Wednesday, February 2, 2011

End of a Chapter

I am back in the United States and my Peace Corps service in Niger has officially ended. The 2 week evacuation process has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. After only 10 days in my village I got the call from PC administration saying I had less than 24 hours to leave my village with all my belongings. Since then it has been a whirl wind of goodbyes to the people and places I have grown to love.
It is hard to believe that I am now on a different continent. That I will likely never return to my village again. That my Hausa has already begun to fade. While Austin has forever been my home and a place I have always enjoyed returning to, there is little happiness in this reunion. My heart is in Niger and if I could be anywhere in the world right now, it would be in my village - singing songs with the children or getting peed on by babies. Maybe sitting with my new friends, pretending I understand what they're saying or measuring the bellies of pregnant ladies with Maman Sani at the clinic.
I am deeply concerned for Niger's Peace Corps host country staff. They have become my mentors, friends and family and are now facing unemployment. A beautiful aspect of Nigerien culture is the way the family extends well beyond just the nuclear family. I have 3 adopted fathers in Niger. Mani my host father, his best friend Abdul Hamza, and of course Tondi our training coordinator. Peace Corps is not just a 2 year adventure for these men, but their entire livelihoods. They have dedicated their lives to training us volunteers in the hopes that the people in their own country will in some way see the benefits of our presence.
It is my greatest hope that Niger re-opens as soon as possible. Unfortunately, since the reason for our departure was terrorism, (a threat particularly difficult to gauge the level of ) I have my doubts about an expedient return to Niger.
I have received so much support from home throughout this adventure that although I was on a different continent, I felt more connected than ever to the ones I love. Thank you.
Looking to the future, I am re-enrolling to be a Peace Corps volunteer in a different country, hopefully in Africa. I could leave anytime between April and July.
As my friend Shelly said and which I also feel to be true, I was my best self in Niger. I hope the spirit of my experience in Niger will help to guide me as I go on to serve in a new country.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I'm in Morocco for my Close of Service conference. Peace Corps service is halted in Niger and we will not be going back. I will find out in the next couple of days if I will have to return to the united states or if I will be able to relocate immediately to a new country. I'll keep ya posted. In the mean time, I'm in freakin' Morocco! I will be very busy over the next few days eating fabulous food and hopefully seeing some of the sights.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I spent 10 beautiful days in my village. The people in my village were full of kindness and generosity. I ate dinner every night with my counterpart, Maman Sani who runs the health center in the village, and his wife who is a primary school teacher. I was just getting to know some of the old ladies and I would sit by them as they pounded millet under shade trees. I held many many babies and got blessed by so many villagers who were so happy I was there. I went on runs through the bush and watched the sun set between baobab trees. I got frustrated when people were so eager to greet me that they would come into my living space at all hours without knocking or giving me privacy. I had a sweet mama, an old lady who greeted me every morning and didn’t laugh when I tried to do womens work such as cooking or pounding millet or carrying water on my head.

Now the sad news. Peace Corps is leaving Niger immediately. Due to security concerns I have left my village and will soon be leaving the country along with all my fellow volunteers. I will hopefully be relocated to a new post in a different country, but I don’t know yet. It is extremely sad to have to leave such a beautiful country after suck a short stay. I have been touched by the kindness of the people here and I have made Nigerien friends who I will miss dearly. I hold this place forever in my heart and while I am both angry and upset about having to leave my village, I am thankful for the part of Niger I did get to experience. There is so much to be learned in this country. So much potential to be changed and to make change. Not being able to recognize this potential is the hardest part about leaving.
That said, hopefully an adventure to a new PC country is waiting for me, Ill send word as soon as I know what is going on. We will soon be going to a different country while our futures are being figured out. I have no idea where ill be going or for how long or if ill be able to stay. Haha, its quite an adventure I suppose. Not to worry, everyone in PC are safe and in good health.
Niger is a beautiful place. It may be the poorest country in the world but its people truly are the most hospitable. The country has given me so much and I am just sad that I wasn’t able to help in return by continuing my service.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Zinder is bomb!

The day after tomorrow I’m going to my village! Whoop Whoop!

It’ll be challenging after living in such relative luxury in the hostel- all the pastries, showers, flush toilets and gigantic DVD collection will be missed. Also, before coming to Niger I was worried about the book situation- but there is absolutely no problem. The library at the hostel makes me giddy- it is full of fantastic books. I’m a little bit intimidate about tomorrow’s task- shopping. I’m opening up a brand new site, which means all that is there is an empty house. Tomorrow I will have to navigate Zinder’s market to buy everything from soap to a mattress to a machete (machetes are useful for digging holes and chopping big things- and for feeling like a bad-ass). We can totally do this, I’ve got some very knowdledgable volunteers who are going to help me out.

OK. This is the end of blog postings for now. I'm sure I'll have lots of stories to share after my first month in post! Take care everyone.


New Years in Niger!

Happy New Year!

I cannot think of a better way to usher in the new year than to come to Zinder for the first time. After a bumpy 14 hour bus ride from Niamey we finally arrived here around 8pm on New Year’s Eve. We then hopped on some kabukabus (motorcycle taxis) with all of our luggage and came to our new home. I had never ridden a motorcycle before, so the kabukabu experience was one of the scariest things ever. Now that the first time is over, however, I can’t wait to get back on one. The Zinder hostel is like a co-op. It is homie, big and spacious and is currently decked out in Christmas decorations. The entire Z team was here to welcome us and we had a delicious feast of burgers, fries, salad and CHOCOLATE COOKIES!

There are now 22 of us on the Z team and we are going to have so much fun! The Z team is notorious for the videos they create and I’m excited to have a creative project to think about while I’m sitting, bored at my post. I’m in paradise- the weather is perfect mild and just a bit windy during the day and chilly at night. The people are so wonderful and there is Sally! Sally is a dog, a very very sweet dog. At 12:15 last night I passed out, I just barely made it to the new year. I slept for 12 hours. Considering I haven’t slept past 8am since I’ve been here, I was happily surprised that it was noon when I woke up. Then we lazed around all day, I feel like I’m in little America. We watched a compilation of SNL Christmas skits- hilarious! I miss my other stage-mates, who are now spread out all over Niger.

New Years Resolutions:
- Live in a rural Africa village for 2 years
- Ride a camel
-Write everyday
-Not be a hermit in my hut, take the time to greet people

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Favorite meals I’ve made so far…

1. The discovery of mayonnaise was huge! Beans, mayonnaise, ground hot peppers and bread- probably my favorite meal ever. Don’t knock it til you try it.

2. Kupto! I love kupto!!! Its cooked moringa leaves (which are a bit like a tough spinach) peanut butter, onions, maggi (a salty yummy spice)- mix it all together. By itself or with couscous- so so yummy!

3. Rice and Peanut sauce- peanut butter, hibiscus leaves, maggi, oil, salt and water. Its like heaven.

4. Wake da shinkafa. Beans and rice, plain and simple- add a little salt, oil, potassium and onion.

5. Gari rogo. Casava with sardines and dried ground peanut extract. Oil salt and maggi.

6. Maccaroni and cheese. Using laughing cow cheese that doesn’t need to be refridgerated- an expensive treat.

This isn’t what normal nigeriens eat, just spoiled Americans working with Nigerien ingredients. The normal diet for nigeriens is millet with some more millet on top. Their diet is carb heavy and not varied very much at all.

Qucik Note on Photos:
I want to upload pictures so badly, but the internet has thus far been too slow. Hopefully in the next week i'll be able to upload some.

First 3 Months

The first 3 months in village I’m not going to be doing any projects really. My primary tasks are to learn the language, learn culture, make friends and integrate into my community. I’m excited and nervous. I scored Intermediate High on my language exam! Woohoo! That is better than what I needed in order to be cleared to go to post. Get it Laura!

The basic set up for the next 2 years will be to spend about a month in the bush, in my village, then 4 days in Zinder city at the hostel. Plus some vacations at some point and visits to other volunteers and a 4 week technical training after the first 3 months.