Taking Next Steps on My Terms: A Niger Travel Diary
Updated: a day ago
When I returned from Pakistan, everything that happened there after was a whirlwind. I could barely process it all, and quite frankly, I never even stopped at all to grieve properly for all the events that would unravel next. And so, the day that I actually stopped and allowed myself to feel it all was half-way into February when I made the decision to get back on the road again. I felt it all as if the emotions had been bottled away for years and finally then just decided to explode into a million pieces. I felt it to the point that I could not stop sobbing for hours in a literal mess of mind confusion. I teared a bit in public relentlessly, and then isolated myself into a mess of thoughts that tortured me all night until the next morning with a pattern that lasted for days. I could not sleep as my head swirled into overdrive.
Everyone who has followed my writings since 2018 - or even longer, with the food writing - knows that I had been in a loving, supportive relationship for almost 12 years – 11 years and 10 months to be exact. I adored, loved and respected my husband - and still do, he really is one of a kind. I will always love him. He is my family- but we were fundamentally really different individuals who saw life unfolding in very dissimilar ways. And so ultimately, our paths continued to diverge until the point that it no longer made sense for us to stay together. If we stayed together, it would be a façade even though I would have loved for our vows to have meant more, and to have been fought for more, than just words we wrote on paper to fulfill a ceremony. Even before I had left last year for what was only supposed to be five months, I think we both knew that my going away was not going to bring our marriage the peace and renewal that it needed to survive and start over. And so, when I returned, we struggled through an excruciatingly tough Christmas with our respective families, essentially faking our way through, even though we had already decided a few days before – and even before - that what was coming for months had to be made official.
I tried to numb it all out and was actually successful for quite a while. I could not even find the actual courage to face my family in person. I wrote them a letter; I was that weak. But in all matters of the world, I felt like a complete failure, and I was just sick of always feeling that way. I had married one of the great guys in the world, and I could not even make it work with him. I could not make the most logical, incredibly privileged life work. I literally deserve to switch places with someone who is actually suffering out there so that I can feel the most immense pain. I am a monster.
For the days following Christmas, I felt like I had somewhat blacked out. I spent a few really depressing days in the home I had helped to build, packing all of my life in a few suitcases and a billion boxes, and deconstructing photos - including our wedding photos - from the house in a blur, and trying my hardest not to process what was actually happening. You would figure that I would experience instant detachment to the house where I had tried to kill myself multiple times, but I felt longingly for all the nooks and crannies I would hide away in whenever I felt like having a really tough cry. I still miss those nooks and crannies as I am writing this right now. But, going ‘home’ was not really going home anymore. I had no home because I had lost everything. At that point, and even now, I still feel paralyzed in what is exactly the right thing to do in order to start over. I feel scared to make any big decisions, even now two months into returning to Toronto from Pakistan. I am angry at myself because I want to make a right decision knowing how fragile my mind and emotions are; but I know for the most part that I will never know right until I experience a couple of wrongs. A couple of wrongs are bound to happen. I am just afraid for myself that one next wrong will probably lead me to walk in front of a train. I feel that psychologically unstable.
So, I have been doing what I have done best for the past while – running away. I ran away for a while unsure of myself and what it was I needed to do next in life. And to this day, quite frankly, I am still in some ways running. I think there is a part of me that knows that I can start over. But it is a matter of when I will find the courage to actually make leaps that make sense. I know there is some courage inside of me, especially as my pride was shredded to shit living in my childhood bedroom again for a few dreaded weeks in February. This was a place I thought I had truly left behind in proud determination and my own 'perceived' success ten years ago. This was a place I hated with every feeling bone in my body because I experienced so many unhappy moments there as a child and teenager due to my narcissistic abuser of a mother. So, no matter what happens next, I do not want to go back there. I have to find the strength to start over and just figure out where to live next. I have to figure it out.
But, in the interim, despite fears of being judged by everyone, I decided to go back on the road. Right now, I feel completely alone, and I am depressed. That’s probably what spurred on my emotional move towards acceptance with all the grief and loss. While I have not fully accepted it all, I have been able to feel everything that I need to undergo to properly grieve this time around. I also know that that if I can get through the lonely moments, and especially the emotional prison that are nights, I will get to meet and experience people who will remind me what strength, resilience, community and kindness means. I mean, going back to Toronto, I was harshly reminded that I have no community. I tried to make plans with some people only to receive a “three-week later” availability. So, I know where my place is in that particular bubble and I do not ever want to go back if I can help it.
