During our first 2 weeks in Niger, we spent time in Niamey working on projects at Sahel Academy and various SIM facilities. At Sahel, Brad found a high speed Internet connection in the new library and set himself to work on business planning and financial admin issues, and Lynette carried out a bunch of duties, such as supply teaching (grade 9/10 social studies, grade 9/10 English, grade 11 Chemistry, grade 5/6, Grade 3/4 Art, Grade 7 Art, and Grade 8 Art, librarian, playground supervisor, mover (helping a lady unpack in her new apartment), shopper, cook, organizer & administrator. The kids went to school for a few days – Tommy with his 3rd cousin Joel, and Annie in the class with her grade. Jack went to Tommy’s class to help as a tutor.
The boys came back oblivious as to who was in their classroom, but Annie knew all the names of the kids in her class, and most of the details of what had gone on during the day.
School starts at 7:30 am, when it is still sort of cool outside, and ends about 2:30 pm, when it is good and hot. We would eat lunch there with the school kids.
During the off hours, we were responsible for getting things organized for the group of 10 people coming from our church toward the end of our stay in Niamey. So we would run around town collecting various groceries and supplies from various places. Cucumbers from that guy on that corner, pineapples over there, and Coke around the corner.
The cheese came from the store known locally as “White Shack”, which unfortunately for us was neither white, nor a shack, nor called “White Shack”. After several tries and several sets of directions, we discovered that “White Shack” was really “Azar’s”, that it was red brick, and that it looked nothing like a shack. It is owned by a Lebanese guy with the nickname “Cobra” who has a ponytail and sits by the till. Here we bought ground beef (much leaner than the lean stuff we buy at home), cheese, mosquito repellant, rice, sugar and a few other things.
Haddad’s is another place that is owned by Lebanese guys. It is close to the Petit Marche (the little market). The trouble is that we didn’t have a map, and the street it is on is one way the wrong way to get there easily. We ended up just driving around the approximate area, trying to drive in the legal direction of each street, and it was just when we gave up and turned back toward the river and the bridge home that we spotted Haddad’s on the right side of the street.
[photo of Jack in Haddad's coming soon - once FTP works again]
We pulled in and ran into its air conditioned comfort. Inside, it was jammed with people and groceries for sale in a space about 2/3rd the size of a 7/11 store back home. It had carts, so we grabbed one and headed into the store. One whole aisle was dedicated to alcohol, including a $1,500 bottle of cognac in a special display. Oenophiles will like the idea of the $5 French wines further down the aisle, but not caring about the booze, we bought large boxes of Foster Clark’s powered drink mixes from Malta, orange juice from Lebanon, 10 frozen chickens from France, and 15 cans of tuna packed in water from Paris.
The amazing thing about the stores here is the number of diverse places things come from. I saw boxes of Wheat Thins marked Product of Canada next to displays of skin whitening soap from Nigeria and a multi-national Coke display of Coke products in cans. Regular Coke entirely written in Arabic from an unidentifiable Arab country. Sprite in French and Arabic, possibly from Lebanon or Morocco. Diet Coke from Indonesia. In another store, regular Coke in 500 mL plastic bottles from Burkina Faso, Diet Coke in plastic bottles from Nigeria, and cans of Coke from Togo (not the town in Saskatchewan).
By comparison, everything we buy in Canada seems to come from one plant in Toronto, or because of packaging rules, gets to be marked as a product of Canada, even though it came from somewhere else. Now that Canada’s getting a new set of packaging guidelines, I’m looking forward to seeing where the stuff I buy really comes from.