Adventures in Niger

I will be a community health agent with the Peace Corps in Niger, Africa from July 2006 until October 2008. DISCLAIMER: Any views or opinions presented in this website are solely mine and do not represent those of the U.S. Peace Corps or Niger.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hello from Maradi

I guess its been a long time since I’ve done a post. A lot has been happening…Our bike tourney went pretty well but it was so much work!! I was glad when it was over…We went around and sensibilized people about hygiene and hand washing..By the numbers:
12 villages
5 Peace Corps volunteers
1700 Nigeriens who came to our presentations
4 days on the road
50 kilometers
1 biker/ox-like animal collision (it was Kristy, before we were even out of Maradi, and the thing had sharp 5 footlong horns)
We did a skit and I narrated the whole thing on a megaphone in Hausa. The pictures are pretty funny with us dressed as Nigeriens. I’m babbling in busted Hausa into a megaphone and am surrounded by hundreds of Nigeriens.

What else is new…So I have a radio show!! I forget what its called in Hausa, but it translates into “The Chit Chat Show.” So I do it every Sunday from 5:30 to 6:00, at a radio station in Maradi called Radio Anfani…So far I’ve done shows on AIDS, hygiene, and tonight is the importance of putting girls in school. Its funny, because at the station, it’s just the sound technician guy and me. I talk into a microphone and I’m thinking no one is listening to this at all. No way, I’m a rock star in my village now, everyone wants shoutouts all the time now, and even when I hitchhike with NGO cars (hey its better than bush taxis!), when I tell them I’m Peace Corps, they’re like “You’re that girl from the radio!!” I just don’t know how I’m going to come up with a new topic to talk about every week…Also if anyone wants to send me burned CDs with some new music, that would be much appreciated!!

I also went to Niamey last week for the swear-in of around 40 new volunteers. It was so much fun. It was good to see all of my old friends that are in the Zarma-speaking part of the country, and we went out and ate lots of good food. This next month, Inshallah, I will be helping some of my friends in a different region, Konni, with a hygiene / handwashing tourney that they’re going to be doing, and also doing translating for some doctors who come here from America to give free surgeries to women suffering from fistula. That will be at the National Hospital in Niamey. Also in a couple of weeks, one of my closest neighbors (Frances) and I are going with a group of health workers from the government on a polio campaign. We will go to villages near our own helping give the vaccinations for polio.

So for the one week I was in Niamey, 3 girls from my girls club got married and moved to other villages!! Keep in mind, they are 15 years old!! I’m a little confused about the whole process, but here’s how it happens, I think. Word gets out that the girl is to be married and there is a celebration for a few days at the bride-to-be’s house. They call it literally “the washing.” Everyone comes over to congratulate her, she sprays everyone with perfume that comes over, everyone puts on henna, many people give her little gifts, and she wears the nicest clothes she has, with lots of makeup on. So they party like this, and then finally, on the day of the wedding, a group of the girl’s friends, singing the whole way (usually she’s crying, because she doesn’t want to leave home or her family and friends), take her to the groom’s house. Everyone eats kola nuts, the nastiest things on earth. They are the bitterest grossest nut, but if you chew on it for a few minutes, apparently you get a caffeine buzz…Really though, its so gross that I’ve never been able to keep it in my mouth long enough to get the buzz.

I miss everyone from home a lot! Can’t wait to come home…Talk to you all soon.
Love, Katie

