Joan served as a Community Health Agent in Niger from 2005 to 2007. This episode, she shares her story as a Peace Corps Volunteer. From long peaceful walks through fields of millet to being attacked by a rabid dog, Joan’s service was full of ups and downs.
On this Episode:
Joan joins the show as the first fellow storyteller and kicks off the My Peace Corps Story podcast with an array of rich and entertaining stories.
We discuss the feeling of failure that often plagues volunteers
Why it is important to partner with local leaders and community groups
Photos from Joan’s Service
(click to enlarge and learn more)
With my neighbor- this lady lived next door to me at my post and loved to show up unannounced and ask me for things (money, oil, milk,clothes). She could be a handful, but she also came to me when she was sick once. She almost died of a stomach infection, but I helped her out -we walked in the dark at night to a neighboring village where we knew a doctor lived. He gave her antibiotics and she slowly recovered. She came by for this photo afterwards and thanked me. I was so happy to see her smiling again, and still in awe that she’d had the strength to limp 2 miles each way in the pitch black for medicine. She even smiled for the photos, which, like I mentioned earlier, wasn’t exactly normal.
Pic with Moussa, our regional team “driver”. I say that in quotes because he was way more than our driver – he was the go-to guy for everything – handyman, translator, liaison at government meetings, all institutional knowledge holder of all things Peace Corps Niger, and good friend. Basically responsible for the orientation, protection, and safe travel of all volunteers in our region. Volunteers supported his children’s education post-service by sending funds back to Niger through newer volunteers. When PC Niger shutdown several years ago, former volunteers set-up a collection to help his family with finances since he obviously was without a job.
This is me decked out in locally-tailored threds for when my training group was officially sworn-in to service after 2 months of language and culture training.
Girls dressed for the Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan. In Hausa culture, many people keep stern faces in photos. It is considered improper to smile, which also might invite the “evil eye.”
Dari was my “best friend”. A young guy from the village I was posted to who showed me around, kept an eye out for me, helped me learn the local language (Hausa) and spoke enough French that we could communicate when my Hausa failed me. Here he is outside my mud hut studying English. We would have tea and English lessons every so often. This was in the village of Zongo Mozague, a rural post about 5 miles off the nearest paved road in southern Niger. Dari would often escort me in and out of the village, as the 1.5 hour walk was usually long, hot, and lonely.
Joan’s Peace Corps Story
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
Walking the route from my village post to the paved road, four miles away, through fields of millet.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
Being at odds with village leaders, unrealistic expectations, and being bitten by a rabid dog.
What do you miss about the Peace Corps?
I miss the tight knit nature of the PC volunteer group.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying that you’d like to share?
Sannu, sannu, ba ta hana zuwa (Going slowly doesn’t prevent one from getting there) – i.e. slow and steady wins the race.