Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Niger Here We Come!

We deplane in the capital, Niamey, the heat is intense –over 100 degrees F and this is the beginning of the cold season. The sunlight is searing, but nothing compared to the overwhelming sight of sewage and garbage in the streets. People have lived continuously in this area for over ten thousand years and no one seems to care for the land. Erosion, overgrazing , exploding population , water shortage, food scarcity, and a milieu of universal complacency. Niger is a story where I can see only one possible ending. The unknown is the rate of decline. Am I surprised? I expected to be without running water, electricity, plumbing, or refrigeration and to have a hut with dirt floors and walls. I didn’t expect the bright smiles, children who sing while playing , the enormous amount of physical labor energy that are required for a subsistence living. The long hours of hard work that every woman puts in every single day of her life just to accomplish even the most mundane of tasks is daunting. Just gathering fire wood, grinding millet, and cooking is an hours-long process. When we landed in Niamey we landed in the Middle Ages. Peace Corps volunteers who come here for a forty year reunion said the country has regressed since their service. ( Interesting health statistic: for every one hundred Peace Corps volunteers in Niger, each year there are one hundred and fifty cases of acute diarrhea.)
Do I see an upside to this? Absolutely, it would take a miniscule change: a well, a pump, a fence, a garden, and a life would change. It is unlikely there is any place in the world where such a small input would yield such dramatic results. It’s also unlikely there’s any place in the world that takes so such effort to make the smallest difference. Can I do this—we’ll see. Right now my challenge is the language test. If either Judy or I don’t pass, we’re sent home. Stay tuned. Dave


  1. Ah, daunting is hardly the word...and yet you have already come upon the magic part--the smiles and the people and starting to understand another world. All the good luck in the world to you both. Lynne

  2. Judy and Dave- You guys never cease to amaze us. Good luck on your language test. Edley and I think of you everyday. We are certain that your journey will bring good things to your village. We are confident that you will be able to find a way to bring that water out of the ground to improve the quality of life for all. Stay well and stay focused.

    George and Edley