Sunday, February 18, 2007

February 15, 2007

I hope everything is going well in GA – I’ve been pretty busy here! Lots of stuff has happened in the last month…Its finally getting hot again (no fun at all) and I’m dreading hot season which is starting officially in March and will last til probably June or July when the rains come…Right now, its so nice its like springtime!! Next week when I’m back in Maradi we definitely have a few days at the pool planned so I’m excited about that.
Work is going well here! Its good to actually have work and stuff to do, that’s for sure…I went to this bush village called Kwaila to do baby weighings, and it was a huge success the first time I went…I was afraid that maybe like 15 or 20 mothers would come to have their babies weighed, so I went out to the village (about 1 hours walk from my village) with two girls from my village to help me, and hung up the scale outside the chief’s house and waited on the mothers to show up, and boy did they show up. We weighed babies for 4 hours!! All the time the babies were screaming (not only were they afraid of the scale, their simply terrified of me and my white skin and blue eyes), and we ended up weighing 80 babies in all! And then I ran out of the baby weighing sheets, but there were even more to be weighed, so I’m glad there is a lot of effort in that village. I will be going back out there next week (once every month) to do that and talk with them about what they can feed their babies to help them grow and avoid malnutrition. It was so funny, this one lady came up to me and had 2 of her babies weighed, and they were both albinos…After they were weighed and left, my two girls from my village who helped me, looked at me, eyes big as saucers and said “Yasmina, those babies were whiter than you!”
What else, the girls group is going well!! So far we’ve been doing it every two weeks, we’ve talk about hygiene, oral rehydration solution, AIDS so far…The club is going really well so far…Shoutout to Devon and Sims for all the fun stuff they sent for the club!! The girls are going to love all the games and art stuff! ( : Thanks so much. Also I’ve been teaching at the schools, lessons on hygiene and conjunctivitis. You want an ego boost, you come be a PCV in Niger and walk into a classroom of kids. Its so funny, when I walk in and they realize that I will be teaching, the kids just burst in to screaming applause and yell “Yasmina!! Yasmina!!” its too cute. Also, me and three of my closest PCV neighbors are planning a bike ride from Maradi to Gidan Roumdji (50 km) where we will be stopping in 12 villages along the way, it will last 3 days and 4 nights, and we will be doing skits and presentations and sensibilisations on hygiene and cleanliness…It will be from March 2-5, we are biking the route tomorrow to go talk to all the chiefs to let them know we will be coming and find good locations..It should be fun.
Oh yeah, I know yall will think this is funny. So I’ve been farming again!! Hahaha. Now is cold season, and people have huge fields of gardens where they do tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, and cantelopes, so I went out with my favorite family in the whole village on their oxcart way out in the bush, and we picked tomatoes for like 5 hours. I was soooooooo tired!! The next day I felt like I had run a marathon…I don’t know how they do that every day. But it was fun, just talking to them the whole time…They are the nicest family, with lots of young women and teenagers so we basically just joked around the whole time, and at the end they gave me a huge bowl of all the biggest and best tomatoes…It was fun. The dad in the family said that come rainy season, hes going to give me some of his land and teach me how to plant and harvest millet, haha I can’t wait. Its going to be great.
SO unfortunately I had a thief in the past week -- they hopped my wall when i was out talking to a surrounding villages school about doing health lessons there at the school there. When i got back at 1030 in the morning, my phone and 700 CFA (not even 2 $, but a lot of money in niger) was missing. I went out and asked the women pounding outside of my house if they saw someone hop my wall or in my house and they said no. Word spread like wildfire through the village, people were pissed, within 5 minutes the whole village knew. I had all of the elders and men from my village in my concession, they were so mad, they were looking for footprints..A bunch of girls from my girls club came over, they were crying they were so upset, they're so sweet. SO anyways, i too was pissed, bc it was obviously someone that i let in my house often and am nice to bc they knew exactly where i keep my phone and extra change. In the afternoon, my friend Ila came over ( i trust him more than anyone else in my village, he brings my water and makes repairs on my house for free) came and was like, here it is yasmina!! He said he came in my concession and the phone was lying right on the ground. Who ever the thief was must have gotten scared by all the comotion and knew that the mess would be beaten out of them if they were found with my stuff and they threw the phone over my wall and ran. Oh well...from now on i will be more careful and lock my house every time i leave and not leave my phone outside. it was crazy.
The day that I had the thief was not good at all. My neighbors had a baby a little over a week ago, and she was the tiniest thing i'd ever seen. light as a bird with the littlest arms youve ever seen. I could just tell she wasn't going to live, and you could tell she was suffering. Well so taht day was supposed to be her biki (baby naming ceremony where they kill a goat and give the baby a name and everyone in the village comes to celebrate). Well anyway, so i dress up nice and am walking to the biki, and halfway there I met someone on the path and they told me that she had died in the night. It was sad. When people die here, youre supposed to go and greet them on the death, to show that you care. they call the people's house where the person died the "wurin gaisewa", or literally "the place of the greetings." Deaths are different here, people weren't crying, but everyone came out from the village to show their respects. basically you just go and greet the family, ask what happened, and say lots of different allah phrases, such as "May Allah give her a place to rest." May Allah give you patience. May Allah make the ground soft for her. Etc. and you can replace Allah with God, basically. It was sad. At the end, the dad gave me a watermelon. It was sweet.
All right, well that is about all that is new now! Hope everything is going well in GA, miss and love yall. - KTP

January 19, 2007

Greetings from Maradi..Hope everything is going well at home! Things are going along here in Niger – I’ve been lucky enough to actually have work to do lately, and have been able to visit 2 of my closest friend’s here’s (Kristy and Mark) villages so that has been lots of fun.

I finally painted the world map…It looks good even if I say so myself. It is 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide, and the only place on the whole school where I could paint is this area that is in the middle schoolhouse about 20 feet off the ground…The only way I could paint is a few guys from my village pushed together about 8 schooldesks on top of each other, and I stood precariously on these painting…Needless to say, it was quite the spectacle…The painting part wasn’t too hard, it was actually tracing out the map that was hard…While I painted, Zita, my pup, sat under the schooldesks. Of course, at any give time, there were about 300 kids (seriously, I’m not kidding, I took pictures) watching me and running around the schoolyard tormenting Zita. Finally after she couldn’t take the temptation anymore, she would take off running after one kid, and every kid in the whole schoolyard would whoop and holler, it was pretty funny.

