Somewhere in Between

So there I was, pulling frantically at my mosquito net, squinting against the sand that the storm was blowing into my face, attempting to undo the knot and pull my bed into the relative safety of my hut before the rain rendered everything soggy. My hair, freshly braided, was still hidden under my headscarf. I gained a new appreciation for the Muslim tradition as my hair was the only part of me to come out of the ferocious dust storm unmarked. I stared at my fingers as they pulled clumsily at the knot. Covered in henna as they were, they almost seemed to belong to someone else. And, perhaps, they do.

I am part of a Nigerien gang. Gang, is, of course, not the correct terminology to describe the group of men that gather together each night to drink tea and chat until the wee hours of the morning. In Hausa, it is called a fada, but I can find no way to translate such a concept into an American culture that has so renounced such gatherings that we no longer have bowling leagues.

My life is getting harder and harder to translate.

“You carried what on top of your head?”

“Water, Mom, its much easier than carrying it by hand. You should try it.”

“When is the best time to call?”

“Well, in the mornings I go to the school and drink tea with the teachers while the students spend the day waiting expectantly in the classrooms for school to start. Then I go to the mayor’s office where I drink tea and fend off requests for money from the staff there. Midday I spend dying of heat in my hut. When the sun starts to fade, I revive and go to the hospital where I stab babies with needles to test them for malaria. So, really, you can call anytime.”

One of the men in my fada told me now I am from Niger. Feeling patriotic, I replied, “No, I’m from America!” Then I looked around at my hennaed hands, braided hair, long skirt and sandy feet. “Okay, maybe I’m somewhere in between.”