Thursday, March 29, 2007

How hot is it?

I cannot emphasize how good it felt to be back in the village after 4 weeks out. For one thing, my zarma was going to shit. After just 4 days back in the bush, I had to resolve an issue concerning a table that didn't exist at the niamey hostel and I felt infinitely more comfortable discussing it with the hostel employees. I also got some good quality time with my guitar which is always nice.

The down side is it's hot season. Just in case I didn't make it entirely clear last year (it still wierds me out that I can talk about last year and still be talking about a time when I was here) I will now elaborate some more. Hot season is hell come to earth. After about 1pm I just try to find somewhere to lie down where the sweat doesn't pool too much. Sometimes...I can sit still long enough to not sweat. Then I inhale and every poor does it's best Old Faithful impersonation. It is so hot that I can leave a cup of water in the shade and make hot tea. I shit you not. At night, it's only bearable because the sun isn't adding it's death rays. And hot season is just getting started.

Enough of that though. Two days ago, I went to Kirtachi with some team mates in search of our elusive candidate for the Young Girl Scolorship program. Apparently the volunteers from the old Kirtachi cluster had agreed to sponsor one of the girls there. Then they all COSed, Peace Corps closed the region, and so we stopped sending money and supplies to her. Well Kathryn was good enough to track down some information and we shuffled our shuttles so that we could take a bureau car down the 80km of laterite road instead of a bush taxi.

Turns out there are two girls we are sponsering. And the amazingly helpful bureau folk had mixed up the information so we had brought the wrong books for the one we were looking for. Luckily, one of the two is actually going to school in Say, which makes things very much easier since May is posted there. The one who is still in Kirtachi, however, May and I have to go back next week to bring her the proper books and the funds and to search for tutors for her. It should be exciting since this time we won't have a bureau car or Kathryn's french. We're going to try taking a boat from Say, spend the night down there, and hopefully get through all the official stuff with just Zarma. Should be an adventure. I'm trying to convince Djimi to come too.

Some amusing things that happened on the trip down though:

The bureau decided to activate the Emergency Action Plan and issue a standfast order. It was just a test, but it was still amusing that for fully half of our team our response was "ok, we're gonna head 80k further into the bush instead to where there's no cell reception. We'll text when we come back though." Still, we were in a bureau car, and not planning on spending more than a couple hours out of service so it all worked out.

We saw several dust devils, one of which was nearly a full on twister. It definately picked up a piece of some sort of housing and threw it into the air.

We saw the biggest termite mount ever.

So that's the news for now. Also, as always, Google is awsome. I have borrowed a digital camera and have started uploading images to Picasa on my Gmail account. If you go to you should be able to see all my public photos. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

La La Lala

I finally get to head back to post tomorrow. I've been here in Niamey for longer than I really care for. I had been hoping to make a short stint in the village before swear in, but there was just too much to get done before the barbeque and GAD and whatnot.

Speaking of which. The BBQ went quite well I think. This year we decided to have an alternate GAD auction at the BBQ with all the less culturally appropriate items or services that really only PCV's would bid on. We had also planned to include the talent portion of GAD in this, narrowing the real GAD down to just three acts, one of which was me and Kurt! I think this turned out to be a little overambitious. Most people either didn't pay any attention, or started getting restless and demanding we turn the music back on. So much for that plan. Aside from a couple altercations, once we gave up on the auction and entertainment and resumed bad rap booty music, the masses were appeased and it was good.

Incidentally, GAD raised over 2,000,000 FCFA this time 'round. That's a lot of broke PCV's.

I kept trying to leave this week, instead of waiting for Danielle's installation car today, but things just kept coming up. Monday dentist appointment (turns out my teeth are basically dissolving in my mouth...and not slowly. Atleast my gums are good) Tuesday I was supposed to go out to Kirtachi and find this young girl scholar that used to be our cluster's responsibility, but rather than bush taxi out and maybe spend the night, we rearranged our shuttles so we can take a bureau car. Wednesday was hostel work. And now it's today. But now I get to go home! God is big!

