Post Six: 9.23.2011

I am reminded of how “dark” is an epthet that completely fails to describe Africa.  Africa is bathed in light, and it’s the mornings you recall more than the nights with their noises and vague fears.  Lizzie chased the light, rising before dawn, waiting for sunrise, capturing color and shadow, black faces with their depth and warmth, trapping the crescendo of light on film before watching heat leach out all the hues and contrasts, the world becomes two-dimensional, and faces turn blank, blinded by the sun. 

– Aidan Hartley

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Ex Africa semper aliquid novi

– Pliny the Elder

Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules — and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.

– Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan

Since my last post…

I have:

  1. Eaten a voluminous amount of goat, wali na haragwe,  and pilau. Eggs, rice, and lentils have been a favorite lunchtime combination, but ugali has unfortunately failed to make my lengthy list (‘Things I Enjoy Eating’) and is likely to continue doing so for the near future. Chapatti has been too infrequent, but unfailingly delicious when I can get my paws on a few warm, crisp pieces. As Ugandans riot over rising commodity prices, amid rumors of an African Spring, President Musevini has threatened to devour protesters like samosas. I, conversely, have devoured samosas like samosas
  2. Met the family I’ll be staying with for the duration of my Swahili classes, and we have been getting along very well. They live on a farm near the outskirts of town, and as I step out the front door (through a field of sunflowers), I am usually treated to a fantastic view of Mt Kilimanjaro.
  3. Seen several zebras, giraffes, gazelles, and ostriches
  4. Finished four books

I have not:

  1. Gotten up later than 6am once since arriving at my home stay
  2. Ridden around on a horse, camel, or elephant. Not even a bike!
  3. Ran, at all. The elevation is damn hard on our tender lungs
  4. Eaten anything but Kenyan food, or quaffed anything other than Tusker (maybe Rolling Rock or Coors quality beer) or oily, unpleasant Guiness
  5. Taken the usual sort of shower with running water, instead preferring creativity and efficiency in water usePleasesendmeenoughpipingtobuildashower

I have learned:

  1. That Nicholas Kristof visited Dogon Doutchi, Niger recently, a mere hour or so from where I was living. I could have met the man himself, and probably could have convinced him to sign one of the numerous copies of Half the Sky that were floating around the region
  2. More Swahili than I anticipated
The next morning I saw from the window of our descending plane a motionless white patch surrounded by the sun. It was Luanda

– Ryszard Kapuściński

Sticking with the usual theme, since leaving the Mighty Midwest

I have:

  1. Sprinted (alongside a pack of ~50 people) through the Brussels airport in order to make a connecting flight
  2. Eaten the best in-flight food of my life: sea bass with coconut curry over couscous
  3. Seen the uh minimalist skyline of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi
  4. Been roared at by a pre-teen, crawling around the aisles of our plane like a lion. Someone was clearly very excited about her safari
  5. Got caught in some lengthy turbulence over Khartoum
  6. Heard a song with Zarma lyrics, expressing a certain infectious joie de vivre.

Ay gaba wayboro hinka
Ay gaba wayboro hinza
Ay gaba ay ma koy Niamey

 I have not:

  1. Seen any fancy pants wildlife. Even dogs and cats have eluded me. Indoor bats, however, have been out in force
  2. Spoken to an American who is not a colleague of mine
  3. Lost any luggage, despite fears of misdirected suitcases after our lengthy delay at JFK. They could never have successfully moved all of our luggage in time after shuffling everything around so the plane could make weight! We barely made it sprinting through the airport, without the hefty burden of searching for scattered luggage in the abyss of our 757!  

I have learned:

  1. Al-Shabaab basics
  2. Useful conversational habits in Swahili

Post Three: 5.26.11

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am all about money. I mean, just look how well my line of zodiac-inspired toe rings and homeopathic children’s medications are selling on Home Shopping Network.  Because I am nothing if not an amazing entrepreneur, I researched what kind of content makes for bestselling books.  It turns out the answer is “one-night stands,” drug addictions, and recipes. Here, we are all out of luck. But I can offer you lurid tales of anxiety and cowardice.

– Tina Fey

Rather than trashing my old Niger blog and starting over,  I’ve decided to keep this hodgepodge of details alive and relevant.  You should look for somewhat regular posts, I promise.  Almost all future posts will be in the following format:

Since my last post,

I Have

  1. Enjoyed the benefits of having running water, electricity, and reliable internet at my disposal.
  2. Ingested a smörgåsbord of cereal, eggs, peppers, onions, coffee, toast, orange juice, chocolate cake, and milk. All of this was readily available and prepared easily using a formidable arsenal of tools and appliances.
  3. Napped extensively.
  4. Had direct contact with an animal without worrying about rabies, parasites, or who may be preparing to eat him.

I Have Not

  1. Spoken French, Swahili, Zarma, or badly butchered Arabic
  2. Ridden around in a bush taxi
  3. Handled a currency other than USD
  4. Knowingly stepped in animal waste

I Have Learned

  1.  Numerous Zarma Swahili nouns and adjectives:
  • Farasi mkubwa = Large horse
  • Farasi mdogo = Small horse
  • Mwavuli mkubwa = Large umbrella
  • Mwavuli mdogo = Small umbrella
And so on!

Post Two: 10.22.2010

At the Paris Airport. Peace Corps highlights:

Cheesesteak, Get Him to the Greek, Wall-E, reubens, and Sam Adams

3-4 hours until Niamey!

Post One: 10.20.2010

This blog is about working in Niger.  Look for occasional updates.  What this will not be: