Thank you to everyone who's written to make sure I'm okay- I am okay, really. I will be in Niger for one more week before flying to Morocco and, eventually, to Oregon. It's an earlier take-off than I'd had in mind, but given everything that's gone on here recently it is an acceptable compromise. I'll take two weeks in Morocco, why not?
And, because I promised to include more information about "the situation", here goes. To the best of my knowledge: two weeks ago there was an attempted kidnapping of Americans in Tahoua, which is the capital of my region and a few hours north of my home. There have been a series of attempted and/or successful kidnappings of Europeans in and around Niger/Mali over the last year; most (if not all) of these are presumed to be the acts of an Al Quaeda group based in Mali. Because of the proximity and boldness of the Tahoua attempt, and because it appeared to target Americans, Peace Corps withdrew immediately from the region.
And that's why I had to leave my village early. I've spent the last two weeks trying to be useful (or, alternately, sitting in an absolute daze) in Konni, Niamey, and the training site at Hamdallaye, and will tackle my end-of-service paperwork next week before embarking on my last-minute trip to Morocco.
I have managed to talk with my family and friends in my village every day; we all appear to be (mostly) over the huge bummer of my sudden departure and are just happy to be able to hear each other's voices. They're wrapping up the harvest and preparing for the biggest holiday of the year-- Tabaski, which will happen tomorrow. Obviously I won't be able to partake in the festivities with them this time, but I will celebrate here in Niamey with city-Nigerien friends. What will we do? Be thankful for each other, dress up, visit and greet many people, slaughter a sheep, and eat lots and lots of meat for two days. Barka da Salla!
Below are a few pictures from my last days in the village.
Above are Rahido, Alkasum, Idi, and Wan Mano filling a granary with newly-harvested bundles of millet. The average family will eat approximately one bundle's worth of millet a day. This year, in our area, a family is lucky to get 150 bundles out of their fields. After the bundles run out, they will rely on money sent home from sons and husbands on work exodus to purchase bags of millet from the market.
Two days before I left, a truck pulled up at 7:30 in the morning with our twenty-five gorgeous new school desks!! That was so exciting. In this picture you can see Chaibou, the school director, and Isseuf, the man who arranged the construction and delivery of the desks.
Here is the inside of the new classroom, with new desks in place. In this picture are Narba, Balkissa, Rabi, Malim, Chaibou, and Isseuf. Balkissa, Rabi, and Malim are teachers for the youngest students; Chaibou will teach the two oldest grades in this new building.
There are so many more pictures that I wanted to take before leaving. I guess those will have to wait.