Niger Travel Stories, Page 5

Arrived in Niamey Niger

Arrived in Niamey Niger
Niamey Niger West Africa
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My brain is tired, yet more my eyes are dry and painful. I finally am getting a clue to why these people wrapped their heads with rags.

The bus from Zinder to Niamey is about 12.5 hours of bus time, and one hour before and after so from port hole to port hole it was 14.5 hours of me traveling. The bus has no clematises or air conditioning, I knew this, and even positioned myself so I could control the window. May have been a good idea, however, I needed to also control the curtain flapping the whole trip also. If I can open the window, I can take photos betters.

Nonetheless, I am learning, the temperature got up to 40-42 centigrade today. Wow, hirer than I thought, at 42 centigrade it is 107 degrees Fahrenheit in the bus.

Ok, the temperature jobber is made in China and suspect, but I will bet it was 100 plus for sure. When the wind blowing in the window feels like a hair dryer on low, I feel like I am on the way to Basra Iraq again… hehehe

Same feeling that time, but hotter in Iraq, the, mind or mine is dwelling on this, in one of the hotter places to live on the planet, why to people appears to wear more clothes.

I mean, you think, they would be doing the loincloth thing; well the Islamic uniform is prevalent, so there is a uniform socialization policy in force. However, I am thinking about why, why do they wrap their heads?

A better way of saying tribal wear, or the fashion of all persons who try to dress similar, speak the same language and claim to know each other, the larger clan.

I think the headgear is about 70 percent fashion now, and 30 percent needed. If you see on camel, then upgrade to 70 percent need and 30 percent ethnic fashion.

I can think of many reasons to wear this bouncing up and down on a camel. I can serve as a towel to wipe my face, it can serve a makeshift way to have shade, it is absorbent, it will keep me feeling dry as oppose to sweaty.

It will hold my hair, or lack of hair in place, and keep my head from being sunburned. The black people have exceptionally thin hair in Niger, I need to observe when I go to Ghana, it gives the children a more eerie weak look, however when a man has his piece of cloth off his head, the hair can be thin also, hard to find this in a way.

The reason for the cloth is for the eyes, and the wind. Oh, go fish, not hard to see that it is for the eyes, sand, and such, but on the bus, the warm wind was blowing. The sun was a scorcher, it was Ramadan, and it was baking me. I tried to keep the curtain covering the sun coming in the window, however allowing the air to blow in the bus. Finally, in frustration because the bus curtains are of bad design. A good bus curtain has a track above and below, or the curtain will blow madly and not protect the people. Well, the curtains were one-step down from good, but SOP in West Africa and normal in Niger. Ok, I am doing this curtain control thing, and finally in desperation and tired. I pin the curtain in the window, close it completely and decide on now air for a short time. However, the sun is blocked very well.

I feel a sudden coolness; the hot air blowing in the window was actually making me hotter, not cooler.

I think above 100 for sure it helps or could be better. I suppose it is a long fashion lag and culturally will someday disappear, but men in the USA still wear ties, and they have no function.

A long piece of cloth has many uses; I can continually think of more, in sandy area, like when I am at the beach, there is a continuous problem of tracking sand into the room. I could take the Turban off, step on it, clean my feat, step into my tent, and shake or leave the Turban outside.

There is the practical Turban I see and the elitist; I want you to know I am someone Turban. It soon becomes obvious who is who.

So blocking the sun is nice, after about 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 Centigrade, blocking any breeze is good. The drying of the eyes is still a problem, I am going to check, and maybe they carry or have some of that Islamic cover the girl’s eyes materials with the men also.

Arrived in Niamey Niger

Niger Malnutrition

Niger Malnutrition
Zinder Niger West Africa
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

2006 Same as 2005

Today, Tuesday, October 10, 2006, I walked over again to the MSF office to track down answers to my question.

