The fact that this is my first real blog entry is a little deceiving (copying and pasting a now expired mailing address doesn't count) so I'll try to catch everyone up to speed. Even though I understand a blog can be an efficient tool to update friends and family I find it somewhat pretentious to assume people want updates. I need to move past my personal hesitation for the two people that will religiously read this, you're welcome.
I will try to keep my digressions to a minimum, here is the re cap of my last three months: I completed eight out of the ten weeks of training in Hamdallaye, Niger and I absolutely loved it. After anticipating what Peace Corps might look like for so long, I was so worried that my expectations were too high and I was destined to be disappointed. But it was better than I hoped it would be. I fell in love with Niger's open hearts, their non-sensical language, living in the fields amongst roaming animals and their overwhelming and immediate acceptance of me, far before I earned it. I have never felt such an all-encompassing sense of peace and contentment.
Don't get me wrong, life wasn't perfect in Niger. Peace Corps as an organization is sometimes run as a bureaucracy with a lot of red tape and a capacity to run effectively is hindered by the host country's infastructure or lack thereof. The days were long and grueling and many tears were shed, but I have never been happier.
So you can imagine how devastating it was to find out that four heavily armed members of a sect of Al Quaeda attempted to kidnap five American government employees. Seeing as though every joe shmo on the street knows that our government doesn't pay ransoms it can be deduced that this was potentially for idealistic purposes. In which case, it wouldn't matter where you fall on the State Department's totem pole, whether it be a high profile ambassador or a lowly Peace Corps volunteer. There had been a series of successful kidnappings for ransom of western UN and Embassy employees before this incident and an attempted kidnapping of two American NGO workers on the Mali/Niger border a few weeks after. That, along with the escalated political tension, created an environment that was unsafe for us as trainees.
Before the decision was made to evacuate, we were in consolidation for four weeks. Under this air of uncertainty, we continued to have training as scheduled. My training class was eventually evacuated to Madagascar where they will serve for the next two years. Unfortunately, I was the one person who didn't medically qualify because I have an anaphalactic reaction to shellfish. I stayed at the Peace Corps Bureau in the capital for a week in a half while the staff found another placement for me. I am forever indebted to the PC Niger staff for their 'all hands on deck' attitude in finding me a new placement. I know for a fact that I would not be in South Africa right now if it weren't for their countless extra hours of hard work and shameless begging on my behalf, thank you a hundred times over.
Now that you have some context to my change in country status, I will continue to send updates from South Africa until April 28, 2012.
All my love,