During training, my friend Kimmie told me that each night, before she goes to bed, she says to herself, “Well, that was interesting.”
I consider myself a person whose life is sprinkled with random, strange moments. That seems to be truer in my role as a foreigner.
The last month seemed to bring more “interesting” instances that unusual, or maybe I noticed them more as my Niger life becomes my only life. After certain events, I often did say out loud, “Well, that was interesting.”
Here are few:
– I once read in a travel book (which I can’t seem to locate now for quoting purposes, but I did read it) that people wanting to take a bush taxi in Niger should check themselves into a mental hospital first. Well, that’s the only way I travel.
The car is often a beat-up nine- or 15-passenger van where twice that number of people is crammed into the rusted metal, and maybe a few animals. There are no timetables for bush taxies, but the driver always claims they’ll leave right away. Sometimes you’ll make a 30K trip in an hour. Sometimes you break down six times and have to wait until the vehicle decides in it for the long haul.
One particularly hot afternoon (they are all hot) I was returning from a visiting a nearby village. There were 15 of us squished into a small family van, with a couple of goats in the back and a dozen on top. While the vehicle was bobbing up and down the road, a goat fell off. In reaction, the woman next to me spit on my foot.
The goat bounced right back up and the driver put him in the back for the remainder of the trip. Now, this goat and I had something common, except I didn’t look as good I when I fell out of (in his case, off of) a moving vehicle.
– In addition to Ramadan, another major Islamic holiday is Tabaski. God told the prophet to sacrifice his son and the son agreed that his father must do what God asks. As he was preparing his son for the event, God was so moved by his obedience that he offered him a sheep to sacrifice and spare his son. Every year, 70 days after Ramadan, Muslims slaughter a sheep and share the meet with friends and family.
Despite the wishes of my villages, I did not slaughter a sheep. I did greet my neighbors and danced with a group of teenager girls, but there was no killing of a sheep in my concession. Still, I knew it was happening and prepared myself for a bit of extra blood around the village for the two-day celebration.
I was out for a morning walk and greeting passerbys as usual. A boy, about 12, greeted me and began to walk with me. We walked for nearly a minute when I looked down and noticed he had a sheep’s head in his hand as if it was a sack of tomatoes. I laughed and he just assumed I was crazy.
– Audrey and Sean had come for a visit on the second day of Tabaski. Sean stayed for a night while Audrey stayed for two to help me build an improved cook stove out of mud. We watched episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” did a The New York Times Magazine crossword and gossiped. It was a nice chunk of America time.
Audrey and I sat with Sean as he waited for a car to take him the 30K to his village. We were chatting in English in Hausaland, when Sean noticed something in the ground — a tooth. We debated about its origin. I claimed animal, they claimed human. Human won and then our imaginations created stories of how the tooth traveled from some Nigerien mouth to the dirty sand.
That was certainly interesting.