2006.10.29: October 29, 2006: Headlines: COS - Niger: Blogs - Niger: Personal Web Site: Niger Peace Corps Volunteer Sarah Pharr writes: 1 down... 23 to go

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Niger: Peace Corps Niger : The Peace Corps in Niger: 2006.10.29: October 29, 2006: Headlines: COS - Niger: Blogs - Niger: Personal Web Site: Niger Peace Corps Volunteer Sarah Pharr writes: 1 down... 23 to go

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-250-74-101.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Thursday, December 07, 2006 - 10:30 am: Edit Post

Niger Peace Corps Volunteer Sarah Pharr writes: 1 down... 23 to go

Niger Peace Corps Volunteer Sarah Pharr writes:  1 down... 23 to go

"My villagers have taken to calling me Sarah Doun-dibi (pronounce Saharatou). Since I live alone that means I don't have a last name to them... and I'm not married (at the ripe old age of 22) they elected to give me Doun-dibi. I quite like it. My hut has now become my home, complete with cat hair on everything I own. I'm also slowly but surely learning how to cook in Niger. I have learned that my hut leaks...more like clumps of mud fall when it rainds. After a quick trip to Niamey I returned to a shade hangar (PRAISE THE LORD!!!) My fence isn't totally complete but will be soon as the harvest is coming to a close."

Niger Peace Corps Volunteer Sarah Pharr writes: 1 down... 23 to go

Sunday, October 29, 2006

1 down... 23 to go

Well family and friends I made it. My first month flew by. The great days faded into great weeks in no time.

Ramadan was quite an experience. It ended with a huge 2-day party, lots of people resting which was a welcome change for my villagers that work so hard from dawn to dusk. Because of the language barrier I misunderstood and missed the BIG prayer. The morning after the last day of Ramadan the whole village goes to the edge of their respective villages, facing Mecca, and they have a big corporate prayer. I was invited to attened and some people even said I could pray to my God. One thing I have in common with the people of Niger is religion. I talk about that most everyday with someone. Currently I'm reading through the bible and then when that is finished I'm going to read the Koran. Sidenote: Genesis and Exodus have never been so real as now that I'm in Africa.

My villagers have taken to calling me Sarah Doun-dibi (pronounce Saharatou). Since I live alone that means I don't have a last name to them... and I'm not married (at the ripe old age of 22) they elected to give me Doun-dibi. I quite like it. My hut has now become my home, complete with cat hair on everything I own. I'm also slowly but surely learning how to cook in Niger. I have learned that my hut leaks...more like clumps of mud fall when it rainds. After a quick trip to Niamey I returned to a shade hangar (PRAISE THE LORD!!!) My fence isn't totally complete but will be soon as the harvest is coming to a close.

There have been a few tough days, most of them had nothing to do with PC or even Niger. One day that I had my first culture shock experience was with a little girl in my village. Her name is Barkissa, she's about 7 (I think) and she's blind. Yes, it is so like Lynn Pharr's daughter to find one of the only "differently abled" child in my village and attach myself to her but that's what I've done. So i was on the foot pump...getting my water for my bucket bath and Barkissa comes wandering out of her concession. Cutural lesson #432 that way Nigeriens deal with disabilities is to make fun of them and laugh. Ok, so an elder in my village comes walking by and begins to absolutely birrade this little girl. He tells her to go home, knowing full well she doesn't know which directions that is. One girl put her on her way and she soon falls into a brier patch. Everone breaks out into laughter... I mean after all that's what they are supposed to do their their way of life no mote. I quickly weighed my options: get off the foot pump and help her (this would no doubt cause people to look differently at me in my village) or sit there an pretend nothing different. After about what seemed like forveer (probably 30 seconds) of people laughing at her I jumped down off the pump and ran to her (sidenote: women NEVER run here). Took the briers off of her and carried her home. She had a huge smile on her face. As soon as I jumped off the pump everything went silent and stayed that way until I returned. All the women & men around stopped working and talking and just stared at me. Since then they really have done their best to keep Narkissa ways from me. It was quite the hot topic around Doun-dibi for a few days but seems to have passed. it's in those moments that I realize just how tough this job will be. I was completely alone in a village of 1,000 people. I wanted to cry but if I did that the damage would be very hard to reverse... when an adult cries it is not soon forgotten. I then returned to my hut...angry and with no way to communicate that. I did't even have someone there to sympathize in English with me. I wanted so badly to call my mom and vent... hear her supportive voice but non of these things happened. I worked though it. I'm learning to appreciate out differences...this culuture and that I've grown up in. I have later spoken with the man: we talked about how in the states we react to someone who is blind. He though that was interesting and at the end of the conversation he came to the conclusion that Americk (as they call it) was different that Doun-dibi... yea to say the least.

My best day on the job came when Sahara (ma konni- my name sake) a little girl that showed up right outside my door one morning. I took note because just 2 days prior I was at her concession showing her mom a pink-eye solution (salt & water). Sahara is all of about 9 years old and had come to report that her mo dorri (eye pain) was gone! And in an instant I felt like I just created world peace! It's simple but this girl who has had probably 100 pink eye infections in her life now has found a way to make them stop. And it didn't cost her mom nearly any money... money that can be spent (hopefully) on food or saved when they really need it one day.

And that right there my friends is my job. I talk with women about family planning: I explain why I have guy friends and how that's ok in America but not in Niger. I walk with women to the doctor's office and tell them they should wash their children everday. I explain that I'm quite alright with being 22 and not married, and just for kicks I tell them I want to get married when I'm 30...that's always a crowd pleaser. I do my best to describe this crazy land where people wear shorts when it's hot and where we don't have camels. People ask me for money and medicine...I explain I have neither for them...but I have knoewledge of a medicine they can make at their house. And on top of all of this I go through most of it completely alone. When it's not great I think I could nearly self destruct with my thoughts. But the great times only seem to get better. Slowly but surely I'm carving out my little space here in Doun-dibi...it's tought but I love it!

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Headlines: October, 2006; Peace Corps Niger; Directory of Niger RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Niger RPCVs; Blogs - Niger

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