26 December 2008
Happy Holidays ! December has been a month of very amazing and rewarding work. A couple volunteers and I have began to work with a local NGO in order to give trainings to Nigeriens about HIV/AIDS, early marriage and pregnancy, contraceptive use, and girls’ education via radio show broadcasts and skits. We attended a two-day training, in which we discussed the differences between Nigerien and American perceptions of heritage, gender roles, education, wealth, and contraceptive use. Each volunteer and their Nigerien counterpart received a solar radio, which can be used in surrounding villages without electricity, to receive the radio shows and conduct small trainings (called, sensibilisations in French). It was amazing! We counterpart and I drove to a local village, and did a sensibilisation on girls' education. In the radio broadcast, a father takes his young daughter out of school, even though she is doing very well. In the sketch, the father is in love with money, and wants his daughter to get married so he can pocket the dowry. The father's sister comes to the house to visit, and finds the young girl crying, and begins to yell at the her brother about how her own lack of education has made her life much more difficult. In the village that we drove to, all of the women were passionately engaged in dialogue about the importance of educating their daughters, and how the education of their daughters was essential to the future of this country. This was a great experience, and I hope to be able to attend more! The pictures above are from the sensibilisation!
15 December 2008
By Ryan Forbes Morris
Damn the eyes of the jealous earth serpent
Who swallowed the sun
Like oak rain to cool blue nebulous lagoon.
Forthcoming in his triumph
Born bare evergreen chartreuse-
The jealous earth serpent,
Struggling to cast form to his readily dissolving shape,
Stubborn in his inability to release the sun from the grip of his being,
Called to the moon in his desperation.
Father Moon, he said, I have stolen the sun and seek your assistance.
Foolish Earth Serpent, the moon replied, you steal the greatest star of the fourth dimension and fear not swift retribution? Be gone green serpent, for you have stolen splendid amethyst from the fabric of our world!
Damn the eyes of the jealous earth serpent
Who picked the most precious jewel from the branches of our galaxy
And in his fluid dreadfulness,
Roamed through blank forests and rivers (Devoid of evening moon or sun)
Seeking some avenue of captivity for his lone descended sky gem.
Enslaved to his self pity
And envious of the Most High [craftsman of winter, eclipse, womb, and ocean]
The foolish serpent
Decided he would cast God to the earth,
And wrap the length of his tail around the universe and claim it as his own.
The warped viscous serpent,
(Who no longer drank of reality for fear that he would drown in his melted pool of self)
Looked to the north,
And searched for a winged creature to carry him to the sky.
Father Time, sensing the imbalance of this earth creature’s intention
Whispered to his crimson finch
[Who flew aimlessly in circles, drunk with the beauty of existence]
To perch upon the forest’s most fragrant eucalyptus,
And await the imprudent green serpent.
As the clouds parted (to make way for what would have been high noon)
No sun spilled forth from between the clouds
And only shadows were cast upon the crimson feathers of the earth finch.
Tears fell from the finch’s eyes, as she grieved the failed rising of the sun.
Where is my precious sun, she called. Where is the burning star, griot of this world and the next, whose Shiva-arms painted me wrapped in pristine clarity across the heavens, the earth finch cried.
And as her tears fell to the floor of the forest, their echoes attracted the glutinous slither of the earth serpent.
Alas, a winged creature to carry me to the heavens, the serpent recited beneath his impious breath, selfishly addicted to his desire to imprison our world and call it his own.
The earth serpent continued through the forest
Quietly circling the trees
(Never venturing too close for fear of rupturing his unstable form)
And slowly moved up the giant eucalyptus, toward the weeping finch.
Once again, sensing the iniquity of the earth serpent, God dipped from the heavens and whispered to the crimson earth finch,
my child, think of my most beautiful creation. It is you who must love this world enough to save it!
And so the innocent earth finch, crimson and pure of heart, closed her eyes
And in animated suspension
Spoke that her precious sun still existed as it did in her daydreams, burning ocean blue, silver, and indigo across the horizon.
