Saturday, May 30, 2009

The AIDS Film Shoot

February 2009

I had a long month of shooting a documentary on AIDS Associations in Guinea. The theme was "overcoming stigmatisation and discrimination." We traveled throughout Guinea starting in Conakry. I must say that making a film in Guinea was ten times more difficult than making a film back in the States. Here, you have to deal with bribes, protocol, political issues, approvals from way too many people, etc. You have all of that in the States, but to a lesser degree. Anyways, here are a few photos from the trip.


Here is the film crew in Gueckedou where we found one of the most organized associations in Guinea. The sound guy Billy had a crush on Jacqui, another volunteer helping with the film and she said she would go on a date with him if he was able to solve my rubic's cube--he still hasn't been on a date with her.


(Conakry) Here is a photo from Nostalgie radio station where we had to pay a bribe because they said they were "taking a risk" by letting us film a controversial story that they were airing on the radio.


(Conakry) Here is Kim and Jacqui, the production managers on the film shoot standing in front of one of the only tanks in Guinea. We had to be kind of sly since taking pictures of military stuff is "interdit."

Here is another picture of us doing a "group interview" in Gueckedou.
(Gueckedou) I like this shot because it looks like some sort of CD cover shot with our posse behind us. The lady between Jacqui and I is the director--Mariama Camara.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Solar power

April 25, 2009

We haven't given any updates recently about our electricity situation, but it's not good. Remember when we were so excited to get electricity at our house? Well, that really didn't last long. We went from having it most nights of the week, to a few nights a week, to one night a week, and now one night every other week. Not so good. Still, we can't complain since it's something, which most volunteers can't say. What really gets to me though is that they still charge us the same rate. (about $8) That's a lot here, especially when you get nothing in return.

Before we had electricity, we would take our cell phones and other electronics to the DPS (health department) to charge them since they have a solar panal. Now the solar panal isn't working though so we no longer have that option. Since we're in a big town, we do at least have the option of dropping off our cell phones to be charged at a 'tele-center' where you can pay to have it charged off a generator for 30 cents or so. When we don't want to do that though, this is our other option:

The fan looking thing is called a solio. It's a small solar panal that can charge our cell phones. The only problem is that we don't have a direct adapter for it, so this is the complicated contraption we had to come up with to actually use it. And in the process we're probably only getting a small percentage of the energy we should. But again, its better than nothing!

Leaving it out in the sun allllll day gives it about 1/2 a charge which will power my cell phone for about an hour or 2.

This picture also shows off our awesome new fence! We'll have to get some better pictures of it, but we are pretty excited about having a little bit of privacy now. Living in a public government compound was not easy...

You can also see our wonderful solar dryer. We've been drying mangoes like crazy! It's been hard not to eat them all imediately because they're so delicious, but we've managed to save quite a bit. We've also experimented by drying coconut, papaya, carrots, and bananas.

I was so excited to find these carrots in our local market one day. You can occasionally find carrots brought into our market from the capital, but those are expensive. These were local carrots, which meant they were smaller, but much less expensive. I bought 60. Yes, 60. We made half into soup for lunch and dinner and dried the other half. It was quite a bit of work, but it turned out great.
This is what we had by the end of the day. It's always slightly depressing when you put so much work into something just to see it shrivel up to practically nothing, but it was worth it. I know it'll be wonderful to have some carrots in the middle of the rainy season when the markets are looking a little bare.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Trip to the Island

April 9, 2009

We finally visited one of the islands off the coast of Conakry. It was a pretty amazing day. It was literally stepping out of Guinea for a little bit into an island paradise. Dan had the chance to visit once before without me, so this was quite a treat for me. We had wanted to go there over Christmas - spend the night there in a bungalow on the beach - but then the whole coup thing kind of messed up all our plans. We are definitely planning on going back.

This was in the pirogue (canoe) on our way back to the mainland at the end of a long day.

It was pretty picturesque... We were the only people on the entire beach for a while.

This is the group of volunteers we spent the day with. This restaurant had a the best Obama painting we've seen so far and everyone wanted their picture taken in front of it.

Dan playing frisbee on the beach.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fish festival video clips

Here are a couple video clips from the festival in Baro. Dan took a bunch of videos on his camera, but you'll have to wait to see those.

Walking through a typical 'neighborhood' in the village of Baro.

