Tuesday, April 29, 2008


It's snowing outside. I'm wearing several layers of clothing. I had 3 cups of good coffee this morning...and wasn't afraid of running out and not having any for months. I drank a beer last night that was not Biere Niger. If I want to go somewhere...I can just borrow one of the two cars my family owns. I have no worries that I will be able to post this entry as soon as I finish it.

I haven't conversed in Zarma in weeks. I am bombarded by sensationalist news stories. If I plan to meet with someone and something comes up, I am expected to inform them immediately, even though I don't have a cell phone. I have no idea how much water I have used in the last 24 hours. Though I am constantly reminded how glad people are to have me home, I don't feel like I quite fit in anymore. I am cold.

I don't really know how to explain the way I feel about being home. It's home. It's definitely comfortable in many ways. But it's awkward in others. It's not the same as it was and I don't really know if it's changed, or I've changed, or both. I still don't really know what I'm going to do. I can't really motivate myself to commit to anything right now: job, phone plan, car, anything. It's as if by doing that I'm officially tethered here. I know that's not true. I know that if something came up that could send me back to Africa, I could find a way if that's what I really wanted.

One of the things I think I'm having the hardest time with is reconciling the existence of both here and Niger. I realize now that when I was over there, the United States kind of stopped being a real place. I knew it was there, I remembered that it was a cool place to live with lots of stuff. I heard about it on the news. I talked to people there regularly, but it didn't really exist. Time over there was on hold while I was gone. Now that I'm back I realize that that's not the case. Things have changed. And, I'm faced with the fact that it really is a place. And people really do live like this completely oblivious to the rest of the world. And they're quite happy that way. It's like my head isn't big enough to hold a world view that contains both extremes. I can't bring myself to not expand the picture to still contain Niger, but juxtaposed in my mind, Niger and the US coexisting makes no sense.

So I guess I'm wrestling with that dilemma. At the same time, I'm trying to figure out how to readjust my life here to account for the various things I've learned or habits I've picked up in Niger. I have come to the conclusion that I have entirely too much crap. I have so much stuff in my room that I don't need. At all. In any way. Most of it doesn't even really have any sentimental value.

One of the things that's disturbed me the most is that when I was hanging out in Burlington, just walking down the main shopping drag in Church St., I was amazed at how tangible this deep seated urge to buy was. I could feel it like I feel the force of gravity. Somewhere deep in my unconcious I was driven. I had money in my wallet and it needed to get spent! Where is this coming from? I didn't even really want anything, except to spend money on shit I didn't need. I don't need to buy a Wii, I can play the one at my friends' apartment. But because I really did want one, I was compelled to drift into game store after game store. I resisted, but still had this nagging desire to spend money.

Is the subliminal advertising demon so thoroughly pervasive and effective? Or was I just caught up in the collective unconscious flock? I don't know but it was really frightening. Watching the news is a similarly unsettling experience. I was never aware, I mean really consciously aware, of how sensationalist the news here really is. Now that I've spent 2 yrs completely unexposed to it, it's amazing. The way they put together stories, and choose their words, even the presidential campaigns sound like sporting events. They make every little story seem like a life or death struggle. It's something I hardly ever saw in international news.

I keep saying that the peace corps is the best deprogramming machine the government doesn't realize it's paying for. I think it's very true. Don't get me wrong, I still very much love America. But there are some frightening undercurrents at work that were just not visible until I spent time completely free of them. It is really amazing how much the media influences, if not outright controls, us.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Back In America :/

Well...that's it I guess. I've been in America for about an hour and a half now. I've cried atleast half a dozen times during that. It started when Alex, Djimi, and I parted ways from Alison in Dublin. I don't like this slow peeling away of people. First Kurt in Niger, then Alison. Atleast when the three of us landed here in JFK we said a quick good bye and then quickly left for our respective continuations. None of this drawn out good bye nonsense.

