First off there's the language barrier. Sure my French is good enough . . . but my Hausa is not. Then there's the cultural barrier. There's a set of rules for the intra-Nigerien relationships and a whole different set of rules for the Nigerien-Batura relationships . . . and I still don't know any of them.
But being a single woman here throws an additional curveball into the mix. The young, single girls consider me to be competition and therefore keep me at a distance. The married women with children who are my age don't understand me as I'm not married, and therefore keep me at a distance. And then there's the men . . . and if you've been reading this blog since I've arrived, you know all about my interactions with Nigerien men.
Since I've arrived several people have told me that there's a woman that works in the hospital that I need to meet. Everyone is sure we will be great friends. She's 32 and has been a widow for 10 years. We finally met yesterday and made a plan to get together this evening. She would come to my house at 6:30pm and take me to her house.
E. is the first 'friend' to invite me over. I've been inside a few Nigerien homes, but only briefly, and never for an 'official' visit. I was excited, but a little unsure about the etiquette. Do I bring a gift? How long do I stay? What is expected of me during this visit? What will we talk about? Etc.
I asked around and was reminded that I needed to dress nicely, as it is a major sign of respect here. No gift necessary (but I found out her birthday was two days ago, so I pulled a little something together). Around an hour would be sufficient. And no one was sure exactly about the conversation.
I was stoked. I rushed home from work to jump in the shower and iron one of my new outfits. I even changed my earrings for the occasion!
By 7 I figured everything was on schedule, with 'Africa Time' and all . . . by 7:30 I was getting antsy . . . by 8 a little concerned . . . and at 8:30 finally gave up and decided to blog about it.
I'm not disappointed because she didn't come and she told me she would. She's a single mom with two kids. Maybe she got lost. Doesn't matter. I'm here for 2 1/2 years (this term), so we've got plenty of time to reschedule.
No, I'm disappointed because she didn't come and I spent nearly an hour trying to tie my calibi.
I tell you what . . . there is an art and a science to not only tying those suckers, but getting them to stay on my head! African women's hair is much more coarse than mine . . . and I have an abnormally small head. I tried ever technique I've learned so far . . . NOTHING! They would all either fall off once I moved or untie themselves or fall down over my face. It was RIDICULOUS!
I finally managed to get it to tie: it was pulled really tight in the front and knotted and tucked in the back. It made my head look as small as a pea . . . but it was on and I wasn't taking it off.
And I didn't . . . even when the power went out and the sweat was dripping down my face. I refused to tie that sucker one more time tonight.
Next time I think I will wait for my Nigerien friend to show and let her do the tying.