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.