Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yo Yo!

HIIIIII!!! Barka da rana [Greetings on the day]! I am so excited to get to finally update the blog. I’ve been in Niger for an entire month, almost. Each day seems long but still a month has passed by so quickly. So much to say, ok...

Lets start with a normal day in Hamdallaye….

My computer says its 3:08 am, BUT don’t be fooled! There is a 7 hour time difference btw. Hamdallaye and ATX.

Enviornment: Although the area around Hamdallaye isn’t technically a desert it sure feels like one. The ground is brown-red sand and its hot 80% of the time. People live in huts made of straw or small buildings made of adobe. People don’t really spend time in these enclosures, life happens outside in people’s concessions. The village is only beautiful if you look from eye level and up, the sand streets are literally covered with trash. Plastic bags are taking Niger by storm and while it makes many people’s lives much easier, it it not helping the aesthetics of the land at all. There is no garbage collection system. People either just throw their garbage into the streets or burn it. The smell of burning plastics is very common indeed. The landscape in the Dogodutchi region is the most beautiful I’ve seen in country. There are mesas and lots of shrubby trees and camels, it really is beautiful.There are also some freakin HUGE baobab trees in the Dutchi region... if you've ever read The Little Prince you know what I'm talkin' about- oh yeah!

Training: I train 6 days a week from 8am to 5 pm. Training is mostly focused on language. In language sessions I sit around with 2 other students and a language trainer (who is a native nigerien) and we just talk about things in Hausa for hours and hours at a time. We’ve covered the basics- Where are you from? What do you like? How many wives does your father have? How much should a goat cost in the market? Haha, you know- the usual small talk. Also we have cross cultural training where we learn the faux-pas of Nigeriene culture- such as NEVER eat with your left hand or show your shoulders if you’re a woman. I’ve also learned a lot about Islam and the unique way it is practiced here. My favorite part of training is the technical sessions. This is where I learn about the Nigerien health system and practical skills to implement in my village to better the health of the people there. I’m learning so much. Unexpectedly, but I’m actually learning a lot about gardening and making tree nurseries. Nutrition is a huge huge problem here. Hunger and lack of variety of food in the diet. Most people here are small, stunted because they didn’t get adequate nutrition as growing children. This is why young people look so much younger than they actually are. My host brother, for example, looks about 13, but he is 18 years old. Sad, but this is why I’m learning to plant moringa tree nurseries and make weaning porridges for babies and find effective ways to talk to women about maternal health.

Rainclouds & Sunshine:

Some snippits of the great, and not so great aspects of life in Niger...

- I’ve been doing yoga and jogging in the mornings. Earlier this week on my I literally ran threw a field of camels. Exercise feels awesome.

- Dance parties are wonderful stress relievers. Either with my fellow PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) or with my host sister and her friends – shakin’ it like a polaroid picture!

- Record temperature thus far: 113F in the shade, 188F in the sun. Yeah baby!

- Polio- polio is a problem. Its the most apparent and appalling issue that you can see just by walking down the streets of any town or village. Children who crawl on all fours because they've lost the use of their legs. Peace Crops does a lot with immunization and vaccination campaigns to address these problems.

- My host family is so so sweet!

- I planted a garden. It has tomatoes and lettuce and bell peppers and hibiscus. I love my garden, I hang out in it and water it all the time. The harvest is going to go to my host family.

Friends- I miss y’all bunches and bunches. So sai! [so much] Usually I’m so busy with language class and cross culture sessions and health technical sessions and volleyball games and dance parties and hanging out with my host family that I don’t have much time to think about home. This is a good thing, keeps me happy and focused. I think about the co-op a lot, not that I’d be living at Pearl now, but being in Niger has really helped my to realize how much I really enjoyed my time there and I think I have a new appreciation for that kind of inviting, kind, comfortable environment. I think I miss hugs. Hugs are NOT appropriate in Nigerien culture, except for with little kids. Not even between husband and wife or friends or anything.

Sorry no pictures this time. I forgot the cord I need to download them onto my computer. Just use your imagination!The internet is super slow and I only get it when I'm in Niamey, so WRITE ME LETTERS if you want to talk to me.

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