15 September 2011
I’m sitting in my room at the guesthouse in Niamey, thanking God for a ceiling fan and sufficient electricity . . . the same place I last was in Niger back in 2008. Fitting I guess: one journey starts where the other left off.
The call to prayer from a nearby m*sque is echoing between the walls. My feet are red from the dirt and my back is saturated with sweat where my camera bag had been.
I arrived in Niger at 4:30something this afternoon. I could feel the thick hot air mix with the plane’s air conditioning as I neared the exit door of the plane . . . the sky white and dusty. As we descended the steps, they herded us onto a shuttle bus. Once the doors closed, we rode for 25 seconds . . . YES! SECONDS! (I counted this time!) from the plane to a must-have-been-recently-renovated arrivals terminal.
I made my way through customs with two guys from Texas (one wearing a Yankee’s hat which made me a little bit homesick) . . . I could totally identify with their sigh of relief when I told them I spoke English and French. And WHAT A DIFFERENCE LANGUAGE MAKES!!!!
After being on the plane about an hour I had remembered two things I forgot to do in France: 1. take extra passport photos; 2. write down the phone numbers and addresses of folks in Niamey, just in case. OOPS! But I was reassured at the thought that this time I’d be going through customs in Niger well equipped with French. And what a breeze it was!! I could understand the customs officials, refuse the help of unwanted porters (until I found the one who knew my name!) and even joke with fellow passengers about the wereabouts of luggage.
Speaking of which . . . I am happy to report that all my bags arrived with me . . . and my jar of Speculoos didn’t break . . . so I think I will be just fine!
I was met at the airport by L, my teamleader and soon-to-be-next-door-neighbor. We met back in 2008 when I was here visiting. What a blessing to have a familiar face waiting!
The drive to the guesthouse took us past many places that were familiar upon seeing. But I was still taken aback by the rust colored dirt that is EVERYWHERE. Not a natural first-mental-picture: sidewalks of sand. Streets are lined with single room shops and stalls . . . some are cement while others resemble small metal shipping containers. I did see one ‘real’ gas station . . . as opposed to the random side-of-the-road tables topped with gin bottles full of gasoline for sale. You know what else they put in gin bottles: peanuts! We stopped to buy fruit tonight (the BIGGEST pineapples I’ve ever seen!) and the vendor also had bottles of peanuts . . . gives recycling a whole new meaning!
It’s a bit surreal to be here. It’s been a long road . . . and as I round this bend I’m struck that it is longer still.
There’s no internet at the guesthouse. It’s weird. I never realized how much I have come to depend on the web until it’s gone. But here I am . . . no wifi . . . not even an ethernet cable to hook into . . . no dial-up . . . and certainly no 3G to back-door facebook with my kindle (which has been a super-tool in getting me out of some pretty tricky communication pickles when I’ve been phoneless . . . Amazon, I think I owe you!).
So yeah, it’s weird. Who know’s when this will actually get posted. Maybe by then I’ll have downloaded some photos off my camera so you can see what this world I’ve been trying to describe really is.
Anyway, it’s late and if I keep chronicling all of this, you’re going to have a LOT of back-reading to do! Bonne nuit!