Published: November 29th 2007November 29th 2007
Hadiza, Hamsatou, Danielle (Kadija), Aichatou, Bariki
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! (Was in Niger then) and Happy American Thanksgiving (was in South Africa then)
I went to Niger for work in Oct and was able to get out to Zinder for the first time since leaving the Peace Corps in 1999. I've had a hard time getting motivated to write this blog; no idea why - just a bit overwhelmed with everything else I suppose. I just got back from South Africa and am in the middle of writing a ton of proposals and abstracts for upcoming conferences. So, since many of you really just want to see Dengui and family, I decided to post the photos and wait and see if the inspiration for text hits me! It was a whirlwind trip. You would not believe the road! It is so bad - like traveling on a dirt road for 1000 km! I can't believe that you can get a cell phone connection in the farest recesses of the country, but they can't keep their ONE road in order! It took us forever to get to Zinder and longer to get back. We had borrowed a car from a friend of Djibo's and I
think the final count was 8 flat tires on the way back!
Trip to Niger
This blog is dedicated to all the former Niger RPCVs out there, especially Bridget because I think she is the only one that subscribes to the blog.
I had a meeting in Niger from 9-12 October so Djibril and I thought we’d seize the opportunity to conduct a little family business and also take a quick swing over to Zinder. I’ve been to Niger 4 times I think since closing service (COS) in 1999, but I’ve never had the opportunity to get as far as Zinder. Djibril and I have never gone back together.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel. Breakfast is now 4000 cfa for a croissant and coffee or tea! You are still better to stroll over to Les Lilas or is it Lelaces? Djibril and I are debating. They’ve completely renovated the place and it is very nice and big; decorated sort of Art Deco-ish. I had a chance to eat Capitaine brochettes at Maquis 2000 and we had a group dinner at Le Pilier. Did they always have a pizzeria in the basement? I was never much
45th Commemorative PC Pagne
This is the new Peace Corps Niger Commemorative Pagne
in the Le Pilier because of my budget as a PC volunteer! I think I may have gone one time while living in Niger.
I arrived Monday night; Tuesday night we started meetings. The same day, Djibril borrowed a car from a friend and took three of his four sisters to Kara Kara outside of Dosso, his dad’s village. So, after my meeting I ventured out toward the musée. I was trying to find Yayé, the batik guy; but he had traveled. I found Sani - I never knew him well, but he has been selling stuff at the musée for years; you’d know him if you saw him. What was strange is that while we were walking and talking, people that recognized me came to greet met (and to try and sell me stuff); and those that didn’t came up to tell me that I needed to get off the road. Everyone was worried about my safety. Now, I wasn’t walking in any of the long ‘forbidden areas’ like in front of the Gawaye or in front of Air France, I was just walking from the museum to the road by the Petit Marchée where Score used to
PC motorcycle man turned receptionist
be to catch a cab. I know the Grand Hotel isn’t far from there, but even when we lived there, it was sketchy to walk that stretch past La Cloche. At one point, when I was right in front of where Score used to be, a commercant from one of the booths of ‘Rip Off Row’, came up and started fighting with Sani telling him that I need to get in a taxi ‘yanzu yanzu’. It was really discouraging to hear that there was so much crime and that even the shop keepers didn’t want me on the road and mind you, it was only about 7:00 p.m. They weren’t even trying to sell me anything; they just wanted me out of the area. Everyone kept saying that the area was not the same; it had changed a lot over the years. I called Gaston and he met me at the hotel for dinner; I made it back without having gotten mugged!
Gaston looks good. He was still at the office when I called and it was roughly 7:30 p.m. He said that he has been working crazy hours; they just had the 45th anniversary of PC in Niger.
What is Wrong With This Picture?
Africa Moment - Djibo stopped and laughed here and his sisters had no idea why; when he took me to Kara Kara, I laughed at it....now a 'Western mind' would say, "Why do you put up the stick and tire to mark the OTHER side of the hole? You'd fall in it before you see the road block!" So funny! I tested my brothers-in-law - they didn't see it; I asked my 7 year old twins, they both did!