Medecins Sans Frontieres - or
- Doctors Without Borders - in English

My question was this, how many Feeding centers was their last year, (2005) and how many feeding center are there this year? (2006)

My first attempt was to be sent to the other office to talk with Marie, I never found Marie, got an invitation to get married with the Secretary, but no Marie, she was
- Sortie. -

I waited around; they said she was from Madagascar, not a normal western culture, thought, hmm. I could wait all day for Madagascar to return. I said I would marry the girls, said goodbye and left.

Today, early I went again the office across the street from the something called a Hotel Central, not much on hotel, but it is central. I again looked for an answer.

I talked this time with Roberto from Italy. He was nice, smokes, I though to say something, but so did the French man who showed me a chart in Maries office, there are two offices.

Roberto was nice, he asked, or kept saying, you should talk with Marie. He said, I would try to find the answer finally, come back at 5:00 in the afternoon.

I go back a little early, about 4:00, as hard to know if at 5:00 what will be there or happening. Roberto come and answers or explains. He was not in the country in 2005, and he does not know the situation. I want to clarify; this is not an easy question. He does say the MSF site may have the statistics.

He says, there have been many changes in Feeding centers, and there are also early preventive type feeding center that are meant to stop the problem before the children need to be hospitalized.

Malnutrition weakens the immune systems and affects hardest the children under five years old. The MSF, Red Cross, and other groups feed the children high nutrient type substances, I am not sure exactly that nourishes the children.

Roberto does not know the numbers; Marie says there are so many different organizations now. I asked,
- Is there more ONG? -
That is French for NGO or Non Governmental Organizations, and Roberto says,
- Yes, there are more now. -

He is careful, and he was trying to be clear, he is not a spokesperson for MSF and Marie is the person to talk with, however, as best he can explain the statistics are not available.

I asked, not wanting to lead the witness.
- Are the number of feeding centers, more, less, or the same? -
He says,
- The same. -

The problem is the same, the feeding centers are the same, and however they are now distributed among more or different ONG - NGO’s.

He comments about they are a group for medicine and not development, and the solution to malnutrition is in the development sectors of ONG or NGO.

I am cynical, I do not see anyone working on long-term solutions, (Development) I came back because I wanted to know if it was really a problem every year or only last year when BBC and CNN misrepresented the situation.
- They LIED -
Saying it was a Famine, there was no famine; there is no Famine in Niger.

There is a huge problem with not eating a diverse diet, they do not eat a balance diet of foods, this in my opinion is a problem that has existed for hundreds of years, and maybe thousands.

I am spectator or the world of the media, I like to see to what limits they will go and how cruel they can be, just what they will say and do to make up stories, make their network, the voice to the masses of person who cannot travel to Niger and check, like me.

I said to Roberto, I found one ONG- NGO that is helping to solve the problem. It is the only one I know that is helping. I rather push the name onto Roberto.

I write it down; he is a good person, like most White People they are here for a very short time, not the long haul, sort of a snapshot volunteer. Doing something good, but also there is a large bureaucracy and many rules.

The forces that be are saving more children, more mothers will have more children, and now there will be more babies when the ones that survived, have their own malnutrition babies.

A spiral of more and more need, and where it ends, nobody knows.

Let me simply my question to reality.

I wanted to know,
- Are the NGOs solving the problem? -

This is what I really wanted to know, I wanted to know if they was working on the solution or the problem, are they part of the problem or part of the solution.

It is easy to think you are part of the solution, when you give something to a person, it feels good to give.

Are you though part of the problem or part of the solution? Treating the symptoms will not solve the problem.

I am weak, I do not know, I think the mind of man has lost the ability to focus on solutions. There has to be someone that says, why don’t we look for a long-term solution so this NGO does not get bigger…

One man in Niamey said to me,
- Andy, please, do not get angry, you must understand, it is a business.-

2006 Same as 2005

Malnutrition Thrives in Niger and the Business of NGO’s thrive, and on and on and on…

Niger Malnutrition

Mexico and Niger

Mexico and Niger
Zinder Niger West Africa
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I received the Niger shake down, I felt like I was in Mexico again.

