Miss Meraleen, I Presume?

My Blog About Peace Corps Service in Niger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions reflected throughout this site are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fountain of Life

I have failed at this blog. It’s sad but true. After I got back vacation in the US over Christmas I shifted my attention from keeping people back home to date of my whereabouts to living and working entirely in Niger. I meant to go back and write blog posts retroactively to give the illusion that I was indeed staying on top of communication. That never happened and at this point it’s hard to remember what I did on a day to day basis.

Still here is a first recap February; the month that flew by!

Work wise I was busy teaching high jump at the school, I began English classes once a week in my concession that focused on speaking rather than writing English. I wrote my first extensive project proposal to obtain uniforms for the scouts, and copied, by hand, many, many birth certificates for the mairiee. Still the highlight of the month was not what something directly work related. It was so satisfying in fact that it deserves special attention.

Way back in October, SG took me to Daraïna, a neighboring fulan village o meet his girlfriend. (FYI, he used to have three wives of which he split with two so now he’s looking to marry again). In Daraïna I noticed a water pump in the middle of the village that was locked up and not used at all. I asked the village chief if was broken, hoping to maybe help fix it. I was informed that no, it was not broken. So if the pump worked, why were people content drinking river water directly. Did they not know that river water could cause many horrid diseases including cholera? When I asked, they said that they’d been drinking all their lives and they had never gotten sick from it. Hmpf. I’m pretty sure that they do get sick but attribute it to god’s displeasure rather than the water that they drink.

Anyways, I did eventually learn that the real reason the pump was closed was twofold. First, there was no drain for excess water so that it simply ran off on the road , slowly but surely ruining it. Second, people were afraid to sit by the pump and collect money from those that came to carry water since they believed that the person doing so would 1) be the victim of terrible insults from the children and 2) They would die. Well I wasn’t going to sit back and watch a perfectly good pump stand unused while the villagers feed their newborns brown river water, no matter the reason. I asked who was responsible for building the drain well and was given the name of the President of the Water commission; Seybou Harouna. Well knowing that nothing ever gets done unless confronted with directly, I quickly learned where Seboy lived and thinking that it wouldn’t take long to go there, I started out in the direction I was pointed to. 2 kilometres later I arrive at a group of houses and am happy to learn that yes, this is where Seybou lives but alas, he has gone off to the mango groves. Well I’d already gone this far so I might as well go all the way. I do finally find Seybou and the conversation progresses something like:

Me: God’s peace to you
Seybou : and to you
- How is your body?
- In health thank you, how is your house?
- Nothing but health. My name is Faiza and I am an American volunteer. I live in Sagafondo but can work in the entire commune of Bitinkodji. Today I came to Daraïna and saw that the pump isn’t working. The village chief told me that I need to speak with you about so here I am!
- I see, well welcome!
- They said that the pump isn’t working because there is no well to drain the water, is this true?
- Yes, we don’t have a drain
- So why not?
- We don’t have cement to fortify the whole once we dig it
- Is there no money to buy cement?
- Well , we do have money in the water commission caisse (money box) but that’s only supposed to be used for repairs.
- And don’t you think this constitutes a repair. You know some organization paid millions to build a really great pump in your village and now it just stands unused. River water is really really dirty you know, with lots of germs that can kill people. My heart breaks every time I see the children drinking river water.
- I know, I know. Why don’t we go se the village chief now to talk about it?
- Really? Right now?
- Sure!

And so off we go to the village chiefs and I can’t say what transpired there since it was all done in Fulfulde of which I know a total of 10 words, water and drain not being two of them. At the end, however I am told that they will indeed dig a hole, use the money from the caisse to buy cement because they don’t want my heart to break. “Great”, I say. “When?” People will promise anything to please you in the moment and so I wanted to make sure this was not such a situation. They say by next week. And so I say I will come back the next week to check. They agree and we part with hearty handshakes.

It takes two weeks to get the drain done but the point is, it does get done! Still, the pump does not open and I begin tackling the second part of the problem. That of finding someone to sit by the pump. I tell the mayor about this issue and he calls a meeting between the village chief, Seybou Harouna and the two municipal council members from Daraïna. We agree to hold a village meeting and ask the locals input. A week later, SG and I go to Daraïna, purposefully planned so that the council members can be there. After much routy debate we agree, despite the village chiefs skepticism that rather than a system of pay-per-use, each house in the village will pay a flat fee of 100 CFA (20 cent) per month and for that will have unlimited access to the pump. Despite the chief’s belief that the villagers will not fess up and pay at the end of the month, his wife agrees to organize the village women to be responsible for collecting the money.

