After lots of planning and stress, I arrived yesterday without a problem in Niamey. Tahi picked me up at the airport and I went back to the house where I’ll be living for the next two months. It’s a nice house, and I have my own room. Although I have a matress in my bedroom, I sleep outside like everyone else, where it’s cooler. I have a mosquito net, although there aren’t many mosquitoes yet, since it’s the end of the dry season where it’s regularly above 110 fahrenheit, which kills them off. As the next three months pour down daily rains, the mosquitoes will be back in force. I even have the luxury of sleeping on the patio, with a roof over my head and a tile floor.
The family is Touareg, so the “grande famille” lives in a village in the north and they speak Tamacheck, a close relative of Arabic. I don’t understand any of their language, except ama (water), but they all speak French as well, plus Hausa and some Djerma. The Nigerien accent is quite different from the Parisien accent, so I feel a little funny spitting out my Franco-French r’s and nasal vowels, but they understand me and I can usually understand them. Since it’s everyone’s second language here, they don’t generally speak as quickly or slur as much as the Parisians.
I have spent a lot of time sitting around drinking tea in the Touareg style and talking, mostly listening to the Tamacheck. The other major languages in Niamey are Hausa, a major regional language, and Djerma, the language of the biggest ethnic group in this part of the country. I hope to learn as much as possible of these languages, just so that I can have better relations with people I meet, but enough people speak enough French that I’m not worried about getting by with it.
Today I met another American student who has been studying in Niamey all semester and is now doing an internship with an anti-corruption NGO that works with my organization. He knows my boss, actually, which is more than I can say at this point.
I have obtained a Nigerien cell phone, and the service here is actually very good. I get five bars everywhere, which is more than I can say for the US. Internet is not good, however, so Skype isn’t really doable at this point. If you want to talk to me, just use SkypeOut to call my cell phone. It’ll cost you maybe 17 cents a minute and be free for me. Or just e-mail me! My number will be available on Facebook or you can message me for it.
I’ve been eating normal Nigerien food, which is quite simple but has been good so far. I’d prefer not to be eating “better” food than my adopted family, so I’m going to try to stick with it. No gastro-intestinal disasters so far, knock on wood.
It’s not too hot at the moment, by Niger standards, and the weather was beautiful for my arrival. The rain cools everything down significantly, although with only a handful of paved streets and dust GALORE, the mud is sure to be everywhere.
I hope everyone is doing well in the good oldUSA. I’m sorry to be missing the Tonight Show debut of Conan O’Brien. Like this gem: “Fiat, which took over Chrysler this week, says it plans to build its cars with American, not Italian workers. … Fiat says they got the idea from the Olive Garden.” So timely, so relateable. I doubt I’ll be watching much TV here, although I’ll probably get a lot of reading done as most people’s idea of a good time here is to really relax and just lounge with people, which I admire but will take some time to get used to!
I’ll be updating this blog as often as possible, but there’s no telling how often that will be. Other than internet cafés with slow connections, there isn’t much choice. Pictures could also be hard to come by. But I’ll do my best!