I also started my girls (actually young women’s) group!! I’m pretty excited, me and two of my favorite girls from the village went around and explained the club and told all the girls in the village when to come. The meeting was utter chaos at is calmest. Seriously. There ended up being 30 (!) girls coming, and every single kid in the whole entire village wanted to come too. I really wanted it to be something special for the girls, something they could be proud of and learn from, and didn’t want kids there. Well the kids didn’t listen. They crawled over my concessions walls like ants…I couldn’t make them go away fast enough. I decided for the next meeting, I’m going to get three teenage boys from my village to stand guard while we’re meeting, that should solve it, if that doesn’t work I’m going to get my chief of the village to come and make the kids go away. Anyway, for the first meeting we did hygiene and talked about all the ways to keep a clean house, wash hands, keep foods covered, burn trash, sweep your household, etc. I made all the girls nametags, they were really excited. One of the girls went and pulled a bucket of water from the well and i made a ton of Gatorade and gave out peanuts as a snack. They were so excited, so I’m glad there’s a lot of interest in this…Every day since then they’ve been asking when the next club meeting will be, so there is a lot of interest, hopefully they will go home and teach their families the stuff they are learning.

I went out to Zinder to celebrate a friend’s birthday last week, that was lots of fun…Also I got to go out to one of my FAVORITE people in Peace Corps village, Mark’s, he is simply fabulous, and he lives in a village called Mirriah. In Zinder, all the Education volunteers have formed girls soccer teams in their towns and they play each other, we went to the match of Mirriah vs. Zinder…He is about the funniest person I’ve met in my whole life and not afraid to say what is on his mind and I’m certain that you all would love him to death. I’m sure you’ve seen him in the pictures on webshots, he’s the redhead. I really can’t say enough good things about him. Some of my favorite people in the country are posted out in the Zinder region so hopefully I will make it out there a lot.

Also this week I spent in my friend Kristy’s village…She lives in a bush village called Birni Lalle (literally, city of the henna tattoo). We went around and met all of her villagers, she is working on an AIDS awareness skit with her school, and also she did a meeting with all of the women of her village and they decided that they want to do a literacy group and also a sewing class, so she has lots of work to do…It was fun seeing another person’s village, and it made me miss my village so that was nice. We walked up about 10 km to this city called Dakoro when I caught a bush taxi back down to Maradi, and that was an adventure to say the least. First of all, the road from Maradi to Dakoro is the worst in the country, and in a country like Niger, that is quite the statement. Its horrible, not paved, and with tons of potholes…and its cold and wind season, and there is constantly tons of dust whipped up in the air. So I get on the back of this open bed truck with a frame, that is tiny…about 30 others (literally, I’m not making this us) get on in the back and we make it to the road. Everyone is sitting on top of each other. This Fulani woman was sitting in my lap, with her baby in hers. I only got peed on twice the way down, which is a feat, seeing as there were like 15 babies on board. The guy next to me was wearing an Alan Jackson Tour tshirt, and here I am hanging on for dear life as we tear down this road. We stopped twice so everyone could get out and do the Muslim prayers. I finally got out the Harry Potter book I was reading, and had one of those “Where the hell am I and what am I doing” moments. I was so happy to get to Maradi to say the least.

I’m heading out to my village tomorrow, January 20, and should hopefully be out there until Valentine’s day. Hope you all are doing well!! Write me a letter if you get a chance I would love to hear from home ( : Again, my pictures from Niger are at:
Username: Katiepafrica
Password: Elkolta
Thanks for reading! Love, Katie

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

jan 1, 2007

How bout them Dawgs! Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a good Christmas and a happy new year...We had a fun Christmas out in Zinder, and spent all christmas day making empanadas. That is a labor of love, let me tell you. They took forever, but they were yummy. It's cold season her right now and cold season is no joke here...I went out to my village for a couple of days in between Christmas and New Years, and it's so cold and windy I barely leave my house until noon. Even then it's with longsleeved shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, and a thick skirt over the jeans...There are harmattan winds coming in from the Sahara, and it's so windy that it whips all the dust up into the air, so you can't even see very far at all for all the dust. When I went and visited with some of my friends in El Kolta, they were all burning fires inside of their houses.

I went out to my village for a couple of days mainly to get my pup and to celebrate a bit of Tabasci, the Muslim holiday with my villagers...It was pretty cool, on the day of Tabasci, all the men went to the mosque to pray, and when they return, each family kills a male goat and basically they just eat the meat for days..I came back into Maradi on the 31st to celebrate New Years and one of my crazy fun friend's birthday(Becca). Since I was coming in on the day of Tabasci, I didn't think about it, but there were no bush taxis going to and fro because everyone was celebrating...i Also brought in Zita because everyone wanted to see her and I just didn't want to leave her alone in the village...I waited 3 hours on the side of the road and there were NO cars coming through...finally I flagged down this car that wasn't even a bush taxi, just a random car, and begged them to take me into Maradi. They said OK, but not the dog. My village friends finally convinced them to let me bring the pup, since my hausa didn't seem to suffice...Well Zita was in fine form, howling the whole time, peeing on me, she does not like being in a car. I was mortified the whole way. She's been good in Maradi, though, and everyone is in love with her. We had a crazy fun party for Becca's birthday. We dressed up 80's and had a dance party. It was fun. Hopefully, you will get to see the pictures soon!

