Mango Rains

22 03 2009

[AIDS education event in Dosso]

A couple nights ago it rained for the first time in about 6 months.  It was what Nigeriens call Mango rain.  Mango rains are actually just very brief and light showers that supposedly help sweeten the mangos that are rapidly coming into season.  I believe these light showers are created by the last drops of moisture being evaporated by the extreme heat that precedes rainy season.    The daily high temperature now exceeds 40C (105F).  I’ve been forced to move my bed back outside since, even at night, the temperature in my house never drops below 90F.

The first phase of my mural project has been successfully completed.  After two weeks of painting, I worked with my friend/artist Roger to organize an event for youth throughout the city.  Rap artists, dancers, and youth groups participated to help educate the public about AIDS.  A local primary school organized an impressive 10 minute skit that presented all of the most important information about the disease that plagues much of sub-Saharan Africa.  Luckily, Niger has one of the lowest infection rates of all African countries.  Just yesterday I attended a community discussion about AIDS that included education, health, religious, and communication officials from the region of Dosso.  One of the most significant problems mentioned was Nigeriens’ perception of AIDS as being mostly a problem affecting females.  In two local languages, Zarma and Hausa, AIDS translates as woman’s sickness.  Men, especially married men, are often unwilling to get tested and in some cases refuse to give their wives permission to get tested.  Since men can have as many as four wives, getting tested for AIDS is of high importance.

[Ostrich parts and other oddities sold as traditional medicine]

About two weeks ago I went to the city of Kiota for Moloud, the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.  Kiota is the home of one of West Africa’s most famous Shieks.  The city is only about an hour away from Dosso, so I went with a few other volunteers to check out the festivities.  Hundreds of vendors were present amidst many thousands of attendees from across the region.  We even met one woman from Ghana.  The night of Muhammad’s birthday, everyone stays up all night praying at the central mosque.  Just a few weeks prior, I got to meet the the Shiek during the installation of a new volunteer.  He’s a very nice guy.

My cat, Sam, is no longer pregnant.  She leads a secret life away from my house, spending only a few hours there each day.  I followed her around the school grounds where I live and discovered that she has many hideaways.  I even tracked her to an abandoned dormitory.  I got a key and checked out the entire building, but no kittens.  Hopefully they’ll show up soon.  I already have lots of requests for a kitty.

Since December, I’ve been surprisingly busy.  In addition to the mural project, I’ve been holding computer classes, determining equipment needs for other PC  projects, and preparing to take over as PC regional representative on a part-time basis.  During the last few weeks I’ve been to Niamey three times for a variety of different Peace Corps meetings.  I also conducted another ICT training for new volunteers at the PC Niger training center.  There’s no doubt I need a vacation!  Thankfully there’s one just around the corner.  In about 72 hours, I’ll be freezing my butt off in Geneva!  I’m meeting up with my Mom, Sister, and Brother-in-law for a week of cheese, chocolate and catching up!  It will also be my first time off the African continent in 15 months!  I really have no idea what it’s going to feel like to be dropped back into the developed world for a week.  In any case, I can’t wait!  The day I arrive there’s a chance of snow and a windchill of -2C!