Friday, October 31, 2008

My Guitar

For the first time in my life I have my very own acoustic guitar.

In 9th grade, I bought a vintage electric guitar from a garage sale. The guitar and amp cost me $40 and the guitar had pickups that looked like CO-2 cartridges. The guitar didn't work that great, so I took it to a guitar store for repairs and a guy talked me into doing a straight trade for a $240 electric guitar off the rack.

After ten years of playing that Honda guitar, I sold it as I didn't have time to play it during college. Then, a few years later I ended up borrowing an acoustic guitar from a friend who would be gone for a couple of years. Then I came to Africa and lost hope of any chance of getting a guitar.

I looked around Conakry, but guitars are not in huge demand around here. There were plenty of people interested in selling me the traditional African instruments, but everyone kept saying I would have to go to Bamako, Mali to find a decent guitar.

It turned out that my wife had to get a root canal and went to Dakar. My first thought was that she might be able to score me a guitar while she's laid up in pain in Senegal. She went to the safe and took out our American dollar savings just in case, though I had little hope of her finding one and even doubted if she would feel up to it.

Well, it turns out she spent a couple of weeks there as she explained earlier in this blog. She had a heck of a time searching out a place that had decent guitars, but a fellow volunteer from Senegal guided her to the right place. I'll have to let her tell the story, but to make a long story short she got a guitar for about $125.

I was partially excited and partially worried because the guitar might not be what I was expecting--especially since it was "Made in China." She told me that none of the guys at the shop knew how to play the guitar so she couldn't verify that it sounded good.

Mary flew home and I nervously cut the box open. But one glance and I knew it was perfect. The best part--it's lined with winged bats.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

african dancing

Mary recorded these neighbor girls going crazy--it became a competition.

Goodbye, Candles

Life is just better with electricity--even if it is just from 7pm to 7am. We no longer have to walk 45 minutes to charge our cellphones and computer. We no longer have to lie in our sweat-soaked bed sheets because of our nifty new fan. Our electric burner only has two settings--plugged in or not plugged in. But it gets the job done--hot water for a warm bucket bath or popping popcorn.

I used to feel that Guineans had their priorities mixed up when they desired electricity over running water. But now I see that electricity is much more practical. It's still painful to think of all the man-hours wasted on transporting water, but I really don't mind having to haul my own water around the house. I guess I've just gotten used to it.

It's a lot harder to get used to living in the dark. Having light alone has made life so much easier.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

new pics

Its been a while since I've posted some new pictures, so you're getting a bunch today. Just a random sampling of life over the last few months.

We went to a party at the start of summer vacation with the kids from the Drama club we do work with. There are about 25 students between the ages of about 16-22. They're some fun kids. The father of the house where they had the party was actually someone who I work with at the DPS. They fed everyone some amazing food and we had a great time.

These are 3 of the drama club kids that we took with us to workshops in August. We Want to do more work with the club, so wanted them to be a part of our trainings, etc. We held a 'malaria poetry' contest to decide who we would take... It didn't quite turn out as we had pictured, but it was still fun to work with them on it.

More dancing with the club members

Some boys from our neighborhood. Pretty cute little devious smiles...

The guard at our compound, Fassine, and his two wives - both named MaBinti. The two girls are the skinny Mabinti's sisters. Kadiatou (the small one on the right) lives with them. The other, Mariam, was just visiting for a few weeks over vacation. Skinny Mabinti has a son named Mouctar, but they didn't want to wake him up for the picture.
This was them all dressed up for the end of Ramadan celebration. Everyone gets new clothes and goes to visit all their neighbors to show off for the occasion.
We named the bird Charlie. He likes going exploring in our house. This was him on one of our shelves. He stayed in this position for quite a while actually. The look he was giving me pretty much said "What? Do you have a problem with that?"

Charlie checking out his new cage. We had a guy in town make it for us. For the cage, screening, and table to put it on, we payed about 75,000GF, which is about $15. Yes, thats nothing back home, but I felt pretty guilty spending that much (which is quite a bit to a Guinean) on something seemingly so frivolous in a third world country...

Back before we got electricity. Candles actually made the house look pretty cool, but I appreciate lightbulbs now :)

It's so funny how different our house looks at night now compared to then... It really surprised me and took a long time to get used to.
Fishing boats in a little village on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal. I was told that this is the farthest West point on the African Continent.

The pelicans they have trained to help them fish in this village.

One day while in Dakar I decided to go walk to the top of this lighthouse. (I was going stir crazy at the Peace Corps office...) It was a beautiful walk.
The view from the trek to the top of the hill to see the lighthouse. It was perfect. Unfortunately it got overcast by the time I got to the top of the lighthouse, so I didn't get many good pics or views from the top...

One view from the lighthouse in Dakar. What you see is the farthest west point on the African continent that I was at the day before. The PC office is near there and I walked pretty much from that point all the way to the top of the lighthouse. It didn't look that far when you drove past it in a car, but it took a hours to get there on foot and back. It was fun and I'm glad I did it, but the heat and humidity kicked my butt so I was pretty dead by the time I got back.

The guy who showed me around the lighthouse. He was pretty funny. He was showing me the lightbulb they used to use (the big one) vs the new little one which sends off even more light a further distance. As he was telling me about them, he said "you can get out your camera and take a picture." So I did.
One day I went to one of the islands off the coast of Dakar. It was gorgeous as well. It was an island they used for slave trading, so there was a lot of interesting history and sites. They keep it really nice and clean because they rely on tourism as their way of life there. This is something Guinea hasn't picked up on...

The art people make here is just fantastic. These were mixed fabric scraps made into awesome wall hangings. I'm kicking myself for not buying one.
The souvenier I brought back for Dan from Senegal. (I also counted this as his birthday present...) He has wanted a guitar ever since we got to Guinea, but they're impossible to find here. I think this *almost* makes up for me getting a trip to Dakar without him... You can't tell in this picture, but he was so excited.

Dan and I made pickles - cucumbers and hot peppers. I don't like pickles, so they're mainly for Dan and any Guinean he can convince to try them. Some he said turned out awesome. Others... need a little improvement...
A five legged green spider that was in our bedroom... weird.

I might have already posted this, but couldn't remember. In case you were wondering what the money looked like, here you go. The currency here is the Guinean Franc and it is devaluing continually. The bill in the upper left corner is 5,000GNF, which is roughly one dollar. This can get you a kilo of dried rice, a good bowl of rice and sauce with meat in town, or it's what you might pay someone to do a weeks worth of laundry. I tried to take a picture on one 'cleaner' bill and one typical bill for each of the denominations. The newer bills they print (the clean ones) are a tad smaller than the older ones. There are coins, but very very very few people use them anymore because they're pretty much worthless now. There is a new 10,000GF bill too, but I didn't get a picture of it.

At the start of the rainy season, there were THOUSANDS of these tiny guys everywhere.

Pigs eating trash in our town. We were surprised to see any since the population is pretty much all Muslims who don't eat pork.

I like taking pictures of Charlie... :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Obama-ites

Guinea is obsessed with Obama. The Guineans constantly tell me to vote for Obama, and when I ask why, they laugh as if that is the dumbest question in the world. If any Guinean were to find out that you weren't for Obama, you would probably be hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor.

It just amazes me how the mass media alters the mindset of the masses. They all have the exact same opinion because they all listen to the same radio station and watch the same television programs (when there's electricity). I feel there needs to be more private radio stations and news programs that offer different points of view. But I digress.

The point of this blog is to declare that I have done my citizenly duty and marked my vote on a write-in absentee ballot. Unfortunately, my vote doesn't really count unless it's a close call, as absentee ballots are ignored until a crucial tie-breaker is needed. Everyone here in the Peace Corps office thinks it'll be a landslide victory for Obama, but sources at home tell me McCain is slated to win. So, who knows?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Against Malaria Script Competition

I can't even remember the last time I updated our blog--I guess I could look in the archives. In any case, I figured I couldn't leave my wife to do all of the work--equally yoked or something like that.

Anyways, and sponsored a competition where people could use the Celtx screenwriting software to write an inspiring promo for Against Malaria. The winner would receive a $1000 honorarium to produce their little spot for Against Malaria and would get to choose the country where 5,000 treated mosquito nets would be distributed.

Well, I submitted a silly little "Against Malaria" promo script to the competition and actually thought I might win since there were so few entries. But, alas, I didn't win but I did get a SWAG pack (1 GB USB Drive and a Celtx Jacket). The script is nothing too exciting, but I felt good that I actually participated and tried to be creative.

If you want to, you can read my script at the following: