Thursday, February 3, 2011

     “Get out!”   Dave and I are at the movies watching the highly acclaimed movie “The King’s Speech” when  King George VI’s speech therapist was told  to exit Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

     My mind jumps to Niger where we had been living prior to January 21 and our abrupt evacuation by the Peace Corps  due to safety and security issues. Fatta!  Sobay!  These are the words for “leave” or “get out” in the Zarma language we were learning while serving with the Peace Corps. However, now Dave and I are back in the US awaiting another Peace Corps assignment and  memories of Niger keep surfacing.

         As I sit in this US movie theater, I keep thinking of Niger and its people we left behind, and the new friends we made with Peace Corps volunteers all of whom are now scattered over the world, probably never to be seen again by Dave and me.  My mind snaps back to the movie as King George VI, brilliantly portrayed by Colin Firth, prepares to deliver the speech of his life. He is desperately trying to overcome a lifelong problem with stammering, as he addresses his countrymen during WWII.  When the king’s speech therapist assures him that the speech he will deliver is only 9 minutes long----I immediately think of Dan, the young Peace Corps volunteer who delivered a speech at our Peace Corps swearing-in ceremony only slightly over a month ago. His speech was in Zarma language and was also 9 minutes in length. Dan had no problem with delivery and had no speech therapist to prompt him as he spoke eloquently to several hundred people in the language he had learned in only 9 weeks of training.  There was Niger again, returning to haunt me with a reminder that our experience in the Peace Corps though short in time and abruptly terminated, will be influential the remainder of our lives.

Someone said “good morning, how are you?” at the grocery store yesterday. I almost said , “bani samay walla” or “in health” in Zarma language. I see children in my son’s neighborhood as they ride their bikes and play with toys received at Christmas. I think of the children in our Nigerien village happily playing all day with nothing but each other or making simple toys from jar lids and sticks. At my son’s home we fuss because the water in the shower is not hot long enough, which makes me stop and think of Niger, our bucket baths and the water only as warm as the sun could heat it during the day.

    Now it is cold all across the US with blizzards, snow storms and stranded travelers making the news. Niger will soon be entering its hot season, then the rainy season. Every place in the world experiences weather and climate challenges, but I think of Niger as I add an extra layer of clothing to keep warm in the US.

      As Dave and I re-adjust to the life we once lived in the US, we eat out, attend a stage show, and shop in well-stocked stores buying whatever we need or want. Do we feel guilty because our time in Niger exposed us to 3rd world poverty and lack of all but the basics in life, then we return here to comforts and luxury?  Of course we feel a sense of ambivalence when we think of how other people live in the world.  But----our thoughts are also of extreme appreciation and gratefulness for the life we do have, and for the opportunities available to us.  One of our strongest appreciations is for the strength and ability to serve those less fortunate, those who were dealt a different deck of cards in life, so to speak. It is through this thought  process and willingness to serve  that we await another assignment with the Peace Corps.    Kala Suru!  or   have patience as the Nigerien people say in Zarma language.       Judy and Dave






  1. Still reading your blog and am more and more impressed by your eloquence and perception about the contrasts of life here and that in Niger. What a tremendous resource you and your husband are and I hope they can put all that talent and enthusiasm to work again soon in the Peace Corps!

  2. Dave and Judy, whatever I do and whatever I see reminds me of Niger. My mind always drifts back to that place and the people there. It's hard to compare life here to life there, because you can't. I often feel guilty for leaving food on my plate or buying new clothes. I guess what I am trying to say is that you are not a lone. I hope that one day our paths will cross again and I wish you the best of luck in your next assignment.