The Mexican police were, I hope they are changing, I doubt it much, but they were a pain. It was always possible for a Mexican police officer to call you over, ask many questions and try to finagle a bribe.

I have not been shaken down in years; I am normally an excellent student of how to avoid the police. I have a policy, I see police, and I walk the other way anywhere on the planet. I never ask them questions, and do anything about to avoid eye contact.

I am on the corner, police are rare to see in Africa, and at least if you were expecting protection or traffic control or you needed them. However, if you found the right shady area, then probably easy to find.

I am taking this corner shot of the MSF office,
Medecins Sans Frontieres - or
- Doctors Without Borders - in English

I just finished tracking down the answers to my question and was going to frame it out with a photo. I went to the corner, suddenly motorcycles are stopping to and helping me, they are pointing.

The Police are waving me over, Africans do not like to move, they like you to come over, I normally ignore a spssss or noise, or something rude, or a pull of the hand. I cannot be bother do work to pay attention to a person I never wanted to talk with in the first place

However, like a Mexican police officer, you cannot ignore a Niger police officer, they need their power play. I look over and there are about 20 of them, I said to myself,
- Ooops, I screwed up. -

Casually, very casually, as if I owned the planet in a meek way, I walked across the streets. I suddenly speak very bad French, my French is very bad. Then one starts to speak English, they want to know if I have a permit to take photos. I say, I do not know, they want me to go somewhere that way; I do not understand and continue to be stupid. I speak very American English, they want to know, where are you from. I say,
- United States. -

They ask me my job, I say
- I sell homes. -
I was a real estate broker in Indiana and it is my default profession when talking to people who are looking for something to find.

They are trying to rattle me, this is why they want to shake me down, and it is to shake me until I rattle. I am not rattling; the enjoyment of panic is not good for them. Everyone that spoke two words of English asked me two word questions, actually, they spoke very good English, and I was surprised.

Mexican that look like Niger Police, go figure, the culture of Africa and Mexico to me are surprisingly similar, the Islamic is less drinking, but still the elevated need to have someone come and listen.

Africa spends a lot of time thinking about how to get something for nothing. South of here, it is happier in Benin, Togo, and Ghana, Niger is more or less hot and not so happy. Different, dry, hot, dusty and I actually think the food may be better.

Nevertheless, I think of them as Mexicans, the must be very distant cousins. My joke about why Mexico is the way it is this. How would you act if your founding fathers were pirates, or land pirates? I suppose most of Africa was colonized by pirates also, the first great influence, slave trader, nefarious bunches of pirates. Leaves a mark on the culture that was done with indelible ink.

Mexico and Niger

Zinder Niger Break Fast

Zinder Niger Break Fast
Zinder Niger West Africa
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It is the Scorcher…

Translated from Arabic, Ramadan mean Scorcher, and fell in the heat of summer, then maybe some variations. It is a Holy time for the Islamic Religion.

It is Ramadan presently in Niger and my friend are scrambling to

They fast, or abstain from food, drink, smoking, sex, and I am sure a few other things, but I am not an expert. What I found hard to believe was the drink, this mean in the 30-40 Centigrade scorcher of Zinder Niger, they cannot drink,

I was amazed, it is hot, there is often no movement, sitting around, nothing happens, you question if they are alive activity already. Then you say, you cannot drink water. This is a month of fasting, it is also a month here in Zinder where I hope they lie in the shade and do nothing, and otherwise besides dying of malnutrition they will die of heat stroke.

But the scramble is on, I am sitting around discussing all sorts of things, I am not thinking, nothing is strange, but they are, it is getting close to Sunset or 6:00 PM here and they are ready, they are ready to,

They are running for the water, the food, they are buying, selling, gathering food and water and they are ready to BREAK FAST.
I returned to my Hotel Central, the local central Hotel, by far, nothing special, out in front there two areas.