Anyways, I am back in Africa. I will be in Africa for the next two somewhat odd months, travelling through Niger, Central African Republic, the Congos and Rwanda. My heart is not fully in it, but I will try to live in the moment because that is all I can do. I set out on a mission last fall to find purpose in travel for all my mental health struggles and issues. I still think it is possible to find actual transformative answers in a world that is not my own. And, I am going to lean into that thought ideology again. I am going to have faith because that is all I can do, until I can finally find my confidence and be somewhat of a strong woman again. I have said it in the past, and I will say it again. I just want to stop feeling this attachment to death once and for all.
Now, enough from the mental health front.
Let’s talk about Niger.
This Mental Health Journey
Almost every time I have flown into West Africa the last while I have been pretty disoriented. Flying into Niamey was no exception. I left the plane feeling incredibly moody and groggy, with the realization that I had to get my mind and façade in order to process and comprehend some level of French and explain that I did not have an actual visa. I pretty much booked a flight into Niger last minute and coordinated a landing visa so that I would not have to deal with paperwork on the fly at home. This became a bit of a skittish process because I was ultimately left to travel around the country with just a visa receipt and a photocopy of my passport. I flew into Agadez using said landing visa and passport photocopy, while the immigration office back in Niamey put the stamp in while I was away. My trust had to be in the process, with the mild hope that I would actually be reunited with my passport before leaving the country in a week and a bit.
The airport appeared fairly modern having just been built in 2019. Coming out of the plane, there were doctors on-site to check through yellow fever vaccination records. Border control was fairly straight-forward even with the aforementioned landing visa. I noticed a lot of foreigners coming in on my flight, but most of them went to the diplomatic visa area. Unfortunately, tourism is still fractured in this part of the world due to ongoing civil and extremist conflict around the borders.
I spent all of five minutes in Niamey, but I had the chance to walk around by myself the evening before I left for Agadez. I took in a breathtaking African sunset and laughed at myself for every “Konnichiwa” I received from pretty much everyone under the sun – women, men, children, young and old. I never know if I am going to get the Chinese or Japanese treatment in a country, but based on both Niamey and Agadez now, I guess I look Japanese here. The locals in Niamey were very friendly, and they were just really interested in interacting with me even with my fractured French. It was just a really calm setting down by the river near sunset, and the serenity definitely eased my emotions temporarily.
The next morning, I jumped on a flight immediately for Agadez. I had a horseshoe on my side apparently as that particular flight has been known to be often cancelled or delayed. I slept for most of the flight having barely slept on my long-haul flight, and so was in dire need of catch-up hours. The Agadez airport was basically a run-down room, so I tried to get out of there as fast as possible. I grabbed my backpack from a cart, flipped my landing visa to the immigration police officer, and was on my way.
I arrived in town literally just in time to catch Friday prayers from the terrace of my guesthouse. This was a unique and spiritual experience for me as I had never seen lines and lines of people praying in rows strewn along the streets. Apparently, when the mosque becomes filled, the remaining people will pray outside. This number is amplified by the fact that people will come in from neighbouring villages to attend the ceremony in the Grand Mosque. After spending so much time in the Middle East and several other Islamic-predominant areas in Africa last year, I had gotten used to prayer call. It felt kind of soothing and familiar to hear it blaring again in the streets. Agadez was really windy, so the mixture of the visual spirituality bound with the intense wind made the entire experience really exhilarating. I felt goosebumps circulating up and down my arms for the longest time. My emotions were on high this day, but I numbed myself long enough to soak in the prayers and subsequently explore the city.
Agadez is this large, sprawling ancient historical Saharan desert city, with an unparalleled people watching scene and vibrant culture spilling out literally everywhere. The house complexes look like mazes especially from above arriving on the plane, and the intricacy of the city is accentuated by its olden free-form clay architecture. The Grand Mosque in the centre of the historic old town is fascinating. It is the tallest clay-mud brick structure in the world, and was built in the 1500s. I did see this type of architecture in Mali, but I think the adjoint observation of Friday prayers deepened the experience for me of standing in front of the Mosque later onwards. I also got to climb the very narrow and tight insides afterwards all the way to the top overlooking all of Agadez. I got lost in the view with the wild wind rushing around me. I swear I just stared at people walking around below for an hour.
