Drinking Pain

If you were to come to Safo and ask my villagers to describe me, they would probably tell you that I am small, loud, pale, like to dance and, most importantly, that I like to shah wooyia “drink pain.” I have come to understand this to be a key characteristic of mine as my villagers are forever telling this to me.

This morning, I ran from Safo to Maradi, the big city 7 kilometers away. Most of my villagers know this route well as they motorbike, bush taxi or walk—depending on their wealth—to Maradi every Friday for the market day. Most of the women walk, since being a housewife doesn’t pay all that well. They rise early in the morning, put their babies on their backs and heavy buckets of oil that they’ve pounded from peanuts to sell in the market. That morning, I rose, put on my running shoes, put a couple of CFA in my pocket to buy a Sprite once I got there and waved to all the women who greeted me as I ran past. They always ask me where I’m going and when I respond Maradi, they gasp and laugh at this crazy foreigner who loves to shah wooyia.

Sometimes I see the same women at the well later in the day and when they see me carry my large plastic bucket the whole two blocks to my house they clap their hands and tell their friends about my morning run through the hot sand. They all laugh together that I clearly have babu hankali “no sense” as I am just chugging down that wooyia.

After showing a few of my Nigerien friends a picture of myself and Obama from last summer when I interned in the White House, they turned to me and asked me why I would come to the poorest country in the world after working for the president of the most powerful country in the world. I just laughed and told them that maybe I just like shahing wooyia.