The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government, Peace Corps, or the University of Montana. This is not an official Department of State publication and does not represent the Fulbright U.S. Program or the Department of State.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Getting Dirty

Agroforestry work is officially underway! Ground has been broken and beds created, seeds planted and a tree nursery established.  My bed hopes to someday bear fava beans, bush beans, corn, and the magical moringa tree. Fingers crossed that I’ll get to enjoy some of the harvest before training is through. Our most recent initiatives have been fence construction and creating our three-bin compost system. It’s been hard work, in the hot sun and after school, but it’s worth it to feel like I am finally making progress on what I came here to do and getting my hands (and feet and clothes and face) dirty in the process.

It’s been strange to have to relearn gardening fundamentals without the tools and amenities that are easily accessible in America. For example, instead of buying pre-made mesh for our fence we’ve been lashing and weaving together palm fronds in between the branches we’re using as posts.  Or to water the garden we can’t just set an automated watering system or even turn on the hose, we’ve been hauling the water by bucket from across the compound. Many of the plants we sowed in the garden beds are familiar to me: green beans, corn, okra, carrots, etc. but that’s about where it stops. The native flora and trees we’re using are all foreign. My garden homework this past weekend was starting my own tree ID notebook and seed collections.  I’ve never wanted a well-organized dichotomous key so badly before!
*Shout out to all my BLM-ers for their fabulous herbarium & seed collection skills*

Yesterday we took a break from the hard work to visit some nearby cascades—complete with swimming hole! It felt wonderful to relax and be completely immersed in water after living in this relentless heat and humidity. We swam, played Frisbee, ate hummus, and tried (unsuccessfully) to tan our pale knees and stomachs--truly a world apart from daily life in Dubreka. 

Bonjour Fatimata


Today I find myself in the village of Dubreka here in Guinea.  It’s a home to a few ten thousand in the Basse Cote not far from Conakry and the Atlantic. What a tropical paradise it is! (Meaning it’s absurdly humid most days) Most morning I’ve been running through the village and out along a dirt road through the rice paddies and then up to a fishing port along the river—all while watching the sun rise through the mist and palm trees. Jealous yet?

Life here is truly a different world from my Cleveland life. Our first days in Guinea were spent getting oriented at the Peace Corps office and volunteer house in Conakry, the capital city.  Conakry is home to ~3 million people and is a bustling and lively city. The Peace Corps office is right on the Atlantic Ocean; the view of the beach from the volunteer house’s open-air top floor is incredible! Needless to say, I spent many hours up there watching the sunset, writing letters, napping, and ceaselessly trying to improve my hacky sack skills (no such luck yet).

Last we departed Conakry and moved to our current home here in Dubreka. At our adoption ceremony we were formally welcomed into the community, thanked for our upcoming work, and met our host families. It was an exciting but nerve-wracking affair consisting of a few speeches and beaucoup dancing followed by our first meal together as a family. If this ceremony was so much fun, I can’t imagine how great a wedding will be! With much anticipation Barbara and I headed home to our new home.  The first few days were challenging, but this once foreign place is slowly, but surely starting to feel like home.

I live with my host mother, father, and many brothers, sisters, and cousins. On one of my first days in Dubreka I officially became Guinean and was christened with local name: Fatimata Camara.  Everyone gets so excited when I introduce myself as a local. My language skills leave something to be desired, but I’ve been having a great time getting to know my host family and Dubreka—lots of saluating and laughter is essential!

School has started, and days are crammed full with intensive French, cross cultural training, agroforestry info sessions, and gardening. By the time I get home in the evenings its time to eat, take my bucket bath, do homework, and hopefully relax briefly before going to sleep. They weren’t kidding when they said I’d be super busy during pre-service training! Sorry if the letters are few and far between for now, it’s only because I’m trying to be a responsible student.

Other exciting side notes:
-Oranges and bananas here are incredible! So sweet and juicy!
-Peanut sauce & rice= happy belly
-Carrying water on your head isn’t as hard as you might think, it’s the getting it off your heads that’s the real challenge!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Greetings from Guinee!

Checking in today from the beautiful town of Dubreka in Guinee, not too far from the capital city of Conakry. After many many long hours of traveling we arrived in Guinee last Wednesday in the evening. The next three days were a blur of orientations, vaccinations, humidity, and Francais in Conakry.

On Saturday we had our adoption ceremony. I now live with a family here in Dubreka and have been christened with the Guinean name Fatimata Camara.

Time and light are running short.

Au Revoir.