Reub's journey

26 August 2009

Coming to Foloa

When we first pulled into Foloa, we were sitting in the back of a mud-splattered vehicle driven by a cheerful Nigerien Peace Corps guy, who was pointing out, "Look! They all know her! They're calling her name! They're dancing! They love Samsiya!" It was a sunny morning with most of the men in the millet fields weeding, so it was the women and children looking over their compound walls, waving and cheering and then pouring into the street as our lone truck rumbled down the single dirt lane towards Jessica's concession. Narba, Jessica's neighbor, mentor and the head woman of the village, was the first to greet us. She bowed, and then bowed, and then bowed again, smiling and spitting out bits of orange cola nut between greetings. "Inna kwanna! Inna gadjiya! Barka! Gayshua!"

Little did we know that it was only the first of easily a thousand times that we would be greeted and welcomed in the 11 days of our stay in this little bush town. In fact the procession of greeters never stopped; from 7AM to well past nightfall people came to greet us. It wasn't just out of curiosity, although who could blame them for that? (The impossibly pale parents of Samsiye? Does she look more like her mother, or her father, or like neither of them at all? [A wide variety of opinions here.] Can they speak Hausa? [No, shucks.]) It is truly a part of the culture to greet other people. And so it began.

People came with smiles, they offered their babies to be held, they quietly slipped us gifts of money, and soap. They had heard that we liked to eat eggs. We started getting gifts of eggs, first in a little dish, then pulled as if by magic from 5 different folds of a woman's pagne, then delivered by little boys, then brought over by an old man. In the week and a half that we were there we were given over 100 eggs. I shrugged my shoulders as I popped my Lipitor every day: what are you gonna do? It was so sweet. Jessica was flabbergasted. She swore that she had never seen an egg in Foloa the entire time she has lived there.

In fact the villagers don't eat many eggs, preferring to raise them up for the meat they can provide. I began to worry that our presence was about to cause the decimation of the chicken population. My anxiety increased when an old man presented us with a live rooster. This was of course a great honor, but I could only think with dismay, "Oh man, not only are we going to have to eat this chicken, but first we're going to have to kill it, pluck it, and gut it..." Not ready to do that, we tied the rooster to a hastily-fashioned coop right next to John's cot. Poor John, despite his ear plugs, well..ask him about it sometime...and then ask him how he felt when we were presented with another rooster the next day.

In the end, Narba offered to slaughter and cook the chickens, for which we were grateful. We gave the meat to her family; split between the dozen people sharing her compound I don't think it went to waste.

This morning, back home in Corvallis, Oregon, I had to go in for a cholesterol screening. I don't have the results yet, but I'll let you know if the 100 eggs were a problem.

Before leaving Niger, I bought this batik. I saw this print being worn by quite a few women, and of course its a good reminder of our chicken-and-egg issues.


  1. Kerry, what a fantastic story!! You'll never want to eat another egg! I remember feeling guilty when presented with a goat, knowing it was taking food out of the mouths of the family offering it. But you have to accept - you're the guest - and watch as they slit the throat, cut it up and prepare it for feasting! Luckily our bush plane had arrived and we could pass the large bowl of meat to the villagers to enjoy!

  2. Hi Merry! This was a long post, so thanks for reading all the way through to the end. My test results came back OK, although eggs cause you to produce too much "bad" cholesterol?


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