We conversed in a combination of French and Zarma, and learned all about one of the local legends… superstitions… that is part of the tribal/animistic religion. Several of the children were warning us to stay away from the river, as someone had died there just the day before. The legend says that a migrating octopus type creature, or an evil water genie, or an unexpected rushing current – depending on whom you talked to – grabbed the man and he died. That led to an interesting lesson about the animistic religion that centers on the Niger River, at least in this part of Africa. After the food was cooked, we ate – and our African friends were surprised when I grabbed a plastic bag to start picking up after ourselves, we prayed together and then headed home- to prepare for our second excursion.
The same evening, we went to our favorite picnic spot, northwest of town on a plateau that overlooks the river. Brendan had asked if we could do this to celebrate his birthday – and he chose the family we invited to join us.We ate sloppy joes and grilled hotdogs...
...rode donkeys, watched the sunset,
the kids built their own “kids’ fire” – and Tim couldn’t believe that I allowed Jonathan to follow his big brother around, climbing the closer rocks and sitting by him down by the “kid fire” but Brendan, Rebekah and Nadia did an awesome job watching out for him.
After the sun had set, the fire had died down, we picked up our things, loaded up the trucks and went hunting for jerboas. We spent good 45 minutes chasing the little critters up on the plateau, using the spotlights on the land cruiser, the headlights and flashlights. The kids would hang with their heads out the windows and as soon they caught the flash of a critter's eyes, everyone would pile out of the cruiser and run pell mell to try and catch the creature. It was quite amusing to watch!
They never found any, but ended up catching one tiny field mouse and 4 other black striped mice to bring home, which we now have living in the an action packer in our house. The little mouse escaped the first night – he could jump really high. So, I’m hoping we don’t stumble across him running around our home some evening, or I’ll be jumping really high myself. (Did we ever tell you about the shrew that took up residence in our home for awhile?)
But so much was very, very different – just a vivid reminder of the two different worlds we try to straddle in Niger, living and working here.