7 months Postblog from Niamey

Just about 7 months now since the “Niamey Campaign” began, since I left the glory glitter and gangstas of new orleans for the unknown and dust of west africa. now the dust coats everything just a little bit thicker, the sand gets deeper on the roadways, sometimes taxis getting stuck having to get pushed out by the nearby kidz. Niamey carves itself deeper in to me, I gaze toward the summer for flight to europe in june. okay, I’m getting a little sick of the squalor, dust, etc.!! and sometimes just a little sick...

much of the past couple of months here in Niamey have been shaped by the kidnapping of a couple of French guys from a local bar bout 2-3 miles from my house, one of the Unlucky or Targetted (depending on the source) about to be wed to a Nigerienne woman, the other his best man in town for the marriage between the worlds. the abducters got as far as the neighboring state of Mali where abducters and abductees were all exterminated in a hail of bullets from French Special Forces or maybe kidnappers, again accounts differing depending on opinion or source. because of this episode, the peace corps left the country as well as a study abroad program run through Boston University. other NGO’s potentially leave as well. there is something of a sense of flight in the “expat” community, except the missionaries and the chinese. no appearances of either one of these entities fleeing, nope. the locals are most effected as their opportunities for some kind of decent job/livelihood further diminishes with the security downgrades....

do I feel more “ in danger?” that the kidnappers will come for me? not really. my house, and job that is a mile away, are secure, guarded, etc. I rarely went out previously “on the town,” as much due to my language and transportation deficiencies as anything else. Now, almost never, except for when I had a couple of visitors from Israel and Mexico who were visitin, mutually conspiring to make things happen in this big friendly sleepy African village of about a million. one of the better social spots we went to is a bar called “Le Cloche,” formerly frequented mostly by the French and locals, but now mostly locals due to French flight and security concerns. there are pool tables and a funny atmosphere punctuated by a “midget” who is something of the maître’d and the ensemble of friendly prostitutes in their ridiculous showy flashy garbs...

so that’s something of the Scene. life for me centers mostly upon the school where I work, where enrollment has plummeted from about 80 a few years back to its present 49, further increasing the sense of flight in the surroundings. my class is converting the book The Phantom Tollbooth in to a play, a book where the main character Milo sees little use in learning such things as “adding turnips to turnips” or “learning to spell February." we do some lessons on waste disposal/resource conservation in science, discus the slave trade in social studies, start up a Drum Corps in an after-school class, etc. I am taking French lessons on the side and learning how to ask people if they are married and how many kids they want to have...

went to the local missionary school last week for their quarterly “Casa del Burrito” where they serve up various Mexican dishes in a festive outdoor environment. my table had my school’s recreation center director Ginger and her local husband; the assistant to the U.S. Ambassador, Lucy; myself; and a local friend of mine, Naba, who works at the school. definitely no sense of deprivation nor flight amongst the missionaries. their enrollment increases proportionally to our losses, their tuition kept reasonable by an unsalaried missionary teacher corps, their dedication unwavering amongst kidnappings and risilent Faith...

couple weeks ago went to the definitely coolest sounding African city, “Ouagadougou,” in the neighboring country of Burkina Faso, formerly called Upper Volta some years back. went there with our school’s softball team for a tournament. didn’t see a whole lot of the town, but it definitely has a more energized feel than Niamey. heard drumming in the evening, saw lots of bicyclists, including women. women rarely ride bikes in Niamey because of a more strident version of Islam here, from what I understand, or women not being “athletic” here in Niger as stated by another, or a cross somewhere between the two. my brother Nelson tells me that Ouagadougou is 30% Christian, 30% Islamic, and 100% Animist, animists evidently seeing no shame in the bicycle, nor music for that matter. maybe not so different from the States...

are things a bit gritty and grim a little less glorified from my previous journalings, though I do recall one previous blogging alluding to fluids fleeing my body like ex-patriots after the coup? the dust gets thicker, the various bacterias accumulate in this foreigner’s gut in this some times wretched wretching corner of the earth, the sense of newness deteriorates into honest assessments that yes this dusty corner of the earth can at times be accused of being a “Shit hole”....though I did neglect to mention the magical scene a couple nights back of playing drums for the local kids in the street as they danced about wildly, the night time foosball games with other Nigerienne youth up the street, etc....so it goes so it goes....and goes...from the ever shifting sands of sub-saharan landlocked west africa next to the so-called “Slave Coast,” historic departure point of Africans on their way to the Americas for a life of toil and servitude bout 500 years ago yesterday we learn about in my social studies class...

& so with that cheery thought, let us now turn out attention to my awakening this morn to the sounds of explosions, a text message from the director of the school where I work to stay home, to activate the “school phone tree” to alert the students & parents there shall not be school on account of unaccounted for explosions in the distance. there is excitement in the air. what kind of danger might be lurking, what armed menace outside our walls? my local housemate informs me that the 2nd in command in the army is on trial for treason or such, maybe there is a disturbance out at the military barracks outside of town, maybe maybe in the land of African speculation. what if we need to flee? this the classic moment of what you would take and why under such immediate circumstances. but, a call to my brother 2 blocks away lessens the tension as he informs me that he has heard there has been an accident involving a military truck and some propane tanks, which sounds suspicious and odd, but actually turns out to be the case, verified by the eyewitness reliable account of him going up on his roof to see smoke billowing in the distance from an unsuspicious location....

& so the interesting bizarre surreal moments of the “Anasorra” (white person) in Niger, attempting to get information on mysterious goings ons, a consistent endeavor for this relative newbie to the region. where do you go if you get completely sick, injured, need a root canal, want to see the town, let alone resolving a contract dispute with a sometimes despotic school headmaster, etc? where do you get your info, the News, etc. to find out what’s what? don’t think the previously mentioned accident will quite make CNN nor Fox. maybe get The News from the tv that plays outdoors by the foosball tables I play with the local kids and where I get my yogurt drinks, powdered milk, juice boxes, sodas? very outside chance maybe it’ll be broadcasting something bout something or perhaps more likely a patron could have heard the latest rumor, though my french still sux ass and I still could not be accused of being anything resembling fluent. learning just enough to make out half the truth, ask how much papayas cost by the kilo, etc. etc. & my bro offers up that the guards for the U.S. Embassy worker across the street from my house are likely to know what’s going down, if something is going down....yeah, it’s the sorting out the details, making those connections, hell figuring out what the hell is going on and how to get there without a car and minimal language skills to boot, etc etc ....

is this turning in to some sort of surrealist rant? no, that’s just the way it is it is, through these eyes necessarily conditioned and pre-conditioned by a world far more than the half way round the globe it purports to be, and perhaps still is, that stole the ancestors of my colleagues and neighbors from these shores half a millennia ago. in case you cared or are still reading, I do in fact have a right to be indignant, especially since I declared today amongst my colleagues over some carnivorous lunchtime dish that "I am no longer Vegetarian, but Nigerienne"...Please, tell me America, if I can’t put my toes in the Pacific Ocean does it still exist? are trees falling that i am not there to hear? chat me up on Facebook, sponsor of the African revolutions with Twitter and Google, to let-me-know.com....

peace.

Comments

1 Response to '7 months Postblog from Niamey'

  1. wildegurl
    http://www.spooncafejournal.org/2011/03/7-months-postblog-from-niamey.html?showComment=1300491219221#c7087621242772296225'> March 18, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    I love the stories you tell and the way you tell them!

    Please take care.

     

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