Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Last Days

So it's about that time. I'm leaving Niger in 6 days, officially flying out on Sunday, June 28th. It's crazy. I've had a hell of a time and have learned a lot about myself and another culture. I don't have much to say but that it has been an emotional week, what with saying goodbye to the villagers to having our end of service conference and saying goodbye to peace corps friends. I have had some good times here. Niger will always be a part of my life. However, I am happy to be returning home and starting grad school in Denver, Colorado. It's all going to happen really fast so wish me luck in my adjustment. Thanks to all who have supported me throughout the two years I have been here. I could NOT have done this without you all, no way. Okay, well I'll let the pics talk now. See you next week in the States!

All the health volunteers from my stage at our COS dinner. We are clean here, but most of the time we are the rawest, dirtiest volunteers because we live so remotely.

Some boys hanging outside of the mosque in Niamey. There were tons of people playing soccer out in the distance behind them.

The mosque in Niamey, Niger. Beautiful.

My last day in my village. These villagers were waiting for the car with me. It was nice having company.

Giraffe safari! Down in the Dosso region there are some wild giraffes so we took the some four-runners and scoped them out. No fences here! We were right next to them.

Moutari, a kid in my village, with his brand new Obama t-shirt on. He spent a pretty penny on this thing. Thought ya'll would appreciate this.

I started a Moringa tree nursery with my nurse in the village. These babies will grow up to provide leaves that are packed with vitamins and nutrients.

Me and my mayor of my village. He is a really nice guy and kept telling me I couldn't leave. I told him my friends and family wouldn't agree to me staying any longer. Right??

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tun da kwana biyu

It's been forever! Sorry about that but just wanted to give everyone a run through of what I've been up to the past months. After vacation I chilled in the village a while, no big projects or anything. Just going to the clinic daily and helping her out with consultations... which actually she does most of the work and I just kind of sit back and watch, and occasionally hold a baby or two that end up peeing on me.

So, after Christmas, some of you know I did some work with the Fistula campaign down in Niamey. Fistula is a condition women get after prolonged child birth. When the baby is in the birth canal too long it ruins the vaginal tissue and leads to holes in the bladder, urethra, or anal tract... which makes women leak urine and sometimes feces all the time. Obviously out in the bush they can't get treatment so 3 times a year these american doctors will come here to niamey and do a roughly two week campaign of free surgeries for them. Peace Corps volunteers translate from local language to english and work with the doctors. It's a lot of work and a lot of fun. I found it really rewarding to work with the women. One of the best things I've done here by far. So anyway that was in January.

February I chilled in my village and did some polio vaccinations with the clinic. Again, nothign to huge around this time. I'm still coordinator of radio in Zinder so I work on that all the time...so don't think I'm not doing anything, jeesh. :)
March we put on a girls fair which is really fun. I don't have any pictures of that unfortunately but other volunteers do so maybe i can post those later. This girls fair was in zinder and included young girls from the bush. I took four from my village. It was a combination of creativity fair and importance of education fair. Lots of fun. We taught them everything from income generating projects, like making tofu and making henna, to what space exploration is and roles of different kinds of women around the world. This was also a really rewardign project and when the girls went back to the village after this they were so thankful and the fair is all they could talk about. They really loved it and I can only hope that it inspires them to continue on with their education so that they can one day go back to the big city life of zinder.

This month I did fistula work again. And that brings us back to speed. I'm going to go down to a village called Gaya in the next couple of days which is down south towards benin, and supposedly really beautiful and green. I'll visit some other PCV's down there. Then I'll head back to the village and wait for some packages from home. I'm doing a health carnival in my village and thanks to dad and mom for their donations and donations from other friends and family it should be a hit. The volunteer before me did a carnival as well to I'm continuing the tradition and they really seemed to like it since they talk about it to this day. I'll have different health stations or games that teach them about healthy living. The prizes are everythign from toys to toothbrushes and they can reimburse tickets at the end for these prizes. I'm really excited about it and hope it goes well.
I'm also in the process of winding down my service here. For those of you who dont know I applied to grad school for my masters in social work and got into all my schools! Right now it's between University of Denver and Columbia University in New York. Denver made me a great offer, and I'm in the process of negotiating with Columbia. It's getting down to the wire to make a decision so I hope it all works out. I should know very soon and will try to let you all know when I find out. If I go to Denver I will be coming home as soon as the end of June, and if I go to Columbia it will be either mid or late july that I'll come home. Either way it's really soon, and I can't believe it! I'm getting kind of nervous at the thought but am also super excited.