Some of the performers at the celebration.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fish Festival Pictures

May 11-17, 2009

Upper Guinea is known for its fish festivals. Throughout the month of May, each village has a festival and celebration which officially opens the fishing season in their village marsh. It's a celebration of drumming and dancing with masks and magicians and partying. And then they fish. The villagers all line up along the edges of the marsh and wait for the signal. At that point, they all rush in with their nets, pitchforks, and traps to catch anything that they can. It's quite an intense event! We went with a few other volunteers to the biggest festival in the region: Baro. We were not disappointed. Here are some pictures to chronicle the trip.

We were able to fly most of the way out to Kankan by catching a World Food Programme flight which took us as far as Kissidougou. (This hour flight cut about 10 hours off of a taxi ride, so it was pretty nice... and free!) On the way back to Conakry, the flight went straight from Kankan. We were pretty lucky.
Before the flight, we asked other volunteers what the airport was like. Response: "It's like those movies where the plane lands in the middle of nowhere to do sketchy drug deals..." Dirt runway and all. You really feel like you're in the bush of Africa.
The evening we first arrived there was quite a spectacular. These were some of the dancers. There were many different groups of dancers, drummers, singers, sorcerers, 'comedians' etc. They all paraded in front of the authorities and around the village soccer field. If you can see in the background, there were thousands of people lining the soccer field watching.

These were some of the 'griots' (traditional story tellers/singers)

Dan trying a kola nut. It's not good. In his words "it tastes like I'm eating radishes mixed with dirt." Yum. It's super caffeinated and the Guineans - especially the old men and women - chew 'em like candy.

This guy had so much energy!

We had front row seats. We were right by the CNDD (the group that's holding power right now in Guinea) delegation who came in from Conakry. I'm a bit sad I didn't get any pictures with them. They were pretty nice and really seemed to support the idea of Peace Corps.

Taking a breather. I never saw this guy stop smiling.

One of the old griots.

More griots.

This is the Sous-Prefet (town leader). We actually stayed at his house. Since we didn't know anyone in the town, we just showed up on his porch and they offered us two of their rooms to stay in. (There's no such thing as hotels in small villages...) His family was so nice to us and fed us amazingly at every meal. This is the kind of generosity you will find in Guinea.

A dancer who liked to do some fun acrobatics.

This is one of the masks with his tamers/guards. Some of the Guineans had real fear of him. There were also sorcerers with him. One of them astounded the crowd by turning a bottle of water red by dropping two tablets in it and shaking it up. He got a lot of money thrown at him for that.

This was the next morning before it was time to fish. One of the specialties of this village is that, before fishing, people go to the sacred forest to make sacrifices and ask for special favors. (When I say sacrifice, it does not necessarily mean killing something. In this sense it means giving up something like money.) Then you get a cool leaf hat like Dan is wearing.

After that, there was another event in the main public area with more drumming and dancing.

Part of the crowd of onlookers in their leaf hats.

I wish I could post a bigger picture of this one so that you could see the sheer number of people gathered around the marsh on either side waiting. This is just a small portion too... It's a huge marsh!

Here we are after fishing. We actually didn't do any fishing ourselves since we didn't have any nets, but we ran in anyway to get muddy and complete the experience.

These are the volunteers we were with.

After the festival in Baro, we spent a few days at Ciara's site. She has a great village and she and her family treated us so well. While we were there, she took us on an adventure to walk across the Niger River to visit another village. Since it's the end of the dry season, the water level is so low, you can walk across without any problem.

We went back to swim and cool off again at the end of the day.

One of Ciara's host brothers plays the xylophone and is teaching her how to play as well. It was great! Now I want to learn.

After we left Ciara's site, we tried to make it to another fish festival being held at another volunteer's site. We got there too late, but we did get the chance to spend a couple hours under a lean-to in the middle of nowhere. (Djelibakoro)

We made it to the other festival just in time to see the end of the fishing. After fishing, they went down into the Niger to bathe and wash their nets. We just went to cool off. It gets ridiculously hot in upper Guinea.

Friday, May 15, 2009


It's been a while since we've posted anything, so just wanted to let you all know we are alive and well. We're currently traveling around 'Haute Guinea,' the upper part of Guinea. It's my first time visiting this part of the country. We went to a fish festival in a village called Baro on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was a pretty fun experience. Today we're going to another volunteer's site who is on the Niger River and we'll be heading to another fish festival Sunday and Monday. I have already taken a ton of pictures and videos this week. I'll sort through them and share once we get back to Conakry. Keep an eye out for new postings!

Love and miss you all!