The views in this blog are mine personally, and do not reflect those of The Peace Corps or any United States Government Agency.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


In Hausa, Wohala means "suffering", so Niger volunteers have aptly named the past two weeks a "Wo-holiday." It's amusing now to recall my anxiety about moving into site, when in fact, I had no idea what I was in for.
The first week at my post was eventful, to say the least. I worked in the health clinic every day, learning the basics of pre-natal exams (taking measurements, doing consultations, filling out the forms in French). I walked around the village, greeting, re-greeting, and re-greeting people, as custom demands. In terms of work and village life, I was slowly beginning to see myself settling in.

My house was another story - what a nightmare. Some of you may recall my excitement at having electricity and ceiling fans, but in reality the house was not only big, filthy, rat/bat infested, but also occupied when I arrived, causing slight confusion. My installation was done without half of my belongings because the one car couldn't fit everything belonging to the six trainees being installed on the same day (don't get me started) and so I lived in literal dirt piles for eight days with no means to do laundry or clean my house. The highlight of the house was the rat vs. bat battles that took place each night, during which I started taking bets just to keep myself entertained.

After four consecutive sleepless nights, it was beginning to become an issue. But then we got evacuated, so problem solved!

If you haven't already heard the news, Peace Corps Niger is officially on suspension due to security threats in Niamey. Three weeks ago, French aid workers were kidnapped and killed in the capital by an undetermined contingent, but that was just the bean that tipped the balance. Rumors say our program had been hanging on a thread for quite some time.  I returned from the clinic one morning after eight days in ville, saw that I had fourteen missed calls from the Niger Safety and Security officer, and got the bad news.

The evacuation was quick and successful, as far as Washington is concerned. For us, it was too fast, too painful and too chaotic. We were told on Wednesday that the program was finished and to be ready to be picked up the following day. We were flown out of the country early Friday morning and deposited in Rabat, Morocco, a window to the developed world we'd all but forgotten about.

In Rabat we attended a "transition conference", the existence of which is a sad testament to the frequency of such situations. We were offered various options including re-enrollment, direct transfer, or close of service. I was offered a slot to transfer to Senegal to work with Urban Development, and after much consideration, I took it. I was flown to Senegal last night and have arrived safely at the Peace Corps training site with seven other Niger "refugees" (if you will).

Direct transfer is a weird beast. We are able to continue service with only a few weeks of language training, and we can re-negotiate our close of service dates. I'm especially excited about the program I'm entering. However, we're not part of any particular training class, and we're put in regions without getting a chance to know any of the current volunteers. It is, as some say, a rather "hardcore" option to take and I think it will be worth the struggle. But it's definitely a day to day process!

The week and a half in Rabat was stressful and also delightful, hence the genesis of the term "Wo-Holiday." The fracturing of our class is heartbreaking and thoughts of the Nigerien staff and people we left behind are ever prevalent. Inshallah, Peace Corps will return to Niger, because it was a truly wonderful program.

I'll be continuing this blog with my new Senegalese adventure, so after my few weeks of training I'll let you know all about my new site! Keep Niger in your thoughts, and to all my fellow displaced volunteers, best wishes.

<3 Phoebe

1 comment:

  1. Hey Phoebe! I'm an incoming new Senegal volunteer, and will be there in just a little over a month! Hope your adjustment goes well and see you over there soon :)