One of the things we focus on as health volunteers is Vitamin A and better food to feed your kids so they're less malnourished. It's so hard because they can't give more variety of foods if there is not enough money for eggs, liver, orange foods, etc. Sometimes there is nothing but millet, millet, and more millet, with some sorghum thrown in there. And no money to buy the foods that their kids really need. In Niger, there was a "food crisis" or "famine" in 2005. Every year, just before Nigeriens harvest the millet, right after rainy season, there is "hungry season." This is when the millet harvested the year before is running low or empty. The harvest was good in Niger last year, so the hungry season of this year wasn't as bad as the famine of 2005. Unfortunately, the millet harvest was poor this year, so while people have enough food for now, hungry season is shaping up to look like the hungry season/famine of 2005. Keep Niger in your prayers that there will be enough millet to make it last until next harvest. Happy 2007! Love Lots, Katie

Sunday, December 17, 2006


This is a picture of me and my puppy Zita, she's the best puppy in the whole world!!! Please note that we are wearing the same necklace, hahaha, my villagers think I have lost my mind when they see the necklace.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Merry Christmas!!

We are almost done with IST, in service training...we've got to go to lots of sessions and learn lots more about the work we're going to be doing...I've gotten lots of baby weighing carnets that i can give out to the women when i go do baby weighings when I get back, and we have lots of posters, etc. now to show people what we're actually talking about when we're giving health lessons...

On Saturday, me and most of my friends will take the long busride east to Maradi where we will spend one night, and get our mail and packages, etc. then on Christmas Eve, we will go a little further east out to Zinder to celebrate Christmas...Should be lots of fun...I think around December 30, there is the second biggest Muslim holiday of the year, Tibasci in French or Sala Baba in Hausa...It occurs 70 days after the end of Ramadan and I learned and have since forgotten the meaning of the holiday, I guess I should look it up before I go back to my village!! But anyway, each family that has the means to, kills a sheep, and they pretty much just eat meat for days until it runs out...My villagers have been talking about how much fun it is since I have been in El Kolta, so I think it will be fun to be there then.

Oh yeah! This was funny, at least to me, the other day, I got to the hostel in Maradi a day early, before anyone else, so I put in a CHristmas CD and sat down and was writing some Christmas cards, and am feeling all CHristmassy, and at 6:00, I could hear the call to prayer from like 3 different mosques near the about surreal, to be listening to "Silent night" and the prayer call at the same time! Anyway, it made me giggle and I wished someone was there to laugh at it with me haha. Oh yeah, and my other favorite moment that I'm not quite sure will be funny to yall bc of cultural reasons, ok so in Niger, everytime you enter someone elses concession or yard, or another room, you're supposed to call out "Salaam Alekum!" (Peace be with you) and you dont enter until they say "Amin. Alekum Asalaam!" (Amin, and Peace be with you). I think its a Muslim thing but I'm not sure, the words are in Arabic...So before I left my village, some of my neighbors whip out this doorbell, that when you push it says "Ding dong! Salaam Alekum!!" Anyways it made me laugh so hard that they just straight up gave it to me and i nailed it up to my door, its pretty funny.

Oh yeah, I will be coming home sometime in late June for around a month!! I can't wait!!!

ok so I need help!!! Lots of people have asked for ways that they can help out here and what they can send for my work or to the people here and I finally have some stuff up that yall can send if you want to or have the means. I have been making lots of plans for my girls club and all the stuff that I want to do, but I'm working with very few resources...These are the things taht would be WONDERFUL if people could send:
A Frisbee
Soccer ball (deflated)
Pump for soccer ball
Long jump rope
Beads for them to make jewelry and stuff
Coloring books
Glitter and glue
One of those blow up globes would be perfect
World map, Africa map, or Niger map (folded up, I want the club to be about geography and learning about the world too, these girls just have no concept)
ALso, we need tshirts!! (I want the girls to have a tshirt we can wear to every meeting, and also for when we have soccer games with other PCV's villages. I can get the tshirts custom made here, and they are only $4 dollars per person, if you want to pledge a certain amount, that would be just awesome...also, just to send american dollars if just the best bc i sure can't cash checks here..There will be about 25 girls in the club, so I need about 100 dollars, and I know the girls will just DIE if they have the club tshirts)

And basically anything else that you think a bunch of teenage girls would enjoy doing!! If you want to send any of these things, maybe just make it as a comment on the blog so others will know not to send the same thing you sent...also, you can email me at to let me know, and I can tell you if someone has already sent that or not.

Please send to:
Katie Prescott
BP 226
Maradi, Niger
West Africa

Thanks for reading!! Hope everyone has a great Christmas and eats lots of good food ( : I miss you all!!
Love lots, Katie

Also, my pictures are up on, username: Katiepafrica and password: elkolta
There should be new pictures up soon!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Greetings from Maradi!!

How is everything going in the States?? Its true what they say, you don’t know what you have til its gone, and I really miss friends and family a lot these days…Things are going pretty well here in Niger. My Hausa is so much better than it used to be…I don’t dread leaving my house anymore because I won’t have any idea what they are saying. Its crazy how fast you learn it here…A lot of PCV’s already here have told me that I have a ton of good Hausa, which is comforting bc in the village where Hausa is my only option I feel like I don’t speak any hausa!

Its weird how PCV’s here in Niger find hausa-isms creeping into our english speech. For example, “Sai hankori” means have patience…In hausa, you say “have patience” in about 100 million different situations…when you’ve been waiting 2 hours on the side of the road for a bush taxi, you say to another person “sai hankori.” If there’s a death in someones family, you say “sai hankori.” To a beggar, you say “May Allah give you patience.” And for about a million other situations you say have patience…So its funny, if a PCV here is wondering where a package that was sent 6 weeks ago is, we say “have patience.” When you are standing at the post office in the sun for over an hour while the post lady takes her time getting your package, you can only say “sai hankori.” My host mother back in Hamdallaye, when other trainees quit to go home to the states, she said “sai hankori with Niger.” Really, if a person with no patience came to this country, I think their head might explode.

Oh yeah, and the post people here like to mooch off of our packages!! They have the peace corps’ number, and know that for most of us, what we get is food, and good food at that…So before they give us the packages, they demand to get some of the candy/what not is in the package…So on the outside, if someone sends a package, it is smart to include that the package includes “christian religious materials” or “pencils” or things equally as interesting to them…The lady at the post office asked me today what are “snacks” bc that’s that it said on the outside of the package…I told her it was “materiel religeouse chritiane” in my busted french, haha. Also, i have tons and tons and tons of drink mixes now, thanks so much! Yall probably don’t have to send more of those for a while…I could own stock in Koolade and Chrystal light.

Things have been going ok in my village…Its frustrating because next week I am headed into Niamey for more training, peace corps calls it IST, In Service Training…Its where we learn the really technical aspects of our job, and some more Hausa…I am really excited because I will get to see all my friends from training that I haven’t seen in 2 months that are spread out all over the country, and hang out, and share stories and basically just have a few weeks of fun. So in our villages, we were pretty much just supposed to learn some Hausa, and think up ideas, and get a feel for what the community needs…Its frustrating though to do that for 2 months, to not really feel like your getting anything done! And there are only so many things one can do in an African village in one day…But i will say it worked bc i learned a lot of Hausa and came up with some good ideas for projects to start after IST.

I’ve been going up to the school in my village a good bit to observe classes and talk with the teachers about what they need and what I can do to help…My school director and teachers have a lot of effort and motivation, so they are open to all the ideas that i have. I finally made my peace with the kids in my village…they have finally chilled the heck out. They give me my space now, and that is a good thing…It doesn’t hurt that I finally learned how to say in Hausa “if you don’t stop climbing over my wall right this instant I’m going to go tell your father that you are a bad child and wont leave me alone and he’s going to beat you with a millet stalk.” That gets them to scatter really quick haha…School is really different in Niger, and they have a different way of doing grades, in my village, there is only the equivalent of 1st through 6th grade, meaning that those who end up making it all the way to the 6th grade are just out of luck after that. I sat in on each of the grades, and the kids are just too cute…Every time I, or another teacher, walks into the classroom, all the kids rise, fold their arms and bow, and say “Bon-jour.” Its so freaking cute. And when the teacher is teaching and asks a question, instead of raising their hangs, every kid in the room raises a hand and snaps frantically until called on. I have my favorites among the kids in the village, and they would all keep cutting their eyes at me and making faces at me…too funny. My favorite kid in the whole continent, names matty, he is 6, and he cutest thing ever, he is missig his front two teeth, and couldn’t keep his eyes open during class…I guess some things about school span all continents!

Anyways, as far as project for the school, I’ve written a proposal for money to buy paint to paint and paint a world map, africa map, and Niger map on the side of the school…The teachers are really excited about it, and I am too, except i don’t know how i am going to paint this all by myself…supposedly there are stencils etc in Niamey, i think I’m going to make a couple of other volunteers come out and help me for a few days. Also I’m going to start doing health lessons once a week over hygeine, malaria, simple medicines, and health issues at the school. Also, they are going to start writing letters to Betsy’s kids in Atlanta!! Her kids are writing the first letters, and then when they get here I’m going to get another volunteer who knows french to help me transcribe them to french, and then just clip them together…I think it will be good, for the kids here and at home, to make friendships and see how other people live. The kids here are really excited.

One of my other projects when i get back with be a girl’s education group…Niger has the proud distinction of having the world’s lowest female literacy rate, with the fewest amount of girls in school, getting married the earliest, and having the most kids. So basically, my work is cut out for me. So i think I might do it ever 2 weeks or so, have a girls club, or “fada en-mata” in Hausa. My girls are really excited, and I think I will pretty much copy from the things we did at the girls fair here in Maradi. I am going to try it so each week we do something fun, like fancy henna or learning to make something good to eat, and also something about health, like family planning so you don’t have 80 kids, about AIDS, about simple hygeine etc. I think I will also have a drawing each week for a prize, because i have lots of cute little things that I think girls would like, like jewelry, crayons, and what not. I am going to try to have a community focus, about community service, but so far, the only 2 things I can think of doing are having a mosque cleanup day, where we can sweep and straighten, etc. and maybe on World Youth Day, we can plant a bunch of trees in the village…Trees are sorely lacking here in the Sahel desert, and there are lots of seedlings in Niamey that Peace Corps encourages us to plant, and I think that would be a good opportunity. Please please please email me with ideas!! I’m intimidated bc ive never lead a girls group and i need ideas for what to do at the meetings and community service ideas, and yall have fresh eyes so please tell me if you have any ideas for things we can do.

