It's been a busy two weeks
I just finished my In Service Training last Friday. It was great to see everyone from stage again, though I think 2+months in the bush has seriously made us all go a little mad. There was no end to wackyness during our time back in Hamdallaye.
For starters a whole bunch of us shaved our heads the first week. That's right, I am now bald, or atleast mostly bald. 6 of us, plus one of our bosses indulged in the bare scalp experience. 3 of us even had orange boubous made so we look like Hari Krishnas (sp?). Now there's a joke going around that we've started a cult...and it looks like it when we parade through Niamey together.
IST was much different than PST (pre service training). PST was all about language and cross culture. We basically learned what we needed to be able to survive and have the skills to get around Niger. IST saw us spending our time in sessions aimed at how to do our job. This included some more technical sessions such as how and why you build demi-lunes and gully plugs or how to treat animal fodder with urea to improve animal growth. Other sessions taught us how to go about finding funding for projects and such.
By far the most exhausting part was the homologue conference. During this our Nigerien counterparts were invited to stay for two days and go through a series of sessions regarding the Peace Corps goals. We also had some joint sessions where we discussed mutual expectations and cultural differences in the workplace. It was amusing to see that the Nigerien and American Values were almost opposite on many respects, for instance respecting prayer time and social obligations came first and formost for them.
When we met with them one on one to discuss our work plan of action it was hard. My homologue works for the NGO Gajel Sudababa, which it turns out is a nation wide organization that does a wide variety of projects working with herders. He basically showed up to the conference with a whole plan of projects to be done over the next year that they wanted me to work on. I'll admit I'm a little overwhelmed as this wasn't really how I had expected things to work coming out of training. Though I suspect I have more freedom to work than it seemed during the conference. It didn't help that there weren't enough teachers to translate for all the people and so I basically spent an hour listening to him explain this all in Zarma. It took so much focus and concentration to get most of it that I was utterly brain dead afterward.
We've all been hanging out here in Niamey this weekend as we slowly scatter back to the four corners of Niger. I'm looking forward to getting back to post as I have been gone for the better part of a month now. Though i will be back next weekend for a meeting. I'd like to spend a long time at post sometime soon, but it seems like that's gonna be harder than I thought. Oh well. Kala suuru.