Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nice comments about Hyrum

I mentioned Prince's poster with statements from his classmates about him. I'll post a picture of it on our old blog (for those who know where that is), but the comments are here:

T -- Prince loves to play with me outside.
Kt -- Prince likes to play in block corner and ride bikes.
Ay -- Prince likes to play with me outside.
D -- Prince likes to play in the block corner.
B -- Prince likes to sing songs at circle time.
Ax -- Prince likes letters.
Ki -- Prince likes boats.
I -- Prince likes outside time.
Z -- Prince is learning to use the pedals on a bike
J -- Prince likes to play with trains.
P -- Prince is my friend.

Is there anything you would like to say about your friends, Prince?

"A____y took a deep breath!" We are grateful that A_____y took a deep breath, Joy adds. She helped teach Prince how to take deep breaths to calm down.

His note to T____ was also sweet: "I like to sit next to T_____" T was his bus buddy, at least when they weren't hitting, pushing, and kicking each other as boys are wont to do.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Decisions Made, Directions Given

OUR BLOGGING EFFORTS ARE MOVING to (links on the right)

So we were there planning to go to Nigeria and really wishing there were more blogs from Nigeria that would help new couples like us get a feel for the place and what it's like to raise a family. Joy announced that she wanted to set up a public blog (unlike this half-public, half-hidden blog) where she would talk about Nigerian life.

I was pretty excited. I'm always very happy when I can get Joy to post over here, in part because then this becomes much more of a family blog and less a Derrill production; in part because she talks about things I don't think to that I want to remember and save; in part because none of our female friends are willing to comment on my posts, but you will say something to Joy, so if I want to hear from you, I've got to get Joy to say something; in part as validation of the time I spend on this family journal; in part because I enjoy every time I get my 19th century wife to use a technological device; and a few more parts for good measure.

What I didn't realize was that she only wanted to post at the new blog. I figured we'd talk about "Africa stuff" in the other blog and Hyrum stuff in this blog. Silly man, trying to keep your life separated into boxes like that! The point is to tell people what it's like having kids in Nigeria. How do you separate them?

Hm, good point, dear. I know, I'll double-post anything of particular family interest and ... no. You're right. It's easier to just pretend we have two blogs and leave it at that.

So until further notice, this blog is going on hiatus. We may return to it when we come back to the States. We'll see. Until then, update your RSS feeders and bookmarks to Tender Mercies Realized.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fifth Fundamental Force

Physics believes in four fundamental forces: gravity, elctromagnetism, and the weak and strong nuclear forces. I have discovered another force. It is particularly fundamental because it does not operate the same as the other forces, nor obey standard Newtonian physics.

The 5th Fundamental Force is Pregnancy. The actions of the pregnant body are so vastly different from those of a body in standard physics environments, that the differences bear enumeration.

Amendments to Newtonian Laws:
1) A body at rest cannot remain at rest because the baby will start kicking something and it will hurt.
2) Pregnancy increases entropy. Things fall apart faster.
3) For every action of the husband, there is an opposite, disproportionately large reaction.
These changes are significant enough that we can determine with certainty that Isaac Newton was never pregnant.

Interactions with other forces:
Gravity is the curvature of spacetime around an object of mass. This draws other objects in towards the object of mass. This holds true for the pregnant force as so many people find their hands inexplicably drawn toward rubbing the tummy of the pregnant object.

High school students who believe Ben Franklin invented electricity might also be interested to learn about his extensive experiments in the field of pregnancy: "A ship under sail and a big-bellied woman,
are the handsomest two things that can be seen common."

Further experiments are underway to demonstrate how the weak and strong forces interact with pregnancy. Researchers insist they simply haven't collected enough hCG to come up with a positive test result.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Preparing for Lavinia

My visiting teachers had a baby shower for me this week and it has helped me to finally start earnest preparations for Lavinia to come (rather than just preparations to take her to Nigeria). I started going through Hyrum's old clothing and organized the clothing that I have for her. I will be washing it this week and packing some of it to go to the hospital.

The shower was so nice, a couple of games and some wonderful friends that I haven't spent much time with lately. I want to thank everyone that came, it was a enjoyable evening and I am glad that it helped me to feel the event coming was more real. :)


Tender Mercies Realized

Our official Nigeria blog is now up and running. We will be living in either Yola or Jimeta, so the blog address is There is also a link on the right. She has promised to take an active updating role in this one. It is possible that that will eventually become the new and official family blog. We'll see. We'll let you know before we abandon this one.

Hyrum's Top Ten: May 11

Hyrum's top ten this month is amazingly easy:


Between birthday and potty prizes, Hyrum has been stocking up on new music and loving it. Every day to school, the only music he wanted to listen to was his new Backyardigans music, and the only music of that he wanted was the soundtrack to the Mighty Knights episode. It's rock opera. ... Yeah. So we've been listening to a lot of rock opera lately. I can't say it's growing on me. It's the only set of his songs I refuse to listen to more than once a day. If he wanted his other Backyardigans songs, that would be no problem.

1 - Backyardigans Theme Song - 27
     We're Knights, That's Right
3 - A Challenge - 26
4 - Mario Theme song - 25    (not Backyardigans)
5 - Grabbing Goblin - 24
     Tweedily Dee
     Dragon Mountain
     Not an Egg
9 - A Pirate Says Arrrr - 19
10 - Prince of Egypt, horse race - 17  (not Backyardigans)

Hy happened to win a potty prize the day he discovered Prince of Egypt and he asked me for the music as Moses and Ramses are racing horses. It's not on the PoE soundtrack and it's not anywhere on the internet. Most of the music isn't on the net. We have the Tabernacle Choir singing Through Heaven's Eyes and a couple versions of When You Believe, but good luck trying to find anything else, on the soundtrack or not. I was not going to be able to find it anywhere.

