First Week in Niger!

7/16/2010

The Peace Corps welcome packet described Niger as “one of the hottest, poorest and dustiest countries in the world” but one that we would quickly come to love. In the mere week I’ve been here the description seems to be accurate. When its 110 degrees and the wind keeps blowing sand into  my hair/mouth/food etc. I start to wonder if I can really survive this place. But, as soon as I run into a Nigerien, exchange the many greetings and exclamations or learn more about my incredible fellow PC Trainees I become more excited to spend the next 27 months of my life here.

Given some of the negative things I had heard about the Peace Corps, I half-expected to get on a plane to Niger and end up in a tiny village, never to be seen again. Thankfully, the process hasn’t happened quite like that. On July 5th, I arrived in Philadelphia where I met 33 other wide-eyed Americans who, like me, still weren’t quite sure what they’d signed themselves up for. In a jam-packed two days we attempted to get to know each other, understand the Peace Corps philosophy and attempt to cram in all the American amenities we could, such as showers, ice cream, cocktails, air conditioning and so forth. After a LONG ride we disembarked from the plane onto the steaming black asphalt and were ushered into a small airport. With the help of a tall Nigerien man named Tondi we somehow managed to get ourselves and all of oversized luggage onto two small white buses. I pressed my face against the window for the entire 45 minutes that it took to get out of the capital of Niamey and into the Peace Corps Training Center at Hamdallaye, taking in the sparse trees and brightly dressed people walking around small straw huts clustered at the side of the road.

 After jam-packed two days at Hamdi (as they call it) we met our host families and were led to our own straw huts in our families compound. Most of us live with another trainee; I live with a girl named Ashley who is absolutely wonderful. She also speaks French which is a bonus since I speak neither French nor Hausa or Zarma, the two main national languages. Although thanks to my intensive Hausa class, I can now greet people profusely and tell my host mom that I really don’t want to eat any more food, both phrases that come in handy. We’ll be living with our host families for two months before we are dropped off in village. Hopefully between all the language, culture and health classes I’ll feel prepared although right now living by myself still seems like a very scary prospect.