STOP, let me explain, it I hard for me to get a motorcycle taxi as it nears six or just after, as every motorcycle is scrambling or rushing for somewhere to BREAK FAST. They are all off to either eat, drink, or do the Prayers.

Ok, well, after flagging many, one decides to stop, I make it back to my hotel, over to the left of the entrance I a square area of concrete and many men are bowing up and down, do the prayer. Nothing new in an Islamic country and you get used to it, however over to the right. Well, at night there is a food market where they sell chicken, I could not buy chicken or it was hard to buy chicken in Benin, but strange in a country with tons of food problems they have tons of chickens.

So over to the left are many men bowing, over to the right are many persons drinking water and I am not sure after that.

I asked my friend,
- Do you drink before or after you pray? -
He starts to laugh.

I am surrounded by friend, this is my second time of coming to Zinder, and I am sitting in the customary position, in front of the one person’s home. We gather, discuss, they ask exploratory questions, I ask exploratory questions.

My friend says a comment to a new friend from Nigeria, the person from Nigeria speaks English as the influence is English and not French or the Anglophone won over the Francophone. Niger is Francophone.

They speak Hausa that is their language, the Franc and Anglo is just something else to be bothered with and needed for me.

I ask the Nigerian what he said,
- He says, you understand Africa. -

There are some small subtle things of human nature, we can overlook, look sideways, understand and know. People are very strange and very weak, they are both good and they are bad. I believe most people look the other way at the humanity or humility of life. I like to ask questions, they laugh; I think and hope because neither of us cares what religion the other is, we just are different. We are more the same than different.

Or we could be very different if I would think and make it, so; however I make us very much the same.

BREAK FAST and do it Fast.

Zinder Niger Break Fast

Hard to get a taxi at this time of day, the rush is on to go home.

Zinder to Niamey Niger

Zinder to Niamey Niger
Zinder Niger West Africa
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

12,600 CFA from Zinder to Niamey about 12-14 hours.

I purchased a bus ticket with Air Transport, the man was so annoying I started to go to another station, and then I thought,
- This is Niger, incredibly lazy; I am not going to find a motorcycle taxi at 4:30 in the morning easy.-

I can walk from the Hotel Central to the Air Transport, the closes hotel and probably better is Auberge Mourna for 10,000 CFA and you probably could get them down to 6500 if you stayed a few days. They started out at 24,000 CFA, said their last price was 16,000 and suddenly after I leave the gate, they have one for ten. This hotel is perfectly close to the Air Transport Bus station, not that any tourist come to Zinder… hehehe without a car.

Auberge Mourna is learning they made a lot of money off NGO-ONG last year and now have no business, so everyone is slowing seeing that the get rich year of 2005 is gone. I suppose they can promote something bad and try again.

I am very glad to leave Zinder, and hope I never return, just cannot imagine a reason to return to Zinder in this life, or to Niger in this lifetime, I can do what I wish to do without making my life miserable. Niger was a different feel for me this year, no curiosity, tired of the begging, tired of the apathetic country, nothing to do, every move is hot and difficult, indeed one the worst places on the planet to leave.

I am happy to leave, I bit the bullet, took, the long and hot bus of 12-14 hours, I want to pay the price, get to Ghana or anywhere and enjoy my travels in Africa I have learned to love, however, not in Niger.

Zinder to Niamey Niger

Publishing Africa Photos

Publishing Africa Photos
Zinder Niger West Africa
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The cities where there is faster internet in Africa are the places I do not want to live or be, the cities I enjoy and want to live do not have internet or the speed is so slow I cannot publish my photos.

I take many photos, I take as many photos as I feel like taking, however sometimes I think, I will not be able to publish or send to the internet. I want to slow down; it takes time to send to the internet or in technical language FTP, file transfer protocol.

