Aug. 16 Before coming to Niger, I spent a lot of time with myself.
Drive time, late nights and early mornings in both offices, Saturday brunch, an occasional Friday movie date, coffee appointments. My social life was active with good friends, but there were plenty of “me time” blocks in my schedule.
Sometimes, I craved being alone and retreating to an environment that I could solely control. Other times, the state of loneliness would sting so hard tears would form and I’d fall into a pity party with a “Heather vs. The World” theme.
In Niger, the concept of alone is as foreign as I am. Gatherings are the root of this culture. Women come together to prepare a meal and gossip, men sit on mats much of the day drinking tea and children just play with anyone and everyone. It’s one my favorite parts about this culture, but it’s also one of the hardest to accept.
As a trainee, my whole day is planned to be around other people. Classes with other French students, tech sessions with other CYEs, lunch and dinner with my family and even my last moment of conscious in the day is spent with another person less than five feet away. There isn’t always conversating and some time with my family or my roommate is spent quietly reading or writing but I’m always near someone else, and for me, that’s not c’est la meme chose as me time.
My cravings for alone times are stronger in this country. Maybe because I haven’t had more than 30 minutes of alone time to myself and I’m much more aware of my moods and thought patterns. I dream about sitting in my hut and living on my schedule: eating what and when I want, writing without distraction and yoga and prayers in silence, well, as silent as it can be in Niger. I do adore my family and the members of my stage and this constant socializing fares well with my personality. Knowing myself, as soon as I get that independence, I’ll cry those loneliness tears again.
This time, it will be harder to fill that void than it ever has and I’ll learn to be my own friend. But even knowing it will be hard only makes me want it more.