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My African Nights
By Laurel Lundstrom 

March 25, 2009. Niamey, Niger

Barely able to see my fingers, I flipped through the photos on my computer. I shared my memories here with people who might never get to see them again. These were memories of them and me, together, sharing our nights.

Nights here in Africa are what I wait for all day long. I love being outside at night, when the sand seems a little less deep and my eyes adjust to the silhouettes around me. I love when the sun goes down, especially the way it fell over Akoubounou, where a million stars rested above us. I’ll miss life outside, the intensity of nature, how your life depends on what nature decides to do each day. I’ll miss that, for sure, because I can – because I am not actually subject to when the rain falls, and when it doesn’t. Today, nature decided to offer us, here in Niger, a trifle of wind, to slow the sweat, to better bare what 110 feels like. I hope it makes the same decision tomorrow.

Tonight, I became closer friends with Tisi, the sister of Achmadou. She is 23. She gets me. I think I get her too. She is, by Tuareg, standards a feminist. She believes in education before marriage. You’ll find when you travel that even on the other side of the world there are people who get you and people who don’t, irrespective of your culture. Perhaps you’ve already discovered this, in Africa, Asia, somewhere else along the way. Tisi is a secretary here. She wants to know how to use email, to open an account. I hope I can find the time before I leave to help her do this, I hope, so I don’t have to leave her completely behind, like the rest. Tisi and I exchanged necklaces, exchanged a small part of our lives. I am not sure Tisi completely understood the pictures she saw of Heather and I, but that may be for another time. There are some cultural barriers that will remain difficult to break.

I was already nostalgic, sitting there in Miriama’s tent, the place Fati is bound to for another 30 days with her newborn, showing Tisi and the family my photos. I showed the crowd the photos of our trip to Akoubounou. They laughed, they smiled, they asked questions, enjoying the cinematography. I occasionally glanced to the back of the tent to make sure Fati could see from her place in the rear. She glanced outward from her pink headscarf. She was there, still.

And she will be there, still, March 30, when my plane pulls into Dulles, maybe even on the 4th of July when I hear the sound of firecrackers all over Washington, D.C., because as of tonight, Fati has no other place to go. Her husband just divorced her, like that. He didn’t need a reason, a lawyer, papers, Fati’s signature. He is leaving her, now that she just gave birth to Aichitou. He did the same to his former wife when she had her last baby. This makes me angry. I clench my fists. God damn these cultural norms! At 20, Fati has been twice divorced, the lovely Fati who looked so tired tonight, tired with worry that this husband will steal away her child again, just like the last. Ariane considers kidnapping Fati, taking her to France, if she only had the means. Anyone would consider this once they had met Fati Matou.

I will remember my days and nights with Fati, in our house with Fassely, how she taught me to pat his back, in a certain way, to get him to sleep: the Nigerien way. At home, I will think of the numerous children - Aminatta, Moussa, Zacharea, Aissitou - at the homestead of Fati Matou. I will hope that Fati can possibly find peace, alone, or maybe love, even the infatuation, that she so deserves. Maybe this divorce is a blessing in disguise. Maybe one African night, the love of her life, someone more like Fati than not, will welcome her and Aichtou. When I return to Niger, perhaps I can spend my nights at Fati’s new homestead, a part of her new life. If I did pray, all these dreams would certainly be in my prayers for Fati Matou.


About Laurel. Laurel Lundstrom is freelance writer and editor with an interest in Africa. She became involved with Amman Imman three years ago after a fellow journalist wrote an article about the project. Since then, she has been committed to bringing greater attention to the project through the media and her own writing skills. This past winter, she spent two months in Niger with Ariane Kirtley, Amman Imman's director, and her family. As a firsthand witness to the pressing crisis afflicting families in the Azawak, she is now poised to make the voice of Amman Imman more prominent.

Email Laurel: laurel@ammanimman.org

Visit Laurel's Niger Blog

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