Both Agadez and Niamey felt very clean in comparison to cities and villages I had visited in both Mali and Chad, though this would change as I moved deeper into the rural areas. Niger though is still one of the poorest developing countries in the world. Amongst various challenges, the country experiences drought which affects its agricultural practices; overpopulation from refugees and lack of birth control; and poor educational and healthcare infrastructures. Malaria is prevalent in the country - and still, across the continent- and while hospital access is available, medicine is very expensive to acquire.
Agadez was actually a major transit town for West African refugees migrating through Libya to Europe, but that slowed with the war in Libya. Migrants have returned, and some settled in here adding to the overpopulation. There is an American military presence in the area to monitor terrorist and extremist activity in the Sahel region, a lot of which has taken hold of Burkina Faso right now. Boko is generally operating though mostly near the borders. When I travel closer to the Nigerian border to the city of Maradi, a number of people tell me that Boko has often kidnapped villagers just west of the city, so border crossings have become tighter, and economic trade has definitely slowed down.
Agadez actually saw a lot of violence in the early 2000s due to the Tuareg civil rebellion, which also affected parts of neighbouring Mali, but that violence has since diminished and Agadez is considered generally safe now. I felt safe walking around during the day, but I was told repeatedly by everybody not to walk around at night. But, this is more so because of petty crime and banditry rather than terrorism. Apparently though, the Sultan of Zinder recently spent some time in Agadez with a number of officials to visit children in schools, attempting to encourage them away from the extremes of religious fanaticism. Across Africa, - and I know now too, in the Middle East - the rise of child soldiers has always been a saddening reality.
Walking through the city – and subsequently passing through many villages during my cross-country travels, I immediately observed extreme poverty. Children followed me with bowls constantly trying to beg for food and money. Some children would be leading blind women, and so I would hear ghostly pleas from both a child and a woman. Every once in a while, a generous sandwich maker would throw a couple of baguettes onto the street, and you would see children diving for the bread. I too gave up some leftover sandwiches, and some of the bigger kids almost knocked me over just to grab them ahead of the little ones. I luckily had some bananas as well to give to the smaller kids. The whole scene though made my stomach and heart churn a bit. I know this happens in a lot of developing countries, but I guess I have been even more emotional in this journey this time around, so any bit of sadness and harsh reality grabbed at me violently. I know though that I have to be careful when giving money or food because if I give to one child, thirty more will come.
There is a much larger income divide here than in Niamey. I am told that the richest wealth in the country comes from Agadez, but all that investment flows into the capital – Niamey. The economics in Agadez remains staggering, and many people are unemployed. NGOs in the region are not entirely focussed on Agadez itself, but instead to the inflow of refugees from Libya and Sudan. I do happen upon a smaller refugee camp situated right by the Quranic school that I visit, and it is disheartening to walk through the decrepit tented areas, a lot of which is inhabited by large groups of women and children. I keep my camera tucked away because this is a moment of harsh reality that I just want to experience, feel and mourn for myself. But, a part of me wanted to find out their stories, so I could just tell the world. I kind of hope one day that maybe that could be my purpose, but I still do not know what is right.
Niger is landlocked by several countries, including both Mali and Chad which I visited last year. I definitely felt the similarities and interconnection across all three countries for sure. The country has a population of 21 million approximately, 3 million of which is based in the capital Niamey. There are 8 tribes, and 8 general dialects. The largest tribes are the Hausa, followed by the Zarma, Tuareg, Fulani, Kanuri, Tubu, Diffa Arabs, and Gurma. Of the regions I visit, I meet mostly the Tuareg - in Zinder and Agadez, the Gurma - in Dosso and Niamey, and the Hausa - in Matamey and Birni Konni. The educated will also learn English, French and sometimes Arabic. The country is predominantly Sunni Muslim, but I am told that there is general harmony between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and the small population of Christians and Animists.
Public primary schooling all the way up to university is free. Private schooling I am told is where the better teachers are employed, and technically is not too expensive for middle-income families. Education rates still suffer in villages, but the idea of education and progression is not lost on the new generations. More and more children are going to school, but this still needs general encouragement and push from village teachers. The older generation is generally apathetic about education in rural areas and will want the girls especially to stay at home and help with labour. I am told by one Chief actually that children are kept at home because their parents are afraid that the boys will be drawn into religious fanaticism or delinquency, and the girls will be influenced into prostitution. Prostitution is illegal in Niger, but I am told there is still a large sex worker industry prevalent especially around the bigger cities and military bases. The Chiefs across the country apparently have been collectively working on an initiative to educate parents away from these thinking patterns, and to push harder for education support.
