Updating a series of articles originally written as posts and now transfered over to the “Articles and Travel Writing” section of the site. This one about my time in Niamey, Niger.
My time in Niamey was by parts exotic and dark. I came under tremendous pressure at work and, being young, struggled to deal with it well. My temper grew short, I overworked, lost my appetite, slept badly, and started over-exercising in an effort to manage my stress. In short, I toyed with the pointy end of burn-out.
Driving has always been a form of escape for me. I like the physical act of being behind the wheel. I suppose if I unpack it it’s some combination of being in control of my surroundings, of being in a private space, and of moving or travelling (the last being something I will probably touch on elsewhere).
I had access to two vehicles while in Niamey, and I was fond of both of them. One was the car which was assigned to our teamhouse, an old Toyota Tercel, an All Wheel Drive hatch which I loved despite it being in fairly rough condition. In fact, as a car ideally suited to the city streets of Niger’s capital, most of which were sand and rutted dirt. We even took it off-road occasionally, for example on afternoons when we might head up to the Plateau overlooking the Niger River for a little scramble on the rocks or an early-evening barbecue. The other was a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, brand new and purchased specifically for the emergency program which I found myself managing at the time. Although it captured what makes me uncomfortable about big NGOs sometimes (we could have found a cheaper vehicle with a little effort) it was a wonderful machine- and it could certainly reach all our remote project sites, scattered as they were over a thousand kilometres of Nigerien bushland. I tended not to drive it in Niamey, partly because I felt it was ostentatious when the decrepit little Tercel did the job just fine, and partly because it was a field vehicle, and more often than not would be with one of our nutrition teams doing follow-up visits in the districts…