As the jealous earth serpent leaped forward, and encased his fangs around the tiny crimson earth finch,
She gently lifted her wings…
And with the strength of the trees, allowed her spirit to remember
The profound weight of sunlight, air, peace, and color against her feathers.
And as the earth finch thought of such things,
As she kissed her being to the enormity of her Creator,
It was the immense soul of a minute being
(perfect in this very moment)
Whose light burned the serpent into echoing dust
Whose hope and clemency emancipated our galaxy’s bright amethyst
Whose daydreams of being suspended in the warm exquisiteness of sky
Forever vanquished the envious, insatiable, and jealous earth serpent
And restored the sun to our universe.
Ryan Forbes Morris
12 December 2008
Monday, my entire region celebrated the holiday of Tabaski. Ramadan is known as the small holiday, and Tabaski is referred to as the big holiday. During this time, many families will purchase goats or sheep, have them butchered, and then give half of the meat to their families and the other half to those in need and less fortunate. This was an amazing show of the hospitality that I experience daily, living here in Niger. All of my neighbors invited me over to their homes, and we overindulged in grilled sheep meat, goat meat, couscous, sauce, and counou! This is also gave me an opportunity to bring out my camera, and photograph some of these families in their finest Tabaski boubous and complets. This was an amazing holiday, and everyone was telling me that it was the equivalent to our Christmas. It was an amazing day, and I am so grateful for all of my neighbors and friends that made sure I was well fed that day! We've been given a few days off from work, because different regions in Niger celebrate Tabaski at different times. The day that a village will celebrate is determined by when they first see the moon appear. In Maradi, the holiday was celebrated on Monday, but other other regions celebrated on Tuesday. The last month, my counterpart and I have been busy working with the COGES groups. For those of you that aren't familiar, in an attempt by the Nigerien government to decentralize, each school has a committee made of parents, students, school administrators, and local/traditional authorities which are responsible for finding funding for each school, and managing each school.
This is a great idea in principle, but still very new, and we're trying to help each COGES work out their respective glitches. My counterpart and I visited each of the seven public schools in our city, to introduce the groups to the program that we have planned for them this academic year. We will teach them about running a meeting, about taking a fair and democratic vote, record keeping, school equipment preservation, and how to promote girls education via radio broadcasts and skits. At the end of the month, my counterart and I are going to attend a training with a local NGO to learn how to talk about HIV/AIDS (VIH/SIDA in French) over radio broadcast in local languages. This will be amazing, because it will give us the opportunity to reach a larger portion of the population. Many of the "glitches" that I observed in each COGES were almost identical to the problems you would find in the States. Some of the leaders were disorganized; many of the members (student's parents) were absent from the meetings; and many of the positions that were supposed to be occupied by women, were occupied by men. For the most part, the COGES members that were in attendance seemed to be very motivated about getting their schools in order, and finding more funding to provide their students with school supplies and books! Next month, I leave my post to go to the training site for three weeks! It will be very nice to see all of my stage-mates, but also to learn more about fundraising and being a better volunteer. Life is good here in Maradi, and the evenings and mornings are still very cool! Hausa is still coming along slowly, but sai hankuri (have patience) right!? By the way, helping two other volunteers every saturday with a radio show. It's been great for my hausa, and really fun to reach so many people!
03 December 2008
by Ryan Forbes Morris
I was drowned by the Harmattan
And emptied by the hands of the Bahaushé seer
Whose arms untwisted my voice from the breath of Saharan sands
And guided my conscience to the neon complexity of day
Restoring sound to lifeless form
Where I float to the stratosphere…shining blue-green and killa peach!