And so the story ends happily. The system did work in that even now, three months after opening, people are paying the monthly fee and, as you can see on the picture below, they are pumping water to their hearts delight!

Daraïna village children pumping water to their heart's delight

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not Dead

This is a super short post to reassure everyone that I am not dead. In fact, I am quite surely not-dead. What happened was that my subscription with the webbsite host and domain providerer expired and it has taken me a really long time to figure things out. So long, in fact that I have temporarily switched to bloggers own system while I figure meralen.com out.

Lots of things have been going on in the past few months and I'll be more than willing to provide a recount of major events, the most important of course being my engagement to Ryan during a very romantic trip to Paris.

For now, however I will return to writing a project proposal soliciting money for a womean's income generating training sessino, teaching then how to make soap to sell! Just think of the unintended benefits of a project that increases availability of soap. For example, people might actually begin using soap when they wash their hands before eating. Oh lala! What a revolutionizing thing that would be in terms of promoting health practices. Stay tuned for your opportunity to support me and the soap-making women of Saga-fondo.

All the best

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Let the Development Begin

Sorry, no pictures for this one. But it’s really short so bear with me.

Three weeks back in Niger now. Feels like much more. The vacation over, Christmas is reduced to a glorious dream that I, quite inevitably, have woken up from. Still, it is good to be back in Niger. After four months apart, the people in my stage have come together at Hamdallaye once more for In-Service Training (IST). Over the past three weeks we have furthered our technical knowledge of our sector and been updated in the paperwork aspect of being a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). This means that we have learned how to do quarterly reporting on our work, tracking how many people are affected and actually benefit from what we do here. We have also learned how to write project proposals and apply for funding.

Tomorrow is the last day of IST, and I am scheduled to go back to Sagafondo on Sunday. Even though I went back a couple times since Christmas, I feel like I’ve been away from my village and my cat for too long. I’m so excited to go back and resume my routines of work, exercise and community involvement. Now I also have the tools to do ‘real’ work in that I can officially apply for funding to conduct anything from womens’ groups trainings to building infrastructure. Many funding sources have deadlines in March so stay tuned for a grant-writing sprint!

As I said, our entire group, or what’s left of it has come together again. (31 out of 48 initial trainees remain.) Next time we come together like this will be 1.5 years from now for Close of Service (COS) Conference. Crazy. Looking at it right now, September 2010 seems sooo long away but I know that time will fly, especially once I get busy with projects. YAY work!

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Travel Dream

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone. I wish you a joyous year filled with laughter, good fortune and rewarding family and work relations. (In that order of importance)

As for myself, I spent this turn of the year in the most peculiar way. I missed my original flight from New York back to Africa, which forced me to spend all of New Year's Eve at the Casablanca airport. The captain on the flight crew apparently decided to take a siesta up until the actual time of departure, and, consequentially, the flight to Niamey took off at at five minutes to midnight. For the first time in my life I got to celebrate the countdown to a new year while on board an airplane rapidly ascending upward. Quite peculiar indeed. The good news is that, being so close to a major holiday, both flights on the return trip were completely empty and I had plenty of room to spread out and even sleep some!

But, let me back up some and share with you the amazing vacation I just enjoyed in the United States of America. I arrived in the evening of Thursday, December 18 and was absolutely ecstatic to embrace Ryan at Boston Logan airport. I kept asking him "is that really you?" "I can't believe it". An absolute dream to see him again. The dream-theme was to continue throughout the next ten days.

As you can probably imagine it was a little bit of a climate shock going from the Sahara Desert to Boston but I had planned ahead and so the first stop after the airport was to my uncle’s house, where I’m storing several boxes of winter clothes (and other random crap from college). I still needed to get a coat and shoes so the following day, I met up with future architect and friend Maggie, and dragged her around while I completed the first of many shopping trips. Before meeting up for lunch with Ryan, I treated myself to the most luxurious of all Western indulgences and completely unheard of in Niger . . . a manicure!

