Wednesday, December 9
We went out in a truck and visited some bush villages today- there are new PCVs getting sworn in soon and we visited their future homes to make sure the concessions were in decent shape and told the villagers that they’d have another guest soon. One of the new volunteers is black so when we went to her future village we all (Ann, Eric, Elliot, Debbie, our driver Musa and I) sat in the shade with the village leaders and tried to explain that not everyone in America is white, but that there are many different kinds of people and we’re all American and all equal. It was hard for them to understand. Finally Musa told one guy that if he went to America, he could walk around and no one would know he wasn’t American because there are people who look just like him there. He was astonished– “Like ME??” Yes, yes, like you! Then he got really excited and wanted to know how he could go to America, what he had to do. White skin is almost revered here; it symbolizes America and wealth and the Peace Corps.
I also saw ‘President’ Bari yesterday. I don’t know much about the politics of Niger, but I guess he’s sort of a dictator who’s trying to convince people that he’s leading a democracy… I’m not sure. Everyone in Torodi wore their best clothes and they all crowded around the military vehicles and chanted his name. There was a makeshift stage set up with a low quality microphone on it, and there were so many kids climbing the trees to see better that some of the trees were starting to bend over and crack. I wish now that I had taken my camera, but I wasn’t feeling well so I went home and laid down after just a few minutes in that crowd.
**Update: a few months after my return, Bari was assassinated in the airport that I flew in and out of. Rumor says that his own men turned on him and pumped him full of bullets at close range, but the ‘official’ word is that Bari died in an ‘unfortunate accident’.**