Monday, June 09, 2008

So long, and thanks for all the fish..... i mean packages!

You'll all have to forgive me, or not that's up to you. I know I kind of dropped the ball with closing this thing out... just kind of left you all hanging in the UK. I'll try to offer some closure now.

The UK was incredible. We spent two weeks there, mostly in London, and it was a blast. It was also very expensive. I had to constantly tell myself to ignore the symbol on prices. If you do that, everything is very reasonable; but it's hard, knowing that every pound is worth 2 dollars, making everything twice as expensive! I did get to see some Disney references, particularly Portabello Road and the step of St. Paul's. Portabello market was really fun, not quite what you see in the movie, but the time period is a bit different. I was very disappointed that there wasn't a little old bird lady singing at the cathedral, but I suppose I'll cope. Seabass didn't really appreciate my need to go see these places, but humored me none the less. We also met this really neat Australian named Miranda who was as excited as I about them. She was very awesome to hang out with, and had actually tried to stay with Seabass in Niger through couchsurfing, but it didn't work out. We went with her to see a ghanaian band one night, that was awesome, we danced ourselves ragged. Other than London, we took the train up to Yorkshire to visit Seabass's aunt Sue and family. That was a delightful change from the city. The English countryside was beautiful and we couldn't have asked for better hosts. We also went to Edinburgh from one night and met Seabass's dad's friend Joyce, a.k.a. "the Lady Caplan" ... yes, we stayed with an actual Lord and Lady. It was great fun, they're awesome folks, and Scotland is beyond imagination. It was amazingly beautiful, and I'd love to go back and see more of it.

After the UK we headed to Dublin, where we spent one night in the Brewery Hostel, saw the Guiness storehouse, and lived in the airport for a night. The Storehouse tour was pretty cool, and the pint you get at the end was unbelievable. I've heard its the best pint in the world, and I don't have any grounds to argue. We got to hang with Alex and Alison a lot in dublin, and had a wonderful time. We didn't sleep much in the airport, but it was a nice reset so we weren't really jetlagged, just exhausted when we got back. Oh, and the cabby that drove us to the airport thought I was from there :-).

The plane ride was the best yet, we got lots of tasty food, and a free drink. We decided to just break and run for it when we landed, no long teary goodbyes. We'd been through two years in Niger together, and traveled together for a month, but we knew we'd see each other again, so there was no need for water works, right? WRONG! I didn't make it thirty seconds down the hall and started sobbing uncontrollably. It lasted for like 30 minutes, with aftershocks for hours. It was the biggest cry I've had in probably 20 years. Keep in mind that we'd not slept to speak of in about 36 hours, so nerves were shot anyway, but still. It took me five minutes to calm myself enough to ask the info lady how to get to the subway.

I think the hardest part was that it was over. As long as we were still galavanting around, it was still part of the whole Peace Corps experience. But once we touched American soil, that clinched it, we were done. That adventure was over. As such, this blog is also over. I will leave it up for people to find as long as the site doesn't delete it, but I'm not going to post in here anymore.

As a parting few words, I'd like to thank everyone who wrote me and sent me packages. You've no idea how much it meant to me. I know I was horrible about writing letters, and I'm sorry, but I do appreciate it. You guys brightened my life there a lot. I also want to get around to visit everyone, but that's expensive right now, and my money keeps evaporating, so be patient. If I haven't come to see you yet, I will. I'll try to give you some notice first, but who knows, I might just show up at your front door one of these days!

One last time, Thank you, all of you. Thank you for reading my blog, thank you for sending me letters and things, thank you for caring, thank you for being my awesome friends and family.

