September 3, 2010
A green plate with a few dates, helping of rice, cooked onion, bread and cheese, two pieces of cake and half an orange was placed in front of me to compliment my orange soda. My tablemates and I began to sample each edible item, as did the others around. Twenty or so tables were placed specially on the volleyball court to create a Café Lange, a place were multiple languages of multiple levels could exist as one. Nigerrienne men and women fluent in at least three languages – French, Hausa or Zarma – held simple, but delightful conversations with 33 Americans who’d only begun speaking these dialects two months ago. There were awkward silences and incomprehension, but smiles never needed to be translated. Nerves were a bit high after a long day of peeking into our future work and seeping potential hurdles and difficulties. The sentiment was dotted with an exam the next day. The see-through sparkling sky created atmosphere no man-made interior decorations could reduplicate. As I swayed from English to French with other trainees, I noticed my behavior a tiny bit similar to that of my Nigerriene family, whose conversation switches from to Hausa, Zaram and French like octaves in an orchestra – not a single note ever out of tune or place. Obviously not as graceful, but I was functioning with two languages and a moment of pride flushed through my veins.
Suddenly, I absorbed my surroundings and realized something I eventually thought I would but never this soon. Joining the Peace Corps, coming to Niger, is the best decision I’ve ever made.