Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving and Fashion Shows

There are very few times of year when PCV's can gather in large numbers and not make me want to hurt puppies at some point. Thanksgiving is one of those times. Maybe it's the holiday that makes us get along, or the fact that it's now cold season, or perhaps the joint effort to produce lots of good american food. I'm gonna go with the food. Thanks to some very nice folks working with the US Embassy, the Niamey PCV's were given a turkey this year. An honest to God Butterball flown in from the states. Irikoy Bere. The same folks also provided us with a ham, which made Djimi cry when he ate it. Yeah, we miss good food that much. (As an aside, when I was home for vacation I cried at the first beer I drank stateside. It was a Magic Hat Fat Angel). So this year we were able to have true thanksgiving feast.

On top of those two important and tasty critters, Kurt and I killed a Rabbit that Djimi cooked up, there was a pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, stuffing, someone found or made cranberry sauce, cheesecake, guacamole (on Thanksgiving?!), delicious fresh-baked rolls (Djimi knows bread), and fudge a la Ghengis. It was amazing. I heard that one person did in fact eat so much they ended up throwing it all up. I say it was almost a necessity if you wanted to actually try everything.

Surprisingly enough, Thursday night was actually a big deal for Niger as well. All week they've been hosting this years FIMA event. I'm not sure what the acronym actually stands for but basically it is a week long festival of sorts celebrating African diversity, mostly fashion. Thursday night was the main event: a fashion show featuring world renowned designers from five continents.

It was an incredible event, once it started (all the posters say 8pm, it started at 10:15). There were various musical performances scattered throughout, including Les Nubiennes whom I was very excited to see. But the real feature was the clothing. The designers ranged from practical to purely concept in nature. One of the early displays was from a very interesting African fellow (Cameroon) who uses almost entirely natural materials (i.e. grasses, calabashes, etc.). Apparently his motivation comes from trying to reconnect man and nature. Very tribal in appearance, though the designs were almost like something off a stage show in Vegas. Lots of peacock feathers, elaborate head dresses, and revealing calabash bras.

Some of the other designers were much more conservative, and you could actually see someone wearing one of there designs to a formal event or party. There were some absolutely stunning gowns in particular. There was also one designer from Canada who's designs reminded me very much of the interior of my mom's fiber arts shop. Her designs featured gorgeous felted mittens, scarves, and fluffy hats. Good thing it's cold season.

Altogether it was fantastic. This was the first real fashion show I had attended. I don't think I ever realized how much it is really just another art form than it is really about designing clothes to be worn. The designers play around with all sorts of ideas about how to garb the human form, and practicality is not necessarily a priority at all. But it's not just any human form. Their canvas, in a way, is the hyper idealized form of the model. Super slender, tall, with well defined features. Yes the results are absolutely stunning and a pleasure to look at. But it's not real life. What's unfortunate is how this art has spilled into the pages of magazines telling us how to live our lives and what we should look like. That's like populating a travel guide with, in the place of location photos, impressionist paintings of the destination, but treating them as though they were photos. The travel guide will be gorgeous, but when you actually get to the place you will be disappointed. What you took for real and thus expect to see is not reality.

In keeping with the current topic, it's worth mentioning that I myself was a model in a fashion show a few weeks ago. Kadi is a Nigerien designer here in Niamey who receives great acclaim from the PCV and ex-pat communities. I got roped into being a model as I showed up in town two days prior to the show and Natalie said she was looking for more guys of my build (skinny but not too tall). So I went over and picked out my three outfits (mostly it was just whatever fit and hadn't been taken yet). The theme of the show was pretty much American 1960's. So think Hippy.

My first outfit was all white and I was a little nervous about it as not many people can pull off all white, let alone white guys. But you know what, I was hot! Damn Hot! And that's not my opinion, that's just reiterating all the things I heard that night (hell I still catch people talking about it). I have to say, Kurt and my heads definitely got a bit swollen that night. But who's wouldn't when you spend an entire evening wearing beautiful clothes while people keep telling you how awesome you look. It was a blast and I ended up buying one pair of pants straight off of Kurt's ass. I'll try and track down some pictures from folk. If for no other reason than to give myself the odd self esteem boost.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Beginning of the End.

Well, here I am. exactly 4 months to the day until my COS (Close of Service). Tomorrow our COS conference starts and they'll start giving us the run down on all the forms we have to fill out before we can leave, how to say good bye to our villages, and what to do next. So basically, I'm staring down the home stretch. Scary.

People keep asking me if I'm excited to be almost done. Apprehensive would be a better word i think. I'm absolutely ready to go home, but absolutely not ready to leave Niger.

Think of it this way: I've spent the last two years learning a completely foreign language, integrating into a completely different culture, and I'm going to leave now that I'm just getting the hang of it all?! How does that make sense. Especially when the upshot of my competence is that I finally feel like I could actually do some projects that might stick.

But I really do miss home. Yes I may sound like my priorities are skewed but I miss playing video games, and Magic the Gathering. I miss going to pubs and discussing micro brew beers with my friends. I spent a whole car ride yesterday day dreaming about snowboarding. I want to go home.

Some of you know that I was thinking about extending for a little while. The more I think about it though, the only way it makes sense with the reasons behind it, I would have to extend in my village. And if I did that I would have to stay for a whole year ( My village needs me to be replaced if my projects aren't to just collapse). And I'm just not willing to stay for another hot season. After a 2 yr long summer, I need fall and winter!

So I guess come tomorrow I will officially be "on the way out." I've tried to ignore the looming COS date but I think after tomorrow it will be even harder.