Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Peace Corps Africa: Honoring 50 Years - This is Where I Will Be
The year I came back from Niger, was the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps. I celebrated in Washington DC and kept in touch with a few Niger Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Years later, when I couldn't forget the people I'd met in Zinder, Niger, I wrote about them in The Cartographer's Tongue / Poems of the World. Now Peace Corps Africa is turning fifty and once again I'm going to be there to celebrate, this time as part of the program in Madison, Wisconsin. If you are in the area you can find me Saturday night at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Madison with Sandra Meek, Derek Burleson, and Anne Neelon -- all poet RPCVs who served in Africa. The event includes storytelling and film -- and is free and open to the public!
When I first heard I was going to Niger, I thought I was being posted to a river! Niger is the turquoise colored country above Nigeria and to the right of Mali, below Libya ... Fortunately, the area near the Libyan border is (or was) uninhabitable. The country's shape resembles a fish - and as volunteers, we found this quite ironic as the country is land locked and the river nothing more than a dry bed - no fish.
The above photograph shows the "old city" of Zinder. The telephone wires led straight to the Sultan's home. The photograph below looks just like the Niger I remember: a strip of dust below a haze-filled sky. The streetlight, telephone wires, and width of the road all seem familiar as does the man on the mobilette. I'm looking forward to this weekend -- hopefully getting a chance to meet other Niger RPCVs.