All this week, new volunteers are getting installed. They all seem very chipper and excited to get to post. They seem like a very good group and I am happy to welcome them into the Peace Corps family.

Looks like this'll be a short post as I can't seem to think of anything else to say at the moment. There's a new podcast on Djimi's blog featuring me and one of the new volunteers so go check it out. Kala tonton

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Trainings and Tuaregs

Let's see how much time I can spend away from post this month. I have so much going on lately it's crazy. That seems to be how it is in Peace Corps. Sit on my ass for a month and then OMG WTF I have no time to do anything! Kala Suuru.

So last week I left my village three days earlier than planned to go and do a site visit up in Gotheye. Some of their volunteers were out travelling so they didn't have enough to go and help transition all of their newbies. I had nothing better to do so I got tapped to go help. It was actually quite enjoyable to spend a couple days with other volunteers not in the hostel. The difference between volunteer interaction in the bush vs in the hostels is in a word, profound. In the bush we pontificate the many facets of the Peace Corps experience. We contemplate our own spiritual growth and the effect we have in the grand scheme of things. In the hostels we revert to bitter, slightly crazy, often drunken, monkeys. It's not really as severe as that, but it gives you an idea of the incredible span of the schism.

So anyway, I got to spend some time in the bush with Brittany, the new Gotheye volunteer I did live in with. It was refreshing to see the outlook of a new volunteer. And sharing some of my own experiences and wisdom kinda helped me adjust my perspective on the coming year. Though it was somewhat thrilling and unsettling when I would start a story and she would say "oh I remember reading that on your blog." I wonder if this is what celebrity feels like. Either way, she seemed in good spirits and I think we got along quite well. All in all it was the kind of weekend I needed.

After that, all the rest of my stage and I had our Mid-Service Training. We spent three days at Siloe (sp?) a Catholic convent. The food was amazing. I slept in a real bed. With a fan. It was easily the most comfortable 3 days I have spent in country. They fed us chicken legs! LEGS! Actual discrete recognizeable limbs with meat and skin on them! Not just a pounded up pile of meat and bone shards in an equally questionable sauce. Biting into that succulent flesh was like biting into a nugget of heaven. This is what a year in Peace Corps does to your concept of happiness. It turns it into chicken legs.

Oh yeah, we also had some training sessions. Some feel it was one of the most useless three days in their service but I disagree. While many of the sessions were only mildly clarifying at best, being with the other volunteers and sharing successes and failures was quite valuable. I also got some ideas for a project for my second year and hearing other volunteers talk about similar things really boosted my enthusiasm for work. That alone was helpful.

I was supposed to go on Vacation to Agadez this week. It's pretty much the only touristy place in Niger and has most of the significant cultural icons. We were going to take a five day tour that would include Agadez, and oasis, and dunes. But then during MST the Tuaregs decided it would be a good idea to start killing people. They attacked buses north toward Arlit and killed two people. Soldiers also killed five rebels. So while we are still allowed to go to Agadez, we would not be allowed to leave and take our tour. Bollucks!

The girls decided to go to Benin instead. Since we have so much hostel work coming up in preparation for swear in and the barbecue, Jimmie and I opted out. It's almost a relief not to go on vacation just because, due to the timing, I was going to be kind of stressed about all the work coming up and cramming it into just the one or two days before everything gets into full swing. Now I can take my time and get it done right.

Instead, I am going to head up to Gotheye today and check out Kurt's live fencing project. I saw a working garden with live fencing during MST and I am considering do that for the garden project I want to do this coming year. But while a functional live fence is encouraging, it doesn't really give you a good idea of what is involved in starting it. So I'll go check out Kurt's. It'll be kind of like a little mini vacation in a sense too. Should be a nice relaxing time. I'll try and post again when I get back.