On September 23rd, I will, along with my 33 new best friends, officially become Volunteers for Peace Corps Niger. Two weeks later, a new group of Americans will begin their training and life in Niger. (Found out recently that my friend Alynn has a former coworker who will be joining us as a health volunteers. The world constantly shocks me with its smallness.)
My fellow trainees and I have commented that we all scoured the Internet looking for anything we can about Niger. Some even came to this blog, and one told me he was very disappointed to see no actual information about Niger but a woman rambling about South Dakota.
As I near the end of training (two weeks!), I remember that month before coming here still clearly and thought I would write a post for those who will be joining us in October. My blog is linked to the PC Blogs, so I imagine it’s not terribly difficult to find. Also, I scoured blogs throughout the application and would like this one to be helpful for anyone who is considering the Peace Corps or is in motion to get that invite.
For my loyal readers, this may be helpful for you to better understand my first two months in country. I hope this helps and if anyone, a PC Niger Invitee or everyone else, has any questions, please put them in the comments section and I will respond when I can.
Peace Corps Niger
– Remember what you find on the Interent about Niger is not necessarily reflective of this country (outside of this log of course). To know Niger is to experience it.
– It’s OK to indulge before you come. I ate mostly potato chips before I came.
– Scared is normal. Everyone will feel scared, and having that emotion in common will bring you closer to the other trainees. When you get to country, you’ll meet people who were in your place at one point and are more than willing to guide you along. I’ve only been here two months and I am not sure I’ll ever stop being scared, but it’s also why I came here.
– PC will give you a packing list and you can find others online, but here are my essentials:
- Sleeping Bag and Sheets
- Head lamp
- Comforts of home, such as my journal, iPod and pictures
– Other good things to bring:
- Clothes – You can buy them here and you will, but it will be a few weeks before you are able to do that. If you don’t mind wearing the same two outfits for two weeks, just bring those. I wanted to have a few more options so I brought about six skirts and 7-8 tops.
– For women, head scarves are great. Nigeriens women cover their heads, but we are not expected to. I and many other volunteers do cover our heads – not every day – as a way to integrate. Nigerien LOVE it. My village is pretty conservative so I intend to cover my head all day. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s not a big deal if you don’t. All of people don’t.
– PC will recommend to buy durable sandals and will give you a few recommended brands. I went out bought Chacos, and although they are comfortable, they are a bit of a pain. In Niger, you are constantly taking off your shoes to sit on mats and enter huts. The shoes are also quite expensive and Nigeriens will ask you how much everything you own costs, and I often feel ridiculously saying that one pair of sandals cost $100. But, again, they are really comfortable and if you want to go with them, I hear Chacos and Keens have discounts for PC volunteers. My suggestion is a sturdy pair of flip flops.
– Computer: I debated for a while whether or not to bring mine. A few volunteers recommended that I do and since I used to live on mine before PC, I decided to bring it along. Honestly, I am so happy to have it hear to write and watch my videos.
– Pump your iPod and computer full of movies, music and TV Shows. Some volunteers even brought external hard drives full of that stuff. It’s a really nice comfort to have.
– Internet – Don’t expect to have access for at least the first three weeks, maybe a month. And don’t expect it to be regular or at all fast or reliable. You’ll have it, but it may not be more than once a month.
– Same with amenities such as electricity and water. Some volunteers have those at post, others do not (like yours truly). Go in with no expectations and you’ll be better off.
– Phone – You’ll get one about four weeks in and you are recurred to get one for security reasons. You’ll be able to call home, but it’s expensive. It’s best to have your family and friends set up Stanacard and Skype accounts to call. Also you can text in country (I am getting awesome at texting in French thanks to a Nigerien friend) but rarely to the states. Sometimes it works, but not usually.
– Don’t bring precious jewelry or mementos. Niger destroys everything. Electronics are find with hard and protective cases.
– It’s OK to just sit and stare at Nigeriens.
– Don’t have high expectations for food
– When you get to the airport there will be a giant man waiting for you. He will be your savior in all ways. And then he’ll laugh, and you will feel at home.
– It’s OK to cry.
– Language may get frustrating at times, but never let that stress take away from this experience.
– It will be easy to do so, but never compare yourself to other volunteers.
– Always remember that you deserve this just as much as other people do.
– Someone else’s PC experience will not be yours.
– Other PC countries may have waterfalls, oceans and mountains, but they don’t have the compassion and generosity of Nigeriens.
– Highs and lows come by the hour, but you eventually get used to them. Remember learn from the lows and enjoy the highs.
– Always know that it’s a blessing to be in Niger.