Ok enough talking, here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure

Me on a camel at my friend's going away party in he village.

I was in Niamey for the Fistula Campaign any my friend's band was playing so me and another PCV sang backup for her, so fun!

This was at the hospital in Niamey, and I'm here doing translations, you can't see the doctor but thy are standing up behind me, and we are explaining to them how to take their pain medications.

All of us who did the Fistula campaign in January; Carrie, Andrea, Elizabeth, Peter, Katie, Me

I forgot to mention I did a bike ride tournament in December promoting AIDS awareness. We traveled over a 100K on bikes and spent the night at villages. In this village we were doing a skit. It was tiring but it was so much fun!

Here are a bunch of us on our bikes ready to hit the road again!

I also forgot to mention that I did a malnutrition prevention campaign in my village where I worked with an NGO and we taught the women how to improve their porridges and foods so as to provide more vitamins and protein that would help prevent malnutrition. I did this for a couple of months time and it went pretty well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Swear-in/Leaving for Vacation

Hey everyone! Just wanted to drop a quick note to let you all know what I've been up to this past week and what I'll be up to in the next month or so. This past week was swear-in for my sister stage so I partook in all the festivities. Here are some pictures:

All of Team Zinder...even a couple who are leaving soon....
Some of us ladies got black dresses made especially for the event so here we are showing them off...
All the newbies rockin the "Z" symbol

As of now I'm scrambling to get my stuff together because (drum roll please) I leave the country for vacation to none other than Spain, Portugal, and Morocco! I'm super excited and am meeting up some good friends of mine there as well: Sulan, Becky, and Meera. We are going to paint the countries red along with Noah (a fellow PCV I've mentioned a couple of times). The trip will last three glorious weeks and we will be taking all forms of transportation (planes, trains, boats, automobiles) to get to our multiple destinations of Casablanca, southern Spain, Lisbon, Madrid, Morocco (various cities). I'm super excited and will be sure to take plenty of pictures. Special thanks to Dad and Monica for helping me out so much for the trip and Mom for all of her advice. I love you all! Oh and also to all of my Houston people, I give you my full support in recovering from the hurricane. I know it was pretty bad for a lot of ya'll so you are all in my thoughts. Okay, well I'll be back in three weeks!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Village

Noah (a fellow PCV who is at the end of his service) recently came out to my village and we took a few pictures. So enjoy!

This is a main square of my village. The place where I wait to get bush taxis is straight ahead and my house is situated directly to the left of this picture in the neighborhood a couple of doors down.

This is Hawa. She is probably one of my best friends in the village and the nicest woman I have ever met. She has sat with me along with her family and chatted for hours helping me with my Hausa.

This is the family of another woman who I go visit and talk with often. Her name is Miriama, and she is by far the best cook in the village. Here is a pic of Noah with her (on his left) and her family.

One of my friends in the village named Dan Musa is a big jokester. He is sitting in the middle to the left of me with a kid in his lap. When I first came to the village he told me I needed to gain 100 kilos! He said I was way too skinny. Thanks to him and all of my villagers actually I did gain weight.... :)
The best part of my day is around 5PM when I have tea with these guys. They are so incredibly nice to me and very patient. I feel like I can really be myself around them. My two closest friends are N'fu (on the mat in the light blue) and Ma'azu (to his left in the white).

The famous Telatu. A handful a lot of times, she helps me tremendously with things. She is constantly updating me on village events and making sure I am clued in on village activities. Her along with a bunch of other girls her age come over every night after she and I eat dinner and we play cards. They are a riot.

Telatu and Noah sitting in my newly built "shade hangar" which actually turned into just an extension of my house.

The entrance to my hut and my laundry line. I wash it by hand in my village and you can see it drying here.

The first room of my hut. I keep all the cards and pictures everyone sends me and have hung some up on my walls. It keeps me remembering that I am still loved in America, haha.

A map that I hung up, my favorite chair, and my bookshelf.

The second, and final, room to my hut. Also my kitchen. Home sweet home!

