“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” Lillian Smith
Niger was a journey to both the inner and outer worlds. I was continually aware there was much going on beyond what I saw in front of me. So much about the life here that I didn’t understand. To live the life of a nomad with no fixed home, little access to education or health care or much knowledge about the world. What that must that be like…
The unseen layers called me. The world is big enough for so many different values and beliefs. What links us all is our common humanity. I travel to stretch my imagination and beliefs.
We flew from Niamey, the capital, to Agadez on the UN plane under the auspices of the Nomad Foundation. There we met with our security team of 2 vehicles with 9 armed soldiers in each car and a 50 caliber machine gun on each truck. One cannot leave Agadez without them. We were shadowed quietly by them throughout the trip. We were warmly received at the festivals and encountered no problems with our security and yet now, on returning home, the situation has changed and we would probably not be able to go this week.
We received this bulletin from the US State Department this week :
While the U.S. Embassy is unaware of any specific, credible threats against U.S. or western interests or individuals in Niger, U.S. citizens residing in, or visiting Niger should remain vigilant regarding their personal security and stay alert to local security developments. We also heard that French troops have reportedly destroyed an al-Qaeda convoy in Niger that was transporting weapons from Libya to Mali, and also captured some of the group’s fighters. There were 250 military vehicles racing through Agadez on the way North to address this problem.
Our timing was very lucky and I feel privileged to have visited the festivals that so few people get to see. I am very sad that the incredible program that Leslie Clark and the Nomad Foundation had set up for this week had to be postponed till the situation becomes stable again. Leslie had a doctor coming to work with the local midwives and other volunteers to implement a new building technique. I hope this all gets to happen in the not to distant future.
Your photographs bring a whole new dimension to the trip–who would have thought a bunch of guys with guns could look so otherworldly and actually beautiful! I am still here in Niger–miss you all and am glad you made it in and out safely–never an easy trip–but not one to be forgotten.