Nails painted and winter coat on, I was fit for fight, so Ryan and I set off for Buffalo and Niagra falls Friday afternoon. We got as far as Worcester (30 miles outside of Boston). At this time the Great Weather Battle of 2008 began, as the dusty snowflakes slowly turned into heave blobs of mush eventually swallowed the road and everything around it. Conceding the first victory to Weather, we stopped at a hotel room to wait out the storm. Turned out that Weather hadn't got the last word after all because I was able to enjoy two wonderful things that had been denied to me for the past 5 months: McDonalds food and a hot bath! Never has a Big Mac tasted so good or the hot water in a hot tub felt so soothing. Reward always comes to those who are patient and sure enough, towards midnight the snowstorm finally passed and at 3am we set out to catch up on travel time what we’d missed the day before. It didn't even matter that it took us a full hour to dig out the car that Weather had tried to hide from us. 600 miles and 14 hours later we finally arrive at Caesars Hotel in Windsor, Canada. All those trips to Las Vegas last spring paid off since we had glorious room with a view of the Detroit River, all for free!

View from our Caesar's hotelroom

Over the next 24 hours we enjoyed a super fancy steak dinner, played in a poker tournament and stuffed ourselves at the enormous buffet, all paid for by blackjack winnings. In the end we still walked away with enough money to cover my plane ticket to America and the gas money. Isn’t it great when you can have a wonderful vacation, on someone else's tab? In our case we extend our thanks to Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

On Sunday the 21st, we began the drive down to Ohio and were warped into a second battle with Weather. This time it was the Wind of the Midwest that decided to flex its strength. At times it was so strong that it almost swooshed the car right off the road. Luckily, we prevailed, and, several hours later, we arrived safely in Miamisburg, Ohio where we were to stay over the Christmas holidays. Even though the adventure over the past days had been amazing, it was nice to stay in one place for more than 12 hours. I did a bunch of shopping at Wal-Mart, ate ice cream in large quantities and played a ton of games. In short, I did everything that belongs to Christmas, and more!! I was sad not to be with my family in Sweden but the joy of being out of Africa was even greater. It’s really hard to find the Christmas spirit in Africa, when it’s sunny every day, sand everywhere and most people have never heard the word ‘Christmas’ before in their life.

While in Ohio we fought another couple of battles with Weather. We got soaking wet in a rain storm one day, just to fall on our bums the next day when all that rain had turned to ice. I daresay though that despite these harsh encounters, we came out on top! No broken bones, vehicle accidents or even the slightest bruise! Who said weather couldn't be tamed?

On Saturday the 27th, we began our trip back east arriving in New York City on Sunday. There we met up with my best friend in the whole wide world, who also happens to be named Maria. Her family always celebrates the holidays in the Big Apple, and it was quite wonderful how it worked out since this meant I got a day and a half to catch up one everything’s that’s been happening. Just writing letters, no matter how long you make them, doesn’t quite cut it. On Sunday night, Ryan and I got one last night together since Maria and her parents had plans. As we are walking back from the TKTS booth, deciding that a three hour wait in line was not how we wanted to spend that evening, I grabbed a brochure from a guy handing them out and gasp. "It's Cirque du Soleil!" My favorite entertainment troupe was performing right there in New York -- the limited time winter-only show "Wintuk." Ryan and I both agree that this is too good of an opportunity to give up and so a couple hours later we find ourselves at Madison Squre Garden, elbowing our way to the box office passing through crowds of people, all here to see, not circus, but wrestling! Now Ryan and I have been to Cirque du Soleil probably 10 or 12 times and wrestling a total of 0. It didn't matter. Despite both groups dressing in leotards and putting on a physical performance, we enjoy the acrobats doing flips landing on their feet so much more than wrestlers doing basically the same thing (but landing on their backs). The face painted acrobats of Cirque du Soleil did not disappoint. Wintuk is, just like the other shows a fantastical adventure

And so Monday rolled around and Ryan headed back to Boston, leaving me to spend some quality time with Maria (even though it did contain a bunch of me dragging her around on last minute errands. Sorry about that Maria!)

They say all good things must come to an end. And so, it was with a sad heart but reluctant acceptance that I made my way to JFK airport Monday night, expecting to begin the journey back to Niger. Turns out that what they say isn't always true.