Thank you.
Kala han fo!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Quick UK Update

I'm loving london, and besides the occassional freak out about prices and things (which would be inevitable wherever I started back into the western world) I'm adjusting quite well.  We've got a lovely place to stay with Seabass's cousin and are having a blast!  I must say this place is very much speaking to me in various ways as a place I'll live for a while, probably in the near future.  We'll see how I feel in a week or so, but don't worry, I've got my tickets booked and nothing will keep me from coming home for a bit to see everyone, just not guaranteeing I'll stay there for years or anything.  And if it helps, at least here I'm much more accessible than in Africa.  Just a crazy idea for now, and you know how many of those tend to work out.  The Peace Corps was really the first that I ever actually acted on.  I'll type more later, but I want to send while my pirated connection holds ;-). TTFN

Saturday, March 29, 2008

OUT OF AFRICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hallelujah! It was an insane mad dash, but we survived and are now bona fide Real Ultimate Bad-Asses.  The bus came when it was supposed to, and we were standing there waiting to get on when they informed us that the bus was broken and wasn't going anywhere until the next morning.  We slept at the station and decided that if it showed no signs of moving by 800, we were going to high tail it on bush taxis.  They worked on it a while and at around 9 made us all get on, They put it in gear and moved about a half a foot before deciding we should all get back off.  It seemed as though it would be fixed at any time, so we waited.  At around 1 or so they gave up and decided everyone would just have to wait for the next bus that night.  The problem with that being that our plane was supposed to take off at 605 the next morning and there was no possible way the bus would make it by then.  In addition, we'd sent a couple of bags ahead of us so we wouldn't have to deal with it.  We'd pretty much given up hope of catching out flight when a nice Nigerian fellow who's been living in Ghana and was on his way back informed me that we could get there by 8 or 9 if we took public transport and left right away.  Instantly our spirits lifted and the nice SNTV (bus line) man gave us a refund without any problems, so off we went.  We got a car, a really nice one, and had to pay a bit more, but only had 5 total people in it, just like it was designed for!  Borders weren't too much of a problem, and we really made decent time.  We did lose our friend at the Togo/Ghana border, but it was probably for the best as he was keen on taking us to his house and getting our contact info and all, and really, much as he was a great guy, I've already got plenty of people to try to keep up with.  I just wish we could have given him something for helping us so much.  Once across the Ghana border, we had to find another car, as  the one we had wasn't going all the way.  It was quite a mess and there were plenty of people who were trying to gouge us for 10 times the normal price because we are white and therefore have more money than we could ever use.  Little do they know...  We got a taxi for the normal price though and only had to wait an hour to leave.  Taxis in Ghana do get stopped every 5 miles or so so police can shine in their flashlights as you slowly drive by and see what you've got attatched to your cieling, or so I guess because we were in a taller taxi and that's all they could really see.  We even got stopped by a Ghanaian policeman who told us where the bus station was so we could get our bags. 

Once we got to Accra we had a time finding the station, it's very poorly marked.  But people were very helpful and soon we found Zarma's who helped us out.  We got to the SNTV station at about 10pm, but it was locked up.  There were, naturally, about 6 people making tea right there and the called the guy in charge and he was very nice to come and give us our stuff.  We paid him most of the cfa we had left, as it was really no good anymore to us, he made more for that than most nigerians make in a day, about $6.  Then they found us a car for $10 that would take us to the airport safely (they warned us that half the taxis would take us to their waiting friends and shake us down. We got to the airport and found a cybercafe as well as a food cafe that sold us delicious sandwiches, of the very type that Seabass had been lamenting for just that very day.  There was almost tears at the whole ordeal.  It was such a mad dash that I feel like the amazing race would be a piece of cake.  We got cleaned up a bit and changed into fresh clothing and really didn't have to wait too long at the airport before we could start the whole process of the checking in and all.  The flights went great, save a slight delay in Casablanca, but frankly after everything else, it was absolutely not an issue. 

The only thing that bothered me about that place was this little 8 year old twerp that kept harassing us.  He was just being a brat, trying to steal our cards, smacking my bag (the one with the computer in it, mind you, not a way to get on my good side), raspberrying us and calling me a "wormy worm worm".  I chased him off and told his parentals that he was bugging us, thinking that maybe they'd do something about that.  Later he kept coming and taunting us so I cussed him out in Zarma, which he didn't understand, and neither did his father; but his father decided to come and yell at me for being angry at his kid.  He decided that I was lying about the bag smacking and said that "he's a child, you should respect him".  Luckily for him I was in a very stable mood and he left it at that.  I was actually more worried about Seabass going off on him, which would be a change, usually I'm the one with no tolerance for stupidity!  Long story short, the dude was a dick and his kid is well on his way to becoming the same.  Alhamdulilahi, they were on a different flight and I'll never see them again.