My other big project will be doing baby weighings once a week in 4 bush villages that surround El Kolta, they are called Mesaurare, Kwaila, Kaihi, and Teke. When I’m there I hope to talk to the mothers about better weaning foods, vitamin A, etc. Every Saturday, and NGO called Enfancia Sans Frontieres comes to my village and weighs babies and gives out this stuff called “cwamasou” which is a mixture of dried milk, sugar, flour, and oil to the mothers of malnutritioned kids, which is pretty much everyone…The main doctor is Cuban, and when I talk to him, he only hears Spanish and french, and I only hear Hausa and English, I realize that my spanish is completely gone and replaced by Hausa…Good thing because my hausa is going to be oh so useful when i return to the states!! So basically i just help them mix up the cwamasou and talk to the mothers.

My puppy is doing just wonderful and says hello!! Really, she is the cutest dog on the continent…I feel terrible for leaving her at home for a month without me, but i can’t exactly take her to Niamey. My friend is bringing her food while I’m gone, he brings her food and plays with her 3 times a day!! so I can’t feel too bad…and my yard is huge so she has lots of room to play…Every day when I’m walking around my village, i have the same dialogue, literally:
- Greetings Yasmina!! Hows the morning? Did you wake in health? Hows the work? Hows the tiredness? Where’s your dog?
- Greetings to you!! The morning is in health, I am in health, I’m thankful for the work, there is no tiredness, the dogs at the house, and she greets you too!

That usually sends them into a fit of giggles…Since village life is frustrating and boring at times, I am happy to be out of the village for a few weeks, but I’m excited to come back in a month to be with my puppy and get my work started.

Thanksgiving was fun here, if not a little sad bc we weren’t at home. The AIDS bike ride left from maradi the day after thanksgiving, which meant that there were lots of volunteers in maradi from all over the country, it was fun seeing lots of people…We made TONS of food…No turkey, but we had guinea fowl, which is yummy…someone even figured out how to deep fry them…yum. And 2 kinds of dressing, candied yams, green bean casserole, 8 pies, eggnog, devilled eggs, mashed potatoes, gravy..i was surprised by all the yummy things we could make in Niger…I made mashed potatoes for 40 people can you believe it, and they were good. There wasn’t a big enough bowl to serve them out of, so i have to clean out this bucket with bleach that we wash our clothes in and put them in there haha…hey in peace corps, you just have to make do. The bike ride was awesome when they came though my village…they put a huge projector and played a movie about AIDS and all the volunteers slept over at the school area…it was fun, bc now my villagers are like “Omigod Yasmina, youre amazing, you brought all those white people HERE!!” So i basically earned a lot of street cred with my villagers through that, haha.

Oh and there are mangos now!!!!!!!!! For the equivilant of a quarter you can get the best mango. They are yummy…also guavas are everywhere too, i’d never had a guava before I came here. Half the food i eat here, I bet there isn’t even a word for in english…the other day my neighbor gave me this “thing”, and i have no idea what it was and i’ve already forgotten the hausa word, but it tasted like a potato until you got til the middle and it was like a squash with seeds…Its just stuff you thought never existed.

Anyway, i miss you all and look forward to hearing from everyone!! Send me an email anytime ( ), and mail is always wonderful ( :
Hope everyone enjoys the holiday season for me! I miss yall. Love Katie

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

1st Month

Well I survived my first month in my village in one piece!! I am in Maradi for the first time in a month, and i have to say, it is fabulous to be here....One can only be in a village cut off from good food, internet, mail, american english speaking friends for so long!!! All of my friends are back from their first month too right now, so we are eating drinking speaking english like crazy right now...Everything went pretty well my first month in my village.....There were times when it was frustrating, tiring, boring, etc. but also times where i laughed my butt off and learned a lot and people in El Kolta really are so nice.

Oh yeah, ps good job on sending mail and packages, to everyone!! ( : I had by far the most mail of anyone when i got in....I read mail for over 2 hours, and that was wonderful...thank you sooooo much, and I am writing you all back asap!! Well there's so much to say about everything that I dont even know where to begin so I guess I will just jump in...When we first got to my village, the Eastern Regional Peace Corps Director, Ousmane, callled a village meeting and someone went around to round everyone up who wanted to come to the meeting...About 150 people were there, Ousmane explained what Peace Corps was, who I was, what I would be doing there etc...Thank God, bc at that point my Hausa language skills were poor at best...Anyway, everyone had lots of questions, the doctor at my local health clinic asked if I would be able to fill in when she was out of town, etc. delivering babies, giving shots.......ohhhhhhhhh was she mistaken...He explained that my work would be mostly preventative and I would be working with ways to help people improve sanitation, improve maternal and baby health, etc.