Then we went to pray. Hy has been having a hard time praying lately, particularly in trying to come up with things to pray about. But he did come up with one request: Please bless Daddy to find the horses song.

So ... I hooked up my microphone to the computer speakers and recorded the two minutes to a track for him. The next morning, I had one happy boy.

LDS in Nigeria 1: 1960-1980

From News of the Church,  Feb1980, "A Miracle Precedes the Messengers," Janet Brigham.

African Christians in Ghana (green) and Nigeria (orange) had been writing to the church since at least 1960, asking for more information, for "holy books," and for any opportunity to learn more about the Church. While I was in Nigeria, my hosts noted that the two most popular types of book that you can find everywhere and anywhere are religion and self-help (aka get rich). Visa problems kept the Church from sending representatives until August, and then Nov 1978. Within 14 months, there were 1700 converts.
And the friendliness of the people in Ghana and Nigeria compensates for other difficulties. The couples reported to President Spencer W. Kimball: “We have never been anywhere in the world where it is so easy to engage a stranger in gospel discussion—opportunities [are] at every hand. One need not go from door-to-door—just have your tracts ready. Even busy people walking on the street will stop and talk. Workmen on construction jobs carry the tracts in hand for long periods of time. If you go by an hour or so later, it isn’t unusual to see them reading” (see Ensign, May 1979, p. 106).
The first missionary couples found a people who had been heavily prepared in many ways to receive the gospel:
Africans learned of the Church from other Africans who had studied in the United States. They came across some missionary pamphlets. No one now knows how those pamphlets got to Africa in the 1950s—but the effect was remarkable. Many who read them recognized the truth. Then—independent of each other and without knowledge of the other’s actions—several groups of blacks in both Nigeria and Ghana started their own religious organizations, patterned after the Church. However, visa problems prevented representatives being sent to officially establish the Church.

The groups built small meeting-houses and met regularly. They copied organization, doctrines, songs, and titles after the Church, as much as they were able to discern from the literature they received. Occasionally they had contact with members of the Church visiting Africa.
The Africans even proselyted. One man, after a stirring spiritual experience, “was constrained by [the] Spirit to go from street to street … to deliver the message which we had read from the Book of Mormon and from the pamphlets.” Despite some “persecutions” and sometimes being labeled as an “anti-Christ organization,” the “missionaries” were undaunted. 
“We persisted with the word and won forty people that day even to the admiration of the Muslims around,” one man reports.
Among the many letters sent to Church headquarters asking for more light and knowledge was this on
"We here are the true sons of God, but colour makes no difference in the service of Our Heavenly Father and Christ. The Spirit of God calls us to abide by this church and there is nothing to keep us out.”
The author of that letter, Anthony Obinna, was later to become the first black western African baptized and called as branch president.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Believable Fallibility

When I read Joy my post about Brandon Mull's characters being believably fallible, she called to mind our least favorite book recently: Inkheart. We were both highly disappointed. The characters are unbelievably stupid. If there is a wrong decision they could make, they make it. Good guy, bad guy, indifferent; no one thinks ahead, no one plans, no one exercises a modicum of self-preservation, no one shows the least bit of sense. And then the plot is resolved by doing something we were told 15 times couldn't be done. Boo.

"And not only do they make bad decisions, they make them again and again. They don't learn from their mistakes. It's not even lack of character development, it's lack of ability to learn. It's ridiculous."

And that's our unsolicited opinion.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mario Party is bringing back my sanity

Dealing with 3 year old demands, his no to many things, and general resistance to discipline have really sent me packing. I have been searching for something to get his attention and persuade him to be kind, stop yelling and stopping hitting an kicking things. When discipline lasts for more than 3/4ths of the day you know something has definitely broken down. I don't like discipline and definitely not the kind that makes us all grumpy all day long.

So...... how to help Hyrum stay out of timeout. My first attempt at making Mario Party DS (his new birthday game) the prize for no timeouts failed miserably. There were not enough chances for success. This failed attempt went as follows. Mommy says, "Hyrum if you do not get anymore timeouts until _____ time of day then you can play some Mario Party DS." Hyrum was really excited and really wanted to play, so it was not the motivation that failed. It was the fact that he only had one chance to succeed. Within 15 minutes he was in timeout and had lost the opportunity to play the DS and was even more miserable about loosing the prize than being in timeout. But mommy doesn't lie, so there was no going back on the deal, and all the build up of the deal had deflated in 15 minutes, no more chance no more motivation.

I thought and prayed about it some more feeling that there had to be another way. I came up with a DS chart with 5 spaces for Xs. We drew a picture of the DS and I explained that every time he earned an X he would be closer to getting time on the DS with mommy. He has a chance every hour to get an X. If he doesn't go to timeout once in a whole hour then he gets to draw the X (plan B would be to shorten the time for each X if we could not achieve success). It took a few explanations of what he needed to do and what he would get for him to begin to understand and get excited about it.

So, our first afternoon (yesterday), I felt like was a success. Hyrum earned two Xs which means we had two beautiful hours without timeouts and we were all happier too. I am perfectly willing to start the hour time all over after a timeout has happened, there just needs to be an hour before the next one. I remind him if he is starting to act up what will happen if he gets a timeout and it helps him remember often why he is going to choose to listen or be kind to me. Today he earned two more Xs, therefore with any luck he will earn the other one tomorrow and we will play the Mario Party DS game together for 10 minutes. Having some hours without timeouts has been so wonderful to me and sanity and the spirit are returning to our home. I am so grateful for Heavenly Father's help.

Written by Joy

What Pi Sounds Like

This isn't what I did for the talent show last year, but it's so close I might as well claim I'm trying to become like this guy.

A Tale of Two Brandons: Mull

Given how long it took me to finish writing the first blog post on Brandon Sanderson, I might as well start writing the second now too.

This blog first got started when Joy left for a couple months to take care of my grandmother, be pampered by my family in her first pregnancy, and give me more time to write my dissertation. During that time, I wandered the library at Cornell and picked up a book called Fablehaven. I was spellbound and couldn't sleep until I had devoured it whole. I introduced it to Joy as soon as I could. We bought each of the books in the series as soon as they came out, have mentioned our enjoyment of them together several times, and were sad to see them go. We also read the Candy Shop War together, which Joy didn't enjoy as much but was still good. I finished reading the first book in his new Beyonders series this week, which is what got me back to writing about the two Brandons again.

Brandon Mull clearly writes for a younger crowd than Sanderson. The stories are much less gritty, less dark, more moralistic (complete with family home evening discussion questions in the back to get your kids thinking about the right and wrong choices the characters made). Hence, I've been sharing Mull with Joy and not Sanderson.

Mull comes up with unique magical/mythical worlds with their own sets of coherent rules. His young characters generally act their age (unlike, say, *coughtwicoughlightcough*). The last 100 pages or so of each story is in the no-putting-down zone, and I already mentioned how much I loved the first Fablehaven book. His characters are believably fallible, which so many authors forget, and they do a fair share of flailing about trying to figure out what to do next. I got emotionally attached to some of the outcomes and went around for over a year hoping that I was right about a prediction. (I was! YES!!) All that, and I'm a sucker for time travel, which we get just a teeny bit. The primary villain is interesting and complex.

He doesn't manage to do much character development. There is some. In Fablehaven there are two main characters, and both grow in book 1, but only one of them grows in the rest of the series, which is a real pity. In fact, it was my main disappointment with book 5, realizing how little Kendra had grown and changed since discovering courage in book 1. Her brother who has to deal with choosing if, when, and how to break rules constantly gets all the cool toys, the cool adventures, (the plot-altering disasters), the comic-relief sidekicks (who are a scream), the big questions to ask, and gets to do things solo while Kendra is always protected by someone else because she never blossoms into the full sense of her powers. Never. :(  She just radiates light. Pff. In what would be a spoiler if it weren't blatantly obvious in the last book (you are duly warned) her final romantic interest is a unicorn. Come on! Gag! At least we aren't seeing a whole new library section devoted to unicorn romance.

That said, his secondary characters are wonderful. I want to see spin-off series about several of them. Even if they don't grow, they are intriguing and I really wanted to learn more about each of them.

A Tale of Two Brandons: Sanderson

I intended to write these posts months ago but never got to them.

Our family's newest favorite authors are Brandon Sanderson and Brandon Mull. By favorite, we mean that we actually pre-order and sit around waiting for the next one to come out. So far, that's a set of three (the third being Ally Condie whose books we have already praised). Mull will get his own post later. This one is for Sanderson.

Sanderson is not the next Tolkein, or the next Rowling, or the next Hickman and Weis, or the next Brooks. He sets out in very different directions, creates unique worlds, and is not at all derivative. Hooray! (I worry when I read "the next ____," in case that makes things clearer.)

To me, his best quality is his ability to come up with new ways of introducing some form of magic. Elantris uses runes; the Mistborn series consumes metal; the Stormlight series absorbs light from ... you guessed it, storms; Alcatraz uses magical eyewear. Each world has its own source of power, different rules for what it lets you do, and very different, well-thought out characters making use of them. He gets in some wonderful commentary without being preachy or beating anyone over the head. There's religious strife in just about all his books, and he deals with it differently and wonderfully in every case. Other reviewers are amazed at his grasp of topics like leadership or government. Each book has been a delight.

Among his shortcomings that only I would care about are that his economics tends to be a little two-dimensional: nobility vs. slaves and peasants with a serious lack of interest in a middle-class. His next series may fix that. There's still only nobles and peasants, but at least there are gradations of nobility within each in an semi-economically-mobile caste system.

My only real complaint is that he is deciding more and more to have too many main characters. My brother points out that this makes him ideal to wrap up the Wheel of Time series, but I just don't care for it. You read 200-300 pages and wonder what has happened. Not much. We set the stage:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The proof is in the publisher

The final proof of my textbook is off to the publisher.Huzzah!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

He has my eyes

One of the things I like about Hyrum is that he has my eyes. Don't get me wrong, I would like it if he had Joy's eyes too. But since I have an easier time acknowledging my son's good looks than I do in thinking there is anything worthy of approval in my own looks, seeing my eyes reflecting from his handsome face gives me a little hope for me too.

Unfortunately, with the eyes comes the pink. I wouldn't say I regularly had pink eye as a child, but it was a frequent enough visitor that I know it when I see it. Hy is having his first bout with it, thankfully nowhere near as severe as what I had a few weeks ago. Little water, little discharge, little staying home from church, little glad there's no school tomorrow for him to miss, very little sleep as he pops into the bedroom several times a night to ask Mommy for help... good times. He's started asking for me to wash his eyes. We got a system going briefly that he liked, and when I did it differently the next time he said, "Daddy, you're not doing it right." I explained a bit further what it is we need to do, got him on board, and now we're working together much happier. I so have to keep trying to convince him to not stick his fingers in my eyes, though.

He also has a mild fever (100.6).

Meanwhile, I think I'm slowly passing another kidney stone, so it's time to be on Vicodin while moving boxes, mowing lawns, and trying to proof-read my textbook for the last time before publishing. For once, I was just as happy to spend church today lying down on the couch with him.