I don't know if Weather finally got a chance at revenge or if it was just bad fortune but for some reason there was an unusually large number of car accidents on the road out to JFK airport and so traffic was at a standstill. No surprise, I miss my flight to Casablanca and get rebooked for the subsequent flight -- 24 hours later! Having no clue how to kill a full day/night cycle, I did what I so often do in times of crisis: I called Ryan. Within five minutes of hearing my dilemma, he booked me a flight to Boston that very night and consequentially I got to spend (a second) last night with the love of my life, amazing in that it was so totally unexpected. Tuesday afternoon I fly back to JFK and do end up getting on the flight that takes me to Casablanca. From there you know what happened.

And so I complete my recount of an absolute magical trip. Thank you to everyone who made it happen. You know who you are ;)

Two little red elves with Grandpa Len

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bureau Reconciliation

It is quite amazing how one person’s decision can effect so much. In my case, this decision was made by my newly appointed boss at the Peace Corps Bureau; Assistant Program Country Director (APCD) for the MCD Program. As I wrote in a blog post back in September, the country administration, more commonly known as 'the Bureau' denied my vacation request for this Christmas arguing several reasons that basically boiled down to; I had not been in country long enough to warrant a vacation. Well, given all the work that I’ve been doing in my village since and given that I had a new person to go to, I decided it might be worth asking again. Hence, around Thanksgiving I approached my APCD about going to America for Christmas. He had just visited me in Sagafondo a few days earlier and thus had seen both my work at the mayor’s office and my integration in the village. His first response was “I need to talk to some other people but will get back to you soon”. Three days later he called and sayd “I’m sorry but there is just no way you can go….”.

Well I wasn't just going to sit back and take that. There is a lot of discussion about the morale and trust between volunteers and the bureau, especially in my group since 15 people have decided to terminate their service early and basically quit the Peace Corps. I mentioned to my APCD that “if the bureau wants to know where the issue of bad morale comes from between volunteers and the administration, it is precisely because of decisions like these” and asked him to pass that on to the other senior staff members. Well, low and behold. Five minutes after getting off the phone, my APCD calls me back with a new decision…… I CAN GO!!!!

From absolute devastation, my mood turned to that of triumphant joy in a matter of 30 seconds. With this change a mood also came a change in my entire outlook of the Peace Corps and the people running the Niger Country Office. In letting me go, I feel like they recognize and appreciate the work I’ve been doing, the effort I have put in to integrating into the community and learning the language. In letting me go, I feel like the bureau has assumed their proper role of supporting me as a volunteer here in Niger but also understanding that I will not be happy and successful here unless I can maintain connections with loved ones back home. Finally, I feel like the bureau understood that it is in THEIR best interest to let me go because I will be a much better, dedicated volunteer because I will feel that the bureau has my back covered rather than being thereto act as a Police force.

YAAAAAY! I’m going to America for Christmas! On Wednesday the 17th I will head to the airport, fly through Casablanca and New York to Boston where I will meet the love of my life. We will then drive to his family in Ohio for Christmas and I will be back in Niger on the 30th. I’ll still get to celebrate the coming of 2009 six hours before my American friends ;)

Until I return,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Getting my hair braided in preparation for my trip back home

The finished result!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Today is the second day of the biggest holiday of all year in Niger. In French it is known as Tabaski and in Arabic Eid al-Adha. In Zarma it is simply ‘Cimso’. It is the Muslim New Year holiday so the greetings I find myself saying every 10 seconds translate to things like:

- “Happy New Year, that it right now”
- “May your feet enter the new year a-walking”
- “Please forgive anything I did last year, as it is now a new one”
- “Where is my New year’s Present? (this one goes to people who first ask me for presents resorting to the idea that white people have tons of money and comeonly to throw money around, BAH. As if a Peace Corps volunteer has tons of money……)

So let me share with you this most important tradition of tabaski, the tradition that people begin preparing for months in advance, begin talking about even earlier and spend all of the two days executing: animal sacrifice. You see, tabaski always takes place 70 days after the end of Ramadan and since Ramadan is governed by the moon and consequentially shifts to be 10 days earlier every year, so does Tabaski meaning that that in 15 years, the Muslim New Year will be in July) Anyways, tabaski is celebrated in honor of prophet known in several other religions; Abraham. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son and only in the last moment did got replace the son with a ram. Consequentially the entire festival is dedicated to the killing of a ram (or goat or chicken if you are of lesser means). I, as a Peace Corps volunteer am of extremely small means, or so I told my villagers as the reason for why I did not “do cimso”.