In Zinder, I can publish about 100 photos per day in two hours between the hours of 8 and 10 in the morning, in Natitingou at the same time period I was able to publish 25, so four times the photos for about the same money, one or two dollars per hour.

There is a need for me to label, send, back up and guarantee the data I collect is safe. Carrying the data in my computer is not safe; I am only as safe with the information, data, photos, blog post, letters, page updates as the last time I published to the internet.

To further protect myself, all the above list of information is also copied daily onto a two Gig thumb or flash drive. I normally work or use the flash as first memory source, then back up the whole chip onto the computer.

I have three major types of digital information that needs sent to the internet.

1. PUBLIC - Pages I update on my WebPages, small and easy to publish.
2. PUBLIC - Photos I have taken, about 25 per day taken to 50, according to the country.
3. PRIVATE USE - Typed information, letters, emails, excel and Microsoft Works databases.
The private use is the danger; I have no immediacy of need to put on the internet. I was listening intently as Josef explained what was on his laptop of the Eden Foundation, I believe he is extremely cautious and protects research data very well.

Publishing Africa Photos

Scarecrow Some Go This Way

Scarecrow Some Go This Way
Zinder Niger West Africa
Monday, October 9, 2006

Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz ask which direction leads to Oz, some go this way pointing one direction, then some go this way pointing the other way, and some go both.

1500 Miles if I go to the USA, then travel to Asia.
7500 Miles if I go direct from Africa to Asia

This is almost irrelevant though with Airplane travel, what I care about is the cost. Which is the best value of lowest cost.

I started to work my way through this and remember, I told myself, no more buying tickets in the USA, I would if possible, buy a ticket to the USA and round to the next destination.

I am going to start trying to fly either to Bangkok Thailand or Chicago, Illinois. I will try to buy a ticket starting in Niamey, Niger, then again in Burkina, Faso, and continue until I find a ticket of reasonable cost, I suppose to either destination under 800 US dollars one-way is good. I with be happy when about 5 years past and all the tickets can be purchased on the internet, and stop the travel agent gouging. Plus only e-tickets, not issued tickets to protect.

I am trying to find the cheapest path in and out of Africa, so I can plan my next trip, how to enter and leave cheap.

I need to double check and discover which Africa countries have embassies in Bangkok, Philippines, Singapore. I live so far from Washington DC and it would cost so much for me to travel to Washington DC or New York to attain visa, it is cheaper to do in Europe. For an American flying into Abidjan is always good, and I think Senegal is good.

Visas, roads, military coups, what country you are from, incoming and outgoing travel. I am looking for the Gates, I will travel from Gate to Gate by land, and therefore a trip from Senegal to Abidjan would be Gate to Gate Travel. Air Moroc is one of the cheaper airlines for some, Ethiopia and Egypt Air, and Air Afriqiyah.

Scarecrow Some Go This Way

My Inability to Write

My Inability to Write
Zinder Niger West Africa
Monday, October 9, 2006

I am incapable of writing a perfect post, article, or book, what would take a normal good writer less than 15 minutes to produce, for me to create the same quality of grammar and sentence construction, use of proper diction, all that which combines to create a clear cogent idea would take me 24 hours. Then it would only be 90 percent ok, not acceptable to an editor, wishing a perfect magazine article submission.

I am often frustrated, and receive tons of you-are-stupid-emails; you do not know how to write. I tell them, I know this, however, and they believe everyone should be able to write, I sometimes think, geez, do you realize that maybe 70 percent of the planet cannot read a street sign.

A master of something will denigrate often the skills of a person that does not have their natural abilities. I am a natural on SEO of internet pages, This is Search Engine Optimization, I try often to teach it, however normally fail, and normally to the person that is the perfect writer type ability, they are too confined by their rules to think, as they say outside the box.

What is important in life is too listen, and not minimize the good ideas, encourage the idea, ignore the format or form in which they are delivered.

My Inability to Write