Monday, April 27, 2009

Things You Might See in Niamey

First, a disclaimer: still no Niamey pictures. Can I blame it on the heat? Today's not actually that bad, just humid. And overcast. I feel like I'm being steamed. Possible bright sides to this condition include- less static electricity; knowing when you're dehydrated because you run out of sweat and become the only dry thing for miles; you might be able to cook something, very slowly, perhaps thinly sliced carrots.

And now, a quick lesson in the proper pronounciation(s) of the word Niamey:

Niamey is pronounced NEE-am-aay if you are an American speaking with another American (rhymes with FREE-spam-day, sounds kind of like Miami if you pronounce Miami the Spanish way).

If you are an American speaking with a Nigerien, you would say something like Nee-ahm-AYE (rhymes with Free-um-FLY).

But if you are in a rural village, the N is replaced with a Y, and the capital city suddenly has just two syllables and sounds like Yum-EYE.

I should also add that I opened this up for discussion with six other volunteers and none of us can agree on any of it. So, I guess you can just say it however you want.

Here are two neat things that you might see in Niamey:

1. Tall white camels carrying loads of hand-woven grass mats, being led by ropes through their noses by men in robes. I see these guys every day, and every day I try not to stare. Camels are just so unlike any animal I am familiar with in the states-- their gait, their size, their expressions-- so they always capture my attention. I hope I never, ever get used to seeing camels.

2. Enthusiastic taxi drivers. I agree with Alex- some of my most memorable conversations take place in taxis with the driver and his other passengers. The way city taxis roll here is an adventure in itself: you stand on the side of the road, wave one down. He pulls up but doesn't stop, just pauses long enough for you to shout out where you want to go. If he wants to go there, or is planning on going near there, he'll motion you in with a nod, and you jump in and join the other 2 or 3 people already in the car (all, presumably, going somewhere close to where you're going). If he isn't going where you're going, he shakes his head and zooms away, leaving you feeling rejected, a little miffed, in the hot sand on the curb.

Once you finally enter a cab, you become an accepted member of an exclusive, travelling, temporary, 4-member-only club for people with shared interests insofar as you all have business in a common neighborhood. It's a nice atmosphere, most of the time. And it's a guarantee that at least one of the other passengers, if not all of them and the driver to boot, will gush gratitude and admiration for your efforts to know and speak Hausa. Most of the time, I get out of cabs feeling like I just got the pep-talk of a lifetime. It's nice to be appreciated. And driven around.


NIGER1.COM said...

very nice Samsiya
I actually saw your facebook page for the school in Faloa
I also spoke to Michelle Stonner
I actually introduce her tosome people in her town who are doing a fundraising on may 3 rd and she said she will make sure to tell them about your school and town

Merry said...

I'm thinking back to the first time I saw camels in the "wild". We were on a slow moving train, going down the escarpment from the mountains of northern Ethiopia to the Red Sea. I had grown up seeing and riding camels at Vilas Zoo, but to see them as a work animal, loaded with everything from fabrics, straws, pots to food and water was a surprise I hadn't expected. (Hm, I guess if it was expected it wouldn't be a surprise! oh well...)Each time we passed a caravan I'd stare!

John said...

I'll add my first camel recollection: we'd just gotten off the plane at the Kabul airport, and were flying down the road towards the city in a Peace Corps vehicle. Out of the window streaming down both sides of the road were parades of camels, donkeys, men in flowing perons and tambans, and women in blue and lavender chadris. I remember thinking I was in a National Geographic photo shoot.