Friends and Buses

hannatouI left Washington DC on Monday afternoon and arrived in Niger on Tuesday evening. There was at least 3 feet of snow in DC when I left, and upon arriving at 5pm in Niamey (the capital of Niger) the temperature was well over 100 degrees! Normally, the cool season lasts from December through the end of February, but this year there were only a few weeks of cooler weather. So far, the heat has been bearable, and, quite honestly, I’m trying to soak up the rays before I return to cold and cloudy Michigan.

I spent most of Wednesday changing my money from dollars to CFA, running errands, and catching up with friends. The picture above is of my friend Hannatou and her children Ilia and Jolie. This is the family I lived with for 8 months when I was here from 2005-2007. It’s always so much fun spending time with them! Hannatou now works for the American Peace Corps as an administrative assistant. It’s clear that her colleagues really appreciate her.  In fact, they recently gave her an award and certificate for her excellent work, which was signed by the American ambassador herself.

As I mentioned in another posting, on Thursday, I took a bus 8 hours east to Maradi, where I’m staying for the next 2 weeks. The boarding school that Remember Niger supports is only 15 minutes outside of Maradi.  Riding on a bus in Niger is quite a bit different than in the United States.  While it looks deceivingly like an American coach bus from the outside, it’s missing two important things that I believe are critical for a journey across Niger. These buses are not equipped with air conditioning or a toilet. While this is not a problem in the cool morning air, it’s a bit challenging when the sun rises and the temperature starts soaring above 100 degrees. You feel like you’re driving along in an oven with hot air blowing on you. And, although you are sweaty and thirsty, you don’t dare drink too much water for fear of having to go to the bathroom. Fortunately, on this trip I was able to find a pit latrine at one of the stops. However, I don’t want to give the impression that the trip was all bad. In fact, overall, it was interesting, quick (only 9 hours long) and relatively inexpensive – which are all good things! And, my Nigerien friends were there to greet me with an air-conditioned vehicle when I arrived.