I got half way to the air train that links the terminals and the tears started coming. In saying goodbye to those last traveling companions it really felt like the final connections back to my service had passed. While we were traveling we still felt like PCV's in a way. Well, I did atleast. It could have been any vacation taken during service. But now we've hit stateside and parted ways to go home. And knowing that even if I do see all of them again, it will be in a completely different context with completely different experiences behind us, that chapter of my life is really closed now. There's no more pretending.

Sure I might find my way back to Niger, or atleast West Africa. But it won't be the same. It's time to move on...to life after Peace Corps. Bittersweet as it may be.

(regains his composure and wipes away another wave of tears)(Deep Breath)

By the way, this is not the last post. I have many many back posts that I want to eventually get typed up and posted. Also I still have to fill you in on the rest of my vacation, not to mention my adjustments back to the states. So you can probably expect atleast another month or two of posts. After that...who knows.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

What's the Best Way to Hear God Laugh?

Sometimes it doesn't matter what plans you try to make. It seems like every time we try to make plans on this journey, we get shunted in another direction entirely. You'll see in a moment.

England has been fantastic so far. I've been here several times before, but the last was about 9 years ago, so this is really my first trip as a conscious being. There's lots of images and places and things in my head, but I'm finally sorting them out to make a real concept of the place. I fully intend to not let nearly so much time pass before I return here. I may even look for jobs here once I get back to the states.

After our mad dash out of Africa our arrival in England was fairly low key. Though we did encounter, within the Underground, and out of nowhere, a woman who had attempted to come visit me in Niger, though we had never really got it worked out. Turns out she is friends with another Australian who had been on our plane out of Ghana and had come to meet him at the airport. After a little brief chat in the tube she asked if I was indeed Seabass who she'd been emailing. After that I remembered her emails and the fact that I had kind of dropped the ball on arranging a meet. Luckily she felt the same way about her role in things and we've been hanging out off and on all week. Miranda is a hoot. Small world.

Keeping ourselves busy in London hasn't been terribly hard. On Monday we went and visited Parliament courtesy of my cousin Lizzie. We watched the entrance of the Speaker of the House of Commons. Talk about pomp and circumstance. As Djimi put it so eloquently "It's a good thing I went and watched [the parliamentary debates] because otherwise I would have had no respect for your government." It was actually quite interesting to see the style of discussion. Very different from our own, though not entirely dissimilar. After parliament my aunt Tam took us to Tea at Fortnum and Mason's, the queens grocers. We kept waiting for them to kick us out as we sat there in our hoodies and things. All very posh, but very fun too. The waiter even set the napkin in my lap for me. Kind of awkward.

We've spent several days walking around and seeing the sights too. London Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace. The galleries are all free which is nice too. We explored the Tate Modern with the A team on Thursday which was neat, but slightly overwhelming. After having been deprived of art for so long, absorbing that much in a day was a little staggering.

Upon arrival we had sort of decided to spend the week in London and head up North to visit my aunt Sue in Yorkshire on the weekend, before heading back down to London for our last several days. Well, as the weekend rolled around we kept finding things in London we wanted to do, so we decided to stick around. We had already announced our previous plans to Lizzie, our host, however. So come Friday, we were suddenly without a place to stay as she had other friends coming in to stay from out of town. Luckily Helen, the girlfriend of a friend of ours from Niger, put us and the A team up for the night, though she had been worried that her lack of heating and hot water would make us suffer. She forgot we are RPCVs and didn't need luxurious accommodations. Just give us the floor and a blanket and we'll survive. She took us out to a pub for pizza and things too which was delicious.

Sadly, she was heading out of town yesterday so we couldn't stay there more than the one night. So I spent most of yesterday calling around various friends and contacts trying to find a place to stay. The result of this was that all our London contacts were exhausted for the weekend, but my aunts out of town were more than eager for us to come visit. So...London basically kicked us out and made us stick to our original plan.

I collected Djimi and we hopped on a train around 7 o'clock to Darlington in Yorkshire and are now being pampered and over fed by my aunt Sue. It's wonderful. We went on a nice walk this morning and saw some of the English countryside. Even more reasons to come back. The pace of life here is a little closer to what we're used to than London, also, which is comforting. So we're taking the chance to relax a bit and figure out where to go next.