Once in London, everything went pretty smoothly, we found where we were going without much trouble.  There was a bit of Seabass getting caught up in the crowd and zooming ahead.  We were on about 6 hrs of sleep in 72 or so and I was having a hell of a time with my baggage.  ( I don't recommend moving via vacation, just not convenient to haul all your stuff with you )  We got to the right station and his very nice cousin Sammy picked us up and gave us a great meal and a place to stay for the night, complete with hot shower, internet, heat, and a great bed with pillows galore and a heavenly down comforter.  It was the best I've slept in ages.  They made us bacon sandwiches and all and dropped us off to stay with another cousin, Lizzie, tonight.  She's got an incredible television and a Nintendo WII, which Sebastian is enthralled with right beside me. He says Super Mario Galaxy is really fun, even if Lizzie says it's crap.  We got all our travel sorted out today for the rest of the journey to the states, off to Dublin in a couple of weeks on British Airways ( we tried Ryan Air, who wanted to fly us for $20, but they wanted about $320 to take our baggage, Nerts to that!!!).  Then we fly home on 14 Apr, and part ways from there.  I'm headed to pick up a car for dad and drive it home, and Seabass is off home to VT.

Overall, london seems even more awesome than I remember the states being (don't worry, I'm not staying or anything), but I am having issues with prices, the pound being about 2 dollars, and I have to mentally adjust every price I see.  I had a bit of a freak out in the grocery store, Seabass found me just staring at the soft drinks looking like I needed to be rebooted, but I'm doing a bit better now.  Its also very chilly here, which is incredible after 26 months of eternal summer.  I think my favorite part though, is that I can get real dill pickles again, what more does a person really need?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Moving right along....

Again, sorry for the delay, but here's what's up.  I've closed my Peace Corps service and am on my vacation/trip home.  We were going to go to ghana since we've not been yet, but the embassy took a long weekend and we didn't really have time.  We still fly out of Accra tomorrow night, and we're heading there on the bus tonight.  We've been hanging out in Cotonou and Grand Popo, just chillin and enjoying the fact that there are no demands on us right now, and there's nothing we could do about it if there were.  It's kind of the most free I've been in, well, ever.

We'll be in London for a while visiting Seabass's relatives and seeing the sites, then we fly to NYC on the 14th of April and I'm probably out that night on greyhound to get a car for dad and drive it home.  That's not all worked out yet, but sounds like it could be perfect. 

I kind of had my freak out in Grand Popo one night, and now I'm okay with this transition, I just kind of wish I could stop travelling for a while.  Part of me is so excited that from here on out till the states is new things I haven't seen before, but part of me just wants to snap my fingers and be home.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Surprise! I'm still alive!

I could say I'm sorry, but it wouldn't do any good, so I'll just update you and call it good. Lots has happened. There's been thanksgiving, vacation, COS conference, and that's just the big stuff.

Vacation was awesome. I went back to Benin, to Grand Popo. I wanted to go somewhere I knew so I didn't have to worry about things. I wasn't looking for adventure, I just wanted to chill on the beach for a few days. I took Kelli Van Zee with me, from my stage in Dosso. We got along great and had a lot of fun. The bus rides were almost enough to make it not worth it, but we're trying to forget about them. I had another week of vacation after the Benin trip, but it turned out to be just like any other work week, oh well.

For the COS conference, we went to Park W and stayed at a rather nice resort place in Tapoa. We had sessions every day, but there was plenty of time to relax, swim, watch babboons, and chat with our stagemates one last time. It was a nice time to look back on the last two years and start wrapping it up.

