Monday, June 23, 2008

oh summer camp...

I’ve been thinking alot lately about the job I left back home. By now summer camp is well under way. I loved summer camp. It was my favorite part of the year. We always worked so hard getting it planned right and making the most of our time. I wanted to make sure the kids had a good time during their vacation (and I usually benefited by having a great time too). I always tried to build a solid, fun staff and I think we usually did it with style. I survived 7 summer camps with JCPRD… each one better than the last… smoothing out the details and making it as good as we could get it.

As the end of May rolled around, even though I’m a half a world away, I kept thinking about all the hectic, last minute details that had to get done between the end of the school year and the start of summer camp. There never seemed to be enough time, but we always seemed to pull it off. And as always, it’ll fly by and be the last week of camp before you even realize it.

I hope all of you back at Mill Creek, Sunflower, and JCPRD know that I think of you guys often and hope you’re happy and having fun. While I wouldn’t trade this experience here in Guinea, I am so glad I had the chance to share in so many awesome memories with you as well.

Girl's Conference Postponed

Well, today is the first day we have been able to get to Kamsar in a long time, so that means access to the internet as well. There have been military strikes, police strikes, and teacher strikes. With all of these strikes and threats of strikes going on, girl's conference has been postponed. So, we haven't been able to go to Mamou with our chosen girls yet.

We invited a neighbor girl named Aminata Sow. She was friends with a former volunteer and she was in a current volunteer's English class. She's 17 years old and super nice. Her older "brother" is trying to get me to start an internet cafe with him here in our town.

We also invited another girl named Bella Diallo. Mary and I actually saw her in a preliminary meeting for the journalism class that I'm starting. 102 people signed up for the class. We didn't get to talk to her that day, but then we went to a meeting for the local theater club. There are about 30 youth that participate in the club and she came up to us to talk. She seemed like a really cool girl so that same week we went over to her house to invite her to the five-day conference in Mamou. So, hopefully we didn't freak out her family by being two total strangers/foreigners wanting to take her away for a few days. It was just hard for us since we haven't met too many girls up to this point that we would have been able to take.

Wounded Dogs

We have three dogs in our courtyard which have become our mutual friends--they like our leftovers at least. But they hang out on our porch quite a bit. Occasionally, they limp around and carry around war wounds from fights with neighborhood dogs. Recently, it's become a lot worse. Tarzan has a huge gash on his head that almost looks like it goes to the skull. Fidele has a couple of nasty open wounds on his ears. They really sick me out. But they won't heal because flies attack the bloody mess and he keeps scratching and reopening the scabs.

Mary and I were trying to figure out how to make one of those funnel things to put around his neck. But then we were dipping our mosquito nets in insect repellent and so we decided to dip a handkerchief in it and wrapped it around Fidele's neck. It didn't work perfectly, but I think it helped a little bit. But the Guineans thought we were crazy. They would laugh and everyone would ask the owner what the deal with the neckerchief was and he would just respond that it was the white people who did it. I guess you have to understand how people just neglect dogs and dogs here don't wear collars or clothes or jewelry or anything. So, seeing a neckerchief around his neck was a crack-up to us and everyone around.

Throwing Rocks

I was walking up by the Peace Corps Transit House in our town and one of the neighborhood boys started hassling me for money. After I said no several times in French and Soussou I finally told him to leave me alone. He was with a large group of friends and he turned around shocked that I told him to leave me alone.

The whole group was getting worked up and as I got a little farther away they started throwing rocks at me. I don't think they intended to hit me, but they wanted to scare me. I didn't feel threatened though--just annoyed. Then when I got a little further away someone yelled "F*@# you!" in English. I got that all of the time in France, but I didn't even realize that the kids here knew those kinds of words in English. I reported it to our regional coordinator and she said she'd talk to the neighborhood kids.

Short Film

I've been hanging out quite a bit with the theatre club. They get together every night for a few hours to practice. They write their own plays, films, poems, songs, etc. The best thing about the club is how motivated they are. They all have a lot of fun and love what they do. They travel around West Africa every year to perform.

I met them a couple of weeks ago and the day after I went with them to Kamsar to do a short film. The film is about some African youth who go to Europe and try to find work without getting a work permit. Kamsar is a mining community that tries to be like Europe, so they thought it would be a good "European" looking location. So, about 25 of us packed into a Toyota truck--7 of us were in the cab and the rest were in the truck bed. They were singing Guinean songs for the hour trip to Kamsar.

We filmed them leaving Africa at the Kamsar port. That went well as they embarked on the boat. Then we tried to film at the Guinea President's Villa in Kamsar. The director and cameraman asked the manager for permission, but apparently he didn't have the authority to give permission.

The military got mad and threw the cameraman in jail. My part was to be the European who was kicking them out of my country for not having the proper paperwork. As soon as I saw the military coming, I got out of there fast and left the others alone. A couple of the actresses and I wandered around and got some lunch. After a couple of hours they finally let the cameraman go, but they made him erase the part we filmed at the villa. We ended up filming the scene in our hometown.

The rest of the day went well. I ended up eating two lunches and got to know a lot of the people in the theater club. I hope to do a lot more filming with the group. Mary and I go to the nightly meetings from time to time and play games and socialize and watch them practice. It's pretty cool to have a solid group of friends to hang out with.

I should have been an AgFo volunteer

I wish I were an AgFo volunteer (agro-forestry) instead of community health volunteer.

I finally started my garden last Saturday. I started the seeds in small plastic bags with holes cut in the bottom. Everyone laughed and thought I was crazy. They told me "here in Guinea, we put things in the ground, not in bags on our porch..." Uh-huh... Then I had a carpenter make me a big herb box for our porch as well. Same reaction from the Guineans there as well. "You have plenty of dirt over there... why don't you just put it in the dirt over there?"

But as a crazy American, I persisted and started my seedlings in plastic bags and put my herbs in a box on my porch. I knew that this was a good idea in order to give them a fighting chance against the sheep, dogs, children, and torential downpours. Our neighbors started to understand though when my seedlings sprouted and started getting big very quickly. Practially all of the seeds sprouted and were an inch or two tall in well under a week. "Ahh. I see now... it was a good idea!"

On Saturday, our water boy came over and helped us by hoeing up the dirt behind out house. The weather was perfect and I put most of the week-old seedlings in the ground. I hope they continue growing strong and the Guineans see how easy it is to grow something other than rice, manioc, and hot peppers...

I basically stuck to growing veggies that cannot be found in our market: zucchini, squash, pumpkin, mellon, green beans, lentils, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers. I also did some herbs: basil, oregano, cilantro, and dill. I'm giving some tree seeds a try as well: moringa, cashew, and jamaican cherry. We'll see how they grow.

I have to put in a plug for ECHO Network. They sent me some great seed varieties to try out here for free. Any other PCVs out there who are interested in gardening and/or nutrition, you might want to check them out:

I'll put pictures up when we go to Conakry next week.

Friday, June 06, 2008

6 months down...

Apparently we are dissapointing our loyal readers. It's been over a month since we last posted anything... We're slacking on our job.

Things have begun to get somewhat 'normal' now. Not that life here is anything like I would classify as even closely resembling something an American would be accustomed to, but we're getting used to things, so sometimes it's hard to recognize something that might be interesting to an outsider.

Things of note that have happened in the past month, in no particular order:

-The Guinean President removed the Prime Minister from office and appointed a new one. The one he removed was put into office about a year ago after major strikes/protests forced the president to make a change. So far no big problems have come about with the appointment of this new guy besides a few little bumps, but we still just have to wait and see what will happen next.

-The first part of last month was spent traveling. The end of April we went to a sacrifice in honor of our host father, followed by a week in Conakry. After that, we spent two weeks at an inservice training. It was good to get back together with all the other volunteers since we haven't seen most of them since swearing in. It gave us a chance to vent and realize we're all going through the same things.

-By the time we got back to our site, the rains had started. Not every day (but just about) there is some form of percipitation. We'll see how the next 6 months of it shape up.

-There are about a million mangos everwhere you look. I definitely can't keep up. You can get a whole bucket full of mangoes for less than a dollar. Crazy. Of course, you can just go pick your own for free if you want to save your money. We made a couple jars of mango jam. It is DELICIOUS.

-Other culinary experiments: mango cake, mango cobbler, pinapple cookies, lemon bars, and brownies -- in a dutch oven over charcoals! Beat that! So good... I also made some chili with a can of luncheon beef (think: spam)... it actually turned out quite well. The spaghetti 'meat' sauce with luncheon beef however did not turn out so well... Live and learn. It's always fun to see what I can come up with next with limited ingredients. I think we have come up with about 20 different ways of eating potatoes, eggs, and onions.

-No new parasites or anything to report... just the occasional bout of stomach trauma.

-Work? oh yeah... we've been doing some of that too.

We'll tell you more about that one later. Times up now though.