“They are here,” Lachlan, our regional volunteer leader, said as he ended the call on his phone.
Shrieks of excitement escaped us and we rushed around the hostel to prepare the way. Cindy, Ashley and I grabbed helmets for 10 people and ourselves and went outside to hail three kabokabos to the bush statements. The others stayed behind to finish dinner and be the welcoming party.
As my driver and I made our way through Zinder, I thought about my first night in the city I have now come to love. The long bus ride wasn’t match for the anticipation of being in my new home and meeting my new family. The then seven of us were together and that seemed to be enough to fight the nerves. I remember my first kabokabo ride, thinking a motorcycle was the most ridiculous way to travel. Now, I prefer kabokabos to walking because they are more thrilling.
We arrived at the bus station to find 10 tired, excited and confused newly sworn-in volunteers. Their jaws dropped the way mine did when I told them we would be hauling them and their stuff to the hostel on a motorcycle. “It’ll be fine. I was really scared too,” I said as I handed them helmets, took some of their bags and directed the driver.
One by one, they climbed on the bikes and disappeared into the cool African night. Fifteen minutes later, Ashley and I were the last to leave the bus station. We returned to the hostel to join the New Year’s Eve/Welcome Newbies party. Champagne and introductions were already flowing when we sat down to eat our feast of burgers (bean for us veggies), fries, salad and cookies.
Quickly, we learned how talented and sweet our newest team members are. Coming from decorative backgrounds, they bring more diversity and opportunities to learn different American stories.
Over the next few days, we traded stories and advice. All of a sudden, my five stagmates and I are no longer the new kids. Even with only three months of service, we get to answer questions and offer reassurance.
As I make lists of things they need to buy or show them around town, I’m reminded how far I’ve come in such a short time. In October, I was the lost and confused one. I don’t have all the answers now, but I have some and that alone gives me a swell of confidence that I’ve lacked since coming to Niger.
I was afraid that I would never understand, that I would always feel new. A series of doubts plagued me about if I can handle this life and that I could never be one who seemed to feel at ease. But, having newbies, I realized that those fears were ridiculous. I still make mistakes and there is a lot I don’t know, but I am learning and I am not incapable of learning.
Sometimes, I am smarter and more experienced than I give myself credit for. Sometimes, it just takes a few newbies to help you see that.