Friday, July 24, 2009

project update

thanks dad for the project information. I've been trying to stay in my village recently, hence why there has not been much activity on the blog front. However, the house has been built for the grinder, and it looks like i need around $164 to complete my project, which isn't too much more, considering I started out with close to $2,000 to raise. And the more we talk about the grinder the more excited my village women are becoming. I asked them last night if they would still pound when we install the machine, an they said yes, a little, but not nearly as much as they are now. I saw a women finishing up her pounding at 9 last night, and they were up at 6 starting again. And although my villagers are lucky now just to have something to eat, thinking how easy it is for those of us living in countries where we can just pop some food in the microwave and still complain about inefficiency is somewhat absurd while comparing food preparation in other countries, like Niger. Well, that's enough of a guilt trip for today, all else is going well over here. Only have a few months left, which is crazy to think that i've been here for almost 2 years. It just seems like yesterday i was freaking out at home, getting ready to leave. So, probably by January i'll be back in the good old u.s., we'll see. When the grinder project is done i'll put up some pics, hopefully that's soon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Liz initiates Grinder project

As you probably know, Liz is posted in a rural village in Niger, one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with over 80% of its territory covered by the Sahara desert. Liz' villagers are subsistence farmers who basically live on the millet they can grow and prepare. The women and girls in her village spend hours each day pounding grain in big wooden bowls with long wooden poles. This is their top priority, since no pounding = no eating. Hours of pounding leaves little time for women to care for their families' health and welfare. It also makes it difficult for girls to go to school. I took this picture when I visited her village this February, and you can see how young these girls are. The poles are bigger than they are!

The women in her village have asked Liz to carry out a project that will change their lives. In response, Liz has organized her villagers to elect a committee to secure land and build a structure to house a gas-powered grain grinder. Once the grinder is installed, the committee will be responsible for collecting fees to operate and maintain the machine. This project will help village women develop organizational and supervisory skills that will elevate their status in the community. And, once they get some relief from the daily grind (literally!), they will have more control over their lives and more time to devote to improving the lives of their families.

In order to buy the machine, Liz needs to raise about $1900 from family and friends. As of this writing she still has about $1300 to go. The easiest way to contribute is to go to and select her project either by Project Number 683-164, or by her last name, Leemon. Liz hopes you'll take advantage of this opportunity to make a real impact (no pun intended) on the daily lives of those in her community. Thanks for your support.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I visited Liz in Niger, and took a lot of pictures

This is Liz' dad again. In February I finally took the plunge and visited Liz in Niger. Travel options were limited, but fortunately Air France flies from Paris directly to Niamey, the capital of Niger, four times a week.

I'll be editing this post to include more details of the trip soon, but for now, I just wanted to let you know where you can see pictures from my trip. I took over 400 photos, so for now I've just posted pictures from the first two days of my trip, when I stayed with Liz in her village. You can find these on my Photobucket picture pages. Here's a link to the Slideshow view, which is the easiest way to browse through the pictures. Since I've written up some long descriptions, you may want to change the speed to SLOW using the controls at the bottom of the page, or just hit the Pause button at the bottom left and advance each picture manually, either by clicking on the picture or the right-facing triangle to the right of the picture. Most of the photos I have uploaded are larger than screen size, so if you want to zoom in on the pictures to get more detail, you can use the Album View and advance each picture by clicking on the rightmost thumbnail in the filmstrip at the top right of the page. When you click on a picture in this view, it zooms in to full size and lets you scroll around to see the details

Friday, January 23, 2009

1 year!!!

so it's been one year here, and i can't believe how fast the time has been going by. Right now i'm working on a bunch of projects. This weekend we're having a conference for the young girl's scholarship program, which gives money to girl's going into middle school, since some have to move away from their homes and live with other families in a new city. Then after that, next week my friend and i organized a boat trip stopping at numerous volunteer villages talking about AIDS awareness. Then my dad is coming the next week and we'll be going to my village and the national park, followed by a nice, relaxing week in europe. Last week I also had the privilege of watching the inauguration on t.v. in the capital city, which was really cool, and i felt part of something bigger. Especially when Obama mentioned something about developing countries and the responsibility of America to help those who need it.
Everyone in Niger it seems is just as excited about Obama as I am, and it really makes it easier being abroad here, especially travelling around.
Also in better news i haven't gotten sick in awhile, which i'm very happy about, and my villagers finally finished the improved cookstoves we started so long ago. I'll also be starting up a tree nursery with the local school, and working on getting a grain grinding machine put in my village as well. Lots of stuff happening lately, and I'm coming home in May!!! more to come on that later