Despite my eagerness to integrate in Nigeren Culture, I could not bring myself to partake in this tradition of buying and killing an animal and even though I got scolded for it, I feel like my money can be much better spent, even if it is buying and killing a sheep 6 month from now when the meat will be a million times more appreciated. Right now there is an abundance of food right after harvest season and everybody is doing cold season gardening. In April food will be almost gone and meat will be extremely hard to come by since the animals will also be hungry…. If I bring people presents of meat at that time, my money spent will be much more appreciated. I counted over 100 sheep killed and prepared in Sagafondo alone yesterday.

But I wasn’t completely culturally insensitive! Rather than meat, I made 30 little boxes out of folded paper and filled with peanuts and popcorn bringing to all village officials, women’s leaders and friends. This meant 5 hours of non-stop walking around and greeting people, repeating the aforementioned greetings and giving out presents as well as candy to children, this is after all their equivalent of Christmas and presents are not restricted to family alone.

It is now afternoon and despite my thought that I would be receiving lots of meat, not one person has come by as of now…. Yesterday was intestines day and I politely declined two or three offers. I know I said that I was excited about eating meat again but I don’t think I will ever be able to come to terms with eating the heart, lungs or kidneys of an animal. Hopefully the villagers have not forgotten about me and are just busy preparing it…. (Having posted this retroactively I can testify that the latter was true… over the next few days I received more meat than I could ever eat)

Anyways, I am off blow up the Pilates ball that Ryan sent me and to do a little modern exercise followed by a not so modern shower….

Some graphic Pictures of Nigerien New Year's Celebration. Sensitive eyes beware!

Friday, November 21, 2008

One Day

Per request I am providing a run down of a typical day as a Peace Corps day. Here’s what I did yesterday, Thursday November 20:

6:30am I woke up and petted Maya who has taken to sleeping next to me. Don’t you just love the comfort of a warm, purring cat?

7:00am I eat breakfast consisting of oatmeal and a cup of coffee with lots of concentrated milk/sugar. Even though Nigeriens cook their food over open flames, Peace Corps provides its volunteers with a gas powered stove so it's just like cooking in the US!

7:45am I headed out to the secondary school to teach two PE classes, crossing though the overflooded road that runs kneedeep
The flooded road that serves as latrine, washing machine,
dishwasher, shower and watering hole for animals
(as the goats above testify)

8:00am I begun teaching PE, today kickboxing was on the agenda using ipod loudspeakers I recently got in a package. Yay boyfriend!

A classroom at the Secondary School.
10 points if you guess the building material... it's millet stalk

9:00am I begun the second class that l is exactly like the first. Every week I teach 6 repeats of the same class.

10:00am I headed over to the mayor’s office and change into office clothes consisting of a an extremely colorful, patterned dress. I helped the accountant with his job of reporting all financial activity, putting my computer to good use! I also wrote a couple letters in response to ones that I’ve gotten. I don’t have a desk in my house so all office like work I prefer to do at the mairie.

An example of my work at the mairie.
A first step in mapping the Commune's Resources

2:00pm I left the mayor’s office as the afternoon prayer call rung and made my way around the village to buy meat and tomatoes for todays lunch. I made sure to greet everyone I passed and to visit a couple of my adopted family members. At this time I have four mothers, two fathers, dussins of little siblings and my very first big brother!

2:30pm I made and ate lunch consisting of potatoes a sauce made from the newly purchased ingredients and flavored with the mushroom gravy powder that Mom so kindly sent to me.

3:00pm I did the dishes to my neighbor’s amusement. I found a dishbrush in Niamey as well as detergent so I have quite an easy job of cleaning my pots which people in Sagafondo find extremely entertaining to watch given that they lug all their pots and pans to the river and wash them with mud and sand.

3:30pm I bought a chicken that will live with a friend who in exchange for a money to buy its food will bring me eggs.

4:00pm I took out my mat and swept my hut, gathering up a pint of sand that had fallen from the walls and roof over the last 24 hours, finishing it off with a couple whisks of lily scented air freshener. (purchased in Niamey)

4:30pm I collected my weigths made out of small aluminium cans filled with mud and selected some upbeat music to power through a workout session mixing aerobics, pilates and strength training.

5:15pm I went to the pump to get water for a bucket bath, carrying it on my head like a real pro. I then then went back to take that bath while I greeted people who passed by as they came back from whatever work or nonwork they had been doing. Privacy, what’s that?

