2 weeks tomorrow since my plane touched down in Niamey, Niger. 2 weeks since the bags were packed up & i shipped out to this west african country "9th poorest in the world" according to some list somewhere. 14 days since it was "good-bye New Orleans, California, friends, good-bye U.S. of A, see you in 2 years." i'm under contract. that's how long. never been "under contract."
The first days some kind of dazed jet lagged get my feet on the ground get ready for my school job rush and bustle. Moving in to the new house, meeting the roomies, sizing up things, dinner over the river except no dinner because it's the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and nobody's eating & the cooks ain't cooking. So we get pizza and gawk @ the "Petit Marche" across the way, "Small Market" in the French. It's packed with vendors and there seems nothing French nor petit about it.
So here I am, made the move. Africa! I was here 20 years before on an adventure as a 20 year old, meeting my big brother and his then girlfriend now wife who had just gotten out of the Peace Corps. We traipsed about the countryside, up into the hills, over to the nearby countries of Togo, Ghana, and Benin, as well as 2 months in Niger. It was the most fascinating time of my life seeing life thru these different eyes and ways. Now I am back, as school teacher not intrepid traveller, return'd to the scene of the crime so to speak. For adventure and bizarrely enough to get out of debt, coming to the 9th poorest from the 8th or something richest country to make some coin.
And so every day an adventure unto its own. Moving in to the house to discover the house/my room is getting sprayed for termites my second day in residence. I recall my brother mentioning how toxic "first world" banned chemicals make there way down to Africa frequently when chemical companies need to find some kind of a market for their already produced goods. I am starkly reminded of it as I walk into the kitchen while poison is being applied, nearly retching right then and there, fleeing the scene to the school director's house next door to wait out the stench for a week. Welcome to Africa!!!
And so it has been over the past 2 weeks, every task an adventure. Making the connections to survival, food. Food that will not turn this American stomach inside out. The omelette and coffee stands of picnic bench with gas stove, out doors of course. The driving all bout town with a new friend, Naba, as he takes me to find beans, one place after the other closed for Ramadan til success is ours. But, we also mustn't forget the night of going out with roomies to the Senegalese place with yummmmmmy toppings over yucccckkky rice. Seems the local yummy rice gets exported to France, the yucky rice imported from Algeria or such.
And so as i recognize the difficulty of getting food, i decide to try out Ramadan for a few days, give the fasting thing a shot. Only, I drink liquids. They don't. Not a drop of water nor spit nor nothing sunrise to sunset. In the hottest place on Earth, Africa. But, I do realize that in numbers comes solidarity. People are ordealing this together. I have fasted before, but only with me & maybe another person or 2. This is a community act, but also an act of solidarity with the poor i am told. & a test in case @ one point in your life you find yourself involuntarily in a position of not having food nor water...
And so i see this shall be a tale of glory & hardship. The common endurance. The dust, donkeys, kindnesses, giraffes, hippos. The living softer and harder than I've ever done. The adventures to get the goods, buy the PVC for my shadow puppet stage with my Taureg room mate @ the aforementioned Petit Marche, people running hither and yon to make the sale. It woulda been alot easier @ the hardware store back home, but not quite the adventure nor glory nor something all together different than that from which I have fled 2 weeks past.
I am here in the dust.