I've never been able to keep him laying down for as long as we just managed. We took turns watching half an hour of Prince of Egypt and Backyardigans. Each time we returned to PoE, he asked to start over and "see the horses going down." After the intro, teenage Moses and Ramses race each other in two-horse chariots. They nearly get themselves killed several times as people get out of the way, they jump gaps, and scaffolding crashes down around them. They pause the horses briefly at a barricade which suddenly collapses and they ride their horses down a tidal wave of sand in a scene highly reminiscent of going down a tall roller coaster. Pretty fun, but not the point, so I said no.

As we went along, I explained some of the parts of Moses' story from the Bible to be a bit more accurate than the film. He asked some pretty tough questions about why God sent curses and he correctly remembered and linked up the Passover with the Sacrament (score!). I was pretty pleased.

He told me several times that the movie was scary, but we made it through. It wasn't too scary, I guess. He and I had tried watching it last year, but it was too scary then. (I should note, he chose it from among the options I gave him.)

Afterwards, I asked him what was the scariest part. Imagine my surprise when he answered -- not the darkness, not the plagues, not the deaths, not the scary music -- "The horses. They go down WHOOSH. They go fast. Why did they go so fast, Daddy? Why did the horses go faster?"

I then asked him what his favorite part was. "The horses."

You liked the horses?
"Yes. They go fast."

I think I'm going to have a very interesting conversation with my Lovely and Gracious when she gets home....


Hy-guy also apparently needs glasses. The school's best guess is that he has about 20/100 vision. We took him to an eye doctor for children in the area who demonstrated that he can read the top line of the eye chart, but nothing lower. We'll have to wait until the pink eye gets cleared up, though, to give him further testing to see just what kind of glasses. Happily, children who need glasses are a medical condition, while adults who need glasses need a separate vision insurance, so our insurance will cover his glasses if not mine.

Growing Up: Hyrum got Busted

Oops, I think I misspelled the title. That should say, "Hyrum got bussed" and he couldn't be happier about it. In November as we met with the school board about Hy starting school, we had a discussion about whether he should ride the bus or if we would drive him to school. Joy wanted to drive him. She couldn't bear the thought of sending her little baby out on a bus. I was skeptical. "Dear, it's the winter," I said. "You know how much you don't want to drive in the snow. Some days, you are going to call me to walk home from work through the snow to get the car so I can drive him home. Is this really what you want to do?" She looked at me so plaintively that I knew she was sure. To Joy's credit, that scenario hasn't happened once, though I have occasionally driven him to school before work when the snow was bad. She drove Hy faithfully through the snow for months. Brave girl.

But now we're heading to Africa and Hyrum will be taking a shuttle to school (across the street from where I work). Joy is rather set against getting a car there. The reality of needing to put her boy on a bus out there led to a change of heart and she spoke with the school about getting him on a friendly bus here so they both can transition into it.

One week into the bussing, Hyrum loves it. He gets to sit next to his best friend, Tyler (when they aren't pushing and hitting each other) and he is happy and excited every day. The one thing he wants to report to us every day after school is whether or not Tyler said "Arrrr." The problem on our side is that the bus comes to our corner about 6:45, so we all need to wake up half an hour earlier to get him ready on time. We take turns getting him ready and then Joy greets him when he gets home. One day when I was working from home, though, I got to pick him up, which was a major surprise for him. Reward: one happy picture.
A few weeks ago Hyrum got some belated birthday presents from one of his grandmothers  (our fault). It's hard to tell which he is most excited about: the Backyardigan plush, the MarioParty game for DS to replace the Super Mario game we've been borrowing from my brother for months and will need to return soon, or the Toy Story action figures and play mat. I had left for Nigeria the day after Hyrum's gifts arrived, so he only had one chance to play his DS game before I spirited my toy away. While I was in Africa, the number one thing Hyrum talked about was me coming home and playing the DS game.

Despite that, it was pretty clear who the big winners were: the Backyardigans. Hyrum brought them into his room, set them out in his bed in order (above) and then took Mario, Luigi, and Peach out of his bed and set them on the dresser. We hadn't told him to. He just decided that he couldn't have both and he wanted his back yard friends. Instead of Mario and Luigi or Mario and Peach, Pablo and Tyrone accompanied him to school (until we switched to the bus, and okay, so one day he took Mario and Pablo).

Since then, we've convinced him he can have all of them together. So there are 10 in the bed until the little one says Roll over, Roll over....

I started reading a book of children's nursery rhymes to Hyrum. He continues to be very interested in poetry. Among his favorites in the book are "The Rainbow Fairies," "Winken, Blinken, and Nod," and "Mud." The amazing thing to me was the other night this week when we sat down to read Rainbow Fairies and he read along with me. I stopped reading and let him recite the vast majority of it without any help. Now when we read it, I'll point to each word as he 'reads' it, sometimes with help. It's a fairly long poem for him.

About two nights ago I asked if he was going to read Rainbow Fairies or if I should. He answered, "You read it. I don't read much yet."

Relatedly, as he got in his pajamas today I was going to help him. He stopped me and said, "I'll do it, Dad. I'm good at that."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Short Review: The Hope

I read Herman Wouk's masterpieces, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, in high school for fun and loved them. They tell the story of the second World War in its magnificent sweep. Detailed, poignant, and stirring, the story and characters have remained with me ever since.

Which is a problem when I picked up his history of the state of Israel, The Hope. One might be forgiven for thinking he only has so many great fictional characters in him, but the main characters are shockingly similar. When the main character met up with a quirky girl much younger than him, I knew exactly what role she was going to play in the rest of the book ... and I'm right.