He also just got back from a trip to the USA where he accepted several awards from Rotary International for his work on polio eradication. I was trying to see if I could find info and photos on the web to attach a link, but my internet connection is currently down. He called Souleyman, who now leads the Education program I think, to find me some materials. He said, “I’m sitting here with Danielle”, and I heard Souleyman say, “Danielle Guilliams?” It freaked me out on two counts; one, that he remembered me, and two, it has been a long time since I was Guilliams and it was strange to the ears! How do they remember all those volunteers over all the years? It is incredible really; 11 years since our stage, 8 years since we’ve been gone (9 for some). I’ve attached a photo of the new commemorative pagne, and in the photo from my visit to the office, you can see the last one from the 40th celebration if you didn’t get one yourself! Gaston gave me the new one, but I haven’t made anything from it just yet. Go pagne pants!
We were there during the
Djibo Kara Kara
See Skip - I told him he has to smile to be seen in the photos but he wouldn't listen! :)
fête, the end of Ramadan. Djibril’s friends and family brought us food almost every day. It was rather amusing because I am so sick of rice from being in Senegal; I told them that I wanted tuwo. None of them could believe that I’d want to eat the poor man’s food and Djibril really had to convince them that I didn’t want to see one grain of rice while in Niger! That was a challenge being that rice is the ‘visitor’s food’!
Friday morning I went by the PC office. The unfortunate thing was that they were in an all-day meeting so I briefly saw Haoua (but didn’t get a chance to snap a photo) and Gaston. Issaka is now doubling as the receptionist; not sure if he is still doing bicycle repairs but I know there are no longer any motorcycles in country. Apparently they now have a bunch of volunteers who are posted in cities; especially in Niamey and they are assigned to work with NGOs or with coordinating projects. There is a PC volunteer who coordinates all of the HIV&AIDS activities and he is based in Niamey and has an office at the PC HQ. Remember
how hard it was for us to spend even a few days in Niamey without everyone getting in an uproar?
Friday afternoon we headed to Dosso to see Djibril’s family. Djibo borrowed a car from a friend; a typical bush taxi type thing. We packed a cooler full of bottled water and headed out. We got to Kara Kara in the early evening. Hey Skip, I told Djibril to smile so we could see him in the photo by the sign but he didn’t listen to me!
This is the part of the trip that took me back to Peace Corps…traveling in that car, as least there was nobody sharing the front seat with me and I wasn’t straddling the gear shift! All windows down - dust flying everywhere! Braid and bandana to keep the knots out of the hair, not to mention the dirt! When we got to the village, all the children chased the car until we parked at his uncle’s house. Once in, of course we had to go through the elaborate greeting process, had some water and sat for a few minutes. I was layered in red dust. We had a nice traditional meal
of tuwo and then went over and visited at his parent’s concession. By the time we came back, they had a mattress set up for us. It was nice sleeping in the ‘open air’ again; it has been a long time. I have attached a photo of our ‘night light’. This is one of the beauties of Africa, the ingeniousness. I can’t believe what they can make sometimes. This is an old CD, a small strand of lights (like I used to use in my Christmas T-shirts) and a box of batteries. It worked great!
The fun part was dodging the onlookers; I had become the ZOO once again! I think this is one of those villages that rarely sees white folks. “Yes, it is all the same, you don’t have to look over the latrine walls!” All of the giggling kiddos cramming into the concession to have a peek at me. I loved hearing the older ladies, pillars of the village, coming in to greet me. Here is the conversation that took place in Hausa, over and over again…
“I’ve come to greet your strangers.”
“Okay, go in and greet her. There is
Djbiril's dad, Djibo and his uncle Bouhari
no problem, she hears Hausa.”
“She hears Hausa?”
“Yes, honest to God, she hears Hausa. Go in.”
“Amen alaikium salam”
“Greetings on your coming.”
“How is your family?”
“They are well.”
“How is your work?”
“It is well.”
“How are your children?”
“They are well.”
“How are the twins?”
“The twins are fine.”
”How was your trip?”
“It was fine.”
“How is your tiredness?”
Here, a little giggle and an “Econ Allah” (Power of God!)
“How are your affairs?”
“We’re thankful to God.”
“Honest to God, you hear Hausa.”
“Really? Thank you.”
“See you later.”
“Okay, see you later.”
Then to Djibril’s Aunt (while she shakes her head in disbelief):
“Power of God! She hears Hausa!”
“Yes, she hears Hausa!”
“God the King!”