6:00pm I watched a couple episodes of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ on my ipod. I am totally using this time in Africa to catch up on TV shows that sort of belong to American common knowledge. I’ve already gotten through four seasons of Lost. Next is Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy.

7:30pm I begun my nightly round of visiting the family members, selecting those that I didn’t get to earlier in the day. Forget one and I’ll here about it the next day…
8:00pm I ended my walk at my counterpart’s house, the Secretary General at the mairie. There I ate the traditional Nigerien dinner, repeated every dinner, every day; white milletmush and brown okra sauce. At first this was disquisting. Now it’s quite yummy…just maybe not every day. I mean, come on people, every day? The SG (which is what I call him since pretty much every male here is named Amadou - after the prophet), has a little generator that powers a TV and several outlets. Here is where I recharge ipod and cellphone, free to me but quite the income generating acticity for the SG since people pay him a little in exchange for access to electricity a few hours every night.

9:30pm I headed back and am joined by Maya at the door who somehow always knows that it’s me coming home so she rushes back from whatever adventure she was on. We then begun our nightly cricket hunt. It works like this: I shine a light around the walls of the apartment, swatting all the crickets and she follows, catching and eating them as soon as they drop to the floor. She’s getting increasingly better at jumping up and catching them herself!

10:30pm I crawled into bed and watched another couple episodes of HIMYM.

11:30pm I fell asleep

Except for the Chicken buying, this is a typical day in Maria’s new life in Africa.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A confession

This post is going to be informative nad content heavy so bear with me. First of all let me extend a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Barack Obama and to all Americans who came to their senses and voted for him. I am proud of you, maybe even proud to be one of you which is more than I can say for the last eight years.

At this time I have been in Sagafondo for almost a month and a half and I am really glad that I don’t ever have to relive this time because setting up routines, getting to know people and navigating your way around a new place in terms of who to talk to to get what done, is quite exhausting and once you’re completely familiar with your surroundings, as I am on fast track to becoming, it’s like a huge burden taken of one’s shoulders. YAY INTEGRATION!

I have a confession: I am a workaholic. Let me back this up with two explanations: First is the personal gratification of hard work. I am absolutely happiest about myself when I feel productive and useful. This being said I am extremely lucky that people that I work with are equally determined to get the work done. Second is the pretense for me being in Niger in the first place. Because I risked my relationship with the man I love to join the Peace Corps, I feel like every moment here needs to count and thus I am constantly seeking out ways to learn as much as I possibly can about Niger and make the biggest difference for the people in my community and the Mairie.

So, my love of work defended, what am I actually doing to be so busy? My work so far can be divided into four main areas:

1. In the mayor’s office assisting the employees with day to day activities like writing up birth certificates and collecting taxes but also with larger projects like mapping the Communes resources , marketing the tourist sites (sand dunes, hippos, caves and Fulani Camps) and updating the development plan from its original 2005 version.

2. With women’s groups in Saga-fondo and the neighboring villages. They all have relatively well structured groups with elected presidents and a desire to begin their on-income generating activities. Still, a lot of them lack a mission statement, i.e. actual work. Although they are disappointed that I can’t bring money to the table, several groups have expressed interest in working with my, making use of administrative skills like setting up a system of microfinance and creating a project plan for the work to be done.

3. As a PE teacher in the CEG (middle school). It’s certainly amusing how I can’t seem to get away from leading classes of physical exercise. (not that I try to) Some student saw me running one morning and asked if I wanted to teach them PE. Inititally they were sad that I didn’t know karate, as Jackie Chan is their all time hero, but now with my first week done, I am certain that we’ll have a great time together with or without karate. 6 classes at the CEG so that gives me a guaranteed 6 hours of exercise every week. SWEET!

4. Integrating in to the community. This is definitely not a traditional job but part of Peace Corps commitment to Cross Culture and I try to make daily rounds to my adopted mothers and fathers, knowing that if I don’t they will scold me for it later, saying that I’ve forgotten them ;).

“Be careful what you ask for”, my Mom always said and here I am, the girl who always sought to be the center of attention, surrounded by people who want nothing more than to do work with me, visit me, be my friend and for me to come see them. I enjoy the one or two episodes of Lost that I watch every night because that is also the only time I am truly alone. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is because it is the abnormally that I welcome the solitude. With all its peculiarities, Niger is my home now and I am happy here.

Me Being Happy

Maya being happy on top of my shade hanger (until it was time to come down and she forgot how she got up)

More Camels