Tapoa

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's concession has two huts and a storage room. He also built a chicken coop and has planted a few vegetables (mostly peppers) in a small garden. No, the huts don't melt when it rains (which is only two or three months of the year) and Eric said the thatched roofs do a pretty good job of keeping the water out.

Eric’s concession has two huts and a storage room. He also built a chicken coop and has planted a few vegetables (mostly peppers) in a small garden. No, the huts don’t melt when it rains (which is only two or three months of the year) and Eric said the thatched roofs do a pretty good job of keeping the water out.

lizardEric 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…

 

Eric's concession is right on the edge of the village, which itself is right next to an absolutely beautiful gorge. Sometimes at night we could hear lions in or around the gorge, just walking around roaring... it was a little unnerving the first night because I actually thought about how there were LIONS just wandering around, looking for food... but how appetizing could a couple of mosquito-bitten humans really be?

Eric’s concession is right on the edge of the village, which itself is right next to an absolutely beautiful gorge. Sometimes at night we could hear lions in or around the gorge, just walking around roaring… it was a little unnerving the first night because I actually thought about how there were LIONS just wandering around, looking for food… but how appetizing could a couple of mosquito-bitten humans really be?

If you stand in the doorway of Eric's concession and look out, this is what you see.

If you stand in the doorway of Eric’s concession and look out, this is what you see.

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.

We had electricity for a couple hours while I was there, but the fridge, stove, and oven in the kitchen (which was its own hut) use propane.

We had electricity for a couple hours while I was there, but the fridge, stove, and oven in the kitchen (which was its own hut) use propane.

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.

The kids in the village were pretty funny- they'd show up in the concession and look at me for a while, and then leave. The younger ones were terrified of the cats, though. I discovered this when I saw one of the kids gesturing at them and whispering to his brother. I reached back and scooped up one of the kittens and held it out to him so he could pet it; he ran screaming from the concession. Whoops.

The kids in the village were pretty funny- they’d show up in the concession and look at me for a while, and then leave. The younger ones were terrified of the cats, though. I discovered this when I saw one of the kids gesturing at them and whispering to his brother. I reached back and scooped up one of the kittens and held it out to him so he could pet it; he ran screaming from the concession. Whoops.

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.)


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