In fact, I've guessed every major character-plot development to the point that I start skimming to find one of the actual historical figures so I know something real is about to happen. It's very sad. Wouk tells his stories on multiple levels and having one of them essentially skipable does a number to the rest of the book.

If you're only going to read one, I'd go for the WWII account. If you know you are going to read both, I'd read Israel first in the hope that the longer story and greater detail in the WWII will keep you interested in the full story.

The strange part for me is the main character's name. It's just odd, in today's age, thinking that "Barak" is the Hebrew name a good Jewish boy chooses for himself to replace his Germanic/Christian name. It's hard to wrap my head around.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What is your daddy like?

I gave Hyrum and M the same lesson for family home evening and for home teaching. As part of that, I drew an implicit analogy between their fathers and our Heavenly Father. I first asked a series of questions about their fathers I figured they could answer, then the same questions about God.

The answers I got were not quite what I expected.

What is faith? "In the Lord!"  [We had a short discussion about faith in Jesus]

Who is your daddy? [point at me]
Where does your daddy live? "At home."
What is your daddy like? Tell me about your daddy. "Daddy's home."  --- coming home from Nigeria was clearly a highlight of his life.
Mommy tried to help me: What does Daddy look like? "Sunday." --- Yes, I was in a white shirt still.

Who is God? "Jesus!"  [We had a short discussion about the Godhead]
Where does God live? "In Heaven."
What is God like? "He likes it when we pray to Him."

M's answers:
Who is your daddy? [point at her dad]
Where does your daddy live? [points at her heart.] He lives in your heart? [Flustered, she points at the floor.] He lives on the floor? [She whispers to Mommy that he lives here.] Yes, he lives here.
What is your daddy like? "Spicy food!" [We all bust out laughing.] "Daddy likes spicy food."

Who is God? "Jesus!"  [I'm beginning to see a pattern here. We all talk about it.]
Where does God live?  [points up] The ceiling? "He lives in the sky."
Her mother asks what that place in the sky is called. [ponders] "The Kingdom of Heaven."
What is God like? [points at her daddy] "All in white." [She then confers in a whisper with her mother that God is good and that He loves her.]


I've seen a sketch of what AUN is going to look like, and it's pretty nice: 20 main campus buildings, bunch of dorms and other facilities. Some people look at it and think it's already there. When they get there, they ask, "Where's the rest of it?"

This is the building with most of the teachers and classrooms. I'll be on the second floor.

Across the way from it is what I'll call the administration building. The library takes up the left half of the bottom floor and there are other admin offices throughout it, but the President's office is in the other building. HR, finance, and other offices are across the street mingled with the international school.

That's about it so far.

There are dorms to house the ~1300 students. There's a cafeteria and a vehicle maintenance shop for the fleet of AUN shuttles to take me to work.

They are building a new library. From one day to the next I could see progress being made on it. I think the next one they are building after this is the real admin building. Each of these will then free up more space in the building I've called the admin building for teachers and classrooms. According to the sketch, both the buildings that are currently up are for classrooms.

Speaking of classrooms, here is one. The current department chair was teaching a review session during the 5/6 week summer term. I was surprised how relieved I am to discover just how casual their business casual is. Here I've been ramping up my wardrobe and getting used to tucking in my shirt and all the rest ... I can wear my Hawaiian shirts to work!

One last look at my future office on the way out. There's this really long driveway to get the gate, another indication of the big plans the Founder (former Nigerian vice-president) and American University have for the campus they hope will become the greatest university in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I thought I had already shared this with you, but I guess I hadn't.

I enjoyed the food in Nigeria. This was my breakfast at the hotel. Starting at the top and going clockwise, that's a wedge of pounded yam (dry) standing in the place of a hash brown, boiled potatoes (teeny), boiled eggs, your standard buttery roll, and fried bananas (yum!).

I think I had fried bananas 3-4 times in the 3-4 days I was there. We're talking staple food. Add to that banana bread and hearing about multiple banana recipes and I know there are bananas in Nigeria. I mentioned once upon a time on my work blog that Ugandans eat about 3 times their weight in bananas every year. I figured that I eat Joy's weight in bananas, but not mine. That may change out there.

The chickens and cows are a lot leaner than ours, so even though there is chicken and beef, you get a leg-thigh combo at it looks like wing. There's a lot of fish. A lot.

Apparently you have to know the right places to shop for food. There are plenty of people willing to sell you meat, for instance: they carry it in baskets in the hot sun all day to wherever you will buy it. So you talk to your friendly neighborhood expats or your cook or someone and they'll get you to the safer, higher quality meat. I was thankful I had brought dental floss with me because the meat was remarkably good at fitting between my teeth.

Or you come here to the University Club (members only) for drinks and dinner. Restaurant meal - $6.50. Two pools and a jaccuzzi, weight room, volleyball, tennis courts. Nice place. Friday is pizza night. Saturday there are vegetables you can't find otherwise, likes broccoli or eggplant. They play some games, mostly just hang out and chat.

One of the trusted places is a store called Luka. Luka's was described as "a Walmart inside a 7-11." The place, as you can see, is packed tight. My instructions from Joy were to find out what foods they had, and I figured the fastest way to do that was to take a lot of pictures. So I went around every aisle taking pictures like these of everything on the shelves.

It's also a little like Cosco in that, if you see something you want, you get it because the odds are it won't be there next week. This candy was brand new, for instance. A month or two ago they got in some Christmas treats.

Cereals, spices, rice
Deodorant, makeup, nail care
Shirts, hot pots, sandals
More bug spray than you can imagine
Bread, eggs, water, juice
Canned veggies, canned fruits
Heinz, Mayo, Mustard,
Bleach, furniture polish, carpet cleaner...
The list goes on and on.

