Longest Week Ever - Part 3 - Camp Hamdy
So also last week, as I mentioned, I participated in Camp Hamdalleye as a group leader. Camp Hamdy is a 3 day program for young students at the American International School of Niamey. They are mostly kids of expats and wealthy prominant Nigeriens who are educated in English in the American style rather than through the French system they use throughout Niger. Most of the kids in the school do not see much if anything of Nigerien life outside of their family compount, let alone out of Niamey. This is there chance to learn something about Zarma culture.
Most of what the six PCV's (including myself) were responsible for was translating and discussing our own experiences with living in rural villages. Otherwise the teachers that came from the school kept the whole thing moving and organized the kids. Though sometimes we did have to fill a disciplinary role. Overall, once I got used to it again, it was a lot like working at Hazen's Notch again.
Part of the program was a week long activity that the kids broke into groups for. I chose to work with the group that was making a traditional violin called a Goje (sp?). I spent most of the sessions chatting with the old zarma guy and playing the violins he made. I picked them up pretty fast and was able to make some fun little runs. One of the cool thing about the violin (which has a single horse hair string like the bow) was that it appears to run completly on harmonics. You never touch the string to the neck. Just a little tidbit for you music nerds.
I have to say it was a crazy experience working with Americanized kids after 10 months in country. All of us agreed that it was weird and a little scary. It was like getting a little taste of the reverse culture shock we are in for when we return home. Many of the kids would argue about things like who had more ipods or who's dad has a more high powered job. It was more than a little disturbing after we've been living with the poorest of the poor.
Also, Hamdallye is not nearly enough of a real bush experience in my opinion. When we went to visit host families many of the groups had electricity in the homes they visited. Not really a good demonstration of traditional zarma life. Not to mention the busy American style schedule which was just go go go. We only had 45 minutes for lunch for example. Once we managed to swing a 2hr break while the kids had some free time and we all agreed it still wasn't enough. We need the 4hrs of stair of into space alone time. It was kind of entertaining how some of us felt more comfortable hanging out with the Nigeriens they brought up from the village to teach than with the kids and the staff.
We realized from this whole experience that we just aren't the same people anymore. We spend all this time in Niger trying to integrate with our villagers, but never quite fitting because we are foreigners. But then we go back to America, or atleast a group of American type people, and we don't fit in anymore because we've become so Nigerien. Oh well, kala suuru. Over all I had fun and it was a worthwhile experience.
By the way. I would like to point out that I have started to post some pictures that I steal from other people's digital cameras on my myspace account. Yes, I hate it but I still have an account. You can observe my hypocracy at myspace.com/tastyfishcreature.