Sunday, September 26, 2010

Yesterday I took the longest bus trip of my life. It clocked in at a total of 14 hours! 14 HOURS! I've never driven across the United States but I'm pretty sure if you drove for 14 hours you would be at least to Georgia if you were starting in California of course. Luckily I brought a lot of snacks for the bus. :) I'm now officially in my permanent region. Yay but now comes the scary part...for the next month I'm all alone getting to know my village and speaking Hausa. I also won't have internet access for the next month either. So to keep you entertained while I'm away I have included the following link which gives you an incredibly accruate view of my life in Niger.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We're Official

As of 10 AM this morning thirty of us swore in as the newest volunteers in Niger. Our swear in was at the US Ambassador's House which could not be more beautiful. The best part of the entire ceremony was our early morning cocktail hour in which they served such American staples as BBQ CHIPS and cake! I really love BBQ chips. Three trainees gave very funny speeches in our native languages and the Ambassador had some really nice things to say as well.

So now we get ready for the really hard part...goodbye. Due to some circumstances we said goodbye to another trainee this week. He was a great guy and a close friend of mine and was definately not an easy goodbye. Not to mention just the beginning of a lot of other really hard goodbyes I have to say in the next couple of days. We have tomorrow off to hang out and prepare to move in to our permanent posts then on Saturday I say goodbye to some of my closest friends that are in other regions. The rules of Peace Corps Niger go a little something like this...first month at post don't leave your village...first three months at post don't leave your region. Considering I've spent everyday in this country with my fellow trainees right beside me it's really scary to imagine being away from them.

But for now I'm pretty darn happy..I got to eat a burger, fries and beer for lunch! It was no Chili's but it was still pretty good. I really love Chili's. In fact I suggest anyone reading this go Chili's today for lunch, order the chips and salsa and a mango tea. (Casey and Kimie's moms if you're reading this please tell them that you want to take them to Chili's for their first meal back. Trust me they'll laugh really hard and seeing as I won't be seeing them for three months I want to send them some humor).

Okay, there are a ton of people waiting to use the computers so I am going to go but hopefully I'll be able to post about the wonderful dinner we're having tonight to celebrate. Just as a teaser it involves mashed potatoes and chocolate cake.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My New Normal

I was contemplating yesterday what I would blog about and thought wow nothing interesting has really happened this week so I've got nothing. Then I realized that lots of interesting things have happened but my sense of normal is just totally skewed now.

First of all after my post last week we headed to the bush taxi stand and hopped into a van with 22 other people in a 16 person van. It's the worst part of coming into the capital by far. I was sandwiched between Kimie and the wall. There were five of us on the 3 person bench so let's just say it was a far cry from comfortable. The drivers of the bush taxis love to tell you they are leaving right away and then let you melt away in the sun. It's their real goal in life to have you sweat every drop of water you have had in the past 36 hours out. So anyway, we're sitting and sweating and they all of the sudden pop the hatchback open...a bush taxi for reference is like one of those kidnapper vans I think VW makes know no identifying marks only a couple windows...anywho they pop the back open and slide something under the seat. Suddenly I feel something against my feet and hear Kimie scream. Then I realize the thing against my feet is actually pecking me. It was chickens!! LIVE CHICKENS UNDER MY FEET!! It's about a 45 minute ride home and we sat and waited about another 30 minutes after the chickens joined us. So that is how we rode. Kimie and I trying to keep our feet out of pecking distance and repeating to ourselves as we do daily...we live in Africa.

My second odd moment of the week was when my host dad who is a farmer walked up with his donkey and donkey cart and asked me and my friends if we liked his ride? We all laughed and said yes then I told him I wanted to go for a joy ride. Seeing as he doesn't speak a word of English he just smiled and nodded as he does to most things I say. Then I managed to say in Hausa I'm going to take the cart for a spin. Apparently this was exactly what he was waiting to hear and sent my little host sister to get a mat to lay down so that Kimie, Casey, Janice, our little neighbor girl, my host sister, and me could ride to the market. So there we were all piled in and ready to go and we took off at a whopping speed of 1 mile per hour. Apparently 4 grown women plus two children was a bit much for one donkey. But we made it to the market and everyone hopped out but me, my sister and neighbor. I was calmly saying goodbye when all the sudden we took off..this time going much faster!! Before I even knew what was happening Janice was chasing after little neighbor was clutching my arm and giving me a look of terror and we were racing to the fields. I begged in broken Hausa for my sister to stop but she LOVES attention and trust me a white girl in a donkey cart in Niger is one of the most entertaining things most villagers have ever seen. I realized as I was watching the millet rush by that I had to pull a Speed move (you know when Sandra Bullock jumps from the bus at the end of the movie...she does jump right? otherwise this whole analogy doesn't make sense anywho..) I grabbed my neighbor in my arms and inched to the back of the cart and jumped. In my mind the second before I jumped I pictured us rolling on the ground like they do in the action films but then I realized the cart is only 5 feet of the ground and if I just let my legs hang I could just stand up and let the cart drive away. So that is how I rescued my neighbor and myself from the racing donkey cart.

