Hamani has a deep, contagious laugh, and an irresistibly friendly personality. I met him several years ago. Every time we walked past him with Soriya riding our donkey, Zoro, Hamani would ask if he could hitch a ride. Soriya’s response: a firm “no, you are too big!” Hamani is a chauffeur for the SATOM, a company that builds roads throughout Niger. His boss lives in our neighborhood, and Hamani spends much time waiting and chatting with passers by like us. In my most recent interaction with Hamani, he complained about having had his vacation cut short. I joked, “ah, you probably had nothing better to do anyway.” He did a double take with a firm, “No! I spent all my vacation fishing on the Niger river. Fishing and hunting rabbits and squirrels are my great passions, and if I could fish and hunt all day, I’d be a blissful man”. This man’s passion made me smile, as I thought of my son Fassely, also an avid fisherman.
Every day, Hamani walks 15km to and from his work. I tell him we are kindred walkers, and that walking is a great workout. His response, “It is a strange thing that you Europeans love to walk or run everywhere. This is not our culture. But I do see the benefits. Whenever we have yearly physicals, I rank number one.” Hamani is selling himself short: he played for Niger’s National Soccer team for two years, and played ten years semi-professionally beforehand. Now, at 57, with ten children, he walks. “ Ten children, didn’t you pity your wife?” I banter with him. “I only wanted four, but my wife insisted we have more. She was afraid I would take a second wife if she didn’t give me enough children. But frankly, I would be an old man by now if I had had to care for two wives!”