Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Our trip to ministries east of Niamey in early April went very well. Some of what we did can be seen at my daily (well when I have the time) blog. We were able to deliver and setup 5 new computers to Galmi Hospital, install new antivirus there, work on getting backups to work (still some work there to do that needs to be done), and tried to splice together a network wire that a mouse(?) had been nibbling on. (Didn't work, they'll need to run a new cable :-( )
In Maradi we setup all the machines to be one the same workgroup, and then set up a systematic backup system that will run automatically every 3 hours, only backing up the files that have changed. This makes the backup jobs pretty small after the initial backup, and gives pretty good "realish" time backups. We used Karen's Replicator, a free (VB6 source code downloadable too). It does many of the things I do with xxcopy backup scripts on the command line, but Karen's Replicator has a fairly user friendly GUI. In Maradi also I was able to convert one of the last Pegasus mail holdouts to Thunderbird, which can be a time consuming process. Unfortunately, the other users there are still using Outlook :-( We were also able to rescue one Australian family's computer that they use for home schooling. Got everything straighted out on it, did a full new install of the OS and the applications and installed some web filtering software.
Danja was many little tasks, getting antivirus on a couple of machines and trying to update those without an internet connection manually (we could not get that part to work, and I need to get back to them with a better procedure looking over the network changes they have made since my last visit, and made a couple of network cables for inside of one of the houses. The Danja compound always strikes me as a combination of wide open spaces and stark beauty.
I was also blessed to be able to visit many of Issiakou's family across Niger, from Dogonduchi to Maradi. One of the places we greeted family was a small village where I met many people and had some millet porridge (sort of like watered down oatmeal but made out of the grain we use for bird seed.) Other places, part of the hospitality included baked yams (white, not orange) with a few pieces of beef , rice and sauce, cabbage with a spicy peanut based powder, masa, which are small, not sweet, (pan)cakes made out of millet flour, and other Nigerien foods.
We did have one problem on the way back. We had stopped to look at the progress of a Christian conference center being built near Maradi, and as we were going around the buildings we ran into an old piece of iron and ruined our tire. We changed it with the spare, figuring on getting or borrowing one in Galmi to get us back to Niamey. Unfortunately, Galmi did not have our size tire and we had to go on another 50 km (approx 30 miles) to another larger town to get one.
The experience was a typical Nigerien transaction. Not finding what we wanted right away, we stopped to ask a place that fixes tires (they do not sell them) if they knew where we could find a new one. One of the guys there said sure, and he would show us. He hops in the van and directs us through narrow streets, over piles of refuse, and I am wondering if this is the route you go to see if you can sell 2 tires, not just one!
Finally, we arrive at an intersection, make our need known, and with in 2 minutes we have 4 different vendors trying to sell us 8 different kinds of tires! All of them lauding their particular tires traits. "This one is from Thailand, not China!" boasts one. "Steel Belted!" "Radial!" "Tubeless!" shout others. Eventually, even separated by this almost throng we are able to decide on one. The price is reasonable, and we negotiate adding removal of the old tire and mounting of the new one included in the price. No problem.
The tire gets changed, put back up under in the spare rack, we pay the man and get a receipt. The man who showed us the way to the "tire intersection" wants a little stipend for his part in the escapade. Ok. As we are ready to pull away, the man who actually did the changing of the tire, came up to us to get money for his part, even though we had negotiated that as part of the price with the guy we bought the tire from. Here Issiakou did a very smart thing. Instead of arguing with the man, he took him the the first guy, and told them this is what we negotiated, it is now your issue. Very smart! We got in the van once again and headed back to Galmi.
Before we were half way back, it was dark, and driving after dark in Niger is almost impossible. The road we were driving is a series of potholes interrupted occasionally by just enough smooth road to make you think you can go faster, only to be interrupted by cratered road once again. On this tableau are motos with few, if any rear lights (one with out any lights, front or back), overloaded trucks going very slowly, and dark shadowy donkey carts. Thankfully, the Lord guided us back to Galmi safely, ready to return to Niamey the next day.
All in all a good but exhausting trip. We got most of our tasks done, the Lord blessed us with time to greet many people throughout Niger, and He gave us safe travels in potentially dangerous conditions.