I’m not sure if my village has a special person designated as the welcoming committee, but if so Mustafer was my welcoming committee. I like to believe the village had a special meeting upon my arrival and they decided he would be the perfect person to show the mute, white girl around.
Mustafer was on of the half dozen men who helped remove my entire life from a top of the Peace Corps vehicle and into my new living space, a two-room mud house. He returned a few hours later with a bideon of water. Thirsty and battling a suitcase evacuated from a shampoos spill, he became my hero. He was also a French speaker in sea of Hausaphones, meaning his voice was the only shot I had at understanding my neighbors.
Shortly before I crawled into my bed to celebrate Day 1, Mustafer came to my door to retrieve a barrel left over from the final repairs of my house. He told me he’d returned the next day to take me to have tea with him and his friends. He was my gateway to the rest of the community.
Mustafer’s family decided they would be my family. Each day, the wife sends one of her daughters to my house with lunch and dinner of usually rice or millet. Slowly, I am getting used to millet, but it’s nice to have food ready for me when I am not willing to have face a hot stove on a hot day.
The family also brings me water everyday and makes sure all is well in my household. So, it seems natural that one of the family members would be my official caretaker.
On my second day, I retuned dishes from the night before and asked my new mom for direction to the school. She ordered Mustafer to take me.
I can easily remember Mustafer’s name because it’s a cross between Mufasa (“The Lion King”) and Christopher. When I told him I had a brother with a similar name, he wasn’t nearly as impressed as I’d hoped.
Mustafer is boyish, with chocolate skin and a simple face. He’s quiet and well-mannered and I guessed him to be between 17 and 21. When he told me he was 28, my mouth gaped open in shock.
Four days into my new life, Mustafer told me he would be leaving soon to go school in Zinder to study health. We talked about health issues in the community and he spoke fast and with spirited concern the way I do when I am talking about something that makes me passionate.
It was my goal to make a friend in the first three months, but only took three days with Mustafer.
Each day, he’d take me to different fadas and ground of people, always keeping an eye on me as if someone could grab me at any second. He’d tell me when was time to go and walked me home. He was my translator to a women’s group who wants to work with me sometime in the next two years.
He also took it upon himself to teach me Hausa. He’d point things out and tell me the Hausa word and watched as I scribbled it down. A couple of nights before he left, he came to my Hausa and we’d work on phrases from the Hausa book the Peace Corps game me.
Having Mustafer because a shelter. He knew how to make me comfortable and part of the community. He never asked for a gif, to bring him to America or marriage, reassuring me his intentions were pure.
He left five days after I arrived, but I still expect him to show up at my door for more Hausa lessons. I want him to be there with me as I continue to explore this unfamiliar place and sometimes I think I see him but it’s one of his brothers who have many of his same features.
Mustafer’s schooling his three years, but I hope to see again in my next two years. After all, he was my first friend.
“Prochain recaunter,” he said when I last saw him.
Until the next meeting.