Friday, September 24, 2010

Sannu! Hello! The Niger Adventure Will Soon Begin

   To our family, friends and curious readers: this is Dave and my initial blog. With the invitation we received from the Peace Corps came our need to stay in touch and let all of you know not only where we are but also some of what we will be doing for the next 27 months.  We will each post updates periodically when we have internet access, so we invite you to check our site occasionally to see what's going on in another part of the world.
    Ducking " down the rabbit hole" , as Alice in Wonderland did, is what Dave and I will be doing soon, as we depart for service in the Peace Corps in Niger, Africa. No, not Nigeria, but Niger, or nee jer, as the locals pronounce it. On October 21, 2010, we fly out of Philadelphia to Niamey, Niger with a brief stop in Paris. After almost 1 1/2 years of anticipation and planning, we will finally embark on our adventure with the Peace Corps. We will go "down the rabbit hole" and expect our lives to change.
    So how did this all come about??? In the spring, 2009, we heard a Peace Corps recruiter speak at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He inspired us with his description of service in Jordan. He also mentioned that the Peace Corps was trying to recruit more volunteers over age fifty. Since we had wanted to do something like this for over 10 years, we decided to apply and see what would happen. In August, 2009, we completed on-line applications for the Peace Corps. (An accomplishment in itself!). We wrote essays, provided references, were finger printed and interviewed, and endured extensive medical, dental and vision exams. Even though we are older than the usual applicants,do not speak French or Spanish, and are a married couple with different skills, we were nominated, then invited to serve in Niger.
      After locating Niger on the map of Africa, we began researching the country and found it to be one of, if not THE , poorest countries in the world. It ranks #182 out of 182 on the United Nations Human Development Scale.  After a 3 month in-country training period where we will have extensive language, cultural, safety and technical training for our work, we will be posted to a village somewhere in rural Niger. There we will have no electricity, rely on well water, and have limited cell phone and internet access except when we travel to the capital city of Niamey or to the regional Peace Corps office.  We expect to have a true Peace Corps experience as Dave works in an agriculture/forestry program and Judy, in health.
        Why then, would we, as relatively reasonable people, decide to put our lives on hold to join the Peace Corps when the average volunteer's age is in the mid-20's? Our answer to WHY? we'd willingly go"down the rabbit hole" and turn our comfortable life upside down is----because we can! We've wanted to do this for years and although there is never a perfect time to voluntarily change one's life, we want to do something meaningful with our lives before we are too old.  We can now afford to do it, we are healthy, and we have immense family support. In a word, life is short, make it count!
        So, this is the beginning. Dave and I will both post our thoughts and experiences so that you'll read about our experiences from 2 quite different perspectives. We do agree on one point, however, and that is, we value our family, friends, and readers and do not want to lose contact with any of you. We also want to thank each of you for your interest (curiosity?), concern, and well wishes. We are most grateful for that support.
         Until our next post, Salamu alaikum or peace be with you , in the local language of Hausa which we are now studying.  Lahiya lau (in health),    Judy