Monday, November 10, 2008


Not realizing how long it's been since i've written on here, i'll give a little update for everyone. I completed my first real project, i and my school director and a couple friends drew out the world ma p and mounted it on the side of the school. Sometime soon i want to teach a few geography lessons in the school. I harvested my millet, though unfortunately my soybeans didn't come up, i think because i bought them out east where the soil is different. I have a garden now, and i'm still doing radio shows and my weekly sensibilzations at the health clinic. After thanksgiving i'll be taking a week long bike ride out in zinder, the eastern most region we go to, and we'll be doing aids awareness talks. After that I have a meeting for the volunteer advisory commitee, which i was just elected for, and this group basically makes sure the volunteers voices are heard in policy changes and decisions. I have a few more projects in the works, but most of my time is still spent hanging out and talking with my villagers, thinking about life after peace corps, and reading a good deal.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More village

my house is in the second picture from the top, behind the trees, i'll put up better pictures later. The white building is the mosque, and the last picture is the school house. The little huts are individual houses

Liz's village

So I asked Liz if she had any pictures of her village. She said that she had included some. But all I saw were vast open landscapes like the one at the top. When I magnified them about a million times, however, the pictures revealed some buildings like the the ones at bottom, hidden behind the big tree in the seemingly empty picture at the top.

Going Native--"Its just so wrong"

There's a difference, however, between "African appropriate" dress and full-on native garb. As Liz (top right) put it "Westerners wearing African dress look so wrong"

Before and After

Here are "before and after" pictures of Liz's Peace Corps group. At bottom is how they looked when they arrived (dazed and confused). At top they are seen in more "Africa appropriate" garments.

Sleeping Outdoors

For anyone wondering what Liz's outdoor sleeping accommodations are like, I'm including this shot showing the basics--box, mattress, sleeping bag, and the whole thing enclosed in mosquito netting.

Hut, Sweet Hut Part 4

This, I'm guessing, is Liz's yard. A little lean-to for shade, and in the foreground an outdoor sleeping platform. You can she the old, falling down fence that used to surround the compound. Not only didn't it provide any privacy, but it didn't even keep the animals out. One morning Liz was awoken at about 6 am by a cow who was butting that wooden platform with it's head. Liz finally gave the headman an ultimatum--fix my fence, or I'm leaving. He fixed the fence.

Hut, Sweet Hut 3

Through this classy archway you can Liz's bedroom (for those nights when it is raining, or cool enough to sleep indoors--i.e., almost never). You can see her deluxe chair to the right, and a cot next to it. Those hooks are about as close as she's getting to a closet.

Hut, Sweet Hut part 2

The kitchen area. I was surprise to see she has a couple of gas burners. I don't know what those big plastic containers are for. (that's my water filter)

Hut, Sweet Hut

This is Liz's dad posting. We finally got some pictures from her on a DVD that another volunteer created. I'm just guessing at what they are, and I'm sure she will correct me if I am wrong.

This one appears to be of her luxurious mud hut--the front door (curtain), window, her storage area (the chest on the floor), and some of the scrawny cats she has taken in.

To the right is the kitchen area, and I'm guessing those clay jugs are what substitutes for running water.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

6 months!!!

It's been over 6 months that I've been in this country, which means due to my early close of service date, I'm 1/4 of the way done!!Time has been flying here, and I'm back in Niamey with yet another case of amoebas and bacteria, blah. I'll be heading to Benin next week, which I'm really excited about, I need a break. I've had a few reality checks with the possible projects in my village, and have come to the realization that you can't make people do anything that don't really want to do, even if it will better their lives, and let alone if you want it to be sustainable. I'm hopefully going to start some radio work soon, and I've planted and started to cultivate my field of millet and soybeans. I've also hooked up with a gardener in my village, and have planted tomatoes, parsley, cabbage, and peppers for now. I'm also working on some diagrams for animal husbandry presentations, and maybe some other presentations to families in the community why they should send their daughters to school, but it's all in the works now for that project.

I also just had a meeting with my villagers and one of the peace corps workers to discuss the advantages to projects that don't' involve money, which they seemed to understand. Since my village is also a Fulan village they speak in Fufulde to themselves all the time, and although they understand Zarma, it's hard to learn a language when the people around you aren't speaking it. And although i am slowly picking up Fufulde, Zarma is my primary language. I've also realized that NGO's here in Niger, although some do good work, have led villagers to adopt a mentality that everything will be handed to them, and that they don't need to really work for themselves. A sort of backlash to relief work. This is not true with everyone, but enough to make a difference in village work.

Anyways, I'm going to ask my dad to put up pictures from a c.d. that i sent him, sorry it's taken so much time to see photos, I'm using the excuse that it's hard for me to get access to the Internet out here.