I had to explain to just about everyone I met what in the world I was doing. The store owner behind the counter was also mighty curious. I explained that I was coming back in two months to live and shop there and my wife wanted to know what they had. He was satisfied.

For contrast, the video shows a few seconds of driving through the "modern market." It's modern because it is newer than where the old marketplace was. You pay 20N to get in (~12 cents) and then it's small stalls packed in TIGHT. Food, clothing, fabric, electronics, movies, you name it.

The family I was staying with mentioned that the one time living in Yola is not cheaper than living in the US is food. Particularly if you want to buy all the Western brands from Luca's. Calculating from what they spend, it might be a little cheaper for us overall, but it's also clear it'll be another dietary transition for us: carbs are cheap and plentiful, meat also plentiful, but the fruits and veggies are much further between. That, and you shouldn't use the tap water to wash your veggie.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Exciting News: Going to Nigeria ... again!

While Derrill was in Nigeria this week, he confirmed to the president of the American University of Nigeria that he would be coming to work there for the next three years. We have a job to look forward to!

"In Nigeria," says Joy obviously. "So we're moving there."

I was impressed while I was there with the friendliness of the people, how eager my colleagues were to have me there, and the real opportunity to do some good in the world.

We have been quite coy about all this online up til now. We didn't want to jinx anything by sharing too many opinions publicly online before a deal had been made. Up until the decision was reached (D hadn't finalized it fully in his own mind until Sunday night and told the president on Monday) we had been in contact will several other possible universities, each interesting in their own way.

Even though we have been silent online, "we have been thinking and praying about this decision for a long time." It's a pretty big step for us, and not one I think we had predicted going into this job market. But we now feel it's the right step for us now and are looking forward to it.

Baby Lavinia appears to be very excited to share about Nigeria. She's jumping all over inside Mommy.

"I have been feeling like we might end up going to Nigeria since before Derrill went to Nebraska in March. I had told Derrill that Nebraska or Nigeria sounded like the most likely for doing the kind of teaching he is interested in doing right now. Then Nebraska fell through pretty quickly."

Each additional school that contacted me for an interview really disturbed Joy, who wanted the uncertainty ended. "Ya! I kept feeling like we were going to go to Nigeria, and then I would be really stressed about Nigeria for a few days, and then I would feel peace about Nigeria, and then I would feel stress about it again. That's what I did for the last two months."

People have asked us if we're excited. My typical response was that, yes, that was one reaction we had. Fear was another. There were many others. Several of our concerns had to do with the fact that we will be the only members of the Church in Yola. Even if Nigeria is prone to civil disobedience and conflict, the conflict is in other states of the country: Adamawa state where we would be is very peaceful traditionally and calm.

Now that I have been there, however, I can just say "yes." I'm excited. The overwhelming answer from the Spirit as we've prayed about the decision has been peace, and not just general warm fuzzies, but specific reassurances about specific concerns. After all, anywhere you go there will be challenges. If God wants you to learn something, like patience, He can accomplish that in NYC just as well as Nigeria.

"Oh, I don't want to live in NYC! Sorry, but Nigeria doesn't sound too bad compared to NYC. Apologies to anyone who lives there. I am not a city person. Nothing personal. I wouldn't want to live in Lagos either..."

"Especially since Derrill made the decision, we have had continual peace instead of just moments of peace. Satan seems to be a little concerned about us going. I was in a lot of turmoil the few days before we made the final decision, to which I attribute Satan trying to sway me against the decision."

"Some of the reactions we've gotten from people as we talked about this have only reached the fear part. And some people have been very excited for us and talk about what an adventure it will be. We feel the weight of all of it and know that Heavenly Father will help us to overcome any challenges in getting or being there -- known or unknown -- as we know we'd have challenges anywhere we are in the world. With God, nothing is impossible."

Yola is way on the far east on the river that runs into Cameroon. Lagos is in the far southwest. Nigeria is 2.5 times as large as California. There is an LDS temple in the south east near Port Harcourt.

This is a picture of the inner court of the faculty building where I will be working. I'll be on the second floor.

The family I was staying with kept asking me how I was in my decision process after each trek to see something on my list -- housing, shopping, the town, the school, etc. Every time they asked, I had been feeling just a touch overwhelmed. I answered I was still in information gathering mode and needed some time to process. Once I wrote my thoughts down to share them with Joy -- assuming the internet connection would work -- I felt a lot better.

It's not necessarily going to be easy. That's not the point. Knowing a lot more about some of the specific challenges involved, I'm confident we can deal with them and find a lot of happiness there in Yola.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

First Impressions of Nigeria

I already had written this email at the end of my first evening in Nigeria, only to have the internet crash on me and never get this computer back online until I got to the Newark airport again ... whereupon the post I wrote was lost. So I'll try this again.

I flew out to Nigeria Thur-Fri to visit the American University of Nigeria so I could scope out the area and the job they had offered me. There are only so many flights between the capital, Abuja, and Yola so I got to wait overnight. This is what I saw as I stepped out of the airport.

My very first impression looking out the airplane window was confusion. Abuja is the capital, right? So where is the city? I saw red dirt, patches of green grass, some trees California would be proud of, and shrubs. Where is the city? Finally we flew over some blue-roofed houses with brown dirt roads, but it was just a collection of buildings, not a city. Where was the city??

