My first impression when I arrived was to think that I came back to a quieter routine which I have to say was not an unpleasant feeling. As I said in my previous posts, I have felt stressed during my assignment especially at the beginning but I eventually adjusted to my new environment. It is fair to say that all the things you hear on the media about certain African countries add to the anxiety and comments from family and friends advising you to be super careful etc.. Now saying that in reality some situations happened while I was there like a Military coup, Terrorist attacks and all of that makes you think that it is normal to be a little anxious and that you would better stick to the advised safety rules. So it was pretty unusual for me that in Niger I had to call a driver from Save the Children every single time I needed to go somewhere even if it was to buy some bread only 5 minutes away. Also we could only go in designated safety zones etc… However, there was something that made me smile when I arrived the first time there in Niger is that the driver gave me a big envelop, with inside a phone, a key and a sheet with all the numbers and guidelines to follow, for a moment I honestly felt like a secret agent in a movie 🙂 So to put it simply, I always felt safe with Save but the environment was I have to say not always as peaceful as I thought it would be when I left in August.
To make it short and simple here are the main things I have learnt about living in West Africa :
- Never pour soap before opening the tap water
- Don’t expect to watch a movie in full due to the power cuts. ( and for some reasons it always cuts when you get to the most interesting moment:-)
- Don’t expect to get a clear timing , if you ask how long it will take to get something you will hear soon.
- Don’t expect to be given the way on the pavement which I have to say was quite annoying
- Don’t expect to get to your destination on time when you are travelling by planes
- Don’t always expect to have a friendly taxi ride in Dakar
As you can imagine I won’t miss what I have listed on the previous points, I will however miss a lot of things such as:
- Going by walk to work in Dakar in just 5 minutes
- My runs near the beach with a wonderful view
- The nice weather every single day
- All my fabrics shopping in the nice huge colourful markets for my designed clothes with the local tailor
- All the uncommon situations I faced and that made me smile so many times such as someone carrying hundred eggs on his head or a lamb on a motorbike
- The nice fresh local food, with its magic fresh fish and vegetables
- All the west African French expressions
- and I will obviously miss all the nice people I met both in Senegal and Niger
It’s been less than a week that I came back to the ‘reality‘. It would be more accurate to say back to my reality, the reality of a a developed safer country. We tend to forget that we belong to the third of the world where everyone has access to water, education, care, advanced technology and good roads. I think it is really important to realise how lucky we are to live in such level of comfort. From that perspective, I am grateful that I had the great opportunity to go outside of my normal comfort zone and test what I thought were my own limits and that is with no doubt a real blessing.