Hassiya’s first week

My blog has been a bit somber the last few days, but it’s a reflection of my life. Today, after a solid night of sleep, I’m starting to feel better and normal doesn’t seem outrageous.

A benefit of being in Niamey is catching up with the online world and being able to blog a bit. I’ve wrote a lot my first week in village and it will be a while before I can compose those entries from my journal to blog, still I want to share bits of my first week.

We arrived in my village for installation at about 10:30. As soon as the Peace Corps jeep, which was piled high with the belongings of another volunteer and myself, entered the village, everyone stopped what they were doing. They crowded the vehicle and followed it to my home, as if Barak Obama – who they absolutely adore and blast his picture on everything from calendars to shirts to candy – was the one moving and not some random white girl from South Dakota.

As soon as I stepped out of the car, they greeted and cheered me. Instantly, I was a member of the community.

My things were hauled into my house, a two-room concrete number with a thatched hut for shelter from the sweltering sun. I began setting up my bed and, for the first time since coming to Niger, fully unpacking and settling in.

I opened one suitcase to find an entire of bottle of shampoo destroying books, papers and anything else it could. In normal life, this situation sucks but manageable. Without unlimited water, it’s problematic. I hadn’t indentified my water source yet so I just walked out into the road, held out a bucket and said “ruwa” or water. Someone filled it for me and eventually my neighbor brought a few bideons full of water.

The same neighbor has already adopted me as her child. She feeds me each night and with each meal I am starting to tolerate millet a bit. And her son, Mustafer, became my savior, taking me from group to group of people, teaching me Hausa and translating conversations into French. My new host mom came to my house right away when she heard about Stephanie and helped me move everything into my house and lock it up.

The rest of the village is just as hospitable. In a few short days, almost everyone knows my name. They want me to come into their home, hold their baby and eat the dinner they worked all day to prepare.

There are some annoyances to my village – no electricity for charging things like cell phones and iPods (if I had one, that is), sketchy cell phone reception that forces me to stand in the middle of a field each day to read my messages and unknown availability of transportation. But, none of those things are deal breakers and the most important thing is the best thing about the village – the people.
I love my village. Gratitude and generosity flow through the dirt roads and the place is lined with green trees for extra shade and small-town America feel. I’ve believed I meant to be in that village for a reason and that belief was confirmed with in my first 24 hours of residence.

There are challenges and I do have lots of work ahead of me. It’s not easy to constantly be on show and have to speak in a language you don’t know very well (French) or one you don’t know at all (Hausa). And being alone that much can cause a person to over analyze and regurgitate the past.

In only a few days, I’ve had to face many fears and look at the parts of myself I don’t like. I’m being broken down to build a new me and I like what’s coming out.

I’ve been able to set a lifestyle I wasn’t able to in America. Every morning, I run or do yoga then I meditate and pray. I then spend time at my two schools – an elementary and primary. After lunch, I take a nap, studying Hausa and sit with my neighbors until the hot part of the day pasts. I then walk around, greeting people and making new friends. At night, I write and read. Soon, projects – personal and work related – will be injected into that lifestyle, but I like the flow of my days. I now have the time to do the things that make me content.

Immersion into my village did get bit off track with this week, but I am eager to get back and start building upon the relationships I’ve started. I hope to be back to village Friday or Saturday and will be there until the end of October when I head in for a team meeting.

My first week was tough, yet rewarding. There will be bad days and good ones, but I am eager for how the whole experience will evolve me into the person I want to be. I am in a good place and blessed with amazing people.

I have lots of stories to share and hope to update you as much as I can, but, as we say in Niger on a daily basis, have patience.

Thanks for all of the support and kind wishes in the last few days. It means so much to me and my stag.

And, as always, thanks for reading. You are following my dream through my passion.

With much love and blessings,

Heather

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3 thoughts on “Hassiya’s first week

  1. Heather,

    This was a really informative and inspiring post, and your posts about Stephanie were heartbreaking and beautiful. Thanks for your words.

    I’m headed to Niger to serve in a week, and am looking forward to meeting you.

    Shelly

  2. Heather,
    Again you wrote a great blog. Dave and I are packing the last of our belongings for storage and I am still worrying about what to pack for Niger, what to leave here, etc. I’m a horrible packer , even for an overnight trip!

    Glad you are feeling more setteled into your new village. It gives us hope that we are doing the right thing when you praise the people so much.; We hope our Hausa will save us because we do not know French beyond “Merci Boceau (sp?)?” Hope we make the language requirements. Maybe we’ll see you at Thanksgiving—–or Halloween, both probably not high on the list of priorities for Nigeriens but way up there for us US folks. Good luck to you. We arrive in Niamey on Friday, Oct. 22. Can’t wait!!!!

    I have had a sad thing happen as we prepare for the PC. My 91 year old Mother died yesterday in TN so we are headed there later in the week for her funeral then back to NC to leave here on Monday, 10/18 for PHilly for a 1/1/2 days rest before joining the PC team on Wed. Lots going on. We are sad about Mother but her death was totally expected as she’s had Alzheimer’s Disease for 10 years and has been in a nursing home much of that time. We look forward to being with young people and gaining they/your insights on life and also your enthusiasm for PC.

    Thanks, Judy

  3. Judy, I am really sad to hear about the death in your family and please know you and your family on in our prayers.

    Judy and Shelly, we are excited to have you both in country. Niger is a beautiful place!

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