Sunday, August 25, 2013

Random thoughts on today, spanning two West African countries

 By Carole Jampsa Southam

- It’s 1 AM, and having just arrived in Niger, I am again made aware of how kind and helpful the Nigeriens are. (For those with inquisitive minds, you should know that Nigeriens are from Niger, whereas Nigerians are from Nigeria. And, by the way, Burkinabes are from Burkina Faso.)
- “Petit Hassan” (not “Grand Hassan” as he was careful to tell me!) carried my luggage to the room, far from the lobby across two courtyards, then kindly ran back to get me a water bottle for tonight. (You do not want to brush your teeth with tap water here...) He then bid me bonne nuit with one of the biggest sparkling smiles I’ve seen.
- I have a roommate tonight. A 3-inch long tan gecko is in my bathroom. I hope he doesn’t try to crawl into my bed. - More security barriers are around Niamey than the last time I was here, a telling sign that the Arab spring repercussions are still being felt this far south and this many months later.
- Most interesting comment today from a colleague: “A small cat has adopted my family. We are feeding it, but I had to tell the guard that this is not a cat for eating - do not eat this cat!”
- Good news: My French is improving each day. Bad news: It took 4 days for this brain to rewire itself again to have a successful conversation.
- And, today’s highlight: The security officer checking passports at the Ouaga airport kept looking at my passport, then looking at me, then looking at my passport, then looking at me. “This does not look like you,” he said. “Yes, it is!” I emphatically replied worrying I was going to have a issue, “It is my picture!” But then I saw he was pointing at my birth year and smiling. I smiled back! — in Niamey, Niger.

(The author is  senior international finance officer at Lutheran World Relief and former vice president for finance at Bread for the World)

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