There is a strange feeling I get when I come out of the bush and spend large amounts of time in Niamey. I won’t call it guilt, but something just does not feel right, and it is hard to put my finger on it. Part of it has to deal with the fact that I don’t really enjoy being in a city. I get used to after a while, and even become comfortable after a time, but I still will always prefer to be in the country. The other part, and for me, the larger part, is the difference of life styles.
When I am in the bush, it is basic living. It is like camping for long periods of time. I have a gas stove, but I pull my own water and have no electricity. My time is spent between learning Zarma, reading and playing my Banjo. Life is simple, but very full, and I never get bored or feel useless.
When I come to town it is a complete shift. I have electricity, running water, stores and restaurants. I spend my time e-mailing and swimming at the American rec center. I have work here as well, but that is mostly team meetings and whatnot. I don’t ever get bored, but I feel like it is too easy being in town. I don’t get any satisfaction from being here. It is not a bad feeling, but I feel like I get more done at post, even though I don’t.
The last thing is the general demeanor of people. Everyone is friendly, in the city and in the bush, but when I am at post I greet every one I meet or pass by. Even in my market town I end up greeting random people on the streets. When I am in Niamey the only people I greet are guards and taxi drivers. When I walk around there isn’t that friendly chit chat mood of people like there is in the bush.
At first I thought greeting was an inane ritual that was more of a bother than anything. Everyone is saying the same things over and over again, but after the last few weeks I grew to enjoy it. It was a way of picking someone up when they had a bad day. I started putting more feeling into the way I greeted people, and the results in the response I got were amazing. Greeting became fun, because I could see it making peoples days just a little bit better. I think home is like that as well. In Iowa, in a small community, when you passed someone on the street or went to the gas station you talked with everyone, saw how they were doing. You exchanged news and greetings and then went on your way. It is one of things that I love about small communities.