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 week.....my 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 day...now 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 village....you 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
with my name as the subject line...Love to you all!!