Googling It

Finding answers to life’s daily questions never used to be a problem. As a former I-phone owner and a firm believer in Google, all of my ponderings could usually be solved in the split second it takes the google search engine to crawl the web. Now, however, I live in Niger, a landlocked country where wi-fi is as foreign as the ocean.

For the past three months, instead of googling my questions, I’ve been writing them down. Now that Pre-Service Training has ended, we have a few days in the Peace Corps hostel before being dropped off in our respective villages. Along with running water and electricity, the hostel also has wi-fi, or at least most of the time it has wi-fi. So world, and, perhaps future Niger PCVs if you’re reading this, here are the answers to my biggest questions in this country.

1) Is Niger the hottest country in the world?

Answer: No. Although many of us may beg to differ, Niger is only the 5th hottest country in the world, after Kuwait, Iraq, Saudia Arabia and Chad.

2) What country are cockroaches native to and why do they live in my latrine?

Answer: Unfortunately there are 4,500 species of cockroaches, the biggest ones live in the tropics (read “my bathroom”). One study found that cockroaches use two criteria to determine their home: how dark it is and how many other cockroaches there are there AND female cockroach can produce 300-400 offspring in her lifetime (aka the number of cockroaches in my bathroom will only increase). BUT I might have to try putting some stale beer in the bottom of glass jar to attract and then kill the roaches. Too bad beer is so hard to come by in this country…

3) Can garlic actually help prevent parasites or is that a hippy Peace Corps dream?

Answer: YES IT CAN! Eating raw garlic, pineapple, carrots and sweet potatoes can all help keep your digestive system on track. This is VERY good to know since Niger has the highest rate of intestinal infections of any Peace Corps country. Go us.

4) What is West African Vodun (Voo-doo)?

Answer: Wikipedia doesn’t seem to think it exists in Niger, contrary to stories of many Niger PCVs have told of crazy ceremonies with witch doctors and voo-doo magic. Nevertheless, vodun as it is traditionally practiced centers around spirits and other divine elements that govern the Earth. They believe that the spirits of the dead live side by side with the world of the living. All creation is considered divine, which is why mudane objects such as dried animal parts are sold in markets all over Niger as medicine.

5) Do probiotics actually work?

Answer: Some of them. The “good bugs” or “active cultures” of yogurt can now be found everywhere on pharmacy shelves but they’re not created equal. For Niger, where the main problem is diarrhea,the best strain to take is S. cerevisiae boulardii.

6) How can I make a solar oven?

Answer (with a little help from a friend with fast internet):It sounds like it doesn’t take much. Although I’m probably going to have to wait until I get to my village to see what is available but I’m excited to put this sun to good use!