Turns out, I guessed right: the airport is 45 km away from the capital. While I waited for my ride, several taxi drivers offered their help, one of them offering to let me use his phone to call my ride for ~70 cents. A friendly guard let me call for free and I was soon picked up by AUN staff. They were trying to help two other people also heading for Yola, but the 4:30 flight got canceled. So they waited around to see if they were going to create an 8:30 flight, but that idea also got canceled at 7:30. So we three hung around the airport and at a nearby restaurant for three hours before we all gave up and went to the Top View Hotel.

Mentioning the Top View to AUN-affiliates produces very interesting reactions, mostly along the lines of "oh yes, I tried the haggis once. That was memorable." I'm not entirely sure why. Okay, so the bathroom faucets popped off in my hand. They popped right back on again! Okay, so the bathroom comes with its own water heater for the shower. So did every other AUN tub/shower I saw. And the size of room is at least twice as large as anything Europe has offered me on a work trip, plus a wide screen TV.

The more memorable thing is that Nigerian beds surprise Westerners. The pillows are not made of rocks. They might be made out of softened wood. That means I pretty much loved them (good, firm pillows!) The beds are also pretty firm. Supposed to be good for you, right?

The internet worked, the food was good and ample (see my last post), and I got an amazing 10 hours of sleep after my sleepless flying.

Traffic on the interstate connecting airport and city was ample. In addition to the massive traffic going to the airport, there were pedestrians all over, enough that in one place they had set up an impromptu marketplace: postcards and pictures, shirts, one stand consisted of a large umbrella with brassieres hanging from it, people selling food.... The interstate was in fine shape, though there's also a lot of roadwork being done so there were a lot of road splits and mergings. There are far more motorcycles on the road, not all of them use their lights, and they drive about like our motorcyclists do which is to say you really need to watch out for them. The main driving difference I observed was that the dashed white lines that separate lanes are regarded more as suggestions than laws, there are no posted speed limits, the use of turn signals is nil, and stopping for police can be optional. In other words, it felt safer than driving in New York City. The roads themselves, in Abuja and Yola, were in far better condition than I had been led to expect, with only one major pothole on the main road. Non-main roads are another story.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bath time Reading

Hyrum was really cute this morning. I had him take a bath before breakfast (Derrill usually does the weekend bath) and as he started playing and I was leaving the room for a moment Hyrum asked me if I would read to him. I said ok, and just picked up my Monson book that I am reading as part of my scripture time. I read to him for fifteen minutes while he played relatively quietly in the bathtub. It has been a while since I read to him at bath time and he didn't seem to mind my choice in book. So it was pleasant for both of us. Joy

Where in the World is Daddy? (Carmen San Diego?)

Daddy has traveled to may places in the last 6 months or so which is a good portion of Hyrum's life. I am starting to see a pattern of interest in our map at home. When Daddy is home the map is unused and unloved, it just sits in the bathroom against the wall. It started as only  a map of the united states mounted on thick paper for tracking where we had applied and where we had interviews (we got it three years ago). I have pulled it out whenever we start looking for a job, but then we just stop using it after a while, too many applications and not enough interviews.

When ever daddy leaves Hyrum wants to see the map and put pins where people are that he loves. I didn't notice at first that it coincided with daddy being gone, because he wants to know where everyone is not just daddy. So when Daddy went to Denver we charted it with pins, and when he went to Nebraska, to Washington DC. But we had to copy a map of the world, because Daddy went to Copenhagen Denmark and now daddy is in Nigeria.

So with daddy in Nigeria, it all started again. I start by showing him with pins where we are and where daddy is. We usually follow his plane routes. Then he asked me where Pop and Boo are, where is grandma Joy, where are Steve and Emilee and as an important part of the family where is Disney World. We have been to Disney land and I have pointed it out to Hyrum  before, but it doesn't hold the same honored place as Disney World. After he has made sure that everyone has their pin and has been located then we can put the map away again. He is just so cute.

Speaking of daddy being gone, Hyrum keeps saying things that show he either doesn't want daddy to be gone or he keeps forgetting that daddy is gone. After nursery today Hyrum said "Let's go find daddy". I can't remember the other comments, but off and on he says stuff like that. I always remind him of when daddy will be home and we count the days, because counting is so comforting to him. He even told daddy today that he would be coming home in 3 days. :D

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Random Prices 1

Right now, the $/Naira exchange rate is about $1/N150 (or $6.50 = N1,000). For our own future reference, here are the first handful of prices I've found:

Movie review: Farrell redeemed and other stories

I realize that the last thing anyone wants to hear about from the guy in Nigeria is movie reviews, but I haven't done much here yet ... just flown around on very little sleep and watch movies or work to pass the time. At least it shows I'm doing well and nothing interesting and terrible enough has happened to supersede my interest in the films. I'm really getting most of my movie watching or book reading done on planes this year.

1 - During my last trip home from Denmark, I started watching "The Seven Samurai," a black and white Chinese film about a poor village who hire seven samurai to defend them from bandits. On the plane to Germany "yesterday" they happened to have "The Magnificent Seven," Hollywood's western remake starring Yul Brynner that I'm pretty sure made it to a great film works list. Having watched the first part of the Samurai made the Magnificent much more interesting. Not only are most of the scenes taken directly from the Chinese version, a lot of the lines are direct translations. The villagers decide to "talk to the old man" who lives outside the village for advice. They decide who the good Samurai and Gunslingers are using the same conversations. Very interesting. I doubt a modern studio would get away with it. So I'm betting I now know which of the Samurai are going to survive.

