Hello from Africa!

I am currently at a tiny cybercafe in Dosso. They have crazy French keyboards that make it kind of hard to type and the internet is really slow, so I can’t really write much this time.

I am having a good time in Africa so far, it is really different from the US! Life here is hard to adjust to but the staff is wonderful and I love the other volunteers in my training class. I sent my family a long letter last week with a lot of information on where I’m staying etc, so when they get it I hope my sister will paraphrase it on here.

I don’t have running water or electricity where I’m staying, and we have training classes pretty much all day, we get up around 5 or 6 and then have stuff to do, classes, studying, etc until about 9 or 10. It is really hot (duh) but at night it gets chilly, so I am using a little blanket I stole from the flight to Paris, ha ha. We sleep outside underneath mosquito nets, and all my stuff is in a tiny mud hut that I share with another volunteer. We live with a host family inside their concession and eat with them. They cannot pronounce Jessica so my name here is Layla, I hear “Fofo! Fofo Layla!” (Hello) all day from the children who are everywhere. The food here is pretty yukky but I am getting used to it, I am glad I brought tuna pâckets and nutrition bars because we don’t get a lot of protien. Also, I get to bike 6 miles twice a week because me and five other volunteers don’t live at the training site with everyone else, we live in a smaller village together because we are learning a different language.

I haven’t been sick except for dehydration (we have to drink 6 – 8 liters or more of water every day) and heat exhaustion. Most other volunteers here are pretty healthy though. The people are so nice and they really look after you. They are so patient with us even though we don’t really speak the language, but I am learning Zarma.

I don’t know yet where I will be stationed, but I will likely be close to the capital and I might even have electricity, which I am happy about. Obviously I can live without it but when you don’t have it your day is basically over when the sun goes down, flashlights etc are useful but you can’t really sit and read with a light because of the bugs. So it is easier to have it. I probably have about 100 bug bites because they have three different kinds of insect repellant and I am allergic to all three. But it’s not so bad.

I spent this weekend with a current volunteer seeing what kind of work she does and tonight we are in the Peace Corps hostel in Dosso with a bunch of others. Tomorrow we are going to the capital, Niamey, to have pizza and hamburgers! It is such a treat because literally all we eat with our host families is rice or millet and sauce, sometimes beans. Twice a week at the training site we get better food though, but we’re all excited to see the capital.

Please don’t worry about me, yes it is difficult to adjust to such a different life and the classes are challenging, but I am in very good hands with the staff here and I feel very safe. Niger in general is a very safe place, there is a lot of poverty for sure but the people are warm and protective. I had a bad reaction to the malaria medicine the other day because I took it on an empty stomach (which they told me not to do and I definitely won’t do again) so I was sick one day in the middle of the village. The women went right away to get my host mother and the Peace Corps language trainer who lives with us, and some of them stayed with me until I was feeling better. Then for the rest of the day so many people came by to check on me and ask if I was ok.

Anywhere I go mass quantities of children run behind me and beg to carry my things for me and ask how I am over and over. They ALL know who I am and call out my name when they see me coming. They love when I sing American songs and teach them easy dances and games (we played Duck Duck Goose and Simon Says last night, plus I taught about 20 kids the Macarena and YMCA) and it’s so funny how they are endlessly fascinated by this strange white woman that’s come to live here.

I have to go now but hopefully Jamie, who I miss a lot, will post my letter when she gets it! I miss everyone very much! I’ll post more when I can. I’m taking lots of pictures and I’ll upload them when I can get internet, my laptop, and a working electrical outlet all in the same place, which might take a miracle but it will happen soon enough. Goodbye for now!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robby
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 12:50:19

    You are incredible.

    Reply

  2. Rebecca
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 15:52:08

    I can’t wait to see you in December. I guess the lights we got you are pretty useless huh? Hlad you seem in good spirits. We all miss you bunches
    Love,
    Reba

    Reply

  3. Mariana
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 16:53:35

    Hey Jess! You sound like you are doing incredibly well and on your way to changing lives (including yours lol) Good to know the staff is nice and you feel safe! keep up the good work and the teaching of white dances lol 🙂

    Reply

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