Men in both rural and urban settings are still in some cases having to support up to 10 to 11 children between 2 to 3 wives. It becomes very expensive to take care of all these children, so boys will end up getting preferential treatment for education. I was happy to visit a large school in Zinder where there was an almost even split of boys to girls in a large capacity – 480 boys to 460 girls. However, this was a well-funded school by the Sultanate of Zinder, and one with a good reputation. By this, I mean a number of past Presidents and Sultans had studied in this particular school.
Visiting schools is always a wonderful experience for me because I do love children a lot. The little girls at this school went crazy when they saw me, and it was almost a stampede of children trying to talk to me and grab at my hair. What I did not love was the Principal and several teachers kicking the children back with their feet in really aggressive motions. I tried my best to move into an empty classroom as quick as possible so the adults would stop attacking the children.
I also visited a Quranic school on the Saturday I was in Agadez, and the children were still in class after 6PM in the evening. I was happy to see a very full girl’s section, but Agadez still is one of the bigger cities being fifth in population. The schooling is private, but most families will shell out the 25 CFA per person to send their children to these classes. It almost acts like a bit of a daycare beyond helping the younger generation to understand and connect with their religion.
While in both Agadez and Zinder, I visited some community projects that helped me put the challenges Niger faces into more perspective. There have been conflicts over water as a resource in the past. So, the building of wells in each village has been decentralized in order to resolve the conflict. I visited a few wells and they are attached to solar panels, which act as a heat-driven cleaning agent for the water coming in from the bush. Despite the prevalence of water resources, the country still contends with drought and this affects agricultural practices. I met with a women’s group that has been focussed on using solar energy to dry-preserve local produce in the case of drought. The dried produce can be boiled for regular cooking and lasts up to half a year. Otherwise, in the past, people would have had to rely on expensive imports from Nigeria to fill the produce gap. This group however still faces the challenge of finding a regular ‘marketplace’ for their goods. When there is no drought, people would much rather rely on freshly grown produce which makes sense.
I also had the unique opportunity of meeting with several women’s small business and handicraft associations in Agadez, and subsequently at a craft expedition located just outside of town. The Agadez group I met was founded by a Madame Touwa 10 years ago. She wanted to provide solidarity and work opportunities for women in the community who may have stopped their education when they got married or did not even go to school in the first place. I was told that girls are going to school, but often will stop their education once they get married. This is a problem that the girls in rural villages will face. In the bigger cities like Niamey, girls can access higher education, and do not necessarily stop their education or pursuing a career once they get married. Very often, an urban woman will be a third or fourth wife and still be able to broker her own apartment and an equalized amount of child support. Per Sharia traditions, every wife is treated equally.
Similar to the agricultural project, these associations face the same challenge of connecting customers to their product. I wanted to take the time to think through these problems as I know I have seen and read of small Western businesses that are linked to African-manufactured products for social cause. So, I think there are models in existence out there that could help economies like Niger; models used in more established economies with infrastructure to the West, like Kenya for example. But, at the same time, I may not be the right person to solve these problems; and so more important for me is to take this information back to whatever is left of my world and distill whatever I have experienced for further discussion. I did find that I may have instilled this sense of hope to these groups though my visitations. A number of them said they had never had a foreign visitor pass through before, except through interactions with NGOs. I felt a little bit uneasy because I did not want to give them the hope that I was their saviour. But, at the same time, I once again do want to leave and think through the challenges they are facing and keep in contact with everyone that I met. Maybe there are solutions out there, who knows.
I found Agadez fascinating, and wished I could stay longer, but I have to move on in order to see more of the country given I was only going to be in Niger for nine days. So, at 6 am in the morning before sunrise, I was on the road to get to Zinder. Streets were completely quiet after prayer call, and mostly empty. Because of banditry, I was accompanied by a military escort for some of the way. Niger is still not the safest place for backpackers. Taking the bus in these stretches and being seen by the wrong person can have dire consequences. I am however never really sure what to believe. I took the bus in Mali for most of the journey and felt pretty safe; and all these countries in this part of Africa face the same dangers. For reference, the major coach bus companies in Niger are STM and Rimbo.
