In case I somehow missed you on my mass email list. Let me know if you want to be added! I promise that I’ll only send an email every couple months. It’s not like I have a lot of internet access…
Dear friends and family,
Hello from Niger! It’s been almost four months since I stepped off a very long plane ride and began my life as a Municipal and Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger. Although Niger is just as hot, dusty and poor as my Google searches had forewarned me, even Wikipedia couldn’t describe the kind, jovial and infinitely patient nature of Nigerien culture.
Upon arriving, I spent three months in Pre-Service Training—a mixture of summer-camp and college that gave myself and 32 other Americans in my training class the language and cultural knowledge necessary for the two years that we will spend here. Or, as is often said in such a deeply Muslim country like Niger, inch’allah “If it pleases god,” we will stay here.
I’ve now been in my village for what seems like forever, but has actually only been one short month. My village is called Safo, and although it’s very small, it is only 7km from one of Niger’s biggest cities, Maradi. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a nice house with two rooms, and have lost no time in adorning my mud walls with pictures, maps and letters from home. I’ve seeded my sandbox of a yard with what will hopefully soon be a garden. Just the other day, I made bread in a mud oven that I built myself. Fitting my new “make-do” attitude, I’m currently reading Robinson Crusoe. At the same time, I have a feeling that life on a shipwrecked island is far quieter than the donkeys, children and calls to prayer that consistently resound through my life.
My days have taken on a schedule of sorts, although certainly not one to be found in America. In the mornings, I can be found in a classroom made entirely of millet, with an upwards of thirty wide-eyed thirteen-year-old’s staring up at me from their “seat” on the sand. Although I’m no English teacher, Safo’s headmaster told me quite pointedly that if I did not teach them then my two classes would spend the hour staring at a blank blackboard—there simply aren’t enough English teachers to satisfy my village’s growing population.
After school, I walk through the hot sand to the mayor’s office. Given the recent coup d’etat, Niger’s government is far from functional and my mayor’s office is probably on the lesser end of that. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining to spend an hour or two drinking tea with the few employees who actually showed up. Like any good Nigerien, I give myself a long lunch break (from 12-3:30), after which I either head again to the school and conduct an English club with a few older students or I go to the hospital and help give tests for malaria. At night, I walk next door to my chief’s house and drink tea with a few of his 60 children. Yes, he actually has SIXTY children…
Life in Niger is far from easy, but my head is full of projects and ideas that I hope to carry out over the next two years. Perhaps my greatest fear is losing touch with all of you so if you will forgive my long-winded mass email and drop me a line, I would love nothing more than to hear how you’re doing! And if you’re of the letter-writing type, my address is below and I promise your letter will not go un-answered!
Love from the land of sun and sand,
P.S. I have fairly decent cell phone reception, it’s pretty cheap if you call me through Skype at (011-227)-91-38-61-88 or 98-42-16-65
Lisa Curtis, PCV