Before I left, people told me this trip would change my life. Did it? Well, I realize the conflicts in judging one’s own evolution, but I really don’t think my outlook is cosmically different. I wasn’t appalled at the living conditions, although they were obviously far below the American standard. Cultural differences (like men refusing to shake my hand because I am female) didn’t shock or anger me. I like to think I’m more socially aware than the average American, and more concious of the great extent to which we (and, in turn, our beliefs, values and ideologies) are products of our environment and culture. Even if that wasn’t the case before I left, I’m confident that it is now.
Those who have eaten a meal with me know the comic extent of my pickiness; suffice it to say there aren’t many finicky eaters in Niger. I learned to eat things I didn’t like (or couldn’t definitively identify) simply because I got so hungry that I didn’t care. And I have a *whole* new appreciation for the availability of toilet paper in the United States. Enough said. 🙂
I did impress myself by keeping my composure in situations that could have been ugly. Short of crashing or getting hijacked, I think I’ve experienced (and survived) the worst parts of air travel, so future voyages will probably only be better. I do hope to travel more, perhaps even to Africa again, but I probably won’t return to Niger. It was a great experience, but I don’t think spending more time there would enrich it, and there are other areas I’d like to see. If I do return, though, I’ll only bring what I can fit in a backpack… that, and a roll of toilet paper.