Thanksgiving was incredible. The embassy brought us a Butterball turkey and half a processed ham. Jonathan took over on the Turkey and did an excellent job. The ham made me cry. We also killed and roasted a rabbit, and I made a bunch of grandma's two-stories. There were pies, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mac&cheese. It was truly a spectacular showing.

Tomorrow some of us are helping out at the Ambassador's retirement carnival. They just want free labor, which is fine since we just want free food :-). On tuesday the boss comes back into country with my new computer. :-D I bought a MacBook Intel Core2Duo 2.16GHz 160GB 1GB Superdrive bluetooth etc. I know it's a mac, but notice the Intel processor that will make it run any OS I want to install! WOOT!!!

Anyway, that's my update for now. Here also is a link to the Google Gallery I set up with house pics. Enjoy!

Djimi's House #37 Rue YN-63

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Long overdue update

Yeah, yeah, I know... I never update the blog. Well, here you go, I'm throwing you all a bone.

It's been a really crazy month so far. The Ag project review is over now, and the 45th anniversary crap will be done in a week. Then all I have to worry about is installation of new volunteers and I can go on vacation. I'm not sure where I'll go. I might go with some of our wadabi friends to their annual festival. They might even let me paint my face and dance with them, that would be something! I also thought about going back to Benin, it would be a good time, and I already know how it's all done. We'll see what happens.

Things are going good in general. Kevin and I had our birthdays a week and a half ago. We went to Byblo's. It's a Lebonese restaurant. We had all the Babaganoush, Homos, Toubouli, etc we could eat. It was good times. Everyone is also coming in for Swear in, so there will be much good food made and lots of games played and hanging out done...

I also have started reading a bit again. (It's so hard to do in Niamey, there's so much going on) I've started the Golden Compass, part if the "His Dark Materials" series, which is being made into a movie that will come out around Christmas. I want to read it before the movie comes out, or I know I'll never make it through the book. So far it's incredible. In the book, every person has what's called a daemon. It's like a familiar, or an animal entity that is part of you. On the website, you can take a quiz and be told what form your daemon would take. It also allows friends and family to agree or disagree and alters the daemon based upon that as well. I'm not big on quizzes, but this one intrigues me. Please take time to answer the questions and I promise I won't put more stupid quizes up here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Crazy busy happiness

I've got a house, I've got power, I've got functional plumbing, i've got couches, a bed, a fridge, a stove, and I'm loving every bit of it. I have Souley, Gaston, and Yacouba to thank for it. THANKS GUYS!!!

Things are really pretty good right now. We had a "nacho fry" party the other night. I got a wok and we made a crapload of french fries and some taco fixins and had nacho fries, they were awesome. Then we threw in some eggs the next morning for nacho fry hash. it was awesome. We all went to La Cascade the other day for Seabass's birthday, he's two dozen now.

There are plenty of people coming into town right now for a Globe conference (evironmental and science education training) so Niamey is starting to get a might busy. I'm doubly glad to have my own place. One of the main purposes of the hostel's is to provide a resting place for pcvs for mental health. We don't really get any time off in the bush, we're always dealing with people, even in our concessions people stop by to see us and there's no "safe" place to hide. The hostels are a good place when we need to be away from everything for a day, but not when there are too many people there. That's an overload of a different sort. It makes me very glad to have my house here. I can have private space, my neighbors aren't bugging me all the time -- don't get me wrong, I like my neighbors, but it's nice that they don't come knocking every day -- and I can get away from PCVs if I want. I can actually guarantee myself some quiet time to just relax and take a deep breath and think.

I've got plenty to do with the job. I've got to help rewrite the agriculture project plan, I've got to get a presentation ready for the 45th aniversary stuff, I've got to open 6 new sites, and I've got to try and stay sane. I think I'll pull it off, all but that last bit anyway. I found out today that there is a bridge out on the way to tillaberi, so it will be much harder now to get materials to the new sites. I also have to get approval on houses from the bosses, so I've got to get them out there too. There's a lot to do, but it will all happen as it should, so I'm not going to worry about it. So there.