Human Rescue Plan

Fight World Hunger

Friday, April 11, 2008

For all friends of Marika, I am posting some earlier transmissions. They are interesting, enjoy!

Phone conversation
Marika doing fine. Naming ceremony was actually for babies, not “Malika”, but she was a guest at the ceremony. Hopefully, mail will come on Tuesday from Maradi, and is hoping for the REI camp shower to arrive as it will be easier, especially for washing hair (at the moment, she has something rigged with a plastic kettle??). Told her about finding references to “gris gris” charms and “pirogue” boats in the Niger travel book, and she added that the word for okra is “gumbo” and that there is a Hausa proverb equivalent to the French “Petit a peti, l’oiseau fait son nid”—so all her early Cajun words are showing their African origins! Solar charger is working fine.

Phone conversation w/Marika
Was standing at the health hut where reception is best and just happened to catch her at that time. Learning language, coping with fact that water is required for her projects (tree nursery, general plant starting) and well is 128 feet down (water comes up by foot treadle pump), needs instructions from PC on building improved cookstove (at present, is pot on top of three rocks with fire below), has been hennaed! in last few days and will have her naming ceremony in next few days.

Feeling better (had a bit of a cold a week ago) and trying to avoid drinking the milk, which could carry tuberculosis…PC doctor has asked PCV’s avoid it, as they can cure it with meds, but one would still always show up TB positive.

Has been receiving quite a few of packets sent to her; always craving more reading material!

Phone conversation
March 14, 2008
Have been back at headquarters for over a week, completing the final preparations for the Swearing In, packing and departure for the installation at assigned village. There has also been a BBQ and socializing and shopping for needs and wants for the time ahead on site. The Swearing In in country garb is today and follows testing for language, Hausa in this case (which was passed with flying colors). Tomorrow will be a day of rest and packing, the next day will be departure for the long bus ride to the next PC regional office and to village by end of week. The almost six-week training period is almost over and now on to the real thing for the next two years!

February 27, 2008

I’ve been in my village for live-in for a few days now, and so far, it’s lovely. I have a 2-room adobe house with high ceilings and cement floors, a small but comfortable yard, my very own shower/latrine and high 6’ walls. I arrived on Monday with a ton of stuff and a fellow PCV to help me get situated. I’ve got my bed and copious “stuff” in one room, kitchen in the one with the door. We walked around with my new host “dad”. As these things go, my concession is in the front of his, kind of. He’s a builder but also seems to make the gourd bowls common around here. Very nice. We met the maigri and the teachers and saw the mosque, schools and cereal bank, wells, pumps and health hut. For a small village, it’s very well appointed. The PCV talked the nice teacher into letting him ride on his motorcycle—not at all sure I’d like that ride myself, so am sticking with bush taxis.

Will head back to the hostel on Friday and then back to Niamey on Saturday on the 12-hr bus ride. Thankfully, the bus to here was at recommended capacity and not overflow. We stopped in all the major towns on the way, and it was neat to get to buy stuff out the window. When we got to the town, we were met by the regional rep (head of the region) who hauled us back to the hostel. The hostel’s best feature was a hot shower, real hot water showers. This was followed by a huge library and a PCV’s cooking, but after 12 hours on the bus, the showers won out. So, the newbies got to meet the veterans, and one showed me how to allow the hostel’s email to update my site. There won’t be pix for a very long while, I’m afraid.

The past two days have had the whole grey dust sky here in my village. When I get my trees planted, I may be able to take some photos. Now, the yard’s just sand and clay from where they just finished my wall. They’ll finish cementing the shower between my departure and my installation, as well as putting up my shade hangar (runfa). I think I really will like it here. I’m already starting to brainstorm possible projects—school garden, millet grinder, Sahelian eco-farm demo, millet trials, etc. Plus my own personal pet—teaching farmers to select within their own fields. The lack of any gardens at all makes me want to haul a new acquaintance over here so we can do a joint series on nutrition and garden veggies. Before that, though, I may be helping another volunteer already here put together a similar demonstration of seed selection and genetics, as she works with INRAN, Niger’s Ag program. Apparently my university career may be useful—who knew?! Plus, of course, after install, I’ll meet the World Vision folks and possibly the Purdue people to figure out my status on their bean storage project.

