Nasrania = foreigner (in Hassaniya); originally comes from “Nazareth,” alludes to followers of Jesus.
Sahara = my desert home for 8 months, October – May
I’m living, teaching and advocating in the Saharawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. “Nasrania in the Sahara” is my attempt to regularly update you all on my life here, from the mundane, sand-covered everyday to all the ways I hope to see God work through this time.
I can’t believe March is almost over already! This last month has been a whirlwind with various events and visitors ensuring we forgot how fast the time was flying. The constant changes of pace that we have been experiencing lately have been encouraging but also crazy and exhausting! I can’t decide whether I prefer routine or change, but the last month has definitely been one in which we couldn’t depend on our schedules and had to keep open hearts to accept all that God had in store for us.
The 27th of February, 1976, is the day that the Polisario liberation front proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in the face of Moroccan occupation. The 27th this year was the beginning of a series of crazy weeks for us Americans, as we celebrated our Sahrawi friends as well as some of our American friends joining us here.
I tried, unsuccessfully, to squeeze a couple days of English class around those crazy-filled days, but ended up spending most of my time in the hot sun, watching Sahrawis and foreigners come together in solidarity over this nation’s cause. Every year for the 27th, there is a cultural celebration including traditional brown, wool tents with many ancient Sahrawi artifacts and a parade including traditional women’s dances. I’ll let the pictures speak for this lehtifal (party).
I remember being here for the marathon last year, in just my second week of ever being in the camps. Starting my stay here during a time of many foreigners is a lot different than being the only foreigners for 5 months and then watching the camp flood with them. I personally thought it was fun – getting to surprise people who had certain expectations of me (as a foreigner) when I wore the melhfa correctly and spoke Hassaniya to them.
I didn’t watch much of the marathon this year. I was pretty exhausted from the last two days of celebration in the sun. We had three visitors from America for a little over a week – a doctor and his two teenage sons – who partnered with Laura in visiting children with disabilities who were also ill. They ran the 5k part of the marathon, so I went with to see them off and happened to catch them finishing as well! And I happened to run into a lot of friends for the short time I actually went to the marathon. It’s honestly a really cool feeling in a foreign place to run into so many people I know… it helps to feel that little bit of belonging!
Toward the end of this week, after the family from Wisconsin left, we received two more visitors! One man from our partnering organization came to see how we were doing and encourage us (I never knew how far encouragement could go until I entered this situation!) and another man from Poland came to lead a photography workshop with the Sahrawi! It was definitely fun to have both of them here and continue our schedule of new things and surprise.
Just kidding. I’ll write about those in a separate post 🙂 Mostly because there’s a lot that can be said about the experience (I think, I haven’t actually written about it yet), but also because this post is getting long.
An American team came for these dialogues (two teams, actually) and one of them included two of my best friends! It was amazing to have them here, especially because most of our friendship was solidified here when we came as a Reach House team last year. I think I forget how small my circle of believers is when I’m here, and while I adore having such a defined, constant community, I underestimated how much I miss my people back home. Those of you who are still home, I MISS YOU!!! But I was happy to have some of that ‘missing’ alleviated by Maddie and Micah’s visit and was really encouraged by our conversations and friendship that week!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with some pictures from the dunes! We went twice in the last month (which seems like a lot!) because it’s really just the thing to do when we have visitors 🙂 Enjoy!
PS: WE GOT A PUPPY!
Well, we kind-of stole her. I think? I’m not really sure how we ended up with the dog, but she’s adorable and bites a ton but still adorable. And she doesn’t really have a name and I’m not even positive she’ll be there when we get back, but LOOK AT HER.