I can’t tell you how many times I went through that routine! So funny; it is like they all came just to ‘test’ for themselves! But I have to say I was surprised at how much Hausa came back to me. I would be in a middle of a chat and say something and stop and think to myself,
"I can't believe I said that word!" It was rather fun! I was going to put a Hausa test on the blog but ran out of steam...
As we walked around the village, people came running from their houses holding pictures to show us. It seems that everyone in the village has a photo of Keagan and Kaijah as babies! So strange; it they could see how big the twins are now they would not believe it! They all yell out, “How are the twins?” When I asked Djibo if these folks with photos were relatives he always answered that he had no idea!
We left for Zinder about 10 a.m. Saturday after we visited the site where we will build his parent’s house and we looked at the fields which were due for harvesting.
I’ve enclosed photos of the road from Dosso to Zinder…enough said, really! The entire thing is torn up! It is decent between Maradi and Taketa and then it is basically dirt road to Zinder! You would not even believe it! I can’t believe how much the country has regressed! They are working on it in places, but in some areas the detour
Djibo and his folks
In Kara Kara outside of Dosso
is worse than the road and there are transport trucks turned over all along the way. I think we saw about 5 that had tipped over. One happened just moments before we arrived. You have to be careful about passing them because you never know when they are going to fall, and you don’t want it to be on you!
We only had one day in Zinder. Fortunately for me, most of my hanging mates from Kournikoutchika have moved city ward to Zinder. I saw my nurse, my community health worker counterpart, Abdou of course (who has so many kids I can’t even believe it! - maybe he’s in a running with Dengui!). I didn’t even have time to go to the center of town to see Addo or Bukari, or Tarzan, or the men who sell things at the post. I didn’t get to see Moussa at the leather co-op either. Dengui had gone ‘en brousse’ to get three of his kids because they were due to start school the next day. I’ve attached photos of Zara and family (minus four - Sa’a is married with a baby of her own and wasn’t there and three of them
Djibril's dad's younger brother
were in the bush). I asked her how many kids she has now, she said, “Wallahi, ban sani ba, sun yi yawa!” (Honestly, I don’t know, there are a lot of them!) I think I figured there are 11. Her youngest one is younger that Sa’a’s baby.
We stayed with Harouna Dan Bande (Teacher) Mato from Radio Anfani. I’ve attached a photo of his recently built house with the all essential TV dish! Also some photos of his wife, Leila, my baby’s namesake and Miriam their daughter.
Everyone wanted news from Baban Gida (Matt Kirwin) and Malam Matti (Matt Gribbin) and Zara (Lisa Breed Morehouse). If anyone still keeps up with either of the Matts…let them know that Teacher and Zara and Abdou greet them.
Apparently, Matt went to Zinder last year with his wife and son so they all talk about that. Sekina (Pam Sharron) is married and went with her husband a few years ago.
We got our first flat before even leaving Zinder at about 10 p.m. Sunday. By the time they got that one fixed, there was another one flat. We headed out about 3 in the morning as my flight was
Djbiril's Mom and Aunt in Kara Kara
Nobody seems to know the Aunt's name; but she is a good cook!
from Niamey to Dakar at 8 Monday night. We had to stop and change a tire before we even got to Maradi. And on and on it went. I’ve attached a photo of my Jesse James look. It reminded me of the time we took the bus from Zinder to Agadez, remember that PCVs? The seats kept falling off the bottom and back…we had bandanas to block out the dust and the bus almost tipped over because there was the section with no road and we were driving through dirt. Now the whole road to Zinder is like that road to Agadez was 10 years ago!
By the time we got outside Dosso, we were beyond repairs and needed a new tire. We were stuck. Djibo flagged down a car and I hitched a ride into Dosso and jumped on a bus. The bus let me off on the road outside of the airport and I ran with bags in tow about 1 km to the terminal. When I arrived, they had not started checking in so I begged the workers to find me a place to shower. I was able to shower and wash off my layers of
Now this is creativity!
red dirt, change my clothes and still make check in.
So that was the big Niger adventure. We had always planned to go as a family when the twins were 9, which is next year. Don’t think I want to do that road with my kids in the car…we might have to wait a bit longer. I have no idea how long it will take for them to rebuild the roads, but it must be time for a Coup d’etat or an election…it seems to be the only time they work on roads is when someone wants to be elected!
Sai wata rana!
There are more photos below