Maybe these stories aren't unusual or interesting but I think Stephanie 4 months ago would have thought they were so I hope you do too. Now I'm off to the bush taxi...Kimie and I have a new game..whereas we used to guess how many people would be squeezed we guess what's going to be the strangest thing posing as a passenger. I miss everyone in America.

P.S. Here is my new address....I'm moving on Saturday to my post. Scary!!

Corps de la Paix
BP 641, Zinder Niger
West Africa

Sunday, September 12, 2010

This week has been one of the roughtest my training class has had. One of my closest friends here and one of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing chose to go home. It was the right decision for her and she spent a lot of time thinking about it but I still miss her terribly. I am very much looking forward to our reunion in two years!

On a happier note this week also marked the end of Ramadan which meant a day off! We had Thursday off the celebrate the holiday with our families and we spent the whole day doing my favorite thing in the whole world...EATING! To make things even better my friend Casey got to come and stay with my roommate and I for two days for the fete. We slept in until about 8 and then realized that everyone was migrating to the field for prayer. We met almost the whole town out in the millet fields and watched as the Chef de Canton (aka Kingish person) came in on his horses and everyone bowed. I can only compare it to Easter Sunday. Everyone had new fancy suits on and clothes especially made for the day. As part of the celebration people are expected to give gifts to the children. Seeing as this was my first time celebrating I was a little unprepared and ended up gifting cookies I had previously purchased, I think I mentioned them in another blog they are the butter kind that come in a blue tin..Anyway, after we left the field we went back to my house and ate breakfast which was the best part of the whole day. Actually to really understand you're going to need a little back story first. There are these two chickens that live on our property. They are the MOST annoying things I have ever encountered. I don't know who taught me that chickens only crow at sunrise but that is BS! They crow all the time all day long. So my roommate and I have been talking about killing them since we met them. So to our lovely surprise on Thursday when our mom unveiled our breakfast I suddenly realized why I had been able to sleep until 8...the chickens are DEAD!! It was by far the best meal I have had since I arrived!

RIP Chickens.

Other than that the week has been pretty uneventful. We're about to enter our last week of training which is really exciting. Swear in date of September 23 is rapidly approaching. I took my material to the tailor today and here's hoping he could understand my description of my dress and is able to have it ready next Sunday...everything is a gamble here. Friday is my very last night with my host family and Casey is going to join in again for the farewell festival. Then everyone is moving up to site together for our last official week of training. Well I'm off to read the latest gossip headlines before I'm booted off the internet for another week.

Hope all is well in the States.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Language Immersion

