Eric lives in a village called Tapoa. Nearly all of the villagers work in Park W, so his village experience is somewhat atypical because of the high employment. Each family has a concession enclosed by mud brick or woven grass walls. The Peace Corps volunteers’ concessions are considered very extravegant by local standards, but the upkeep and all improvements are the volunteers’ responsibility.
Eric also has a cat, Sade, and two kittens that were going to new homes soon after I left. It’s not unusual for volunteers to keep a pet, but most Nigerians wouldn’t choose to have one more mouth to feed unless the body attached to that mouth would eventually provide a meal (chickens, sheep, goats). This is one of Sade’s kittens with a lizard. The lizards constantly ran up and down the mud walls and on the roofs- then every once in a while Sade would suddenly sprint at a wall, ricochet off of it, and when she landed she’d have a lizard in her mouth (which she usually gave to a kitten to play with). This one seems unsure of what to do next…
Saturday, December 12
Some kids were in the concession talking with Eric today. They started out talking about names (my Nigerian name is Sahara-tu) but eventually the topic turned to war and how America bombed Iraq. The kids had no concept of what a bomb was- they didn’t know the word. Eric and another guy from the village tried to explain what bombs are and what they do, and they said that if someone dropped a bomb on Tapoa, *all* of Tapoa would be gone, and all of Moli Haussa, too (MH is a nearby village). The boys couldn’t believe it. It’s hard to comprehend how many people have lived their entire lives without ever leaving the village in which they were born… It’s easy to forget the extent to which we view the world through the lens of our culture.
Thursday, December 24
It’s about 85 in the shade (and still pretty early in the morning). Eric played a tape of Christmas music this morning- listening to Johnny Mathis sing Christmas carols in this climate is totally surreal. We heard the lions again last night, along with a stupid sheep from one of the neighbors. It was yelling all night, and I have to admit I was sort of hoping the lions would come and eat it ’cause that would be pretty exciting. It made me think of the scene in Jurassic Park where the goat is tied to a pole in the Tyrannosaurus Rex compound, and then the lights go out and when they come back on you just see the frayed rope dangling from the pole… Unfortunately the sheep vocalized its survival well into the morning.
Friday, December 25
Merry Christmas! (Barka de Noel in Zarma) From the sounds of things this morning Santa had a couple lions pulling his sleigh. Eric made biscuits and gravy for breakfast this morning- that was pretty good, although not quite the same as Whitman’s Samplers and candy canes. In answer to the perennial question asked by that group of 80’s music artists, “Do They Know It’s Christmastime?” Well, yes, many of them know, but very few care because they aren’t Christian. It’s the final month before the Islamic holiday Ramadan so all the villagers fast from sunup to sundown. (One of the volunteers at the Hostel in Niamey said you can always tell when it’s Ramadan because the taxi drivers are crabby from hunger.)