Snapshot: Doing things the Nigèrien way

Oh no! The frame of my glasses is broken!

What happens when I need to fix my glasses? What if I need some clothing – without Target or TJ Maxx, where can I get what I need? What will I do if the strap on my leather sandal breaks?

These are normal, everyday things, right? Life inevitably presents challenges, and we must learn what to do and where to go to overcome them. Here in Niger, it is no surprise that the solutions look very different than in North America or other developed parts of the world. I am constantly amazed at the resourcefulness of the people here when it comes to these “everyday life” situations! I could tell so many stories! Here is a look at how we recently handled this one challenge: the broken-glasses.

Andy has an old pair of glasses. Nearly ten years old! He tried to replace them this past year with a newer and more stylish pair, but they just haven’t fit very well and were giving him headaches. Thankfully, Andy held on to the beloved old pair, and they were resurrected to use – but then the frame broke!

To fix the frames we first tried heavy-duty glue, to no avail. We then heeded some local advice and took them to the city market and found a man who fixes glasses and watches.

While we passed some time wandering the open marketplace, he took them to a welder (the frames are metal). This made me laugh – welding seems so extreme! When they were sufficiently welded, our repair man needed to finish the the job with “new” nose pads. (I don’t believe they are new, but whatever.) He had a variety of parts and screws in an old plastic pill pottle, which he periodically dumped onto his simple tabletop whenever he needed to find the right piece to fit.

The whole experience took about an hour. As I watched him perform his task expertly, albeit rather primitively, I thought about how these glasses would certainly have gone in the trash in my home country!

Here in Niger, objects can have a longer “lifespan” – and often multiple uses! – due to the scarcity of resources and creativity of the people. Empty coke cans become artwork. Plastic bottles are re-used for packaging locally made products like juice, honey or peanuts. Old bedsheets become the fabric for a sunshade umbrella. Nothing is wasted.

I wonder what kinds of things you re-purpose rather than throw away? Who knows? With a bit of creativity, perhaps there is new life left in seemingly “old” and “useless” items!