So...I'm sorry...hasn't really been a lot of down time/time that I am in the mood to write since I last posted a blog, like forever ago I know. So when I went back to Niger from my visit home in November, I went back to my village for a couple weeks, and organized final preparations for building the Housing Patient Facility, which got fully funded and thank you all for your help (more about that later)...So I had two more weeks in my village until I became the Regional Volunteer Leader (RVL) for the Maradi Region, a job that I applied for and received in September. As the Regional Volunteer Leader, I was responsible for communicating and relaying information to volunteers in my region from the bureau, and to serve as a support for volunteers in my region, particularly new volunteers. So I had a good last two weeks in my village, and planned on staying involved with them while performing the role as RVL, So I moved to Maradi, the capital on the 22nd of December to celebrate Christmas with my fellow Maradi team members. Living in Maradi was the other end of the spectrum in terms of volunteer lifestyle. Lets start with the house, First it was an actual house, bigger and nicer than any apartment or dorm room i've ever had, it had electricity (when Nigeria decided to let Niger have it that is), a bathroom with toilet and shower equipped with hot water heater, a fridge, and an A.C. Unit in the bedroom, this was ridiculous to me, and I enjoyed it to the fullest. In addition to the house, Maradi came with its own perks, including fruit and vegetables, and beer, and delicious whole chickens roasted for two dollars...mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm :)...It was such a different lifestyle, one of the things that sticks out in my head is how different it was being inside all of the time, with fluorescent bulbs, I had spent the previous 15 months living predominately outside, like unless I was cooking, I was outside, even then my house was very open. As the RVL, I did a lot of paperwork and organization for implementation for things like installing new volunteers in their villages and things like site development. If I had to choose, I'd say that life as a bush volunteer was more my style, the city living was very different, it didn't last very long though...
A new group of volunteers completed training and were sworn in on December 30, 2010. 9 new volunteers were placed in the Maradi Region, they were brought to Maradi on New Years Eve, we had a nice dinner and dancing, spent the weekend preparing them for installations into their new villages. We spent the next week installing volunteers. We finished Friday January 7th. On that night two young french citizens were taken from a bar in Niamey, the capital by some members of Al Queda in the Islamic Maghreb, the men were killed later that night. We were informed on Saturday morning. And then we waited, Those of us who had been in Niger for over a year were kind of wondering what this meant for us. And we waited...I woke up Wednesday morning, we hadn't heard anything, I kind of figured that maybe they were French and Americans weren't being targeted and maybe they were just gonna keep an eye on it, and keep telling us to maintain low profiles. Anyways, I was having a great day, I had a meeting with our Eastern Regional Coordinator, and was preparing to test a new theory I was formulating with my charcoal project. At 10:30 I received a call from my supervisor, telling me that due to security concerns in Niger, Peace Corps was evacuating....I was numb...I'm still numb as I sit in my house in Dallas and write this...So what happened..well...On Thursday and Friday I helped to facilitate the retrieval of 22 volunteers in my region from their villages to the regional capital in Maradi, I disbursed my money for the hospital projects, I bought mattresses, beds, mosquito nets to go inside the building when it eventually gets completed (more on that later). On Saturday I shopped for gifts, something that I had been putting off for a long time, stupid procrastination!!!, Then about 20 volunteers from the far eastern region of Zinder came to Maradi for the night, and Sunday we caravan-ed in Peace Corps Vehicles to Niamey, a 10 hour trip, We were flown out of Niger Monday morning at 2am to Morocco, where we attended a Close Of Service Conference.
So what's gonna happen with my hospital project? I am lucky enough to have great villagers and friends in Niger, as well as a man named Soba, he is the Eastern Regional Coordinator for Peace Corps Niger, he is Nigerien, and he agreed to see the project through to completion. I spoke to him recently and he informed me that the bricks have been made and are almost dry. He will keep me posted and send pictures when he's done, and as he keeps me posted I will keep you all posted. Please know that I trust this guy like he is family and I can assure you that your donations will not be wasted, and that the people of my village are very thankful for all of your support, as am I.
So We had a close of service conference over three days, I won't go into it too much, but I was kind of numb through the whole process, some of my friends got the opportunity to go on to something new with Peace Corps, unfortunately my fluency in Hausa wasn't a big help to me, and my lack of french skills kept me off the list of potential transfers. To be honest though, I'm not sure I could have just gone somewhere new like that, ever comparing it to Niger, and the wonderful people and experiences I had there. God...I miss it so much already...I'm sad, I am and I will be for a while, but you know, I'm not done with Niger, My experiences in Niger have made me a better person overall and I have to feel blessed that I got spend the time I did. I've made a personal commitment to revisit Niger every five years for as long as I'm able, I figure that's the least I owe them.
So what's next. My overall goal is to do my hardest to MAKE SURE THAT IT'S NOT LIKE I NEVER LEFT...and I'm gonna try to explain what I mean by that...what I mean is that, it could be really easy to go back to living my life the way I was before I left for Niger, not that that was a bad life, I just want to take all that my experiences in Niger have taught me, and apply that to something new. I really like helping other people, I do, and I loved helping Nigeriens because they helped me so much. I'm not sure how it's gonna work out, or what it's gonna end up looking like, but i'm gonna do something that allows me the opportunities to keep Niger and places like it, a part of my life forever. I guess I'm gonna get a job, or go to grad school, I'm not sure how long my parents will let me crash their house, so I better get searching pretty soon here.
I'll keep you posted, and if you have any ideas, please feel free.
Take Care - Ousmane