Well that's all folks! Hope all is well with everybody.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Year Mark

I just got back today from training the new Education, Health, and Municipal Development Volunteers. It was surreal as this time last year I was in their shoes. It really showed me how far I've come in this service, but also how far I have to go. I guess I thought I would have accomplished more by now (as far as projects go), but instead what I found I have accomplished the most is the ability to communicate and form relationships with the people here. Not half bad if I say so myself, but I want to focus on doing more concrete work in the village I think now. Anyway, training went great. Good group of people. We are getting maybe 12 people added to our team in Zinder which will change the dynamic drastically. We are doubling our numbers with just this stage. Also, a good friend of mine from my stage, Stephanie, has decided to end her service here and go back to America to pursue other things. Pretty sad, and it leaves the number of people from my stage in Zinder at just 3. I will also be the only oldest reigning Health volunteer in Zinder. Our supervisor, Gaston, pulled me aside with a worried look on his face and was like... "you aren't leaving are you?" I was like, "No, no ofcourse not." And I'm not. The year mark hit July 25th and I feel it is downhill from here (in a good way!). I look forward to this year to come and hoping the benefits of my hard work this past year will pay off, and I can really start to do some good work.

What else has been going on...well, I've been non-stop sick lately, which is kind of annoying. My village nurse was doing polio rounds in surrounding villages, and I accompanied her on the three day voyage. We spent the night in different villages for these nights, and I ended up drinking unfiltered water, which always spells trouble. Ofcourse I end up getting amoebas, but it was so worth it to see different areas of my region. I helped administer the Polio vaccine and I must say, Niger is coming close to erradicating Polio. Was glad to be a part of it. Anyhow, so I end up getting Amoebas and then during training I get this awful cold (thank you new stagieres with your American diseases, haha). I'm starting to get over that now though so hopefully I can just relax these next couple of days.
Been working on radio quite a bit. Turns out we have to start going to the studio to do our segment (before we just used a digital recorder and just turned in tapes to them, but the quality they said was too bad). I did a live show with another girl from the Agricultural stage before me and it was tons of fun actually. I was really nervous but it turned out really well. I also busted out some scripts before training, all in Hausa, which was exhausting, but pretty awesome that I could pull it off. Now, I think I'm going to try to conjure up some old scripts people have already done as doing four shows a month, all new shows, is pretty much impossible if I want to keep my sanity. The two I recently wrote were about malaria and importance of using mosquito nets and the other was on the recent polio vaccination campaign. I'll be taking on more and more responsiblity as coordinator of radio in Zinder, especially with Noah leaving pretty soon (the other radio coordinator). Hopefully I can handle the workload, and some of the new people will want to help out.

Well I go back to Zinder on tuesday, hopefully get some radio shows recorded, and then get back to the village on the 16th, I think thats friday? I've been out of the village for a while now, which I feel guilty about, but I am working so can't feel too bad. Hopefully they haven't forgotten about me, haha. Maybe I'll get another update in before then, but if not, take care everyone and I'll write again soon!

Here are some pics from some of my happenings...

Some pics of the training site that we decorated right before the trainees came.

Pic of the Volunteer trainers and the Training Staff

Trainers waiting for trainees at the airport and next pic is trainees just arriving!

Us showing the new trainees the prenatal consultation process at the local clinic at the training site

Laura and I doing our live radio show!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

End of Hot Season!

So rainy season fast approaches which I'm VERY thankful about. For the past month and a half I have been beyond hot, insanely hot. I thought coming from houston that I would get through the season easy but no no no. So after that suffering, the coming of rainy season is awesome. Even though we have to deal with the bugs and storm-interrupted sleeps, its fine.

So biggest news: I got picked to be a trainer for the next new group of Peace Corps Volunteers! I will be one of four health volunteers training on my sector. It will be quite a trip to see and get to know the volunteers that are going through what I went through a year ago. In some ways I feel I've come so far but in other ways I don't. It was so overwhelming at first, and I finally feel like I'm getting to a place where I'm comfortable. Oh it only took a year....jeez!

Right now I am in Niamey because we had our mid-service training. Learned a little about collaborative work with other organizations here which is helpful. I feel I have a good grasp of this because I work closely with the NGO in my village and it's proved to be really beneficial. We are supposed to be doing a malnutrition project soon where we teach families in the red on how to make better weaning porridges. All very interesting huh? Haha, well I also want to have a big party at the end of the week and hire drummers or something.

Well mostly I wanted to share some pics with you. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my memory card with the health mural photos on it, so I will get those on here another time. Rather, I'll go ahead and put some pics up from Pangea, a cross-cultural sharing musical/arts event that I participated in. It was really amazing as I helped with the girls' weekend (where young Nigerien girls get to take classes on dance, drumming, spoken word, songwriting, etc) and it was really rewarding at the end when they got to perform all they had learned. It was amazing to see these girls come out of their shell. We don't get to see that much here in Niger. Most girls are really quiet and shy because their participation in pretty much anything is suppressed. Okay, well I'll let the pictures talk for themselves.