As I write this I am on the tail-end of language immersion. After my last post we were let off of stand fast on Monday morning and then sent to our language immersion sites Weds morning at 4 am! We took a 12 hour bus trip to another city away from the capital that I spent the majority of sleeping beside my friend Laura (Corey if you're reading this she is doing well). When we reached the bus stop we were driven to the hostel and hung out for a while hoping the rain storm that was coming down so hard on us would stop but our anticipation was to no avail. We finally gave in and loaded into the jeep. Approximately 14 of us in a 10 passenger car because that's how things are done here. Unfortunately, what should have been a 7k ride turned into a 45 minute ride because the road we would normally take had become a river. We did some pretty amazing off roading and finally arrived at our home for the next two weeks. The children of the village could not have been more excited to see us. There were approximately 50 kids no exaggeration that flooded into the concession. These children soon joined us on our tour of the village which included meeting the 93 year old man with 60 kids!!! That's right 60 SURVIVING children. I don't know what this man is doing or taking but some pharmecutical company needs to get over here and find out!! He goes by the title Sarki which in Hausa means King. Which means there are 60 princes and princesses in this little town. This was only the beginning of a very interesting experience. I was very lucky and Kimie one of my best friends here was on immersion with me and we were joined by two other amazing girls. Highlights of the trip included meeting our first Nigerien "little person", eating breakfast burritos!!, hanging out in the sarki's compound aka his castle, and just hanging out with amazing people. Some of the lower points of the trip were the 50 children who literally climbed the wall to see us, our 4 am wake up call, and the leaky roof. I want to expand upon the 4am wake up call because it probably sounds a little bad but trust me it was horrible!! It is Ramadan in Niger so everyone wakes up as early as possible to eat. Our neighbor in the village sold this fried dough every morning and for some reason found the boy with the highest pitch voice I have ever heard in my life to yell from 4 AM to 5 AM everyday. He would say wanki da maya 100 times in an hour. It took us five days to figure out that it was actually a human making the noise that's how bad it was. One major part about being here though is learning to roll with the punches so every morning at 4 we would all wake up and just laugh at the absurdity of it all. Then on one of our final days we held a meeting with the mayor near the mosque and happened to mention to the mayor that we weren't getting great sleep becuase of the gremlin that yelled every morning. Immediately everyone turned towards this little boy and laughed. Magically after that morning the yelling stopped. Oh my! I almost forgot the best part of immersion we did our first lesson on hand washing in Hausa. Sunday morning we taught about 20 kids the importance of washing your hands and covering your food. We used ash as soap since soap is a bit expensive here. It went so much better than could have been expected and really reminded me why I'm here. We're now only three weeks away from swear in on September 23rd which will mark the end of training and will mean I'm officially living alone. I'm scared but so excited. For now I'm spending the night speaking English again thank goodness and enjoying the comforts of the hostel which include running water and electricity!! We made a food run earlier and I almost burst into tears because they had those danish cookies you get in a tin that are so delicious I know that one reader out there knows exactly what I'm talking about they are so good with water which is great since that's my one choice here. Also they had pringles, grapes, and DIET COKE! My coke addiction is back. :)
Anywho, I better get going there is a pretty long line of people waiting to contact their families back home. Miss everyone!

PS My parents posted those pictures and wow.....where were you Sam when the editing was happening!

PPS Please forgive my spelling errors this computer thinks I'm writing in French so every word is mispelled.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pictures from Niger

My home at training

My host family's house

The girls watching SATC

PC Volunteers listening to instructors on Tree Planting Day

Our plan for the day.

A random camel in the marketplace.

My birthday dinner in the capital of Niamey.

Beer. A very special treat.

My new necklace from Casey

Making bush mashed potatoes

My concession

More Pictures from Niger

These are obviously pictures from my language class which is held at my house and my donkey Sally. If you look behind the chalk board in the first picture you can see my lunch on the ground and the mat we eat on every day.

Even More Pictures From Niger

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stand Fast

So this weekend was my very first terrorist alert! Nothing major just told by the Embassy to stay put where we are. So instead of going to see my new home with electricity and two rooms near the French club...we were locked up on site. We found out Friday afternoon and spent Friday night watching Friends episodes and being bored. Saturday we had a volleyball tournament but eventually the heat got to all of us and we hid inside and started to contract cabin fever. As a result we held a talent show...I did not perform though I was begged to perform stand up comedy..apparently overseas I'm funny. I declined the invitation. To attend the show we all put on some "American" clothes. It was the first time I have worn jeans and exposed my shoulders in six weeks. After everyone performed awards were given. Even though I did not participate I won the Most American Award. AKA PUT SOME FREAKING CLOTHES ON AWARD! :) With it came a bag of M&M's so I will expose my shoulders any day for that.

Today we decided we couldn't take it any longer and begged our Dad aka our program director to let us go to the Embassy rec center. He granted us our wish and we were allowed to go swimming!! BUT on the way our driver got confused and took us to the cultural center instead. He parked on the side of the road near a news stand and we all started to get off. I'm still not sure how it happened but for some reason my culturally appropriate wrap fell off and was around my ankles and I was left standing in my bikini bottoms by the side of the road. Apparently my Americaness carried over. The men were appalled. I'm pretty sure it's one of the most culturally offensive things one could ever do. At least I scratch that off my to do list. :)

I promise to stay safe but please call and save me from the boredom!! Not sure how much longer I'll be in lockdown.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Never Have I Ever

