It’s Saturday morning and I am drinking French-pressed coffee and eating a baguette, writing blog posts and listening to Bon Iver. At this particular moment, I am not in Africa. I am just doing what I do on Saturday mornings.
Each month, all of the regions hold regional meetings. It’s the time to discuss hostel matters, village happenings and any official Peace Corps business. It’s also a chance to have American time.
I arrived on Thursday because of our schedule shuttle — once a month the Peace Corps vehicle will take you to/from your village, which is nice a release from my four to six hour bus taxi ride. Only two of four from four our sub-region came in, so we arrived in Zinder midday. I took advantage of electricity and watched episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” and, later, Audrey and I watched three movies, all romantic comedies.
The next day, the rest of the team arrived and Audrey and I began to plot dinner. We were leaning toward burritos and chips and salsa when a few of the traveling volunteers texted that they want Mexican. It was settled.
From about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the other volunteers trickled in. With each face walking through the screen door, I jumped out of my chair with giddy to give a hello. Despite my happiness in my village, it was nice to see my friends again, as if had parted for years and a now reuniting for coffee in a place long from where our friendship blossomed. We updated each other on the last couple of weeks while pouring over month-old celebrity magazines and making comments at the outdated gossip.
Our presence in Niger seemed irrelevant until Audrey and ventured out to the market for dinner supplies. I let her lead the way through all the vendors and hustle to find the dozen items on our shopping list. She bargained in Hausa, while I tried to pick up the simple parts I knew, like numbers and the name of the items. With three stuffed bags of vegetables, beans and flour, we returned to the hostel to begin preparations.
One of my favorite things in this world is preparing and eating a meal with friends. I was on salsa duty while Ari made the tortias and chips. We chatted in the kitchen about her upcoming close-of-service while Audrey sorted out beans, Alex cleaned and cut potatoes and Eric cut vegetables on the porch. We shifted throughout the kitchen, taking the required utensils’ and poison testing when needed. In Niger, cooking is production. You can make pretty much anything in this country but most of it’s from scratch, so it takes time and kokari (effort). There are no bags of chips to go with salsa, so you make your own. The beans need to be sorted and the vegetables bleached. We also make to our own cheese using powdered milk and oil because the cheese in country is hard to find, expensive or on the list of do not eat from the med bureau.
After four hours, our feast was ready and it was worth all of the work to eat something with more nutritional value than millet and the good company that came from friends who haven’t seen each other in a while.
This morning, there are six other people in the room, each with a book or magazine, but no one has said much. And conversation isn’t required. Presence is comfort.
Village life has been good for me and I am happy, but this bit of American time is welcome. The night before I left, I couldn’t sleep because of excitement for a cold soda, movies and friends. We here for only five days, but it’s a needed break when daily life continually takes me outside of my comfort zone.
Last night’s dinner and this morning’s cup of coffee remind me that comforts of home can be found in even third world countries. I wouldn’t trade my life now for two year’s worth of American Saturdays in next two years, but it’s nice to have one once and a while.