Africa- Finally! - Part 1

Disclaimer- Many of the photos in this post have a weird blur/reflection on them. Due to the various situations in Niamey, we had to be escorted everywhere (even just across the street from the hotel) by embassy personnel. What you see in the pictures is a reflection from our van windows.

So, flying to Africa was an adventure in itself. Our first leg was from DC to Paris. Our seats were business class. A.W.E.S.O.M.E. I am never going to be able to fly my standard Southwest again. Ok, just kidding, but still!

We left around 5 PM, so first thing we were offered champagne and then served dinner. On china. The meal had a choice of appetizers, the main course (with sides) and dessert. There was wine and alcohol with the meal (the entire flight, really). It was SO GOOD. The food was all fancy stuff that I would never get at Applebee's :-P

The rest of the flight I spent trying to sleep since we would be losing 6 hours of sleep. The business class seats laid out into beds! And massaged! It was just altogether awesome.

The flight from Pairs to Africa- not as cool. There was some sort of mixup with the tickets, so from Paris to Africa (and that leg on the return) we had to sit in coach. Definitely a let down from business. I made due though and watched Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a couple of episodes of Friends and a couple of Simpsons episodes. Before I knew it, we were in Niger.

Embassy people picked us up at the airport and shuttled us to the hotel. We got our room keys and headed off to our rooms.

Nasty/outdated carpeting, bedspread, everything..

The bathroom- it looks nice, but just felt all around gross.

And the toilet... that dial thing above the toilet is the flusher! You have to spin/push it to the right to flush the toilet.

Monday morning we all got into the embassy vehicles to head over to the post. We got a security briefing from the security guys there. Al Qaida is active north of the city and there had been an attempted kidnapping at gunpoint of American embassy workers north of the city, so we weren't allowed to leave the city, take taxis, go see the giraffes or be in large crowds...

After all of that was out of the way, we headed to working. My job was to go to every single room in two buildings (2 floors each) and take photos of, measure and record every single piece of furniture. Fun, eh? It wasn't too bad. I got to meet pretty much everyone and it was definitely a learning experience!

The embassy has a little courtyard thing with a couple of people who cook breakfast and lunch, so we had lunch every day in the courtyard.

These little guys were ALL OVER! You wouldn't be able to see them either, until the last minute when they would scurry away.

For lunch every day I had a veggie and cheese sandwich and a Sprite. The veggies at the embassy were ok to eat because they would BLEACH them. I guess you can put the veggies in a tub of water with a couple drops of bleach and they are a-ok to eat.

The sodas all come in glass bottles there too! There is a Coke bottling plant in Niamey and so soda is in the bottle and then after you finish the soda, the bottle is sent back, rinsed and re-filled. Even better than recycling!

Oh yeah- since we can't drink the water, we bought big (liter?) bottles of water and then I just refilled mine daily at the embassy- they had water distillers there. I had to use the bottled water even for brushing my teeth!

Monday night for supper we went to an Italian restaurant. So good! I had raviolis.

Pretty much the whole week followed Monday's schedule. Get up, go to post, work, lunch, come home, go to supper, crash in bed.

After Tuesday I had made way less progress than I expected and was very nervous that I wouldn't be able to finish! Wednesday I went in early and got a head start. That building went WAY quicker than I was expecting and by the end of the day I was much more comfortable and knew that I would finish. I ended up finishing my work on Thursday at about 4! Woo hoo!

So, what else did we eat?
Tuesday- We went to the management officer at the embassy's house. Yum!

Wednesday- Chinese restaurant! It was awesome. All of the restaurants were in buildings that just looked like houses and were behind wall/fences. You would never know that there was a restaurant there unless someone told you..

The guy who owned this restaurant had a wicked awesome garden with lights all strung up out front, along with some patio chairs, so people can be served outside!

Also, Wednesday I tried the local beer- Biere Niger. Everyone loved it and I figured I should try it since I was there. I thought it tasted like any other beer- gross.

Cute giraffes though, eh?

Thursday- French restaurant. Best meal of the week. If you are ever in Niamey (ha!), I highly suggest you go to Tabakady. It was owned by an old French dude who is also a photographer. Because we told them ahead of time that we were coming in, he played a slideshow of his photos before our meal.

Friday- We were on our own. I ate at the hotel with a couple of other people.

Friday afternoon, the embassy closed at 1 (the prayer time was at 2ish). I did a couple of things in the morning and then in the afternoon, a large group of us went shopping.

First we went to the Grande Marche. This was a huge open air market/bazaar type thing. It was mostly for local/everyday shopping. There were a ton of people and it was very chaotic. There were a variety of "stalls"- the path around the place was so windy and the ceilings/draped cloths were so low!

People were selling random things- mattresses, toys (some used!), shoes, cookware, fabric, etc.

People were carrying all sorts of things on their heads!

We only spent about 30 minutes at the Grande Marche. We were all very overwhelmed by it. Afterwards, we headed to the Musee to do a little more touristy shopping. At the musee, various artisans were sitting around and working and selling their crafts. There were all sorts of woodworkers, leatherworkers, and silverworkers.

I bought a variety of Christmas presents, but for myself I got a leather box with an embossed top, a wooden carved elephant, and a waxed/dyed/painted fabric hanging. I am sure you will see the hanging before too long! I need to get it framed.

Wow- this post has turned out way longer than I was expecting. I will complete this in another post so that you all can have a life! The next post will have a ton more pictures!

Justine  – (November 25, 2009 at 11:48 PM)  

Sounds exciting/scary/exhausting all at once!! We have those lizards all over Florida!

I can't wait to hear more about your trip! :)

Meredith  – (November 27, 2009 at 2:53 PM)  

What an incredible experience!

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