Miss everybody! Thanks to all who are continuing to write and call. You have no idea how nice it is to be kept up to date.

Till next time!

The Pangea set. This was one of the bands that played during the week. There was one band called "Chibia" which means bellybutton in Hausa. I thought that was pretty funny.

So these are some of the young girls performing spoken word. It was really great because they got incredibly into it. I recorded some of the performances and put together a radio show on it in Zinder so their voices were heard over the airwaves! Too bad they couldn't hear the show though because they are in Niamey...

This is the massive crowd that showed up. There was a lot of support for this event.

Here we are giving the girls certificates for completing the intensive weekend and for giving such stellar performances.

*** to see full album of Pangea pictures go to: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2206906&l=e85d5&id=23908191

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hello everyone. It's been a long time since my last post. I guess I should pick up where I left off... in Ghana. Well, it was amazing. Got to see the Nigeria vs. Ghana game, which Ghana won. I was literally picked up and twirled around by a complete stranger when Ghana scored their last goal. It was all very exciting. Also, I ate a LOT of good food including sushi, indian cuisine, and I even had a smoothie! Considering you can't get any o fthat in Niger, that is huge. I also found time to go to the artesan center and picked up some souveneirs for my villagers and myself... it's funny, the bracelettes I got some of the women in my village are said to have healing powers by my villagers. They put some of the stones around the ankles of their children to help them heal from cuts/scrapes or sickness. I didn't have the heart to tell them that the stones weren't going to help their child get better but instead tried to give them alternative methods as well...like washing the cut with soap and water, haha, seems simple enough right? Well you'd be surprised. So Ghana was very refreshing, but the long trip back to Niger snapped me back into reality. Since I've been back a number of things have happened:

1. I attended a health training with a counterpart from my village (a woman who is in charge of some village affairs named Hawahu) who is also my good friend in the village. Although some of the training was frustrating (ie we did it in abou tthree different languages so had to sit through three different translations, exhausting) we did get some good techniques on preventing malnutrition, such as enhancing food recipes in villages, organizing monthly baby weighings, etc.

2. Participated in a girls' conference in Zinder put on by some older PCV's. Girls chosen from the "bush" or rural areas of Zinder region were transported out to Zinder city for a fair on education to try to encourage them to go onto higher education. They got to shadow successful career women in the city, hear a career forum, and do fun things like yoga classes and bobbing for apples. At the end we made them school gift bags and had a danceand photo slideshow of all they had accomplished over the few days of the fair. It was amazing to see how excited the girls were about it all. This had to be the best thing I've helped out with thus far in Niger.

3. Helped paint a health mural in my friend's village in the Maradi region.

4. Started working on radio shows and will be co-coordinating radio in Zinder with another PCV. We have a 30 minute slot every friday morning that all of Zinder region has access to listen to. The first time my villagers heard me on air, they were very excited. Come to think of it, I was too! Radio is pretty big here since that is their biggest means of finding out news...none of this TV set in every house nonsense, haha.

So now I have a few things I'm working on. I just bought paint supplies to do my own health mural project in my village. I plan on having three different ones...one on the outside of my clinic that will be big enough for cars passing by to see. One on the inside (as per request of my nurse) that includes food groups, and one painted by a girl in my village after a drawing contest in the school. This should be happening in about three weeks. Also, there is an event called Pangea in Niamey which is a weeklong event that consistst of teaching young nigerien girls about the arts... I'll be helping out with a voice class. This will be at the end of may.

That's all the exciting news I have so far. On a personal level, I'm doing alright. I think I'm getting a little burnt out and the newness is starting to wear off. I'm beginning to realize that this is going to be a constant uphill battle, especially where language is concerned. Not to mention that I miss home a LOT. A lot more than I thought I would too. Also, the pace here is a lot different than what we are used to in the States. No one meets at the ttime they say they will and not very many villagers have a lot of effort in general. It's just a different mentality. Anyhow, I hope with a few projects under my belt I'll have a little more sense of accomplishment. Until then, I'm trying to maintain a good sense of humor about things. But know I miss everyone and love hearing from you all. Hope all is well! Oh and I'll try to update more.... :)