27 August 2008

Borough Check: We Represent the Rest

It is finally week 7! Very hard to believe. We have all been working hard at the training site so that we can learn Hausa/Zarma/French and be as effective as possible. Last week, I was able to meet my supervisor when he came to the training site for a conference. I was really excited to meet him, and he seems very hard working, motivated, and I cannot wait to begin work with him. He wants to do a lot of work with the COGES, which are parent organizations that help regulate teaching within the schools. My supervisor really wants to do a lot of work with poorer families, which was something I felt very strongly about since the interview with Niger’s first female magistrate. Right now, I am visiting the town where I’ll be posted in about two and a half weeks. After we complete training and are sworn in, I’ll get to move here permanetnly. This visit is just to observe my future work and living conditions. I’m about 10 hours east of Niamey and about a few hours north of Nigeria. When I am permantely installed here at my post, I plan to go observe some of the classes at the local middle and high schools, and talk with members of the COGES so that I can start brainstorming some projects, see what needs exist in the community, and most importantly, INTEGRATE! This week, I’ve been able to meet the majority of my coworkers. Today, I had the opportunity to chat with a secretary who was a Geography/History teacher for twenty years. We talked Obama, politics, Latin American history, and a whole host of other things. Everyone is so nice here, and I feel very comfortable and respected here. I am in a big city, which makes “integration” a little bit more different than it was in the small town by the training site. I will not be living with a family, but I will do my best to make sure that I’m as visible as possible. Everyday I’ve been greeting all of the old men that sit together and drink tea on the side of the road, and the firemen that live fairly close to my future house. There are a whole host of development organizations in this city. I had come across some of their compounds as I had met some kids on my way home. I tried to talk to the kids but their French was about as limited as my hausa is. This made me realize, that I have to really step up my hausa skills. For those that don’t remember, when I interviewed the “successful” women of Niger, I felt like none of them could offer tips or suggestions to be people that weren’t middle class or above- the rest! In sum, their class status had a lot to do with their success. I have realized that if I really want to do goo work here, and work with as many people as possible across all class lines, it is imperative that I improve my hausa. I want to be able to work with students that cannot afford outside tutoring and that cannot afford to study abroad in neighboring countries. Next week, I return back to the training site for two more weeks, and then swear in. Everything has been moving so fast, but such is life!

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