Besides all the work and projects that you have been reading about in this blog, I thought I’d try to give you an idea of what the travel is like–not the airplane–you all know about that. I can’t really give you (and don’t want to) the bone crunching experience of driving off road through the Air mountain range–hours on end–at the end of the day the sun blazing through the windshield blinding you. I can’t adequately describe the intense heat of the days turning into bitter cold nights as we approached the desert..again I don’t want to and I think you can guess at that. But I can show you what our camps look like, our cars, and some of the many surprises we find or make as we go along. Yes the work is gratifying (as well as frustrating and exhausting) but the rest of the trip–the many surprising, glorious, fascinating, silly, curious and astonishing things are what keep us going. Here are some of them…
I love to introduce someone new to Niger for the first time–this trip it was Alissa. She is a seasoned traveler and professional photographer and agreed to come along as an interpreter. I was delighted to be freed from that constant task and I wanted to show her some of what delights me about Niger. She had wanted to see the Wodaabe festivals but the season was at its end. I asked our friends at Foudouk if they would give us a demonstration–Becky and Pat had never seen one either–in spite of trying each year–so we had a mini gerewol just for us.
After our training was done at Tamesna we packed up and left for Iferouane–a long two days of driving through tortuous terrain. We broke it up by stopping at Eres N’Tagba, a large Tuareg community very much in need of matrones. This is one of six communities we hope to add through our “local training program”. We will pick them up and bring the chosen two to Tamesna for a training program in February.
We spent the night with the Giraffe of Dabous and continued for the always long, but this year brutal, drive to Iferouane. There had been so much rain that the roads, already non-roads, were really indistinguishable as roads and as a result we arrived 2 hours late and missed our welcoming party.
The next four days were spent training matrones, visiting potential new projects and old ones–repair of a school roof, 50 goats purchased, women’s leather co-operatives, potato gardens thriving since planting last year–
Iferouane knows how to party–they welcome us well, but they sent us off with a fabulous fete.
Nights are spent around the fire telling stories, playing stupid games or listening to Alhassane play the guitar–sometimes dancing the Tuareg shuffle.