Hope all is well in the rest of the world, pictures will be up soon!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

After IST

I just finished up my in-service training, which was some technical training mixed in with feedback from my fellow volunteers on how things have been going in the village. I have not done my cook stoves as of yet, we'll actually be doing those in my village tomorrow or the next day. I did not get a chance to go to my friend's village as a result of eating some bad food, and getting diagnosed with amoebas and bacteria the day I was supposed to leave for his village. No worries though, i took some strong medicine, and it cleared up in about a week. I was also intending on buying a cow, but the night before my market day the rains finally came to my village. So the next morning all the men (and me) were out in the fields planting millet, which meant i had to wait for a later date to buy my cow. It's still ridiculously hot here, but it's exciting to see rain on the ground. I've also just finished writing up my first proposal, which is for a fence for my school garden, and fencing for a nursery i want to start in the school yard. I'm also in the midst of trying to get a hold of the radio station guy near my village, and on in the regional capital, but like everything else here, things take time, and a person must have patience-kala suuru.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Follow-up to my 1st month

Now that i have a little more time I can fill everyone in on some of the stuff that's going on. I have begun thinking about possible projects as of lately. I'm going to visit my friend Alex in his village to see how he's been making improved cookstoves. These basically look like big mud donuts with smoke chutes; they help keep the heat in, so less firewood needs to be used. I've also started a tree nursery, so far just mangoes but would like to expand out to gum arabic, citrus, baobob, windy bundoo...etc I'll be working in my school garden once the hot season is over (around mid-june), and have looked into a project that involves drawing a map of the world on the side of the school. I also have a few animal husbandry programs focusing on nutrition and vaccination/deworming that i want to start oncemy in-service training is completed, which will be around june. My village cheif also wants an animal fodder bank so that the animals will have food during the lean seasons (now until june). I also have many acres of demi-lunes, which are half circles that collect rain water and rclai hardpan soil-think really hard ground that doesn't grow anything. We're hoping to plant trees little by little with fencing around them, trees were planted before but the animals ate them. I would like ot plant trees and grasses that we can use later for animal fodder, but all of this is in the works right now. I'm still working on the pictures, but in the meantime you might want to google soem info on the food shortages in niger and west africa that will be apparent in the coming year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ist month in the bush

I got back from my first month being in the bush, which they say is the hardest one to get through. I've also heard that Niger is one of the toughest countries to serve in, competing with Mauritania and Mongolia. And hot season just started. So all in all I think I made it through my first month pretty unscathed. I have 4 cats nows, due to two more kittens, and my other cat is pregnant. I am surrounded by various animals such as chickens (which I am currently in an epic struggle with, i hate chickens now and will eat them at any chance), sheep, cows, goats, donkeys, and cats. I've already seen two scorpions, a chariot spider (look this one up on the internet). I have some good stories which i will post in a day or two when i have more time

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Site Live in

Well, i just came back from a week long stint at my new home, and i must say not only is it in a good location, but in Nigerien standards pretty luxurious too. Though i don't have running water or electricity, all is well, no worries. The women in my village love having a new girl around to hang out with, and the men are cool with me because i'm white, and therefore transcend gender boundaries. I cooked my breakfast and lunch meals on my own, and ate with the villagers/teachers for dinner. Dinner is usually pounded grains (i.e. millet, sorghum, corn) and sauce that although tasty, has the consisitency of snot. I have aso started to compile a new top 10 list...How you can tell you are becoming nigerien...but that's for a later blog. Any questions just drop a line, i'll have internet access more frequently now.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Top Ten List

I've compiled a list (I did this a couple of weeks ago), their will be more lists in the future, including how you can tell if you're a Nigerien, but for right now it's...
Top 10 Reason Why Peace Corps Niger is Hardcore (the training/stage phase)

10)Club X ( I call it Club +the name of the town we're training in, but i can't post that info). This "club" includes everything from the random guy playing his music until 3 in the morning, to movie watching in people's concessions (yards), with a random guy holding an antenae above his head. But it's okay becaus Nigeriens don't seeem to sleep ever. And with a prayer call at 5 a.m. they don't need an alarm clock either

9)General living conditions-No electricity, plumbing, latrines, mud hut living, making food over a rock fire, and sleeping on a bed of sticks an a piece of foam. Ingenuity falls into this category too...fixing water filters, making dustpans out of pop bottles...and the generak re-use of everything

8)Climate-hot/wet season, windstorms, wild dogs, chickens running around, donkeys and goats talking all night long.

7) Marriage proposals-need i say more

6)Children-half of the country is under the age of 15 and they're pretty rambunctious where i live-a nice way to put it

5) Dirt, sand, rocks, bones in food-you learn to chew softly

4)Dress Code-Knees are completely off limits

3)Hygiene-and the general degredation of mine

2)5 a.m. wake up call to prayer

1)The people-Nigerien have to live in harsh and somewhat depressing conditions, but they do it, and they do it with a sense of humor.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Done with Pre-Service Training

Been in Philly for the last couple of days going through the paces of pre-service training. Tommorow we leave for Niger!!!