Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Girls Conference

Every year, volunteers in Guinea try to organize regional Girls Conferences. This year, ours was a four day event held in our town for girls aged 14 to 18. All of the volunteers in our region invited one or two girls from their villages to come spend 4 days learning about various girl-specific topics. We covered topics like the role of women and women's rights, scholarship and education, public speaking, family planning, AIDS, excision (aka female genital mutilation, read this wikipedia article if you want to learn something about it), environmental protection, etc. A little bit of everything. It was a bit of a headache trying to organize and carry out, but it was a great experience for the girls to get out of their villages, meet other girls, learn, and have an opportunity to have a little fun.

Gender roles here in Guinea are very much ingrained in society. According to custom, it's the women's role to cook, clean, raise the children, and follow orders. Many women are breaking that mold today, but the process is slow and difficult. The one thing we can try to do is educate the younger generations and hope for their future.

We were only able to have 21 girls attend the conference, but one of our messages to them was to go home and share what they learned in their communities. We want them to be confident role models for their friends. Already one of the girls Dan and I invited enthusiastically told me about how she talked to her family and even a random woman at the water pump about the problems with excision. One of her young cousins is supposed to get excised this summer. In talking with her family about it, she convinced one of her uncles to help her talk to the other aunt about not going through with it. I'm not expecting a miracle, but I'm proud of her enthusiasm and her courage in wanting to share what she now knows. Trying to stop such a long ingrained ritual isn't going to happen over night (or anytime in the near future), but the fact that we helped her stop and think and want to share makes me encouraged for the future.

The girl with the green head scarf is the one I was talking about. She is one of our neighbors and the oldest daughter of Dr. Bah, our close friend who recently died in a motorcycle accident.

Dan had the chance to video tape some during the conference. The last day of the conference, while the girls were visiting professional women at work, he put together a short summery film to show them. That evening, we rented out a "video club" (aka Guinean-style movie theater) and watched it. Everyone loved it. We'll try to get it up on youtube or something. We also showed them the HIV/AIDS video that Dan helped produce earlier this year.

I just wanted to post this picture so you could see what a Guinean movie theater is like. Normally it'd be packed (and very smelly). You come to a video club to watch the news, the latest soccer match, or an awesome Chuck Norris/Jackie Chan action film. Personally owned television sets are few and far between, so this is what you get.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tastes like Popcorn

Everything seems to come in seasons and waves here in Guinea. One week there will be an infestation of little red bugs. A couple weeks later, tiny baby frogs will be under foot every second. After that might be the caterpillars. Well, a couple weeks ago was the night of the flying termites. (I think it was the night after one of the first big rains. Maybe that was their signal to come out.)

Our electricity situation has been better recently and our porch light was on that night. In the morning our porch was completely covered with wings and giant termites. They had also crawled under the door and gotten everywhere in the house. I got out the broom and swept them into a large pile in the yard. (Sorry... I didn't think to take a picture.) Later on, the guard's niece came up with a bowl to collect them. "Biti!" she excitedly exclaimed. "A nyaroun!" They're delicious!

She was going to eat the disgusting bugs that I had spent all morning sweeping out of our house. And she called them delicious. Dan, not wanting to miss out on a great cultural experience asked if he could try some when she was done frying them.

Here's a little video of what he thought of them. Meanwhile, I'm (not) sorry to report that my gag reflex prevented me from participating in this cultural exchange.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Chicken Story

A short clip of the chicken in our kitchen, hiding behind our bikes. (Yes, where else would you put your bikes?)

Free Egg Delivery

A couple weeks ago we had a chicken dilemma. For several days the same chicken came up on our porch and stared into our kitchen. We'd shoo her away, but she'd always come back. One day while Dan was getting lunch ready, she snuck in. She silently sat in the corner and was only noticed when he heard a faint rustling sound. He tried to shoo her away, but she was stubborn and refused to move. He finally resorted to force and then discovered why she had been so determined to stay: she was laying an egg.

This scenario continued for the next several days. We gave up chasing her and finally just let her stay to do her business. Every day she laid one new egg. We gave the first three to Fascine, the guard in our compound who tends the chickens. She came back the next day, searching everywhere to find her eggs. We thought that might be the end, but no. She finally gave up looking and sat to lay another. Every day she came back at the same time. When the door was closed or she couldn't get in, she would get frantic - flapping and squawking at the door until she was allowed in. She laid 4 more eggs.

(Random side note: most of the eggs we get and eat here are brown. Apparently there are all sorts of different colored eggs you can get from different breeds of chickens. The way to tell what color they will be is by looking at the chicken's ear lobes. Really. Take a look.)

One day while she was busy doing her thing in the corner, Dan and I had to go into town. (As discovered before, trying to disturb her before she was ready to leave wasn't a good idea...) We decided to leave her and just lock the door. Bad idea. Never leave a chicken locked in your kitchen. By the time we got home, she had pooped on our table, walked in it, and walked over everything else. She didn't seem to happy about it and neither were we. After that, we were gone for the next 4 days in a row for girls conference. We haven't seen her since, so we assume that during our absence she either a) gave up trying to get in and found a new place to lay her eggs b) was overly traumatized by being locked in and never wanted to come back c) was eaten by a snake or d) was eaten by a human. In any case, we enjoyed a delicious omelet breakfast from her eggs.