NOTE: I wrote this entry a few months back and completely forgot to post it. Enjoy!
The plane finally came to a complete stop. Seat belt signs were off. And I was now standing in line, waiting to step outside and walk through customs to see her.
I have to admit that as I neared the airplane door, I imagined my reaction to the intense heat that I’d heard so much about. I would collapse onto my knees, sweat pouring out endlessly. ‘I need more air!!’ I’d cry out to amused onlookers. Most of them wouldn’t have understood me anyways, since a vast majority for some reason only spoke Chinese, but my humiliation would be complete regardless.
The reality, of course, couldn’t have been more different as I walked through the door onto the runway stairs. I looked out onto the tarmac and focused on the tiny airport than didn’t look much different than the one in Maputo. I was met with heat, yes, but it wasn’t horrible. A strong sun, but a noticeable dry feel to the air. Sure, even wearing jeans and close toed shoes, I felt alright. I walked down the stairs and onto the tarmac, my British WWII era satchel bouncing lightly on my side, as my mind ignored the unusual spectacle of endless sand in the distance and went to the next inevitable thought. Where is she?
The customs line inside the small airport took forever, especially once our eyes finally met. She was waiting for me in the next room with a Tupperware container and a huge bottle of water, which I’d later come to learn was the best present ever in a place as warm as Niger. All we could do was smile as I stood there like a goofball waiting for the line to get shorter. My heart was pounding, she was still smiling, and all I wanted to do was hop out of line, go run over to pick her up and hug her tightly. My God, was it wonderful to be in Niger…
There’s something to be said about anticipation and suspense, about those moments that lead up to the inevitable high point.
The good guy in the movie is about to pull it together and save the day.
Oh my gosh! That ball looks like it could just make it over the fence!
‘I’m going to be able to hold my fiancée again.’
For some reason, that scene is one of the most vivid in my mind. And of course, it is the starting point in my little series of adventures that began in a tiny airport in Niamey.
In the time following our first rendezvous, Leah and I had a lot of fun together. We spent time helping me put faces to the names I’d heard so many times before on the phone. She showed me around her town, her work, where PCVs hang out, and even introduced me to her host family. Best of all, we got to spend some time together relaxing and just enjoying each other’s company. Did someone say Scrabble?!
Along the way, I made my share of observations about Niger, taking care to just sit back and let it all sink in. I admired the beautifully crafted Mosques as well as sand colored houses and buildings. I noticed the effects of under development: the piles and piles of trash on the side of the road, plastic bags covering trees, and people throwing trash out of bus windows onto the road. I experienced the genuine kindness of Nigeriens in the street and at Leah’s home. I ate delicious food such as… oh gosh I don’t know how to spell it, but it’s pronounced ‘kill-she,’ which is a type of jerky covered in peanutty or barbequey sauce. And of course I got to have a taste of Peace Corps life in Niger.
My overall analysis: Niger is an absolutely amazing country. Beautiful and friendly. Good food and better people. And even though getting back to Mozambique was a huge issue, I’m so happy to have visited. It was great to see just what another side of Africa is like. And it was wonderful to see Leah, to share her experiences with her, and to (for once in a long while) be in the same place to share our mutual excitement and anticipation for that high point to come this June.