Infused and then cool
Pouring blue flame as libation to afrocentric ocean
Where my body was smoked...remembered…kissed brilliant silver…and released unbound across the sky
by Ryan Forbes Morris
the seamstress of progressive thought
baptized the ocean
with sunbeams and revolutionary vision
our Sister of TRUTH… manifestation of transformative action
Who collected the sounds of Earth
Breathing jazz, afro-beat, and sweet hibiscus to my mind’s angle of song
And with commanding presence
Painted evening clouds bright sapphire
Shaped ripe moons the song of mockingbirds
Vertically across my conscience
06 November 2008
It is Thursday November 6th, Two days after Change4th, and how incredible it has been. I have received so many emails from people back in the States describing the joy and excitement of everyone back home. I believe it! Niger caught the fever! These past two days, I've been trying to talk to people to see what this change means to them. Why is was this presidential election so important to people thousands of miles away? Many of the Nigeriens that I've talked to all agree that this election reaffirms what America is about. Everyone that I've spoken with knows that the change that Obama will bring in Niger and West Africa is mostly psychological. For the first time, people are seeing someone that looks like them, having great influence over the hearts, minds, and pride of the entire planet. Pretty incredible right? People that I've talked to know that their possibilities are endless, and they love the example that Obama has set for the children of Niger. In short, everyone here agrees that this was a revolution for beautiful change, and that politics will never ever be the same after this moment. Everytime I walk down the street, instead of being greeted with "Sannu" or "Ina kwana" or "Barka", people are raising their fists to their chests and saying "Obama! Obama! Obama!" Anyone else want to share reactions they've heard back in States or from abroad!?
05 November 2008
The obligatory disclaimer: The opinons/commentary expressed in this message are not the views of the United Staes Peace Corps, they are mine and mine alone.
29 October 2008
When I first arrived in-country, we lived with host families near the training site closer to the country’s capital. When I was introduced to my host father, one of the very first things he said to me was that he was café au lait (Coffee with cream, in reference to his skin color). I was a little confused about why he had made the effort to tell me this. He told me that he was “café au lait” long before he had to told me anything else about himself or his family. I had initially thought this was weird, but gave it little attention. Weeks later, after I had questioned him about his family and siblings, he told me he had very many siblings, but he only wanted to talk about his younger brother who was apparently the sibling with the lightest skin color in the family. I have realized that the longer I have been in-country, the intricacies of its intra-racial (within the same race) skin politics and color complex have slowly began to emerge. An American friend, who has run a non-profit foundation in Niger for several years, told me that she had begun to notice the manner in which many of the members of the villages she worked with judged the worth of their children by their skin color. She is a very fluent speaker of Hausa, and shared with me how young children were often being compared to the color of tar. After she and I had talked for several minutes about intra-racial discrimination, one of her Nigerien counterparts told me of a mutual friend we shared. After he explained, in Hausa, how he and our mutual friend were acquainted he slowly said in English the word “Black.” Of course, he was referring to the deep black skin complexion of our mutual friend. He mentioned nothing else of him, except the shade of his skin.
Once my Hausa language skills improve, I do plan on further interrogating this question of intra-racial skin politics. I know the history of intra-racial color complexes in the black community in the United States, but I do not know if the kind of color complex that exists here in Niger shares exactly the same origins. Any ideas? I guess this is where my education comes handy... talking to people and critically engaging their beliefs.
27 October 2008
So, kind of an upgrade from the hut in Hamdallaye right? All is going well, and I finally got my house weeded. This was a week of many firsts:
1. First time a group of Nigeriens and I roasted marshmallows on the side of the road! Very fun, except I couldn't really explain to them why exactly we eat marshmallows.
2. First case of intestinal bacteria! Yeah, not pretty. Put me out for four days. But I'm cured now, thanks to the healing powers of Auntie Wanda's Grapefruit Seed Extract
3. First snake sighting! The guys that I sit with, along with the entire Firefighting force, found an extremely poisonous snake and quickly chopped its head off. Yeah, I know
4. First time I shared some Obama merchandise with some of my coworkers!
Hopefully next week, America will have another historic "FIRST!" event!
17 October 2008
So, I have officially been at post for one month now! Woohoo! Here are some pics of my house. Everything is going fabulously. I've been doing my best to talk to my neighbors as much as possible and "integrate." I am still fortunate enough not to have been hit by amoebas, bacteria, or the other myriad sicknesses that have affected my other fellow volunteers. And for those of you still in the States, I sent in my absentee ballot last week, so you all have no excuse NOT TO VOTE! Some of the vounteers have also organized an Election Party for Nov. 4th. There are a few restaurants in town with satellites, so we'll be following as best as we can! Nigeriens are following our election as if it was their own! This week, we submitted our Annual Implementation Plan to the school Inspector in charge of all of the schools in Maradi. We've also connected with CARE international to do some good collaborations on Girl's education. I'll keep you updated. Make sure you vote!It's hot here, so enjoy that nice fall weather! Miss you all.
