Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And we're off!

Well, if you've been following the news, Peace Corps officially suspended the volunteer program in Guinea due to all the political unrest.  Press release is here: Peace Corps Suspends Volunteer Program in Guinea

What does that mean for us?  As of Sunday, we are no longer volunteers.  We are unemployed, homeless, moneyless...  So what are we going to do?  Travel.

We're heading out tomorrow for a trip around Mali.  We figured that while we're here and so close that we should take advantage of the sites here.  We're planning on taking a boat up the Niger river to Timbuktu then head over to an area called Dogon country.  Do a google search for pictures if you're interested.  Pretty cool.  It may take a while before ours will make it on the blog...

We fly out of Bamako on November 9th to Casablanca.  We'll spend about 2 weeks touring Morocco, then fly to Spain and the Canary Islands.  We won't be having any turkey this thanksgiving.  Instead, we'll be scuba diving at the Canary Islands.  I think that's a fair exchange.  Don't worry.  We'll take lots of pictures.

After that, we'll head back down to Casablanca and fly to New York and eventually end up in Utah December 4th. 

After 2 years, I am excited and scared all at the same time to come home.  I don't know how re-entry into US life will be.  What have I missed?  Last time I left the country, I came back and there was this crazy new obsession with something called American Idol...  What will be new after the last 2 years?  Does Cafe Rio really still taste as amazing as I fantasize about?  Do such places as Target and Walmart really exist?  What will it be like to drive a car after so long and after living in a place that doesn't have recognized traffic regulations?  And snow???  I haven't worn shoes in 22 months.  That's going to be a problem.

But I know it'll be amazing and wonderful to see everyone again and be among people that understand me and where I'm coming from.  Just be gentle with me. 

See you on the other side!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Charlie

First an Update:
Well, we're still here waiting in Bamako, Mali.  They haven't made any decisions as far as what to do with us.  We're in a holding pattern.  At least we're living it up with electricity, running water, internet.  At this point, with almost 100  volunteers all together, some are going a bit stir crazy, but we're dealing.  Peace Corps Volunteers are professionals in patience.  We'll wait because, well, that's our job.


I mentioned that we brought Charlie, our parrot with us when we were evacuated.  Fortunately for us, last month we had just found a pet carrier for him, so it wasn't a problem at all with him in the car.  We even had one of our neighbors who is a tailor make a little cover for it. 

When we got here, we also decided to try something new: taking him outside. We were a little scared that he would try to fly off, but it went very well. He was actually so spooked by all the new things around him that he didn't dare leave us.  He's such a little chicken.  But luckily he's become pretty bonded with us over this last year too.  He loves and trusts us.


Behind me you can see the huts that we're staying in here. Dan and I are sharing one near the back of the compound. They call it a 'simulated village' here. Sure.



Here he is checking out the trees.



We put some branches in our window for him to chill in, since we don't want him to stay in the carrier the whole time. He likes sitting there and watching the world go by.





Here's a view from the outside.





We're currently going through quite a bit of headache trying to figure out if we can still bring him home. It was pretty complicated before when we were just in Guinea, and now it seems nearly impossible. It'll be a miracle if we can actually get him home, but I will be so sad if I have to leave him behind at this point.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We're out


Well, for those of you who haven't heard, things are not going well in Guinea right now.  Bad enough that it even makes the front of the NYTimes?  Maybe it was just a slow news day...

In a Guinea Seized by Violence, Women Are Prey - Front page NYTimes article

Guinea’s Capital Fades Into a Ghost Town After Soldiers’ Rampage - Another good summary article from the NYTimes

Eyewitness Report - BBC report

People are calling the events a massacre.  It shocked everyone.

Considering all the political trauma and difficulties, they pulled out all of us Peace Corps volunteers.  We were brought to Bamako, Mali to consolidate and wait.   Even so, after the incidents of last week, things have been calm outside of Conakry.  It was life as normal where we were.  Not unsafe at all.  Everyone was just a little tense about what was going to happen.  (Gas stations closed, black market gas price skyrocketed and some shops had little in stock.)  But for now it is mainly political, not safety issues that they're worried about.  Either way, it was difficult to have to rush off as you watch everyone going about their daily routine.  Everyone said they understood why we had to go, but I know they were questioning why.  And none of our Guinean friends have the option to leave like we did...

We're not really sure whats going to happen next.  They told us we are going to wait here in Bamako for 2 to 4 weeks to see how things play out.  Unfortunately for us, we were supposed to be out in two months any way.  Even if they give us the all clear to go back soon, we don't think it will be worth it for us.  We had already started packing our bags.  Literally.  Going back at this point for a month would just be painful in more ways than I think we could handle.  It was hard getting ripped out the way we did, without real closure and goodbyes, but going back just to rush out again wouldn't make it easier.

Leaving itself was... well.. crazy and exhausting.  A Peace Corps car came to pick us up early Tuesday morning and we were off.  We had 27 hours of traveling over two days, even though it was only about 750 miles.  I had a GPS on, so I'll post the stats later so you can see our voyage.  It could have been worse.  No real problems, just the typical African headaches of terrible roads, crammed cars (11 people in a Toyota Land Cruiser...), police roadblocks, miscommunication, tedious 3 hours of ordeals at the border, etc, etc, etc.  We brought Charlie our parrot through it all too.  He was a trooper.  If we actually get him back to the US, its going to be a miracle. 

We'll wait around here for as long as they let us and then probably travel for a bit.  Maybe a couple weeks here in Mali, maybe other neighboring countries, then a bit in Morocco, then home by the beginning of December?  We'll see.  It's all up in the air.  We'll keep you updated as we figure it out.

We're staying in a pretty nice place (ok... nice for our new standards... picture summer camp.)  But we've got running water, electricity, ceiling fans in our huts, good food, wifi... all a hard-up PCV could want.  We're going to the American club today for swimming and cheeseburgers.  Amazing.  Museum and a Mali vs Sudan soccer game on Sunday.  Should be fun times.  It's almost kind of an all expense paid vacation by Peace Corps.  Even though its a terribly crappy situation, they're making it the best they can for us.  In any case, we'll have daily internet access, so I'd love to hear from all of you.  I'll write more later and post some pics, so keep in touch!

*pictures from the BBC and NYT articles