Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Lonely Planet group must love Niger. Excerpts from their great wisdom in their travel guide-

Niger may be the place of the beginning of the end of the world

Niger has two seasons. Hot, and hotter than hell.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Quel Aventure!!

So yesterday turned out to be way more of a third world experience than we had forseen. We have a Toyota Prado and were headed with an african man and his guide to a village about 4 hours away. Turns out he had an entourage of 5 with him...and somehow we all jammed in. Thankfully with Bennett's carseat they couldnt cram into that space and we were ok and could breathe. Anyhow, we left at 6am and had a decent paved road for 2 hours to the small town of Ayerou. From there, we went on "la piste" little backwoods roads and sand dune paths. It had rained the night before so there we lots of big puddles. Thank goodness for 4x4! We got close to the village after 2 hours (we stopped briefly at another village) and there we had to go off any type of road and into the bushes. We tried to cross one place, but it was too wet in the grass and our wheels were spinning and we got stuck. Paul and the 3 able bodied Africans pushed a bit and we got out from there and went farther down the road to try to get across. We headed across a dried up millet field, and ran smack dab into the middle of a mud hole from which there was no exiting. We pulled and dug and manouevered to no avail.

So us ladies, Bennett and the small african girl Grace headed off to install ourselves into the shade of a tree. We needed a truck to pull ourselves out, and this wasnt exactle a well travelled area!
After 2 hours- a truck! woohoo! We flagged it down and it was a govenor of the region. He actually told us he was too important to stop and would not help and he left. Yuck. We were not impressed. About an hour later, another truck. Same story. he was in the delegation and they had no time. (it was not risky for them and we only needed a 10 foot pull, it would have taken no more than 5 minutes top!) So another hour passes, at this point Bennett wakes up from his sleep under the tree and is playing and chasing goats with Grace the African girl.

A motorcycle passes and tells us there are other trucks on the road. We wait and 2 more arrive together. Guess what. The governors delegation and they wont help. Lets just say Paul was so mad its a good thing some of us were there to calm him down. By this time we had been stuck in the mud in the sun for 4 hours. Finally, about 20 minutes after that, a bush taxi bus, crammed full of like 30 people and bags on the roof etc, pulls up and stops. We talka bit, offer some financial incentive (still cheap by our standars) and the whole bus unloads, the 30 or so africans come to the truck, 2 minutes of getting set and one BIG PULL. WOohoo!

It was a very vivid experience of the people who stop and help and who are part of a community and a government and the rich who do nothing. Another reasons we have a passion to help the poor normal people, and &*@!%! to the rich government who bleed them dry. OK, enough ranting!

Through the whole thing, we were remarkable calm. Bennett did great, took a nap, played, ran chased goats and laughed. I felt more than prepared to spend the night under that tree if we needed to. My emergency pack had lots of sunscreen, mosquito spray, heat reflecting foil blanket, road flares, matches for a fire, protein bars, water purification tablets etc. (Thanks again Mark and Tom -see i used it!)So if we had to stay there it was ok. In the end we got out and headed home for a 14 hour round trip, some great talks and insight into the people here. For those with google earth, here is our coordinates to see where we were stuck (you need to change them to the other format, but thats easily done on the web). We were almost in Mali!
N 14degrees 57.500 E 000 degrees 46.039

SO I also find that french is getting more and more in my head and i forget english now. I use french most of the day, and even with bennett I find myself mostly using french :) Amazing how fast it comes back and im already dreaming in french and mixing up my languages when i talk to Paul. He is glad im here to translate and is seeing the value of knowing it for sure. Good motivation for his next class!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hanging in the suburbs of Dar Es Salaam

Today we went out to the suburbs of Niamey, which I am told looks a lot like village life. Lisa works out here with the Fulani people and has a fairly impressive grasp of Fufulde language! Paul is helping her fix her vehicle and her and I and Bennett went out visiting some ladies. I sure wish that we had a fast enough connection to upload some pictures. i will keep trying. So we went into the grass/thatch huts and visited with one lady and her children. Some other people came and went as we were there. They spoke Fulfulde, and i picked up the odd thing based on context and nuance. A french lady came to visit and we chatted a while too. This hut was all straw, had three beds in it and a bunch of pots of food and water and mash and clothes and everything they need to live. Bennett was a bit shy and hung out around the door a lot and played in the sand and watched it all with fascination. The ladies were happy to have us there and it gave me great insight into some of their living conditions and development challenges.
There were three huts surrounded by a rough brick wall. There was also a bunch of Ocra plants growing, a chicken pen (with chickens running around it whereever they wanted, and assorted other things.
Tomorrow we are going with the Marineau family out to the village of Ayerou (spelling?) which is about 4 hours away and we will stop at a bunch of Tamajchek villages along the way.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Niamey - Days 1 and 2

So we arrived in Niamey! It is hot and humid, just like I remember it. Smells the same (not to say its a bad smell, just distict and I remembered it) I love seeing the people filling the streets, the vendors, the red dirt, the grass hut houses squatting in lots, the dark skin, the red skin, the people with tea, the baby goat who was born this afternoon, etc.

We have met the team here and they already feel like family. Enjoying our time with them immensely. I already spent the afternoon going to a Water and Sanitation meeting with NGOs to get a feel for the aid work in the country and have made great contacts. Paul and Bennett spent a few hours in front of the guest house talking with the day guard. Paul speaks little french, he spoke little english, so I have a feeling there was a whole lot of gesturing going on! Bennett played with them all and loved the sand. Paul got Tuareg tea made for him too and had blast. He is loving it here.

In a few days we are headed out to a village 4 hours away and will stop in a bunch of little villages on the way. I have taken a few pictures and will expect to take lots more soon. Im going to try to upload one for you all of Paul and his two friends outside the house. Check out the lovely red sand!

The heat is .....well hot. But we are feeling good so far. Im looking forward to getting out and exploring in the next few days. MOre stories to come.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Heading out!!

So we now are in the final stages of packing and getting organized to leave for Niger. We leave Saturday early evening. Its funny how stressful something so exciting can be :)

While we are there I will be able to update this site. Probably not with any pictures yet, but at least tell you what it going on. We are bringing our GPS unit with us to do some geocaching, so we will report back our position! So for those of you with Google Earth (free! fantastic! download it now!) We will letyou know where we are at when we are out and about and you can zoom in and see and track us a bit! Of course i will also be taking pictures, and will upload some when I can.

Thank you in advance for all your prayers and encouragement. Its almost surreal that my lifelong passion for aid and development, and giving people hope, has taken this turn in life and heading us in this direction. I can't wait.

Stay tuned


Can you see the truck hiding in this picture? (A real picture from Niger)