Current Reading Material: Richard Wright's "Black Boy"
Current iPod rotation: Jorge Ben's "A Tabua de Esmeralda" , Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool", Me'Shell Ndegeocello's "Peace Beyond Passion", and Ceu's "CÉU"
02 October 2008
Work at the Inspection is also going well. There is another volunteer that works here in the city, and we are going to be doing a lot of collaborative work this year. We are going to run an English club on the weekends, and work with local Nigerien NGO's to provide literacy classes and computer trainings to members of the COGES (Parent Teacher organizations that are in charge of managing and administering all academic institutions). I was a little nervous at first, because I didn't quite know what projects or activities to bring. My counterpart and I are going to be focusing on these few things during this year. The promotion of girl's education--this is crucial. If Niger is going to advance, they absolutely must educate their girls and ensure their continued education through high school AND university; how to effectively run a meeting and keep records--this is needed to ensure that money is not being embezelled, but also to ensure that meetings and school administration is running as efficiently as possible; School equipment preservation--this includes books, computers (if available), copy machines, typewriters, etc.; Classes on how to look for funding--COGES gropus are responsible for finding funding for school materials and books, we want to do tranings to help them learn how to search fo funds on the internet; Literacy classes for members of the COGES that truly support the cause of education, but were unable to attend schools--there are many rural parts of the country that have very few schools. For example, in the town where our training was conducted, there was a middle school but no high school. The high school was 30 kilometers away in the nation's capital; and lastly, feedback--how can these Parent Teacher groups improve themselves, what are they doing well, what are they doing poorly, what needs to be improved? how can we help them! During these first few months, the plan is to visit all of these organizations and their respective schools to see what's going well! I love this project because we're not giving money, we're building capacity. These skills will do wonders for the administration of these schools. I'll keep you posted.
19 September 2008
Amassing the cool of this evening’s breeze
You exist of me
That our ultraLOVE distracts my reality
Rains sweet pepper and cinnamon from my hands to my mind’s oasis
Blurs the brown of my skin
Leaves us suspended at the edge of the earth
where our thoughts beam the color of marvelous sapphire
-Ryan Forbes Morris
It’s the eighties baby…
So pick a dub.
And watch the werewolf scientist
Slowly disassemble your unmiraculous comportment to stay loose.
You instinctively pronounced that your dreary mediocrity was indestructible?
Don’t sweat the technique…and watch Him resurrect the iLLest love to forcefully intrude your misery
Where /FLY /nineteen sixty seven neon blue rushes the tape deck-
Drips from baobab leaves
And burns chocolate AFRObeat to the concrete.
Let the DUBmaster reverberate your soul to the tipping point
engage your swift inattention…
profoundly transforming your sad sorrows
to champion’s requiem.
It’s the eighties baby…where on January 32nd you’ll no longer inhabit suspicious gravity as drifter...
or beg the skies for generous reprieve
because you will feel the ground tremble
and realize that your paradise resides with the silk city dubalicious sense of things.
-Ryan Forbes Morris
18 September 2008
I will begin work next week. I’m going to start out working with the Parent-Student-Teacher organizations that are in charge of finding funding for school supplies and regulating the quality of teaching in the classrooms. All of my coworkers are back from vacation and they seem very ready to begin work. We’ve been instructed to not conduct any large projects for the first three months, and to try to work on our language skills and integrate into our communities. Just in case you were wondering, acquisition of local language = integration. One of the officials that works at the Bureau told us that it generally takes volunteers about 10 months to really get a good grasp of the language, so I guess I have a lot of work to do!
