So, I'm a horrible person and forgot to bring my old journal in to give everyone a blow by blow of my life for the past months. So, you'll have to just settle for the knowledge that I had an AMAZING time in Europe with my parents. We we went to Munich and Regensburg and Prague and Vienna and Salzburg and I gained 5 delicious pounds from eating amazing food and drinking fabulously dark beer. (Though, the situation here has been remedied slightly in that there is now Guinness available in the hostel). I took lots of photos, so enjoy those :) The stuffed animal is Chloe, I've had her for ages and she works really well for when I don't have people to take pictures of.
This I stole from a letter to my aunt, as it covers pretty much the rest of life since:
Life here is... well, it's Niger. Coming back to Africa was... difficult. Extremely. I was in the Paris airport thinking it wouldn't be that hard to change my flight back to America instead of Niamey. And then one of my stage-mates, John, waltzed up, coming back from the states. It was sort of like confirmation that I was doing the right thing. And even then, convincing myself to leave Niamey for Maradi, Maradi for the bush, eep. Not easy at all. But then I got back and they were all 'Maraba Malika, Maraba' (Maraba=welcome, stole it from Arabic. Hausa is half-arabic it seems. Islam's been here a long while) and my cat was still alive and my house wasn't too termite ridden.
Tossed myself back into the swing of things to take my mind of not being in a Marriott and so now we have a cold season garden going with 8 village families. It keeps me busy and reminds me that hey, contrary to my boss' opinion (I'm convinced the country director has no idea about any of her volunteers' abilities - we're just warm bodies to fill villages) I do, in fact, have useful skills that can help people. It's a good feeling. Plus to know that it really is because of me that they got off their butts and got the garden. Previously they'd determined that water was just too much suffering to get - the well when I got there was approx 35m, it's now somewhere around 45m, and the pump on the other side of the village they apparently had to drill to 50+m to hit water. I look in the well and get vertigo. But they saw me, granted I bought my water rather than pulling it myself, and I had a garden. A few people started asking for transplants, and since I'd overplanted, having no idea what, if anything, would grow, I gave them to them. Granted, they all died because they didn't protect them well enough from the nasty grazing beasties, but it got the idea started. Eventually my mai gari (mayor, kind of, except more than that, socially) got together 8 families and, using fencing from an old NGO project, we set up a garden. I used my own money (told them it was from the parents so they won't ask me again ;) ) and bought seeds, but they know that after this it's all on them - they're starting a fund to be able to pay for seeds, plastic bags for a tree nursery, an oil drum, etc. It was tempted to pay for all of it, but then it wouldn't be at all sustainable, and they're used to anasara handouts. Getting their own money involved gets them to take better care and make better decisions. Which is pretty much what changeed my mind about putting in a water tower. They're a small village, they don't really NEED a water tower. They just want one because they think that because I'm white I have lots of money and I HAVE to give it to them. Just started reading Dark Star Safari - Paul Theroux. He makes a good comment about what we face here - the weird sense of entitlement that a lot of Africans have. I liken it to the old 'teach a man a fish...' thing. Here I am, teaching them to fish, right? The men come back the next day and say 'well, yah, that's great, but now you have to give us better fishing rods and stock the lake for us.' the women come back and just demand I give them more fish - I'm rich, I can afford it. It's ridiculously frustrating. I'm hoping the garden doesn't turn into it. So, that's that, and now I'm in for team meeting and a party to congratulate the newest stage on their first month in the bush.
And thus my life. I'd like to thank everyone for keeping in contact with me, via emails and facebook and all the insanity that is communications in Africa.