27 July 2008

Poetic Ego: Nigerien Trigonometry and Fire in the West

Each night, we sleep beneath the stars. In Niger they are immense, brilliant, complex. It seems as if only street poetry could solve the trigonometry of the heavens...I have committed myself to these stars, that make speech vanish like vapor, these stars that bless and reaffirm the beauty of "we". After about three weeks, I am learning to call Niger home. The people here are incredibly warm and the sense of community...the sense of "we"...is very strong. Our training group has become a small family, as we work hard each week to learn the language, hausa zarma french, and learn about the culture here. My host family is amazing! I have a young sister who is two years old, and she now affectionately refers to me as "ton ton", or "uncle" in french. My host father is an english teacher at the local collège (middle school) and my host mother is a continuing her studies at the university near the capital city. We spend so much time together, which gives me a chance to practice my french and my very basic hausa. I'll update more once I get a chance. Site announcements are in three weeks! I'll find out whether I'll be en brousse (the bush) or in the city as an education volunteer! I miss everyone! Feel free to send me letters or care packages to the address on my blog website. It would be much appreciated!

09 July 2008

?uestlove Spins Strength and Sustainability

So, today we finally leave for Niger, West Africa. We have to get some immunizations this afternoon (yellow fever) and then we will first fly to Paris, France and the to the capital city of Niger. We are a nice large group of 48, so I'd imagine we will be taking up the majority of the plane. Last night, we tried to take advantage of our dwindling time in the states. Some other volunteers and I strolled around Philadelphia and found an obscure Italian restaurant beneath one Philadelphia's secluded and more quiet bridges. Open windows, red woods, floating candles, and steaming hot pasta were among the many aromas and flavors suspended in this street-side shrine to Italian delicacies. We continued to walk around the city, and we ended up at Silk City Bar, and listened to the wet/sick/heavy dub beats of old school reggae mixed by the R&B/soul drummer ?uestlove from The Roots. This club was amazing! Smooth beats, humid air, afros, dashikis, dread locks, rocking hips, that pure philly love! On our last night, we could all put our hands up, raising dub beats to the ceiling, close our eyes, smile, and just jam.

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,

Ryan

05 July 2008

The CoLor SOUNDs of Travel (Philly Blues)

So I have safely arrived in Philadelphia for Peace Corps Niger staging orientation. This is where I will meet all of the volunteers that will be serving in Niger and learn a little bit more about what to expect upon our arrival in Niamey, Niger. As the plane entered Philly, we landed directly into a rain storm that was headed for New Jersey! All of the volunteers that I have met seem so nice. We all got stuffed into the same shuttle from the airport. Everyone seems very motivated, and very determined to have a meaningful path and existence. We networked immediately, and walked throughout the historic district of Philadelphia. We had chicken philly cheesesteaks for dinner and then hit a few spots for drinks. Everyone is amazing, and I feel much more relieved!

03 July 2008

Scarcity: The Remaining Days

Beautiful memories to hang from African skies...












02 July 2008

Complex Simplicity: PC Niger Packing List

Clothing:

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 Swimtrunks

o 1 Nike fleece

Shoes:

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

Toiletries:

o Thin, compactable microfiber towel

o Nail clippers

o Titanium scissors

o Face lotion/astringent

o Soap/Shampoo

o Toothpaste

o Two pairs of sunglasses

o Toothpaste & Floss

o Battery-powered beard trimmer

o Hair clippers

Kitchen:

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

Miscellaneous:

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 Passport

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 Envelopes

o Lanyard

o Books to read