Today, I’m just chilling in my house, hiding from the wind, dust, sticks that eat my toes and women who want me to hold or heal (not clear which but people came in while I was fixing my toe and they may think I’m a doctor now—a common PC misconception). I will go out later and try to map the other side of town, both for my own sake and for the safety coordinator who worries to the point of wanting to know where a plane or helicopter could land. He’s both that good and that paranoid at what he does. All the PC staff are just fantastic. The trainers and the APCD’s and the alphabet soup of titles. Wouldn’t be Peace Corps without acronyms! Truly a great village here. They really get the hospitality thing here—they have a proverb that your guest is your god, but thankfully here they aren’t trying to feed me. My fellow PC showed me how to make a good cream sauce for pasta by mixing in powdered milk and I bought veggies at the market (eggplant is really good with cream sauce, by the way—just a little bit of bleach…I’ll have the world’s toughest stomach after two years of this!)

But now, I’m going to whip myself up a nice bread and cheese (ish thing) with a side of “kilshi” (think spicy jerky) for protein, take my Doxy (anti-malarial medicine) and take another stroll around town.

January 29, 2008

Greeting! Gaisuwa!

Babu lahi—no worries!

I’ve been selected for the Hausa group, which is farther east. Will visit my village, which I won’t know for another couple weeks, and which I won’t visit for a few more after that.. I visited the person who works with ICRISAT. Spoke for a long while with one of the plant breeders there and may run some seeds wherever I’m posted.

Sai hankuri – have patience…used a lot!
Tonight is our fashion show, where the host family dresses us up in native garb. Will try to get some photos taken to send back, though don’t know when I’ll have net access again. Saw the photo of the group on my blog, so now you know what we all look like. I have a mini concession inside my host family’s. The host mama has three daughters, two of which live with her; the third has her own place a few “blocks” away. Between Hausa and French, we communicate pretty well. Here I’m know as Rashida, which means “guide”; when I get to my village, I’m changing it to Malika, which is what they pronounce my name as anyway and which means “queen”!

My fellow volunteers all rock. Our entire stage is very-self-supporting. We’re always there for each other, not just the sickies in the infirmary, which I’ve only been once, but just for everything.

News from the outside is appreciated. The cards are neat, but an honest to goodness letter would be great; letters seem to take only a week or ten days.

I’m writing now by flashlight. I suppose I should tell you about my concession. It’s tiny, but it’s mine. I’ve moved the bed inside now; it was too cold, even with a blanket, to do otherwise and the host family is right across from the cinema, which goes until 12 am. It’s surprisingly spacious, more so than my freshman dorm room! I’ve got my netted bed on one side, and my trunks on the others, with my water filter on the stool between them. It’s cozy—just need my cat! I’m, again, really looking forward to getting my post village assigned, so I can move in and adapt…and get a phone…and a mat…and control my food. As of yet, I’ve not lost weight, due to the large proportion of carbs served to us here. Shinkafa, or rice, is super nummy here, and while also served with miya (sauce), it tends to be very spicy and flavorful. Oh, and we eat with our hands, our right hands, to be precise, much to the consternation of my left-handed friend. In my own future concession, I can buy eggs, or keep chickens, depending, and I’m making arrangements to have beekeeping and possibly fruit trees—mango and pomme de sahel, which is more of a pear, being fleshy, pitted fruit that’s quite nummy.

It’s past 11 pm now and I have to get up at 6:00 am in time for our day in the village. The site is closed, and we eat street food for breakfast and with our host families for lunch and dinner. Carbs galore! Actually, the street food breakfast is very good. The have farin masa, the Nigerien answer to beignets, and served either sweet or savory, but always burning hot, as all Nigerien food is served, though the host family has now figured that ansaras (outsiders) can’t eat food that’s 200 degrees. Tomorrow, there’s even talk of tracking down the egg sandwich guy—living here has made us skilled at finding the protein sources. Hopefully, I won’t sleep through my alarm like I did this morning—“baba kyau”…not good. This morning, though, aie, but I hustled and it was fine—time to spare, even after watering the garden. It’s very like Girl Scout camp, if GSC had a cow, a goat, a donkey and some chickens in the front yard. I’ve even started adapting the camp songs to fit PCC—“The health care that they give you, they say is mighty fine, but the injections that I’ve gotten, now number 99. Oh, I don’t wanna go to PC camp…” This only one of the many verses I created on an overpacked bush taxi coming back to training camp! But now I need to sleep. I miss and love you all and send cuddles to my cat.