My official departure is in 10 hours, so of course I should be asleep, but I thought I’d put in a final pre-departure update. I’ve had a crazy hectic week preparing for my trip while trying to enjoy my final days in Paris. I was staying in an apartment my friend Jeff rented by Montparnasse, and we had a lot of fun walking around the city and eating good food. I also enjoyed the final days of my UMP internship, especially since we won the European Parliament elections I was campaigning for in a BIG way.
I have been following events in Niger with some anxiety, since President Tandja decided to seek a now-unconstitutional third term as president by rewriting the constitution. Niger is now in a political crisis, and there has been some violence, although I haven’t heard of any in Niamey. I was also saddened by the news that Niamey’s Grand Marché, the massive market that represents the city’s major attraction, burned down last week. The vast majority of shopkeepers whose stocks were wiped out by the blaze were predictably completely uninsured, so the damage was really catastrophic. I hope they will be able to rebuild quickly and robustly.
I went on an expedition today in search of cash and traveler’s checks. This involved visiting at least five BNP Paribas branches in search of traveler’s checks, and several calls to Bank of America customer service to authorize the cash withdrawals necessary. I managed to get my hands on what should be enough money to cover my expenses for two months and then some.
I’m very anxious about leaving, but I talked to Tahi today (my friend Alissa’s uncle) and he will be meeting me at the airport tomorrow. I will be living and eating with Alissa’s family, so I feel confident that my needs will be taken care of and that I’ll have a great experience with my living situation. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing with my host organization yet, but I sent them an e-mail detailing my interests and they wrote back today wishing me a good trip and saying that my interests fit well with their own. I’m still not sure what their address is, but I’m sure come Monday I’ll be heading over to their office to figure out my project.
It’s incredible to think that tomorrow afternoon I’ll be in Africa, with an expected temperature of 109 fahrenheit upon my arrival. As a Californian, I’ve certainly experienced hotter, but always in the condition of running between air conditioned rooms and a pool. Living without air conditioning in this climate will be a true challenge.
I have a supply of my anti-malaria medication, Malarone, which I’ve started taking, and several insect repellent products designed for use in “infested” tropical areas. Add to that all the toiletry products I could imagine a potential need for, and my suitcase is laden with disposable items. I hope I will be able to lighten my suitcase quickly and refill it with handicrafts and locally made clothing (which I feel should help considerably in dealing with the heat).
Now off to bed, and off to Africa!