"Ahh, Kennedy. Il est mort."
In 1964, my friend Marge and I left Sokoto in a Peace Corps jeep, headed for adventure. We crossed the border into Niger. No problems at the border...a small hut on the Nigerian side with a couple of youngsters in uniform waving us through. Similar kids a hundred yards later on, and similar treatment.
We got some good French bread in the first little town we came to, and said unkind things about Nigerian bread, recipes for which were created by the British. We set off through the desert for Niamey, woefully unprepared for the trip. Half way there, we saw a compound surrounded by a high fence, hurricane style, with a nice little group of buildings inside. The sign said something about a Christian Mission; we drove through the open gate up to the "Craftsman" style house with a big porch and a screen door. I knocked at the door, looking at maybe a dozen people enjoying a good lunch around a big table in the dining room.
Reluctantly, a man got up and came to the door and said, "Yes? What do you want?" "We're on our way to Niamey and we're out of water. Could we have a drink of water?" Very reluctantly, he fetched two glasses of water and handed them to me. Marge and I drank them quickly, said thanks, and left. I overheard people at the table making disparaging remarks about "Godless PCV's," and felt happy to be out of there.
We got to Niamey, saw the market, ate some good food, and decided we'd had enough "adventure" for now. We took the road that went to Kano, and soon came to the border. This border was much different than the one up north near Sokoto. This looked like a Company rather than a couple of kids. As we approached, I asked Marge if she had her passport. She said she didn't. I didn't have mine, either. We were a little intimidated by all the soldiers, all the rifles, the sturdy gate we could see ahead.
The army guard came up to where we had stopped, held out his hand and said, "Passport?" We looked at each other, then handed the guard (who seemed to be about 6'5" and 275 lbs) our U.S. Peace Corps ID cards. He looked at them, then at us, and then he said, "Ahh, Kennedy. Il est mort. Passe."
The gate was opened and we drove slowly through the border camp and thanked Providence that people loved Kennedy all over the world.