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.