12 September 2008
28 August 2008
27 August 2008
by Ryan Forbes Morris
The wise sage woman sips galaxies for thought-(!)-
To displace the immensity of her perfect light to my
Left coast…west coast…fifth dimensions
Where my mind reassembles the rigid conscious centerings of my afro descended experience
Against the wrinkled hieroglyphics of the woman who thrust my spirit across the ocean
Offering her soul as my ink
And giving her body as my vessel
Wise woman-you have sketched my existence into the sun
With a beauty seldom spoken beyond the lucid domain of the planets
Where angels taste the urban warmth of the stars beneath the bitter blues of desert nights
Peace, Sage Woman. Through you I am bestowed poetic freedom.
08 August 2008
Emotional humans fully suspend blue thoughts like jazz
Amongst the candid intermissions of the cunning lyricist
Whose lips ring truth to tired fragments of existentialist lo mein
It is she… that longs to recreate peace from stereo beat knick mind states
It is she…the queen that stands…and seeks to bestow light unto her daughters that will come NEXT…
Where funk upon a time…
‘woke vigilant souls spilled tomorrow from sun spaced trajectories
and slowly moved their fingers to recreate colors in the wind.
Reach for my hand so that I can kiss yours
So that we, mutually existing as stars, can shine as TWO beyond unfathomable limit
06 August 2008
27 July 2008
09 July 2008
As we arrive in Niger, we have to keep in mind that the Peace Corps approach to development is strength based. We will be evaluating the strengths of our villages to see what's already working, talking to people and assessing the needs of the people. I will be doing teacher training/education work while I'm there. And let me just add, that we DO NOT take jobs away from qualified Nigeriens! We will have 9 weeks of training in Hamdallaye so communication will be tough. This might be my last post for a few weeks. Once we arrive in Niamey, we will drive about an hour to the training site, and then we get to meet the Chef du village! I know...I'm gonna make sure I put my best foot forward. Can't wait to share some pictures with all of you. I'll do my best to write letters while communication is bad in Hamdallaye.
Paz e amor,
05 July 2008
03 July 2008
02 July 2008
o Water resistant Nike windbreaker
o 3 pairs of black, long, bacteria-resistant socks
o 1 pair of ankle socks (exercise)
o 15 pairs of cotton underwear/boxer briefs
o 10 plain, solid-colored cotton t-shirts & V-neck shirts
o 2 exercise sweat-resistant shirts
o 3 cotton button-down dress shirts
o 3 logo t-shirts
o 2 pairs of light running shorts
o 2 pairs light cotton pants
o 1 brown cargo pant
o 2 dress pants (1 khaki, 1 solid black)
o Belts (one-size fits all belt)
o Two hats (1 brimmed, 1 baseball)
o 1 pair black jeans
o 1 Nike fleece
o 1 pair of running shoes
o 1 pair of Chacos hiking sandals
o 2 pair of Havaiana “Top” flip-flops
o 1 pair of dress shoes
o Thin, compactable microfiber towel
o Nail clippers
o Titanium scissors
o Face lotion/astringent
o Two pairs of sunglasses
o Toothpaste & Floss
o Battery-powered beard trimmer
o Hair clippers
o 1 Leatherman tool
o 1 retractable serrated knife
o 1 AA-battery powered flashlight
o 2 Camelbak nalgene bottles
o 1 bottle of pico de gallo
o Zip lock bags
o Turkey Jerky
o Nutrigrain bars
o Fruit snacks
o Instant drink mixes
o Grapefruit seed extract tablets & drops
o Light, compactable synthetic down sleeping bag
o Compactable synthetic down pillow
o Free-standing mosquito net tent
o Hostel travel sheet
o Clothes line & clips for hang-dry clothing
o 5 packs of black writing pens
o Small dustpan
o Canon Powershot digital camera/carrying-case
o 2 retractable USB flashdrives (1 2GB, 1 256MB)
o Waterproof watch
o Batteries ( a lot)
o Day Pack
o Solio Solar charger (for iPod & cellphone)
o Hiking backpack (with frame)
o Luggage locks
o U.S. Driver’s License
o 12 Passport photos
o Duct tape
o 30 GB iPod w/ water-proof & dust-proof Otterbox carrying case
o Chewable Pepto-Bismol & Imodium AD
o 2 rolls of toilet tissue
o Voltage converters
o French-French & French-English dictionary
o Canvas carrying bags (trying to be green!)
o Books to read