Hello Friends and Relatives of Sebastian,
Last Saturday we were able to speak to "Peace Bass" in Niger and he sounds just wonderful! His language skills are increasing, especially due to his host family, and he can even haggle with shop keepers in the marketplace, adding to his kitchen supplies for his new crib. There are no doubts that he finds life in Africa an awesome experience!
The PCV's are now traveling out to visit other established PCV's at their posts to see what it is really like in the bush. Thinks he might eventually get a donkey, although some volunteers have camels of their own (difference between buying a Mercedes and a Chevy). Also, and this will come as no surprise, he will probably get a cat (to take care of the scorpion problem).
He will be posted in the Say Region, which is on the West Bank of the Niger. Seems he will be restarting a program which hasn't been in operation by the Peace Corps for years. At least he will be able to get into Niamey periodically. His "concession" is under construction and will have two rooms - for which he is excited.
The food is quite good over there and he has been housed with the "Best Cook in Town". However, he still requests coffee (all they have is Nescafe) and beef jerky. Guess the beef jerky goes well with Nigerien beer!
Seabass sounds busy but very happy. His "stage" (pronounced stahj) is a great group of PCV's and he hopes to be posted near to some.
He sends his good wishes to all and really appreciates your letters and photos. Will keep you updated on his exciting venture!PeaceBass' Mom
a few more recollections (some repetitious) by Seabass's Dad, from the phone call:
The people Seabass will be working amongst are mainly herders and nomadic people, who live off their cattle, though they are nomadic less and less, as modern pressures make that less viable. There will probably be experiments with new types of feedstock, to make the best of the circumstances.
If people send him packages, he has to pay to get them, though it does not seem to make much difference how big and heavy they are. But if stuff is sent by DHL, he does not have to pay.
He says it is not like the stereotype of Africa - it isn't full of bright colored clothes and constant drumming and all that. Everything is functional and to the point.
The night sky has not been especially wonderful yet, since they are not very high up, and there is often dust in the air, but the full moon is incredible - no need for even a flashlight in the full moon. He climbs up one of the hilly things whose names I do not remember, looks around in the moonlight, and reflects "Holy Crap. We're really in Africa." The views are amazing, he says.
If anyone wants to email pictures to him, he would love to see them. He can access them when he gets into a cybercafe in Niamey, which should be fairly easy every couple of weeks or so.
He loves haggling in the market place - it all sounds rather like the bazaar in "Life of Brian" where it is an insult NOT to haggle. But it doesn't help him learn the names of all the strange vegetables he sees, since whatever he points to, asking "What is that?" the answer comes back "sauce ingredient." He is lucky to be living with a great cook, who makes rice with sauce every day - he hasn't even eaten millet yet!, and everyday the sauce is completely different, but always made of "sauce ingredients".
It is getting hot, and 110°F in the shade is a bit much. He finds it hard to keep active in that. But the main instructions for how to survive boil down to these two:
Don't eat poo. (Poo is everywhere)
Boil your water.
He has a turban, but has not learned to use it yet. They are good things though, as they keep the dust out of your hair. He's settling in well, so the calls for prayer at 5 in the morning don't even wake him up. But when the guinea fowls start squawking - THAT wakes him up.
He yearns for good coffee, beef jerky, cigars, M&Ms, Irish Spring Soap. They drink unbelievably strong tea, stewed for an hour and a half. He has a mohawk, his hair standing straight up, using soap as a gel. Who would have thunk it!
Not only will he almost certainly get a cat, (see above) but he will probably inherit a dog, too. Dogs there do not really come in recognizable breeds - they are "dogs", of a vaguely greyhoundy type, and most of them are mean because they get hit a lot.
Since he is going to open new territory, he will have to learn a third language, though I didn't catch the name. I think Sabra has figured it out.
Greetings are tremendously important, and every time you meet someone you have to go through the whole gamut of good wishes and declaring everything to be wonderful, before you can either get down to business or admit that you are about to die from contagious epilepsy. Added to every comment and exchange are words that mean "God Willing" and, even more, "have patience". When the bus is three hours late "Have Patience"! If you agree to meet at 10 tomorrow, it will only be "God willing."
While they are doing the training, the magical moment is 5 o'clock, which is when certain purchases can be made. Thus it is known as "beer o'clock." But if the beer vendor does not show up, well, "have patience."
Seabass really does sound great, and is completely involved with this rich experience. They must think highly of him to entrust him with opening new territory. So I say "Go SeaB!"
PCBass's DadSeabass in the Peace Corps