Frosh No More!!!
I am no longer the freshman class of PC Niger. Why not celebrate this victory?
D-Day in Niger my appearance represented my american character stylying fresh clothes, a freshly shorn hair-do and not to forget the all so important surplus of idealism.
Despite being 29 and sporting some particularly sexy wisdom whiskers (greys) compared to the volunteers already here I looked fresh, a child joining the ranks of the weathered veterans. Now after being here for my first 8 months when I see the new kids coming in I see the same look of bewilderment and helplessness that I initially portrayed. Naturally this was going to be the beginning of a new life and despite being ecstatic over coming here like many I masked my insecurity by trying to remain confident. But under the surface I was a trembling, unconfident, falsely veiling my confidence but asking myself regularly…
Wow, two years, this place is crazy,
Can I do this?
There are so many things to comment on what has happened over the last eight months of living in Niger and how I have changed, this is just some random thoughts so sai hankuri…
Here I sit here in my sophomoric status listening to “The Waybacks” on my mp3 player and portable speakers while sipping out of a filthy nalgene bottle and wearing black pajama pants for the 3rd straight day while appreciating the subtle delights in life. At this moment it’s the succulence of enjoying the exquisite dee---licousness out of a Werthers Original, “truly the greatest of caramel candies’ I giggle because now I realize at this moment that I have adapted to my surroundings, my once vibrant colored clothing is worn, and sunbleached. I am have joined the ranks of the venerated vets I once awed, maybe I am one of them in the new volunteer eyes, who knows. All I know is that I’m on my way to becoming an upperclassman, they don’t know I am a sophomore. Similar to upper classmen at home wearing a letter jacket, the status symbol of a PCV is used clothing, unkempt hair and defined tan lines from sandals.
The 6th of September marked my 5th month in my village and as I marveled at the flash in which this lapse of time has occurred I can’t help but think, Holy shit, What the hell just happened?
It seems like only yesterday that in the absence of a television the most enjoyable pastime was to watch the sweat drip of my elbows or fingertips during the thick of hot season. Then there was the span of time during in-service training where all of my staje mates were reconnected at our old training site and we digested our shared experiences. Then there was that proverbial light bulb that flashed and said to me “Sahelien ECO-FARMING!!”, now I have a purpose here. Currently I am in the tail end of my first major undertaking with my field marking the months of brutal but gratifying days spent laboriously in my field and as my physical appearance rapidly changes due to the envirmental and working labors of farming manually my thoughts wander over the span of my short existence and it seems in a short time every inch and phase of my life has been reviewed and evaluated. After all the soul searching and coming to an understanding my desires something naturally occurred without knowing it. The greatest transformation of my life.
Eight months, wow, I’ll say it again, eight months, insignificant in the great span of time to go through such tremendous metamorphosis. This entry represents the short time of my appearance from a silly putty gringo body and tethered mind into a hardened vetran physically changed from the labors of traditional agricultural methods and developing the ability to sharpen my mind and develop the individual always under the surface but never confident enough to emerge.
At first everything was put to the test, my mind and meat as the late Kurt Vonnegut would say about the human body they initially resented the change but as life here transpired my routine in life molded, the mind and meat came to a consensus and submitted to the rigors of change. Here we say that everything is in “life concentrate” so when something happens, despite the slow pace of life here, all change is much more intense so before I knew even acknowledged it my skills were being honed, the wasteful portions my physic thinned, tanned, and toned and my mind followed suit. Through even harder dedication my fingers have started to effortlessly caress the neck of my trusty mandolin and almost daily the hours spent learning to bear my soul artistically through my hands becomes more apparent. What was once was the lost and sought after eventually emerged after all the years of frustration prior to coming here and what has resurfaced is a lovely beast, finally the best of me was found and you know who else showed back up?
I won’t lie there were some extremely rocky times that tested my determination of whether I wanted to continue my service or not. The internal voice kept saying screw it, who needs this abuse? 135 Fahrenheit? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! But the Meat (my body), just couldn’t commit to quitting. Unfortunately some good friends have decided this existence wasn’t what they wanted, and they moved on from here to find elsewhere what ever they search for. There is no hostility or stigma put on those who decide to discontinue service here, noone seeks to discredit them. Niger isn’t for everyone and there is no shame in admitting that, especially if your heart isn’t in it.
But what of the hearts that are in it? The ones who pump their blood freely through the body of Niger, there is no shortage of lost souls here searching what they desire most from life. We persevere, enjoy the good and bad, and as all things Darwinian we evolve. Ultimately we thrive in our own way and each volunteer’s service resembles something different as truly a representation of our uniqueness and diversity.
A few nights ago during a very therapeutic session on my mandolin allowing my fingers to vent the normal combination of frustrations and exuberance pardon the pun but something struck a chord, with a simple poem, evolving into a song I was able to sum up my last ten years on the global path and a crucial decision was made.
I am coming home.
Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy New Year I am going to freeze my arse off.
For vacation anyways….no way I am giving up on this place now.