Hi, to all blog readers:
Sorry for the lapse in posts but this is the first time we’ve had internet access since departing the US on October 22.
The energy of the group was palpable—44 new Peace Corps trainees arriving in a foreign land’s airport. Niamey, Niger. After a 12 hour total flight from Philadelphia to Paris to Niamey on October 22 , our flight e We amade its approach from the sky with views of desert, patches of green and the muddy Niger River. And the sun was beaming down producing heat of around 100 degrees. The rainy season in Niger just finished andnow the temperatures are more moderate—mini hot—to be followed by the cold season and then the hot season. We arrived at the best time to acclimate to a new climate and place to live.
Meeting us at the airport was Tondi, a tall, smiling, friendly and bold voiced Nigerien who is the Training Manager for the Peace Corps training site in Niger. He ushered all 44 of us through baggage claim ( NO lost bags—unbelievable!), security, and customs and then into 2 waiting vans. Each van would have 4 layers of luggage roped to the top as we all piled inside, hot, exhausted but elated at finally being in our new country. Off we went, 44 official Peace Corps trainees all with the hope of meeting the tough standards required for being sworn in as official volunteers on December 30. Most of the trainees are in their 20’s, Dave and I are the oldest .One other couple from India is our age. So far everyone is congenial as the honeymoon season is still in effect. One girl left 3 days after arriving in Niger for unannounced reasons. Language instruction 6 hours per day mixed with technical, cultural, safety and health training was ahead. Niger is a country with many health and safety challenges so these topics are carefully addressed with us. Understanding and adapting to a totally new culture is on-going as we are all immersed in small villages near the training center. Dave and my family includes a husband , 2 wives (1 pregnant) ,and 6 children. There is a large extended family also. We don’t know yet exactly what all the relationships are. Our village is without electricity or running water. Well water is available and we’ve learned to treat our water with chlorine to assure safety for drinking. We also installed a hand washing device invented by Jock Brandis at the Full Belly Project in Wilmington, NC so that we can wash our hands frequently and easily. We will soon run out of hand sanitizer and hand wipes. Hopefully, others in our village will try this idea, wash their hands more often and have fewer diseases caused by hand to mouth contamination.
We eat dinner and some lunches with our family. Rice is served at both meals. Fruits and vegetables are almost non-existent as are calcium containing foods. Peace Corps provides multi-vitamins and calcium tablets. We all try to find fruit at village stands but oranges and bananas are about all we can find and not every day. Due to the heat , drinking plenty of water is crucial. Never having been a water drinker, this has been a challenge but with temperatures in the upper 90’s and lower 100’s, it is not hard to change bad habits and drink a lot of water.
Dave and I and many of the Peace Corps trainees have discovered a small street store near the training site where we can buy orange soft drinks that are actually COLD. That is our daily treat after our classes and other activities. It has replaced a daily glass of wine which, strangely, we have not really missed.
How are Dave and Judy doing? We are fine or “bani samay walla” in the Zarma language we are studying and struggling to learn. We aim to pass the language test at the end of the training period. We have a forty minute walk to the Peace Corps training site, warm in the morning and hot in the evening. Bucket baths are amazingly refreshing but do not come close to the luxury of a good shower.
What brightens a hot day as we return to our mud hut , our heads filled with new materials and languages, are the beautiful smiles on the faces of the Nigerien people as we walk through the trash strewn streets. There is no such thing as recycling or garbage pick-up so people just throw their trash in the street In the small villages.
We feel as if we’ve ducked into a rabbit hole and emerged in the Middle Ages. We’ll keep you, our dear family and friends posted on what happens next, whenever we have computer access. We wish you well. "Alhamdulilahi” or Thanks be to God, in any language and in any culture. Judy