First Kiss. First Love. Pt. 1

First Kiss First LoveFIRST KISS. FIRST LOVE. (1/3)
In this photo, my daughter, Indima is kissing our neighbor, Adam. While I sat outside their squatter hut with Adam’s mother, Haoua, chatting about life, money matters, and happiness, Indima fed Adam pistachios that we had brought back from France. Adam must be very special to Indima for her to want to share her special treat. She would pop one into her mouth, and then the other into his. Then, every once in a while, she would bend over to kiss him and hold his hand. Goodbyes were difficult; as we left to eat lunch at home only two houses down, she cried and cried, waving goodbye to her first love.



COMFORT: (fourth in the Mother’s Day series) This Wodaabe Fulani grandmother is providing comfort and security to her timid grandchild, who has never before seen a white person.  I had appeared from nowhere walking up to her camp, and she thought that I was a genie spirit.  Just moments earlier, the grandmother milked a cow, and shared the liquid with her hungry grandchild, which helped soothe the youngster and helped calm her fright.  This Wodaabe family, like others that have retained their nomadic existence, lived with their cows, and traveled from one green pasture to another every couple of days or so.  They were easily mobile, as their small camp was composed only of one traditional wooden bed and a table covered with bowls made of calabashes.  The number of bowls is meant to correspond with the wealth of the head woman of the household. The number of cows owned by the family demonstrates the father’s wealth.  Cows and calabash bowls are therefore the Wodaabe’s most prized possessions, and help provide the means to provide proper nourishment to the children.



MULTITASKING: (third in the Mother’s Day Series) Like mothers across the world, Againakou must juggle caring for her young Agoubouley, and work at the same time.  Chores do not stop just because you have a child to tend to.  So she sits, with a group of sisters and friends, sewing goat hides together to craft into the roof of a traditional Touareg tent.  Agoubouley seeks his mother’s attention, but also understands that she can be with him, shower him with love, and accomplish her daily tasks at the same time.

Mother’s Day Everyday

In this photo, I am dancing with my son, Soriya during a cultural festival at what was to become his school in Niamey, l’Ecole Primaire “Alliance”. How blessed I am to be a mother of three sparkling, curious, hilarious, and brilliant human angels; to share every single day’s adventures, joyful moments, and frustrations with my teachers in life.  With them, I am humbly learning to grow more patient, and to view the world through their innocent eyes of love and understanding.  In return, I share with them the world, exposing them to cultures and ways of life that permit them to question what they know and understand, so that they can shape their life view, with a better understanding of a global world; so that they may develop tolerance for the unknown and unfamiliar; so that they may welcome discomfort and question what the world presents and exposes to them.

Sunday was mother’s day in the USA.  While I actually believe that every day is mother’s day, I would like to dedicate this next week in particular to mothers around the world by showcasing mothers through my pictures. I would like to display the universality of motherhood: the joy, the love, the frustrations, the questioning, the concerns, the daily life, the struggles, and the brilliance of what it is to be a mother.

Indirect Victims of Terrorism

The Indirect Victims of TerrorismPhoto: Me with some of my adopted children of the Azawak.  They count among those that have become the “indirect victims” of terrorism.

When I first visited the Azawak in 2005, the region was among the safest places on earth one could travel to.  In 2010, insecurity troubles began.  My husband, Denis, was supervising the construction of the Kijigari Well of Love, when the Abalak police brigade forced him to abandon the site and escorted him to Niamey, for safety purposes.  Humanitarian Michel Germaneau had been taken hostage a couple 100km north.  Ever since, terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Ansar Dine, and the Mujao have grown north and west, in neighboring Mali and Algeria.  ISIS has sprouted in Libya, and Boko Haram has wreaked havoc in Nigeria and southeastern Niger, killing more victims than all other terrorist groups combined.

Today the Azawak, the home of my adopted children, has been placed in the “red zone” – “travel not advised due to terrorist threats”, “risks of being taken hostage”, etc.  Amman Imman’s funding has progressively dwindled.  Friends and family have begged Denis and me to stop traveling to the Azawak… to essentially abandon our work for our own safety.  Indeed, many NGOs have left Niger altogether.  Most of those remaining avoid the hottest, most “dangerous” places.  Who wouldn’t… why take unnecessary risks? … so many other people living in safer places need help also. To them, it isn’t personal.

To me it is VERY personal.  I do not feel at threat, certainly not more so than the people I serve.  They are the forgotten ones – the indirect victims of terrorism — because they happen to live in a place where it is deemed too risky to work. They are the ones whose lives and safety are jeopardized every single day by sheer neglect.  My life is not worth more than the hundreds of thousands I fight for. How could I claim to be a voice for the voiceless if I were to retract as a coward?  Then, truly, I would be allowing the terrorists to win.

I dedicate this post to Jeff Woodke.

#terrorism #niger #africa #azawak #ammanimman #instagood #instagram #humanitarian #love #immigration #extremism

First Kiss

First Kiss

First kiss. First love. Fassely and Mariama in adoration, lounging on a pirogue drifting along the Niger River. Reminds me of a beautiful Mary Oliver poem, “Not Anyone Who Says”:

Not anyone who says, “I’m going to be
careful and smart in the matters of love,”
who says, “I’m going to choose slowly,”
but only those lovers who didn’t choose at all
but were, as it were, chosen
by something invisible and powerful and uncontrollable
and beautiful and possibly even
only those know what I’m talking about
in this talking about love.

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