Friday, August 26, 2011

Our Town

One of the main things we wanted to do while Suz and Theo were here was to visit the town where we lived and worked for 16 years.  It is essentially where Daniel and Suzanne grew up.  It played a huge part in making them who they are today.

Waiting for the ferry

We left early in the morning on market day, crossing the river at the ferry.  In rural areas, many people leave the towns during the rainy season and go live in their fields.  Their fields can be 5-10 miles from the town, so many of them will have a little hut in their field where they live during the rainy season, eliminating the long commute they would normally have. 
On the way to market
But, market day will find them returning to town to buy supplies, meet up with friends, and catch up on the gossip.  So we chose market day to visit knowing it would be our best chance to see friends who might otherwise be living near their fields.

The first thing we noticed when we drove into town that more permanent shelters had been built in the market and that one of the roads going around the market was now paved, making two paved roads through the market area! When we had last visited there were reports that there would be a paved road put in that would go all the way to Burkina Faso.  Sure enough....the paved road now no longer ends in Our Town, but goes all the way from Niamey to Burkina!
The new road
  It's a pretty nice road and we had trouble recognizing landmarks as it didn't follow the exact same route as the previous dirt road.  There is even a multi-storied hotel there now!


We first went to my friend H's house.  I guessed she wouldn't be there as she always moves to the bush in the rainy season.  Sure enough, the house was all locked up.  So we went to M's house next.  She had been my house-worker and friend and teacher-of-culture for the entire 16 years we lived in Our Town.
My friend "M" and me
  We had a great visit seeing how the kids had grown, finding out who was married and who had had babies, and who had moved away.  John's friend, H, came in while we visiting and more news was exchanged.

From there, we went over to my friend, H's, house.  In a land of poverty, they are even poorer than everybody else.  They squat on a piece of land, living in a grass hut without even a latrine for a bathroom. 

"H" and me
They were so excited to see us and even shed a few tears.  Then H told us, with tears in her eyes (it is very unusual for Nigeriens to cry and especially for people of her people group to cry) that her husband has "gone crazy".  He is very old and I suspect has dementia.  He wanders off and went into the compound of the people across the road.  The young father there told him to get off his property or he would kill him like he'd kill a sheep....in other words, slit his throat.  It was so, so sad to see how they are treated and despised just because they are so poor, they are nothing.  H's daughter who lives in Ghana has never been able to have children, so she took her youngest sister to live with her there.  We really missed not seeing her around...she was always so small for her age due to under-nourishment, but she was such a spunky little thing.  H is one of my best friends and it was just nice to spend some time with her again.
Theo has the great ability to make friends with kids wherever he goes.  Language doesn't stop him!
While there, John's friend N, came wandering by and was really surprised to see us!  We had a great visit with him, too. 

Next stop was to visit Suzanne's friend, S.  She is married and has a child.  She married well and lives in a pretty nice house with real furniture, a TV, etc. 
Suz and "S" grew up together
As we were driving to her house, my friend H (who wasn't home) saw us, literally dropped her stuff, and came running.  Also, John's friend, A, wandered by then and they were
John's Nigerien brother, "A"
able to spend a lot of time visiting while Suz, Theo, and I visited with S.

By then we were really hungry, so we headed to the other side of the stream that runs through town and found a nice deserted spot for a picnic lunch.
Trying to toss peanuts in Theo's mouth
The fast of Ramadan is going on now, so we didn't want to eat in the market in front of everybody.


As soon as we were finished eating we went to the market.  There we ran into my friend H again and she took me to find her mother.  We also saw a lot of friends from the nearby village of D.  It was very hot in the market, so we ready to leave by 3 p.m.  


The millet in the area looks terrible.  It is not an exaggeration to say it is one of the worst years we have ever seen. 
The millet should have been about chest high at that time.
Arriving back in Niamey, we were pretty tired out so we went to one of our favorite restaurants for supper.  But I'll save that for another post!



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