Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Best Week Ever!!

Greetings everyone I know it has been a long time since any posting or anything, but cut me some slack despite all you have read about Niger there are a lot of things going on. Okay my first week back at post after IST was a smash success; miraculously most of my Hausa was retained and even heard on multiple occasions “YOU HEAR HAUSA!!!” This is about the highest compliment a white guy such as myself can hear from a Nigerien. Truly there is no larger honor. Currently it is planting season and everyone is excited. This time of the year is when everyone works together men, women, children, husbands multiple wives and little naked bush babies all run around to and fro and talk nothing but farming. We have had an early set in for rainy season so there is promise of a good year, heck I was even pelted with hail last week while myself and my little buddy “smiley” stood in my field and danced around merrily during the storm. Poor little kid he was freezing.
As for myself I was a farming fool. Mornings began (after yoga and tea) about 0600 and by 0700 with farming tools draped over my shoulders and a Nalgene full of water the first 3-4 hours of was dedicated to planting peanuts and weeding in my maigari’s field which consisted of about planting and weeding by hand tools the equivalent of about four acres. Then after my friends would finish for the day in the Maigari’s field I would stay behind and seek out other farmers still working their fields and help them until they finished for the day then off to my plot.
Now my field is not anything spectacular it’s a little 37X26 meter plot with mild soil erosion, terrible soil nutrient and no tree cover. Initially I looked at my plot and took field data as to what exactly is on my plot and then I marked it out and began digging terraces depending on the curvature of my field. After sitting in my field for a couple of days and just thinking it was time to put some anasara runes to mark my sacred ground as to where specific trees would be planted and then would discuss with on lookers as to where specific crops would be planted in each sub-plot.
Oh the glory of watching the Dan Saga’ns scratch their heads and ask what kind of crazy honky magic is going on here and then for about an ½ hour I would detail every little bit and explain my methods ranging everywhere from the benefits of acacia use, the need for terraces and demi-loons, and most importantly the potential of my type of Sahelien Eco Farm and how my plot will actually improve the soil nutrition and exponentially increasing profits. I think much of my efforts fell onto deaf ears until I dropped the cha-ching portion of the speech which states that each farmer has the potential to improve what they have now at about 60-70$ a hectare to about 600-700$
My anasara magic and practical land use has some interested for sure and I expect after leaving my plot marked the way it is there will be plenty of questions coming afterwards.
Now for what has happened to me. My hands are blistered, my back aches and by the time my head hits the pillow I am out cold until the next morning. Working in Niger has been a bit of a coming home experience for me. I have never had a bigger smile on my face and all kinds of fond memories of my childhood have resurfaced. I say it again Niger, thousands of miles away from home, different in almost every way from my home, has been a coming home celebration for me.
For those who don’t know me life began exactly 29 years ago today….Happy B-Day to Me!!!!, sorry as I said life began 29 years ago today on a on a 300 acre family farm and everything I remember about living on a farm was filled with colorful memories where I had 300 acres to play, many of you had fenced in yards. Sure many of you had neighborhood friends but did you have peacocks, horses, cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens dozens of dogs, cats, emu’s fishing ponds, you name it. I lived on a fantasyland of imagination and during my teen years we started farming rice in the bastard state of Arkansas. It was a glorious life balanced between living in Kansas City during the school year and working on my farm during the summers. You guys had big wheels and bicycles to ride when you were ten, I had 1,000 horsepower tractors, combines, tractor trailers, four-wheelers, once again you name it and my father let me often drive them or work in the fields alone, not to shabby huh. Okay, Okay, Okay so my sister and I didn’t have the Ken and Barbie Tyco power cars to zoom about in small mud puddles but we did have tractors to race in the bottom lands, come to think of it my uncle even had a caprice classic station wagon that he monster trucked. Screw Tyco!!
My days were spent doing what I loved most riding around shooting guns, listening to music and blowing all kinds of shit up then at the end of the day I fed the family whatever I caught or killed with a gun. Not bad huh.
I learned at an early age to really love and appreciate love beavers. I could sit by quietly all day and watch them work and when we thought they had finally created their latest masterpiece my dad and I would bring out the dynamite and celebrate our favorite days of all. Really blowing shit up and then having our friends and family with fishing nets literally scoop all the fish we could eat for weeks into the backs of our pick ups and then it was fish fries for a week. Beavers really are incredible animals that employ incredible deftness in their mastery of skills to create intricate dams to trap fish and stop the flow of our irrigation ditches. My dad was also incredibly industrious in his genius to make really grand explosions. Once we linked about 12 sticks across a damn and simultaneously KA BOOM!!!! Earth everywhere, fish fry for a week anyone?
Naturally none of this is pertinent to my life currently in Niger, there are no beavers, no dynamite, not even big wheels. But this is my blog and you’re here reading this so you might as well learn something about my childhood and the extinction of America’s greatest resource; The small family farm and small town. But that’s for another time….this is about Niger and me.
Like the test of time as the wind and water run their course over the earth it’s all too inevitable that all things change in appearance including ourselves. Eventually my life changed as I grew older and my interests in sports and creating a life of my own eventually swallowed up the sacred summers spent on the farm. My roots were misplaced and for nearly ten years my travels and desires have cut unique swathes of trails around the world.
Its never easy doing what you love most but doing what I love most has made me so incredible happy to be alive. But still away from home we are all estranged orphans until life comes around full circle. It’s a shame that we often run away from what was once most cherished in life, and the great tales of our youth become forgotten fairy tales. But I guess its necessary if we never left home we would never be our own individuals so maybe its essential we forgot our past for a while and just be content knowing that in the end it all works out and we return to loving arms and those who know us best are always proud that we braved the world and carved our own place out in the world.
The last two weeks in Niger while digging my hands into the hot sand looking for moisture, watching the wind blow over the fields, observing the shade and direction of the sun and deciphering the secrets of the land here has rekindled my fond childhood and evoked many forgotten talents. I often say my family has been farmers since we stepped off the boats from Europe and we were likely farmers there too. If DNA retains the traits of our ancestor’s genetic history then in Niger my heart has remembered what it feels like to remember many century’s worth of love for the flora and fauna of this world. People are people where ever you go, but farmers are hard headed warm folks everywhere. Damn if it just took me a lot of years to remember I am one of them.
Twenty-nine years, Twenty-nine years and all that comes to my mind in closing this post is just to thank everyone in my life for their significant contributions they have had and as I sit thousands of miles away from all of you with my incredibly typical smile on my face just thinking my god the first portion of my life has been magical how can it keep getting better.
Coming to Niger has been my homecoming and today is my birthday. Yeah I’ll just leave it at that.


Rez said...

Hausa!! Josh, I am so proud of you! Now I will have someone to talk to in Hausa with :). Keep us posted on whats going on...

Robert said...

sorry to just now be leaving some comments- just trying to catch up! Glad to learn you are coming into your own ... especially in Niger!