2 - Once upon a time, I decided that no good movie could come from Jim Carrey (whom the Lovely and Gracious refers to as "Evil evil evil") or Will Farrell. I know my intelligence and probably a few other sensibilities will be horribly insulted and I'll probably be creeped out at some point too. There's just no point even watching them. Then one day I watched "The Majestic" and decided that Carrey could actually do a decent job if he wasn't mugging and abusing the camera every ten seconds. Yesterday I also found an exception for Farrell, whose movies aspire to sophomorism but he can't even manage that. I confess, "Megamind" is awesome. I loved it. Oh, was that Farrell? Well, good for him for picking one decent part. Farrell's impersonation of Brando needs a lot of work, and I can't help wondering how Robin Williams would have done it, but that was a great story, less predictable than most, and a lot of fun. [Mind you, I still avoid Carrey and will still avoid Farrell as a general rule, but it's nice to have something nice to say about them.] I look forward to watching Megamind again.

3 - "Green Hornet" wasn't bad either. Seth Rogen, who not only stars as the Hornet but helped write the thing, I think is really trying to ask himself, "How would Zack from Saved By the Bell play this role?" and then overdoes it deliberately. They admit to being campy and decide to have fun with it instead of trying to be a serious superhero film, of which there is just about only one kind (oh, what shall I do with this awesome responsibility that is thrust upon me? I'll ditch it to save those I love. No, I must take it up again for those I love.) The comedy occasionally strained my credulity, but not badly. Kato steals the show, as apparently happened in other iterations of the franchise (Kato = Bruce Lee). Not that the Lovely and Gracious would be interested in the movie, but if she were ever forced to watch it, I would advise her to skip the first fifteen minutes.

I'm pretty sure there was another film in there somewhere, but it apparently failed to capture my interest. Ah, the happy ways we while away the midnight hours without sleep. I did get some work done, but once I realized I was misspelling every third word and leaving sentences half-completed all over the place, I decided I had best call it done for now. I did also make several attempts to sleep, but none were successful. I got a very full night's sleep in my hotel and now it's time for breakfast.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Havana" Hyrum's Hat Trick

Hi there. Hy here having some haberdashery hijinx. I grabbed Daddy's hat and put my hat on top. This is always great fun. Then I grabbed Pop's hat and Mommy's and stacked them up. I AM the four-hat wonder!


Oops! This is harder than it looks. Let me try again.

Almost got it...

Stay up there, you!


Of course, Mommy knows how to do it best. She's cool like that.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Crystal Ball 2: A Little Clearer

Subject to everything falling into place the way we expect, this is what we're looking at:

We would leave Ithaca July 20 and fly to Salt Lake. Oh, family in Utah! We're coming to visit. We'll drop off some stuff with some lucky family to watch for us.

We spend some time in UT, Vegas, and Santa Barbara. We bless Lavinia probably the 31st, possibly the 24th. The 24th would be kinda cool (Pioneer day and all that) but might be more problematic travel-wise. We'll see.

Some time while we're out and about we need a pediatrician to give Lavinia a Tdap shot (Tetanus/Diphtheria). If you can are in SB or UT and can help us get in touch with a pediatrician you like, please let us know!

We would then leave from Salt Lake to our New Home around August 3.

If you are family or dear friends in UT, Vegas, Santa Barbara, or along the way and would really like to see us and our new bambina, please let us know! We would love to see you!

Hyrum at Disneyworld

Thanks to Grandma Boo who had a camera to bring, we now have some pictures of Hyrum at DisneyWorld last month.

Grandma found Hyrum a new hat and he became Woody for the trip.

Sadly her camera didn't work too well (I'm guessing since I don't have any of the shots I took) when he met up with Buzz and Woody the first day. It was a little hilarious. There he was in his Woody pajamas from Disneyland and his brand new Woody hat. Woody knew what to expect and started walking to Hyrum with his arms outstretched.

Hyrum ran toward him with a happy scream ... and right past him. Woody kept wandering forward, wondering what had happened as Hy grabbed Buzz by the legs for a great big hug. Joy explained to Woody that he was always #2 in Hyrum's eyes ... which didn't go over well. I think I saw them fighting again afterwards (j/k). It was fun.

This was the first time, though, that Hyrum played at being Woody. Normally he is Buzz, Mom is Woody, and I'm Rex. But at Disney he was Woody, I got to be Buzz :), Mom is Jessie, with Pop as Bullseye (Woody's horse), and Grandma taking my duties as Rex.

The best part of that is that people (tourists and staff alike) would ask him constantly where Bullseye was. Well, Pop was talking care of Grandma Boo, so he answered, "He's at Boo's," which I'm sure sounded like "booze" to everyone else. But he knew where Bullseye was.

Enjoying Jungle Cruise.

Donald in Africa.

We decided unanimously that Africa has the best character breakfast just in terms of the breakfast. Not only do they have the staples at all the other buffets (Mickey waffles, eggs and bacon, pancakes, donuts, fruit, disappointing biscuits and gravy), they had African dishes as well.

Hyrum loving Pop.

Carousels were clearly one of the big winners this trip. He really liked going around and around on any ride that would let him.

Hyrum helped me capture the evil Zurg.

"*Gasp!* Zurg!" he says, pointing.

Hy officially was looking forward to meeting Mickey's friends plus Buzz and Woody. Even though Pooh's friends didn't feature in his schedule, he sure was happy to see them.

Speaking of going around and around, the one ride Hy asked for by name without seeing were the Tea Cups. I got them going SUPER fast. He clung to the side with one arm, the biggest, happiest smile on his face. "Then my hat fell," he says. Yes, his hat flew off, and he bonked his head a few times. This is him at the end of the ride, trying to get the world to stop spinning. He denied being dizzy.

This is Hyrum with Disney Magic Crayons. The Magic Crayons look different from the crayons we got everywhere else and they magically appeared one by one, sneaking among the others while he was trying to count how many crayons he had. This made counting difficult, but all the more fun.