So the first week I just spent getting my house to look good and walking around and trying to meet everyone in my village...My house looks good, if I say so myself...I hung up my UGA flag and a bunch of UGA posters so I represent my state well hehe...I also bought this huge millet stalk mat and wove a pagne (african print fabric used for skirts, curtains, everything) through it, and put up tons of pictures from home....Basically I decorated it nicely, I figure Im going to be here long enough, I want my house to be somewhere I like to be!! My concession is huge!! Concession is basically like a yard, here in Niger, every family has a concession, it is an area that has high walls for privacy...Mine is huge, and my friend that brings my water says that in 2 weeks, we can start a garden in one side of it!! I think we are going to try with tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, and maybe onions??? I hope he knows how little I know about gardening..anyway it should be fun, and it is something to do!! THe first week I about had a nervous breakdown with all of the kids..lets get this straight, I love kids, i work with kids, i have younger siblings, i have lots of patience.....but the kids in Africa use up every bit of sanity thtat you think you have!!!!!!!! really...the chief of my village gave me permission to beat them haha with a millet stalk, and believe me I've come first...Anytime I go anywhere, ther eare immediately at least 50-300 kids that follow me screaming YASMINA!!!!!!!!!! OMG ITS YASMINA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah and that probably sounds cute, but just imagine it 24 hours a day, 7 days a hausa finally got good enough for me to say, "hello...please go away now." Of course I have a couple of kids that I really like that i let come in a lot, but for the most part, they're crazy overwhelming. I read before I came here that Niger has the highest number of children per mother in the whole wide world...I believe it!!!!!!!!!!! They're everywhere.

So I went around and tried to meet as many people as possible...Taht really helped my Hausa improve a lot...At first, everywhere I went, everyone said "Ba ta jin Hausa" (she hears no hausa) and that was not fun, bc here I am, trying as hard as I can...after a few weeks though, those magic words started appearing, " Ta iya Hausa!! Ta jin Hausa kware!" (she understands!! She hears so much Hausa!!) So basically I learned all the greetings in the whole wide world and as much as I can, and fooled everyone into thinking I have at least a little understanding of the world...My favorites are in the afternoons, I go out for walks in the bush with my puppy (she's so cute!!!) and we will be out in the middle of nowhere bush and we'll pass a couple of Africans who clearly have no idea who I am, and this is how the conversations goes...

Me: Hello! How are you?
Them: OH MY GOD!!! its an ANASARA!! (white person)...she has a dog...and she hears hausa!!

Its pretty funny, it makes me laugh every time...THey just love it that I speak hausa, and not French...Here in Niger, French is spoken at the schools, and only lucky few get to go to school, so it means that few people, especially in the villages, speak French...Already my Hausa has far surpassed my French...After a few months when I really have Hausa, Im going to try to get someone in my village to give me French lessons...

All the time, people bring me over tons and tons of food..Every morning, my neighbors who I share a wall with hand over a huge bown of hura (well water, unpastuerized curdled sour milk, and millet flour...yum, right??) Everyone drinks tons of hura here...I dont have the heart to tell them that I simply cant drink it, so i usually give it to my puppy or to some kids taht come visit...They also bring lots of kunu and koko, which are millet porridges and they are yummy!!!!!!! esp after putting in tons of sugar and cinnimon...but I think they only drink that mostly during Ramadan, and that is over, so i probably wont be seeing that wonderful food for another year...They also bring over tons of tuwo...I'm trying to learn to embrace tuwo...Its millet flour cooked with water, molded into patties til it is the consistency of rice that has sat out all night, and then serve it with sauce, and you eat it with your hands...At first, I thought it was nasty, but I'm starting to like it slowly, considering I dont have much choice...Also peanuts...there are peanuts galore here!!!!! People eat them raw, roasted, boiled, mashed, etc...I have enough peanuts in my house right now to start a peanut butter company. Usually, all the food is way too much to me to eat, so I share it with people who come visit.

Everyone always asks me about "chan Amerik" (there america). They always ask me about my village, America. I have to tell them that no, there is no bush, millet, camels, hura, etc in America, and they just cant believe it. I've had offers of about 500 kids to take back with me to America..Its never because of what you would think, that he's hungry here, no education, limited opportunities, etc., They always just try to give me their kids as a joke..I always come back and pretend, ok, we'll go tomorrow!! The mom always starts laughing and the kids screams in terror at the thought of going back with me...If they are under 3, every kid in this country is DEATHLY afraid of us white people...I guess with out pale white skin and ghostlike light eyes, we are pretty scary to a baby whose never seen anythying but black people with dark hair and eyes.

Ramadan finally ended!!! At the end of ramadan, people were pretty happy for it to be over...Ramadan is hard man!! I dont know how everyone here does it..when its so hot, and not to drink and eat all that is piety!! Everyone always asks me if I do ramadon, and I have to explain that no, I"m not muslim, we dont do ramadan in america, I'm christian...At the end of Ramadan (its ended this past sunday), They have the biggest celebration of the year, its called sala, and basically everyone buys new clothes and shoes for everyone in the family, everyone gets henna put on their hands and feet, the women put on this kohl eyeliner, and the families make food like rice and pasta that there would normally not be any money for...And then everyone goes around a visits with one another for a few days...The kids go from household to household saying "Barka da Sala!! (Greetings on the holiday!) and its customary to give a ilttle bit of money or candy, so I bought a big bag of candy and gave that out..It was pretty fun...kinda like Halloween.