The overland drive was nothing too surprising for me. There was only one main police checkpoint where the officer took a copy of my passport photocopy. Otherwise, every single checkpoint seemed to wave us through without any questions. There was a beautiful glowing African sunrise set against some rocky mountain plateaus. Otherwise, the scenery was very dry and barren as we mostly drove through rough roads weaving in and out of the desert bush. We passed by a couple of small villages – Aberbissinat and Tanout - made up of huts with thatched roof tops and clay houses. Once again, it reminded me of all the interconnectivity out there, as the drive took me back in time to the journeys I experienced in Mali, Chad and Sudan. The geo-landscapes and sociology are very similar.
Zinder was different from Agadez. It seemed a bit more dishevelled despite being a bigger city with traffic lights and lined sidewalks. The buildings looked like French colonial architecture versus the clay mazes. There were rolling black-outs especially in the morning and afternoon, so I tried to make the most of my days in the natural sunlight. The people were super friendly, and perhaps even a bit more friendly than in Agadez. Everyone waved and smiled at me curiously especially when I explored the old town by myself. This area felt a bit more conservative to me as I observed more women wearing full-face covers. I noted a few women in Agadez covering their face, but this seemed even more visible in Zinder. The largest Sultanate resides in Zinder. To my understanding, the Sultan acts like a religious Chief to a particular region. The President is still the highest decision-maker in the country, but the Sultans and Chiefs can raise their local issues before the government. I met a number of Sultans and Chiefs throughout my journey. I soon realized later that it is considered almost a formality for a foreign guest to make time to meet with a particular Sultan or Chief.
I continued on my women’s journey and visited some more female-lead businesses and organizations in Zinder. Madame Kaoura runs Maison de la Femme – a sewing school for younger women. She and the other madams are all for empowerment, and just want to give younger women the opportunity to learn a trade, and see life beyond just getting married and having children. The organization is not well-funded at all, and 8 to 10 girls will share one sewing machine between them. When a machine is in use, the other girls will knit or cut material. The teachers – essentially the madams themselves – earn very little; just about 2500 CFA or 4 euro per month. This is supplementary to them as a housewife though, and so any extra income is important. I spent the whole morning with them just talking about their challenges, looking at their processes, and spending time with the girls. It was an enlightening experience, and I was really grateful that I got to meet them all. They too noted that tourists do not really pass through, and they were extremely happy that I stopped by. I made a note to search even harder for more women’s associations in Bangui and Brazzaville when I hop over to Central African Republic and Rep Congo.
In the afternoon, I visited a production kitchen that makes cookies unique to Zinder called Alkaki. Alkaki is a Hausa tribe traditional wheat and milk cookie which kind of looks like a French Madelaine, but tastes like a dense syrupy honey cake with a hardened outer shell. The Madame who founded the business 30 years ago started out with just a handful of women by her side. Now, she employs almost 60 women from all around the region to give them a life outside being a housewife. Meeting all these strong-willed women in both Agadez and now Zinder, definitely inspired me. I needed this push to get out of my own head and ass, and do something. I have to tell myself that I do not need to change the world, but just do anything, even if it only creates some small impact.
My cross-country road trip continued the next day at 6am again. It was very foggy outside, and the scenery was completely misty and a bit creepy what with the different shaped trees lining the bush, and little villages appearing out of nowhere. Because there was no sun, the morning was very cold, and I saw groups of children huddled around make-shift bonfires. Every child still carried a begging bowl, and whenever they saw me step outside for a stretch, they immediately surrounded me with these ghostly pleas. I made a habit of buying the nearest ‘street food’ – either baguettes or pancakes and distributing it. I know I am not helping the situation, but I could not help but want to give them something; at the very least, not candy.
I ended up in Kantche, and spent the rest of the morning with a Hausa Chief – Tountouma Abdoul-Kadre Amadou Issaka, and his members of court. This Chief is the main leader of 326 villages, who also have their own leaders. He is the 36th Chief of this region and has been in power since 2007. He is 40 years old, pretty dashing, but alas, married with 4 wives and 14 children. Chiefs are generally elected internally by the sons of a family and is not based on age. Most often, the kindest son with the most interpersonal skills will be elected to order. There are 260 main Chiefs across the country, and they will meet regularly to discuss issues with the President. We talk for awhile about his region’s traditions and then about challenges the region faces.
