Although I’ve been blogging quite a bit, my posts seem rather uninformative. I do lots of analyzing, but haven’t revealed too much about my Peace Corps service. In order to give you (especially the readers I haven’t been able to talk with recently) a better understanding of my service, I’ve decided to post and answer some frequently asked questions.
Hope this is helpful. If you have another other questions, please feel free to email me or post a comment. I really appreciate all of you that read this blog. It means the absolute world to me.
When do you leave?
At 6:45 a.m. July 5, I will board a plane in Pierre that will take me to Denver then Philadelphia. On Tuesday, I check in for training, where I will receive more information and finalize some paperwork. The next day, July 7, I will board another plane that will take me to Paris and then Niamey, Niger. From there, I will head to my training.
What kind of training do you have?
My training is three months long and in country. At training, I will have extensive language instruction and be introduced to Niger and its customs. In September, if all goes as plan, I will be sworn in as a volunteer.
How long will you be gone?
I will be gone officially 27 months, three months for training and 24 for service.
Will you get to come home?
During my service, I will accrue vacation time like at any other job. I can use that vacation time however I wish. Because my dear brother Christopher is getting married in October 2011, I will use my time to return to South Dakota for the celebration. If something tragic were to happen, the Peace Corps would fly me home to be with my family. But that won’t happen ☺.
Do you get paid?
Technically no. I do, however, receive a living stipend to cover my costs. The Peace Corps is very insistent that you do not use your own money for extra things or to supplement this stipend. Part of the experience is to live at the level of the people you are helping, and the stipend is set to do that as well as take care of your needs.
I will also receive a readjustment allowance, which will help me restart my life once my service ends.
Do you know where in Niger you will be?
Not yet. Once I arrive at training, the Peace Corps will reexamine my skills with their needs and will place me accordingly.
What language will you speak?
The official language of Niger is French, which I studied for two years in college and practiced a bit when I took a 10-day international media course in Paris. We will be taught some French, but also a main dialect, Hausa or Zarma. I will not know which one I am to study until I receive my assignment.
Is it safe?
If you do a bit if research online, you’ll see some disturbing reports about Niger. However, after talking to several current and former volunteers, Niger seems to be a relatively safe and very welcoming country. To stay safe, volunteers just need to make good choices and use common sense. I am actually very excited to me the genuine people of Niger.
How will you be able to contact home?
In several ways, actually. The best and most reliable is by mail (so write me) but I will also have a phone, which I am told doesn’t have great service but texting works well. I have decided to take my computer and hope to have sporadic access to Internet to email, Skype and Facebook.
Can you have visitors?
Yes, yes and YES. Anyone and everyone are welcome to visit me. The only restriction on guests is that I can’t host anyone during training and the first and last three months of my training.
Where will you live?
During training, I will live with a host family that has been chosen by the Peace Corps. After that, I will find my own place. At this point, I am guessing it will be a mud hut of sorts.
What will you eat?
Niger is a landlocked country in the desert, so the vegetation is not strong. Rice, pasta and other grains are the main food. Meat is also prevalent in the diet. Because I do not want to disrespect Nigeriens or their culture, I have decided to give up my vegetarian diet while I am in Niger.
What will you do?
My job title is Community and Youth Educator/English Language Educator. I will not be teaching in a classroom, rather doing things outside to benefit education in my village, especially the education of girls. From what I’ve been told, I will not go to a job every day. Instead, I will make up my work as I go based on the need. I hope to really work with girls and promote writing and journalism as much as I can. There are other side projects of Peace Corps Niger, such as AIDS/HIV Awareness, that I can help with during my service.
What do you plan to do after the Peace Corps?
I have no idea and don’t intend to make plans until I’ve actually finished. I want this experience to rush over me and impact me in the way it needs to. At the end of two years, we’ll see where my life is and go from there.
Are you scared?
You bet, but that’s why I am doing this.