Thursday, October 21, 2010

First Impressions

   Long: infectious laughter, enthusiasm, education
   Short: practical farming and health care experience; these are, of course, the two areas our group is responsible for.
    We met our fellow travelers for the first time yesterday. Everyone seems eager but not arrogant; we're diverse but have common anxieties. Those of us who are fed up with the despicable behavior of our political parties and concerned about the country's balance sheet can certainly count as an asset these 42 young people--actually 40--there's another couple about our age.
    We may not accoplish our primary work assignments , but rest assured, we will chuckle at our failures and we will make new friends!   Dave

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I touched an EMMY!

      I had not intended to post another blog entry until after we reached Niger, however, tonight's last fine meal in the US (not to say the dinner we'll have tomorrow night will not be good.....) , was at a historic restaurant in Philadelphia, City Tavern Restaurant  on South 2nd Street. It was phenomenal.  The food was excellent, the wait staff were dressed in authentic looking Colonial dress,  but the diners were even more memorable.   As a send off to ourselves, Dave and I chose to eat dinner in this historic place just because we could. (That is the same reason we are putting our lives on the line and going to Niger with the Peace Corps.)  Anyway, tonight I touched the actual gold Emmy won by this restaurant as part of a television show featuring the restaurant and their noted Chef Walter Staib.  The shiny gold statuette was being shown to a guest in the restaurant who was writing a book on 100 year old restaurants and the City Tavern Restaurant was one of them. The restaurant manager came to our table and let me TOUCH the gold Emmy!  What a treat!  We had already talked with the author about restaurants he had visited and found there was no 100 year old restaurant in Memphis and that he loved the Rondevous which was not quite old enough for his book. He also told us that his son was writing a screen play for Tom Hanks and that he was already dusting off his tux for the Academy Awards since he was sure his son's movie would be a winner!    Then the City Tavern Restaurant manager appeared and proudly displayed his award.  Also in the restaurant at the time were a young engaged couple in which the groom had just returned from Afghanistan, a grandfatherly appearing man with his two beautiful granddaughters, and 2 ladies of the academia type  who were also intrigued with the impromptu show by the restaurant manager.
  So what does this have to do with the life-changing event we face as we leave on Thursday for Niger?  I think it demonstrates what we have here in the US that most people of the world would not even recognize----enough wealth and prosperity to get excited over an award for a t.v. show, enough financial resources to dine at an expensive historical restaurant and think about our forefathers who also ate here , and a last chance to enjoy a meal in a relaxed environment with friendly people we did not even know before departing for the unknown......or go down the rabbit hole...............Niger.
   The people of Niger are experiencing a food crisis again. Many are starving to death, especially the young children. My hope is that I can detach  from the frivolous, disconnect from the internet, recall but not dwell upon what life is like in the US, and do something to help the people of Niger. In some small way  I hope that Dave and our fellow Peace Corps invitees will be sworn in as volunteers on December 30 and be able to improve the lives of those we encounter through our mutual projects and ideas.   Stay tuned.   There will be no Emmy Awards in Niger, but maybe there will be greater rewards to those whose paths we cross.  I also hope for the same life changes in Rawanda, since seventy more Peace Corps invitees departed from our hotel today, reaching that country tomorrow.  Salamu alaikum. (Peace be with you.)  Judy

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Turn, turn, turn, turn"...........

   A few days ago, as Dave and I were studying our Hausa language "to be" verbs, he looked at me and said, "Do you realize that in about a week we'll be in Niger?"   I thought about the upcoming days and it hit me! The long awaited departure to Niger with the Peace Corps was just around the corner and it was a bit unsettling. Soon we'd be leaving our comfortable home near the coast of NC where the ocean has been a calming influence as well as a powerful threat. We'll miss our cups of coffee, reading the newspaper and watching the hummingbirds flit from feeder to feeder as they prepare for their own long journey.  There'll be no more symphony concerts, opera, volunteer work, movies, or dinners with our friends.  We'll be further away from our daughter in Wilmington, our son, other family and friends. Each activity of the past few days has become "the last time we will......." before leaving for Niger.
     But, yes,  soon we will be starting a different , stimulating life with new peple of all ages and soon we'll be meeting our welcoming Nigerien Host family .Wonder what they will be like? Will they like the small hostess gifts we are taking them, as encouraged by the Peace Corps?  Doors  will open to fresh experiences many people will never be have a chance to try, with opportunities to serve in a totally different manner.  We are not turning our backs on our present life but are seeking to build upon our experience and enrich both our lives and those of other people in the world.  As I think of embarking on this journey it makes me want to study harder to learn one of the local languages because if we can't communicate with local villagers, how can I educate people on healthier living practices or how can Dave teach others to grow more sustainable crops for their families in an arid village near the Sahara Desert?
      After thinking about all these changes and turns in our lives, we proceeded with our fairly well planned steps to prepare to leave the country ,such as vacating our home, giving vehicles to adult children, registering to vote on-line for 2 years, dealing with mail issues and Visa payments. Then on October 11 my 91 year old Mother peacefully died in a nursing home in TN. Though not unexpected, this event too, was unsettling. Was this a sign for me NOT to continue with the Peace Corps commitment with Dave? What would Mother say? As we traveled to attend her memorial service we learned that a niece in New York had given birth to healthy twin daughters on Oct. 13.  The seasons were turning----from death to life, just as fall turns to winter which turns to spring then to summer and starts all over again.  The answer was there as if my Mother had said it---life goes on, things change, decisions are made based on pressing forward , taking things as they come and yes, enjoying the turns that occur.  Yes, my Mother would want us to continue with our Peace Corps dream and relish in the fact that we'd be serving during the Peace Corps' 50th anniversary year. Many volunteers from the 60's have voiced amazement at the fact that the Peace Corps persists and is even stronger, larger and offering service to more countries than ever imagined when President John F. Kennedy initiated the idea and call to service.
     Dave and I are in Philadelphia right now and will meet our fellow invitees to Niger in a couple of days.  Keep an eye on our blog as Dave will describe our group and some of the happenings as we move to departure on Thursday. His perspective will be thought provoking and probably a bit humorous.     To, sai anjime.   Okay, see you later. Judy


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Musings on Departure.........................

A few of the many things I'll miss: jogs around Greenfield Lake, the morning paper with coffee, crossword puzzles...even Monday is a challenge when you spell phonetically.... bourbon whiskey and a good steak, but mostly friends and family (I'd pay full retail for each and everyone of you, well, maybe NOT full retail---just kidding).

Some things I'm looking forward to: to see if I'm passed my "Good -if-Used -by Date", to see if people will change established practices to try something new when quite literally faced with starvation, being associated with bright young people, seeing and living in a totally different country but, mostly sharing the adventure of a lifetime with Judy!

 At the very least, life will be challenging, interesting, and rewarding.
 An optimistic cynic