 percent of the recommended daily allowance of protein, 43 percent of calcium, 99 percent of iron, and high percentages for a dozen vitamins and minerals for children under 5 years old. ... 
In 2010, 645,000 pounds of Atmit were shipped by LDS Charities to four countries. Depending upon the age and size of the children, that's enough to feed 100,000 to 130,000 children for one month. The cost? Less than $6 (USD) per child.
LDS efforts to help those suffering from the famine in the Horn of Africa:
In Ethiopia, projects to aid more than 100,000 refugees are under way, including water tanks, trucking services, sanitation supplies and hygiene training for 15 villages; supplementary food for 8,700 malnourished children; nutrition centers and sanitation facilities for Somali refugees in Dollo Ado; and 5,000 hygiene kits.
The Church also plans to provide water catchment and storage structures, as well as soap and washbasins to serve tens of thousands of other residents in the communities surrounding the Dollo Ado camps.
Other projects in Kenya, Uganda, and Somalia are also underway and briefly described at the link.

At the most recent General Conference, Church President Thomas S. Monson reminded members about the General Temple Patron Fund. Donations from members around the world are used to help members who live far from a temple travel there. A recent article highlighted some of the saints in southeastern Africa who have been blessed by the Fund:

Thank you for flying Princely Airlines

More than once at the dinner table, Prince has said, "Don't stand up, Mommy. We're on an airplane. We're going to our new home and it's going to take a long time." Then arches his back. "Someone got off." He arches again. "We started again." Apparently airplanes act like buses: he talks about it like his bus stop book.

 -- Joy


Today Prince came up to both of us to announce that he had a new imaginary game. This is important because we put Mario and all his friends on a one-week vacation: no Mario plushes, no Mario t-shirts, no Mario games, no Mario PRETEND TIME. His new imaginary game: Wonderland Volcano!

Then he tells us: "I got it from Arizona."

[Where did that come from??] Where is Arizona, Prince?

"It's far, far away. We need to get on the airplane that says Arizona on it."

 -- Derrill

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Attack of the Soapmeal

"After that, I was surprised I was able to eat oatmeal again," Joy recounts on hearing my title.

Oatmeal is one of the happy foods we can find in Nigeria. Joy wasn't too happy with the oatmeal though - it didn't taste quite right. So she bought several different brands from different parts of the world so we could try them out.

When the Papa Bear tried his oatmeal, he thought it tasted a little off, but he couldn't put his finger on why.

 When Mama Bear tried her oatmeal, she thought it tasted TERRIBLE. "It tastes like soap!" she declared.

When Baby Bear tried his oatmeal ... no, baby bear doesn't eat oatmeal anymore. Nevermind.

I agreed, there was a hint of something in the oatmeal, .... and come to think of it, it does bear a remarakable resemblance to soap...

Then we switched oatmeals. Yes, indeedy! That's soap alright! That is the nastiest oatmeal we have ever had. "I wonder how they made soap look like oatmeal," Joy laughs.

On the other hand, it was the best tasting soapmeal we ever had. "It's the most convincing of being soap. Maybe I shouldn't have thrown it away. Maybe we should have washed some things in it."

Now we're on a third oatmeal and it seems to be satisfying.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Prince’s New Favorite

On my way home from the US, I had a lot of quarters, nickels, and dimes to get rid of. I had neglected to do this at a bank or a change machine along the way. So I decided to dump them in the airport by buying miscellany.
I got a Sudoku book and some food … and some Reese’s Pieces. Nom nom nom. I ate my first little bag all to myself. It was yummy. I saved the other bag for Halloween.
At Halloween, I broke it open. Joy shared one or two pieces with me, graciously. Prince was reluctant to try it, but when we told him they were like M&Ms and filled with peanut butter, he would try one without gagging, at least. He was concerned that they were too crunchy, and that they were Smartees, which he tried and didn’t like.
Do you like it? No, no, he doesn’t. He doesn’t want another.
A few minutes later though, I offered him another and he did take it.
A few minutes later, I offered him another and he took two.
I pulled out a handful and watched him eat one after another like a chain smoker. I asked if he liked them. “No,” he said munching away.
He had a couple little handfuls and was quite happy.
With some effort, I saved the last of the pieces for him so we could finish them off together tonight. When we did, he had no sooner finished than he said he wanted more.
I’m sorry – we don’t have any more.
“Then let’s get some more.”
We can’t get them here. I brought these from America.ET_Reeses
“Then let’s go bring some more from America.”
I’m sorry, son, but it’s going to be a long time before we’re there again.
WELL, that opened a long conversation beginning with “Why?” But at any rate, it is official: Prince has a new thing he will eat happily. Thank you, ET.
-- Derrill