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 ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), and mail is always wonderful ( :
Hope everyone enjoys the holiday season for me! I miss yall. Love Katie