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.
Hi, friends! Welcome to my last full month in the desert… for now.
April has been exceptionally un-eventful, which has been a great way to approach the end of this school-year. After all the excitement and the friends from home that we saw in March, and then our visa exit in Portugal, it has been refreshing to get back into a routine here. I’ll give you a few basic updates as my time here winds down, but mostly I will share the most random things about this life that you may or may not care to know 🙂
As far as actual updates – one of my classes finished the “red book” (the second of four English levels) and is on summer vacation until next fall. My other class has a couple of weeks until they too finish the red book, and I can’t wait to see all those students learning together next year as they embark on the “blue book.”
One thing that has been funny to realize is that even after a year here, strangers still assume I am someone else. Occasionally people think I am the British anthropologist Alice who came several years ago for research. Sometimes they assume I’m Abby – whether asking me how my parents in Qatar are doing or telling me they saw me speaking on Algerian news (this is a 2-year-old news video that has recently begun recirculating on WhatsApp). Mostly though, they think I’m Laura and ask me questions about my 5 kids or Adam. Someday maybe “Heather” will be a legitimate option when I run into people 🙂
Some exciting news (in my book) is that our community has several new pets lately, some more intentional than others!
Our puppy, Katia/Cacia? (I have no idea how we spell it, but it’s like the tree “acacia” without the “a”). I think we got her because the kids stole her, but as far as I know we tried to take her back, and she came back to our house, and nobody seems to be looking for her. I guess she’s ours now? She has gotten a lot bigger lately, and I’m sad to see her grow up so fast! She is super sweet, even if she does have a passion for chewing on us.
A mom-cat took up residence with her four kittens behind our kuba (water-tank). The kittens are super cute, but she is EXTREMELY protective and mean to us! She hisses/moans when we approach and has even jumped toward me once. I would gladly leave them alone but I have to go over there to re-fill the kuba when our water gets low. She even hissed at me when I just opened up a window near them… excuse me miss, but I am in my own house… I should be hissing at you! I’ve been trying to make some peace-offerings with leftover meat, but it doesn’t seem to be softening her much. It is fun to watch all her little babies come out to eat though 🙂
Patch is another cat that has been with us for a few years. I think he’s part of the mafia or something… he’s super sketchy and always disappears for a few days and comes back looking more beat-up/injured than before. I’m pretty sure those outings are just to go fight other cats. When he’s here, he just stumbles around and meows super loud. He’s like the town drunk, just disturbing our neighborhood. I’m also pretty sure he’s the dad of all those baby cats, and maybe the cause of the mom’s bitterness.
The turtles are still doing well:
Aaaand some goats have found their way into our gated compound. At first maybe I thought they were squeezing in through the locked gate, but now I’m pretty sure they are coming in through the same hole in the wall that the neighbor kids come in through. They’re usually annoying, especially if they decide to munch on the trees or any clothes we hang out to dry, but it is nice when they eat out of the goat bucket because then that’s fewer times we have to go empty it!
I’ve been practicing my photography around the compound… I really like textures and patterns, and it has been fun to try to capture the overlooked details of a mostly boring-looking place. Now that I’m beginning to understand all the choices I have with my camera, photography is becoming really fun! I have so much practice to do, but am thankful for a tool and a place to make that practice happen 🙂
Something new(ish) to me, that I am learning, is to open myself up to let God’s Spirit make my decisions for me. Even, and especially, in the little daily things. When I really am open and trust that He’ll guide me, He does! Recently I didn’t have plans for the afternoon, so I thought I’d just ask God to either have someone text me or put someone specific on my heart. There was a newer friend who kept coming to mind, so I thought I’d reach out and see if she was busy that afternoon. I was surprised to find out she actually did have plans (usually there’s a pretty good chance women are in their house and available to hang out). So, I prayed, “Well okay God, I guess if that’s not who you were leading me to contact, it’s your move now. Have whoever you want me to spend time with text me.” It crossed my mind that maybe I should pray that she’ll invite me into her plans, but then I thought that was unlikely because we were still new friends. I must have just misunderstood God’s prompting when I first texted her. Yet when I next looked at my phone, I had not one, but several messages from her asking if I wanted to join her. It was like a roller-coaster of trying to understand God’s leading and eventually getting to His point even when I doubted Him several times. Listening to God must take a lot of practice!
So, that’s all for April. Onto my last (half) month here this year!