Monday, April 22, 2013
I thought that today I could give you a brief glimpse into what a typical day for me might look like. Let's go for a ride, shall we?
Most mornings I get up around 7:00 or 7:30. No need for alarm clocks since I have a remarkably playful kitten and an eastern-facing window-- not to mention a four-year old brother who's favorite morning activity is usually yelling. As I pull back my mosquito net and search for where Bobo (that's my new kitty) has hidden my flip-flops I can hear roosters greeting the morning, the rhythmic bom-bom bom-bom of women all round Timbi Tounni pounding rice, hot peppers, leafs, anything really in their piles. If I get up early enough I can hear the call to prayer from the grande mosque on the other side of the main road. Though admittedly that's not usually a happy day since the first call comes at 6:00 or earlier.
|Lil' sister and Bobo|
For the next few hours I embrace a spending a little time on my lonesome. After putting on water to boil for my tasty pot-o-oatmeal and mug of tea I take a mental break from being in Guinea to do some yoga. (An absolute necessity with a lumpy bed and tiny milking stools for chairs. No ergonomics here!) A major benefit of living in a one-room house is that it's easy to watch things bubbling on the stove while I'm in the bedroom! Once I'm all stretched out and in good working order for the day, I settle in for breakfast and some letter writing or book reading. Then there's the fun of washing dishes, always battling the chickens to get my job done and keep the dishes clean. It's become so important for me to follow a routine each morning, to slowly but surely create something reassuring and regular in this often unfamiliar place.
After my morning ritual is when the really fun starts. So many options, so little time. For being a place without many American amenities, it might seem strange that I'm not bored and feel I don't have enough time, but truly I do. Some mornings I head off to the weekly market to stock up on fresh produce for the coming days-- mangoes, avocados, and peanut butter galore. Others I meet with local gardening groupements to discuss their current practices & challenges and garner insight into how I can best aid my community, bicycle through town and salue everyone I know (a BIG part of the first 3 months in Peace Corps), attend random trainings and community events (literacy training, glasses distribution, etc.), or undertake the ever challenging tast of washing my laundry. As a fun side note: running water is what I miss most in Guinea. Not showers, but the simple luxury of not having to tote all my water in jugs across the town or walk to the stream on the edge of town to do my laundry.
In the final hours of daylight, it's dish washed, bathing, and maybe a little frisbee playing before the cockroaches and ants come out for the evening. Another day in Guinea comes to a close with some more BBC, journaling, and phone chatting. And, of course, there's always the pure joy of collapsing back into my bed for some well deserved rest and sweet dreams.
Thanks for joining me for the atypical that has become my new normal here in Guinea. It never fails to amaze me just how quickly that definition can change!
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Some days the hilarity of the universe is hard to believe. Yet every morning I continue to wake up and find myself living in West Africa. I’ve finally moved into a new place—a cozy one-room house with a porch in a compound with a family. It’s been a shift from my old too-big for me mansion. I’ve got a nice outside pit latrine and then a separate outside room for showering—a good way to keep all the bugs and smells far away from me.
|Bathroom on the left, home on the right|
After ten hours in a taxi the last thing I wanted to talk about was intestinal worms, but sometimes life doesn’t give you a choice. The next morning I handed over stool and blood for testing to finally identify my bodymates and make sure I’m not anemic or infected with other random parasites. The whole ordeal was pretty ridiculous. Only in Peace Corps Guinea are parasites dinner conversation.
|The guilty party|
In short, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with me. None of the above. It turns out that after that long, long ordeal of battling worms, they were never there to begin with (or got wiped out in the first two rounds of meds). The mysterious worms I’ve been seeing for weeks are in fact undigested potato peels! What?! If that’s not a hilarious Peace Corps story, I don’t know what is.
One more month to go until another major Peace Corps milestone: In-service Training. Two weeks of reconnecting with other G23 volunteers, sharing project ideas, and learning new skills. Should be a blast. In the meantime I’ll stay busy meeting gardening groupments, studying Pular (the local language), trying new recipes, and transforming my house into a home.
|Moringa ollifera. The miracle tree (look it up)|
Monday, February 25, 2013
On jaaraama! Greetings from the Labe (largest city of the Fouta Djallon)! I find myself here today for a variety of reasons: housing issues at site, possible intestinal parasites, and the much more pleasant goal of getting a brief snippet of American culture: pizza, movies, and fellow PCV’s. It’s weird to leave site after living as the only English speaker and porto (white person). You’ll never know just how delicious a or orange Capri Sun and chocolate chip cookies truly are until you live somewhere where you haven’t truly eaten unless you consumed beaucoup rice.
Life au village has been slowly but surely been getting better. I know have actual destinations when I make my daily rounds promenading about town. Folks know my name, and love that I too have the last name of Bah-- making me a sister, daughter, or aunt to 99% of Timbi Touni. At our weekly market I’ve been able to get vegetables and am cooking for the first time in almost three months. It’s wonderful to have that freedom once more. Can’t wait to make breakfast burritos, pancakes, and maybe even try a little bit of baking.
Most evenings recently I’ve found myself tearing it up on the local basketball court (shocking I know). Don’t think I’ve touched a basketball since middle school, but it’s been a great way to hang out with the local teenage boys. Not to mention, as the only female out on the court it’s been a great way to be more visible in the community and meet new people.
Though my time in Timbi Tounni has been short, it already feels more like home than I ever would have imagined just a few short months ago when I got on that airplane. Some things about Guinea seem so obvious now it’s hard to believe I ever didn’t know. But for those of you interested in making your own voyage across the pond here’s some quick insight:
-The plates and jars of tennis ball-sized white balls are in fact just peeled oranges. Eating is as simple as biting off the top and sucking out the juice. Voila, instant juicebox! (Unless of course it’s actually laundry soap, hopefully you can tell before taking a bite).
-Unlike America where you rely on gas stations solely for roller foods, slushies, and lottery tickets, gas stations in Guinea are an oasis. Most are complete with air conditioning, yogurt, imported snacks like Pringles and Snickers, and, if your lucky, cold beer! Never discount the magic that could lie behind those glass doors. Be bold in trying unknown snacks, sometimes the blind squirrel that you are may find a nut. Tried and true standby include Biskrems & Glucose cookies.
|New friends at Timbi Tounni|
-Everyone love love loves it when you speak local language—especially the market ladies. Say hello, ask how the babies are, find out if there’s evil about before demanding the price or placing an order. It just might make a big difference in how much that price is. As my own Pulaar improves over time I’ll try to share an important phrase in each post (this is for you MOM and DAD, French may get a taxi, but Pulaar will make you friends).
On jaaraama I greet you
Tann alaa ton? Is there no evil there?
Beyngure nden no e jam? Is the family well?
Paykoy koy? Are the kids well?
The response, you ask?
Jam tun. Peace only. (always, even if not)
Onon le? And you?
Hard to believe today marks my three-month point into Peace Corps, that’s what, 1/9 of the way through? I’m excited though undoubtedly anxious to see where the next three and twenty-four months bring me.
Oo-o! En ontuma! (Bye! See you later!)
|Hiking along the coastal mountains|