My puppy is simply wonderful!!! She's the cutest puppy in Niger...I love her to pieces...She goes with me everywhere in the village, and even my villagers like here, and this is a feat, bc nigeriens typically dont like dogs at all! Her name is Zita...I told my villagers she hears no Hausa, only English, and they always get a good laugh. She cuddles at night.....the only complaint, is that in the morning, there is the 530 call to prayer, that i used to wake up to, then promptly fall back asleep to...but no not now!! Zita hears it and thinks it is time to get up and play, and gets up and starts prancing around, pawing my mosquito net, chewing my hair, basically just trying to get me up...So i get up at 545 to start the day...I have to light a lantern to boil my water for coffee, can you believe that?? But its worth it because shes just so cute...Its like they say all old people should get a pet, it makes you live longer, i think all peace corps volunteers should get one, they keep you sane!!

My typical days started out like that, then getting up and cooking breakfast and just reading whatever until about 9 i would go down to the health clinic and talk with evryone there.....I can't really offer my doctor much help now since my hausa is so poor, but its good bc it makes my villagers think I'm really working (haha) and its a good way to meet people...I would tell them the ORS, oral rehydration solution, to give their kids if they have diahrea or were throwing up, and what to do with conjunctivitus, which there is a lot of here...SO I would stay there until about 12 and then go hom and rest during the hot hours, like every other Nigerien, until about 3....Then I would go out and greet people at their homes, and then when it got much cooler, Zita and I would go out for walks out in the bush...There must be 50 paths that lead out into the fields that lead out to the bush or to surrounding villages, and I tried to take a different on every day...Its so pretty!! At night, I usually fix me and Zita some dinner, or go buy some tuwo from the little market that sets up camp next to the road, and then write letters, read, text my friends in country on my phone, and listen to the bbc.....Niger was actually in the news, as the headlining story, i about fell off my chair when I heard it...I doubt it made news across the atlantic, but the governor of Diffa, a province to the east of maradi, is kicking all of the arabs out of the country, sending them to chad. Its caused a big deal over there but apparently doesn't affect me here in Maradi...Everything I hear about chad is that things are getting worse and worse, and I never hear anything good about Nigeria to the south...but things in Niger are peaceful, and I dont see of feel any danger here at all.

The random things I did were getting henna on my hands and feet, farming (!!!) with my villagers, we pulled peanuts and millet, going out on a motorcycle into the BUSH with one of the schoolteachers from my town, this supernice guy, who zipped me around from village to village, it was so fun...Also, every week, I went and met my friend erin in her town called Guidan Roumdji...SHe is an education volunteer so she is in a big town and has water and electricity (such luxury!!) so me and another bush volunteer, Frances, would go visit here and we'd talk english til we couldn't talk anymore, and eat good food, and charge our phones...

I decided for my first big project, I want to start a baby weighing program in El Kolta and in three surrounding villages that I can just walk to with the scale...I figure it will get the mothers invested in their babies health, and also it is a good opportunity to talk to them about vaccinations, vit. A, weaning porridges, etc. So i went out and found the three villages that I wanted to go to, and talked with their chiefs (the first step to doing anything in a always have to talk to the chief first...they're always so nice and welcoming...for one of the villages, the chief was blind, and my friend had to tell him that I was a white foreigner...can you believe it, i had enough hausa that I fooled him into thinking I was african...I was pretty happy about that....the chief of El Kolta is great, he's only about 30, which is superyoung to be chief and he is always grinning with me, he's just tickled pink that I will actually be there for two years) Anwyays, they are all happy and excited about the baby weighings, so I should hopefully get those started pretty soon.

Here in niger about a month ago, there was cholera all over the country...can you believe it, its like its the Oregon Trail!! Only 2 people in the Maradi region couldnt go back to their villages as a precautionary measure, and right now, there is no cholera so that is good! In my town, I liev about 50 yards from the main road of the country, the only cars that go down the road are bush taxis and NGO cars..>I see ngo cars all the time, there is Medecines sans Frontieres, Care, unicef, world vision, etc. etc. I had some interesting bush taxi rides this month but those stories are for another time...Its so funny, all my villagers always ALWAYS ask if I'm married or have a boyfriend, so i finally just made up that I have a boyfriend in Maradi, named Abdou (dont ask haha, its all i could think of at the time) So now every time i talk about going to maradi, they say, you just want to go see abdou!! This one time, my friend Gunner visited to bring a cat, and everyone was like "finally! Abdou came to visit you, its about time." Its too funny.

Well Ive written tons and I'm sure there's tons I'm forgetting but I'll try to include that in the future...I started to miss home lots this month, so it was good to get lots of mail etc. Hope yall are doing well!! Eat lots of good food for me!! I will be here in Maradi until Sunday, so feel free to email me at the with my name as the subject line...Love to you all!!
Love lots,