I must say "Never have I ever" everyday. Africa is quite the adventure. I'm not sure what I posted last blog and the connection is so slow I can't go check so figure me for duplicating any information. As far as the geography turn on national geographic and look at Africa with it's huts and you have my life. I live in a round hut with a roommate and we sleep outside in our bug nuts. I'm finally starting to get used the noise when I'm falling asleep. Chickens have become the bane of my existence. Note to those city folks like me chickens don't just crow in the morning they crow all night long!! And goats which were so cute at first also make a horrible noise and eat everything. My host family is really nice and I'm so fortunate to have them. They are so patient with me and my language. I'm learning the native language of Hausa. We had our first exam this week and I placed novice high which meant I held a 15 minute conversation about my day and family. I was really pleased as I didn't even know what Hausa was four weeks ago. We don't have electricity or water so I am becoming very accustomed to bucket baths. My "bathroom" is millet stalk in a circle with a hole in the ground of a concrete slab. If I ever get faster internet I will post pictures. My typical day goes a little something like this. Wake up at 6am and go for a run through the millet fields or along the road. I love running in the morning because you get to see all the farmers on their way to work and they are all so nice. Nigeriens are some of the nicest people I have ever met. After my run I go to the market and get some breakfast normally yogurt from my favorite salesman who owns the orange store. He's very sweet and practices my Hausa greetings with me everyday. Then I head home. Heading home means walking about a quarter mile and the entire time hearing my name "Ramatou" yelled to me from the children of the village. Being American has made me a superstar. It's pretty amazing. I go home and take a quick bucket bath which is just as it sounds. I sit on a stool and dump cups of water over my head. Then I get dressed and walk out to the tree in my yard for class. There are two other girls in my class. We meet for language at 8:30. We are normally joined by my donkey, Sally. She loves to eat chalk. Depending on the day I'll sometimes head to the teacher's house for a technical session on Municipal Development or cultural class about Islam or other Nigerien traditions. At 12 I go back home and eat rice and sauce for lunch. Side note: If you're wondering, this is what I EAT every lunch and EVERY dinner. It's not amazing..let's just say I've lost 10 lbs. :) But my family gives what they can. After lunch I read a little and then go back to class until 5. At 5 I head to the market for my afternoon chat session with my friends and a cold coke. Coke is amazing and it seriously makes my day! Around 8 I eat dinner with my family and try to practice Hausa or read and by nine I'm hanging my bug net and making my bed. And soon I'm fast asleep. Two days a week we go up a hill to the PC site and we have community sessions with all 31 of us. I love everyone I'm here with. I'm so lucky. We are all very supportive of each other. These days we get to eat American-ish food and at lunch we get to watch DVDs! I LOVE IT! After training for the day is done we play sports. I'm co-sports chair which means I am supposed to plan tournaments...oops note to self do that tonight. I normally head down to the basketball court and play with some of the teachers. One of the guys played on the national team and is really good. Unfortunately, he only speaks French so when we are on the same team we have a hard time communicating. Anyone know the word for "pick or rebound" in French? I have seen some really amazing things already. Tuesday was Independence day and we got to plant trees at the school with our families and then went to a carnival. I use the word carnival very loosely. It was really just a couple games but a ton of fun. Tuesday, my village's market day I got to see a camel. They sometimes bring them in to sell or to just transport things. I will try and post the pictures. This weekend I came to the capital and I got to go the embassy and go swimming. It was so amazing. They have a cafe with American food so I got to eat a hamburger and fries. So good! It was strange I forgot I was even in Niger while I was there. We took a bush taxi here which is always interesting. It's essentially a van packed full of people. I neogiated my first purchase today and bought two yards of linen. It's a little stressful especially with my limited language but I got a really good price. I can't think of all the questions you guys might have so please post away. I have to go now otherwise I won't be home before dark. I MISS EVERYONE!! Please write letters. It makes my day when I get mail and I promise to write back.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hi Everyone, this is Chris, Steph's Dad. Steph got her cell phone today! The country code for Niger is 227 so her phone number is 011-227-9842-1649. Niger is 8 hours ahead of PST. We called her using Skype and it worked really well. Steph is doing well and would love to receive letters. A letter to Niger requires a 98 cent stamp and you can drop the letter in any US mailbox.

Monday, July 26, 2010

i am here

hey everyone. sorry this is going to be horribly typed. i am in a computer lab on a french keyboard that looks 100 years old

i made it safely and thus far love everything my host dad is a farmer so i live in a round hut on a farm we have goats donkeys and these chickens that wake me up at five every morning i eat millet and sauce or rice and sauce every lunch and dinner my host family is great but i am still trying to figure out the number of wives my dad has i sleep outside my hut that my roommate and i share my language classes are at my house in the yard and our baby donkey always eats my teachers papers i named her sally i will post pictures later

the people are amazing and so patient the kids think i am the most interesting thing ever and carry your stuff everywhere and they are so adorable i have so much more to tell but my time is running up

i miss you all and please write letters

hope to update more soon

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Final Days In America

I have made it safely to Philadelphia and somehow managed to get all 80lbs to the hotel. Now it's strewn about in hopes of being repacked in a more efficient way. My hopes aren't too high of achieving that goal.

Before I leave I wanted everyone to know that if you want to send a letter or something small but you don't want to pay a ton of money to get it to me you can send it to my dad's house and he will throw it in my monthly package that my step mom is hopefully sending. The address is:

5113 E Kings Ave

Scottsdale, Arizona 85254

Thanks again for all the thoughts and prayers. I leave tomorrow for Niger and will arrive Thursday evening. In the meantime I'll be eating all the American food I can get my hands on!

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Last Breakfast Burrito

Here we go, the day is here. I can't believe how quickly it came. After many weigh ins I have hit the official 80 lb limit with food and supplies and just a few clothes. Now my bags just sit by the front door awaiting their departure. Thankfully my dad and step mom are preparing my last breakfast for me...BREAKFAST BURRITOS!!!!

Before I go I wanted to say thank you one more time to everyone and provide the mailing address everyone has been asking for. So here we go:


Stephanie Chance, PCV
Corps de la Paix
B. P. 10537
Niamey, Niger

I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with all of you and can't wait until these blogs are more interestingly filled with stories of camels and language mistakes. :)

Until revoir.

Friday, July 2, 2010

...But I Really Love Breakfast Burritios

The past few weeks have been to say the least difficult. It's consisted of a lot of goodbyes and a ton of packing. Luckily I have the world's greatest little sister and she has been helping me get out of my apartment. Unfortunately, she can't help me with the say goodbye to your friends and family for two years part.

The goodbyes kicked off across the country in South Carolina. I lucked out and my family moved our annual family trip up a few months and I got to say goodbye to most of my South Carolina Chance family in person. We rented a beach house in Charleston and I got a lot of good family bonding time in. Also, a special friend from NC drove down and spent a day at the beach with me. The week went really quickly as most vacations do but I'm so happy I got to go.

I got back worked three days and then before I knew it, it was my last day as an auditor. It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye as I really adore a lot of my coworkers and clients (I'm going to use this time to make the shout out to Jamie at Kona that I promised..but I don't want Steve to feel left out either so hi Steve) but being funemployed has been pretty great too. After work I drove out to California to say goodbye to my mom, car, and dog. Time went very quickly, I enjoyed one last wonderful Southern meal of chicken and dumplings and then I was on my way to the airport after a tearful goodbye with my mom, step dad, dog, and step sisters.

Since I accepted my invitation I have been saying I will not be having a goodbye party but after realizing how little time was left and how many people there were to see I gave in and had a see ya later party on Saturday night. It only made me realize more than I already had how wonderful my friends are as many of them have made trips from Tucson and across the valley to wish me well. At the end of the night a few of us headed over to Super Burrito for my last late night breakfast burrito. For anyone that doesn't know I LOVE BREAKFAST BURRITOS! Sadly, I think this may be something I miss the most as far as food goes. (I still haven't given up on figuring out a way to introduce the breakfast burrito to my village.)

So with only four days left before I leave for Philly I'm trying to somehow pack only 80 lbs and trying to pull myself together long enough to say goodbye to everyone else.

I leave for Philly on Monday and spend a couple days there getting shots and meeting my future best friends then we all board a plane to Niger. I'll blog one more time before I go to leave my mailing address etc. In the meantime, thank you to everyone that has helped me get to this point. I'm so grateful for the support I have received. Please know I love each of you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Twelve Days of Counting

In just twelve days I will venture into the African desert for 27 months for the adventure of my life. I am hoping through this blog I'll be able to keep in touch with all of my friends and family.

So, why the heck am I doing this; leaving my job, apartment, dog, family and friends to live in 120 degree heat without electricity? Have I secretly been an adventurer these past few years? Am I really not the OCD, type A person I come off as? Not at all!

A long time ago I decided that the Peace Corps was a dream of mine, but a year ago I decided to make it a reality. I've always enjoyed helping people and the idea of spending 27 months doing just that really called to me. Also, the idea of learning a foreign language and living abroad experiencing another culture didn't sound too bad either. The application process has been long and trying and I''m so lucky that I had so many friends and family supporting me through the past year. But then just a few weeks ago, the application process came to an abrupt end when I received a phone call notifying me I would leaving for Africa on July 5th. After receiving my full assignment I have learned I'll be living in Niger, Africa serving as a Community Development Agent. I'll also not only be learning one foreign language but two!

I'm hoping through this blog I'll be able to keep everyone updated with my adventures and keep connections to home. Thank you to everyone who has helped me in the past year, I wouldn't be doing this without your support! I promise to post more information later including my mailing address.

For revoir