I first came to Niger in 2008 for a just-under-a-month-survey-trip. I had already signed on with SIM and had committed to Galmi Hospital, but since I was starting a new department I knew I had to scope out what was and wasn't available in therapeutic terms.
I'm not going to lie. As a result of that trip, it took around six months before I even wanted to come back to AFRICA, let alone Niger. There were many reasons . . . but the main root was fear.
When I finally came to terms with moving to Galmi, I confess, I was content with my decision to go, but I was not 'excited' about it. Niger is a hard place. A dry, dusty place. An extremely poor country. Niger doesn't host the exotic African allure as places like Kenya or South Africa. No one comes to Niger for vacation. Most people don't even know that it's a country . . . they think it's just the northern part of Nigeria.
Having been all over the world before coming to Niger, I knew where I could have been going. Lush rainforest (OH!!! RAIN!!! How I miss you! And FORESTS!!!) . . . breathtaking snowcapped mountain ranges (SNOW!!!!) . . . rich plains of grasslands (GRASS!!!) . . . posh cities (COFFEE SHOPS!!!) . . . eternal coastlines (THE OCEAN!!!!!!).
For the past three years I, when ever I thought of my relocation to Niger, I would say a quick prayer: Lord, please help me to someday find beauty in Niger.
I just assumed that day wouldn't come until the travel restrictions to Agadez were lifted and I could go camping in the Sahara.
But it came.
After only six months.
Riding in the bush taxi from Niamey back to Galmi I was struck at how green the countryside was. It's rainy season, and while here in Galmi we are REALLY hurting for rain (the millet is barely growing and it's looking like it will not be a good harvest) the rest of the span between us and Niamey seems to be faring a little bit better. There was even a field that I swear was grass. I wanted to jump out of the car, kick off my sandals, and run circles in that grass.
Seeing the green patches on the ground contrasting against the brick-red mud compound walls, I almost could bring myself to admit that I found it pretty.
But then it happened.
And couldn't stop myself from confessing that Niger is beautiful.
We were coming upon the outskirts of a small village. Three woman were stopped, standing on a path that traverses a millet field. The first was turned back, facing her friends, with a large wooden bowl on her head. The first friend was porting a baby on her back.
What struck me was the richness of the color in that scene. The depth of the tones of their skin. The brightness of the cobalt shall wrapped around the shoulders of the first woman. The full pallet equally portioned on their skirts. The boldness of the green growing at their feet. The red earth on which they were standing.
COLOR and such intense BEAUTY!
In drab, dusty, ugly Niger. My heart sang with praise . . . my prayer had been answered.