Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hamdallaye Pictures

Katie, me, Cathy, and Liz all dolled up for our fashion show; our host moms dressed us.

Very photogenic camels

If you look closely enough you can find three goats in or on this bush taxi

This is at a baby naming ceremony at my house. It takes place one week after the baby is born. Her name is Sumiya.

Training in Hamdallaye

I'm in Niger; if you need to consult a map, first feel the shame, then , look in the middle of the top part of Africa. Our training site is located about 20 kilometers east of Niamey, the capital. Our schedule is packed; I'm sure this is intended to minimize homesickness. We learn language in adobe huts for 20 hours per week with 1 instructor for every 3 students. I'm learning Hausa-about 40 million speakers worldwide, the other half of our group is learning Zarma. Our technical training is secondary to language, but includes intersting things like goat milking (yay!) and experimental gardening.

We spend evenings , including dinner, with our host families. The staple grain here is millet, but rice and pasta is avaiable, even in the bush. I sleep outside but unfortunately, so does everything else and I ll tell you, anyone who thinks that they're incapable of slaughtering God's creatures just needs a few mornings of waking up to guinea hens and roosters. Who's hungry. That's all I have to say. God is the other reason I wake up so early, not so much in a miraculous way, more in the blaring loudspeaker kind of way. The prayer is called at 6am over a village-wide soundsystem. Suprisingly, this is preferable to the fowl method, in fact, I kind of like it. Right now it's the "cold" season here. The villagers and our trainers bundle up in the morning and shiver. It dips into the mid 60's. Brrrr.

The last weekend in January was spent with a permanent Peace Corps Volunteer in their village. I have ridden a camel, carried well water on my head, and visited the capital, Niamey, via bush taxi. Since I ve been in Hamdallaye there has baby naming ceremony, a wedding, and a funeral. So far, I've been in good health, which is amazing. It could be that I may as well be a pin cushion with all the vaccinations I've had.

I just found out I'll be spending the next two years in the Tahoua region of Niger. There are 150 people in my village, only 50 of them are adults, and of those, only 5 are men. The other husbands live and work in Nigeria, Togo, Algeria, and everywhere else, a circumstance more and more common as Niger gets poorer and poorer. The 2005 United Nations Human Development Index ranks Niger 177 out of (you guessed it)177.