Niger, Africa Part I

Every time I go on a mission trip, I keep a journal. Since I’m returning to Africa in June (to Zambia instead of Niger), I thought it would be fun to look back on my experience the first time I went and to share it with you in segments. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 13, 2009 – 5 p.m. Indiana time
28, 000 feet, 552 mph

I’m not making those numbers up. There is a lovely TV screen for each person here on our Air France flight from D.C. to Paris, and there is tons of stuff to do on the tiny screen in the headrest of the person in front of me – movies, games, music, etc. You can see how high you are, how fast you are going, where you are located, and there is even a view of what the pilot sees (which, by the way, scared the CRAP out of me).

I’m hungry, and the food smells GREAT! And I just saw my first official French baguette! Can’t wait for my salmon dinner!

7 p.m. Indiana time
35,000 feet, 620 mph

I didn’t realize how cold it is way up here, but apparently it is -65 degrees. That’s crazy!

Dinner was delicious. I had salmon parmentier. I don’t know what that is, but it was yummy! Also had like, tuna salad on top of these weird little yellow balls. I had a baguette, some cheese, rice pudding and a brownie.

Sunday, June 14, 2009 – 5 a.m. Paris time

We are less than an hour from landing in France! How crazy is that?

I would give anything for a window seat right now. But, I’ll have to settle for the middle of the section. Maybe I’ll luck out with a window seat on our flight to Niger. I haven’t slept at all. These seats are ridiculously uncomfortable. I thought for sure they would be nice because of the big plane and long trip. Boy was I wrong.

I just realized that I don’t know what day it is. Is it tomorrow already? I guess so.

If I look down the row I can see the sun coming up outside of the window. The sky is a beautiful purple and peach. According to the digital map we are passing England right now.

7:40 a.m. – Paris, France

Bonjour! I’m in FRANCE! I’m at the airport eating a sandwich made of I don’t know what, because the labels are all in French.

Anyways, let me back up a bit. Our landing was fine. We didn’t even have to wait long to get off the plane. I said my first “Au revoir!” as I exited the plane. To be honest, everything outside looks just like the U.S. The terrain and airport are similar. Still, EVERYTHING is in French now!

We had to go through security again and my bra hook set off the metal detectors. Man did I get frisked. That security chick literally felt me up!

Once inside our terminal I was whisked away by an array of designer stores- Hermes, Dior, Chanel and your can literally smell the leather permeating out of Prada as you walk by.

The people here look like us. They have the most beautiful accents though. I feel so common with my American accent. How boring.

Our group found a place to sit down so we could pray and talk about a few things. For instance, when we get to Niamey we will be asked why we are there and we have to say, “as tourists.” The first few days we are staying at the Catholic Guesthouse.

Our orientation is tomorrow. We’ll learn all the important cultural stuff then.

Now we’ve got a few hours before we fly to Niger. I’m enjoying my mystery sandwich and a Tao energy drink. Think I’m going to try and nap now. Probably shouldn’t have had the energy drink.

6:10 p.m. – Niger, Africa

We are here! We are here! I am sitting outside our room at the Catholic Guesthouse. I am in room 6 with Sheri. She is really sweet- used to be a journalist and is here with Jonah, her 15-year-old son.

The word “hot” doesn’t even begin to describe the climate. Even “sweltering” or “excruciating” can’t describe the heat. I’ve got sweat dripping off every square inch of my body. There are tons of lizards running around me. I can’t believe I’m in Africa.

I’ll write more about our arrival after dinner. Right now I’m sweating so bad in my hand that it’s hard to hold the pen.

8:30 p.m.

When we landed in Niger, it pretty much looked like Arizona- a desert. But when we walked off the plane and were greeted by soldiers with jet-black skin and mint green shirts, I knew I was in Africa.

It took us forever to get through customs, even though we were the only plane that had landed there all day. They are pretty hard-core about their security.

We went to get our bags we had checked. When I grabbed mine, a little helper guy told me he had it. They did not want us to have to carry our own bags!

Walking out of Niamey’s tiny airport really felt like Africa- like something you only see in movies. People were in all sorts of colorful clothes.

There were about seven or eight guys around my age who had to walk with sticks because of their foot deformities. They also had big scars on their faces. I asked Tom what the deal was and he said it might have been a rite of passage, and that the scars on their faces definitely had to do with what tribe they belonged to.

When the bags were loaded we got in and took off for the downtown area. The radio was blaring African music, which really set the scene. Once we got into downtown I couldn’t believe my eyes. People were everywhere. There were no traffic signals, you were just on your own! So there was a lot of honking.

There were a lot of goats, too! Women were carrying huge baskets on their heads in perfect balance. Every time we had to stop, a bunch of kids would run up to the windows of the van. “Bon Soir!” they said and smiled. Then rubbed their fingers together to ask for money.

There weren’t really buildings. There was a mosque or two and they looked like adobes. Everything else was in huts or tents. I just couldn’t believe my eyes.

After we got settled in our rooms, we went out to eat. Driving through town at 7 p.m. was crazy. There were so many people out, and they waved at us like we were celebrities. I haven’t seen any other white people since we got here.

For dinner we had pizza- go figure! But first they brought us onion rings with mayonnaise. Now that’s even weird for me. The pizza was OK. Was kind of soggy and was made with goat cheese.

And now I’m in my netted-bed and ready to pass out. I still can’t believe I’m here.

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