He said that I was not visiting during a particularly interesting time. It would have been better if I had visited during one of the Islamic festivals – Eid Al Fitr for the fasting feast, Tabaski for the sacrificing of sheep, or their biggest festival, Mawlid. He explained that Mawlid is the most interesting for certain traditions. For example, his members of court will try to exhibit bravery through racing their horses. Young boys will engage in this ceremony where they will demonstrate that they are resistant against a sword’s tip. There will also be drumming ceremonies and many other celebrations. He encouraged me to come back especially since his region is safe. He noted that tourists do not come through anymore because of dangers in the north and at the borders, which have driven tourism away from Niger in general. He thought I was a journalist initially and was pretty surprised when I told him I was just a visitor interested in learning about the country.
The Chief is proud of his community. He said there is peace and the people are happy. I asked about the education and healthcare infrastructure. There are between 1 to 3 primary and secondary schools in each village. Education can then be continued at the university level in one of the bigger cities – Zinder or Niamey. There is a sanctuary hospital in the main village. Otherwise, villagers will need to travel to one of the bigger cities with more hospital resources. Generally, he noted that villagers will rely on traditional forms of medicine versus Western healthcare practices. Medicine after all is expensive to acquire. Generally, the age expectancy in these areas is around 64. One of his members of court laughed and explained that they die young, but they die happy, so I get the sense that there is fulfillment in the community. This of course however is coming from the court and not from the people themselves. I know the people struggle just based on my visits to the women’s associations from the days prior.
At this point, my journey was almost over. I visited some more incredibly picturesque small villages and within them, a serious of spiritual and breathtaking mosques. I continued to also interact with some pretty kind and gentle villagers, who seemed nothing but curious by my presence. I spent time walking through these villages slowly with my camera and just a general view of curiousness, and I think by the end of the trip I actually started feeling a greater sense of calm and serenity. I was feeling a lot of anxiety going into the trip, especially after everything that had happened over December and January. By the end of my journey with Niger, I felt a little bit at peace despite still not knowing what exactly would be next.
The So What
Back in January, I started to see a life and career mentor. She helps me psychologically - beyond my psychiatrist and talk therapist, and subsequently when I start to finally focus in on logical decisions a bit more with respect to my career next steps, she will help me from that front as well. She asked that with my writing I try to focus a bit more on the lessons learned so that perhaps I can be a bit more of a mentor myself when it comes to providing someone with perspective around the benefits of travelling for mental health. Honestly, there are many challenges for someone with serious mental health struggles to overcome when it comes to travelling. There are a number of environmental changes – lack of proper diet, dehydration, lack of sleep, culture shock, and just outright loneliness – that can aggravate depression and suicidal ideations. I myself have not found the perfect formula yet to getting through these obstacles. At the end of the day, I just fight my way through, and in a way, that is a bit redeeming because it shows I still have a little bit of resilience left in me. I try to remember to be logical. And, when I am feeling chronically depressed and suicidal, I try to focus in on anything that is one good thing that will keep me alive for just one more day. My one good thing this time was that I wanted to continue learning about Niger, despite feeling down and completely out of it. After all, I have given myself this opportunity to live my life regardless of everything that has happened in these past few months. So, I just have to somehow hold on.
I think, most importantly for me, and not even necessarily within the context of just travelling, is to just stop caring about the judgment. There may not even be any judgment; I may be making this all up in my head. I do know however that every time I see someone, they ask “what’s next”, so there is judgment. So, I am going to try my hardest to let go. I say it all the time, but that is going to be my mantra. I NEED TO LET GO, and then maybe I can finally make decisions that will allow me to accept failure more gracefully. I have to give myself time to actually grieve all the pain, to pick myself up, and to find my own way. And it does not matter if I do it tomorrow, in one week, in six months, in one year. This is my life, and if I so choose to live it, I get the choice of living it on my own terms within my own time span – my own view of seconds, minutes, hours, days, years.
I know that with this journey, I grew an appreciation and love for Niger. I wished though that my heart was more into the experience, even despite how enthralling the scenery and people were. I wanted so much to feel this experience to the core, but I felt held back by the grief I was feeling entering into this trip in the first place. I was very depressed. I do hope with all my heart that I can come back when I have found my place in this world. It is a truly special place, and It deserves my full heart, spirit and mind. But for right now, I am going to try my hardest to be optimistic. I will get there somehow.
One day, I will hopefully get there.