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Monday, February 25, 2013

Seeda Seeda (Petite a Petite)

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.
Swearing-in day

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

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stagairs No More

Training is over and all of G23 has made it to official volunteer status here in Guinea! (a remarkable feat to be sure). Checking in today from limbo here in the hot and humid capital city of Conkary. We've packed bags, said goodbyes, and left our homes and host families in Dubreka to move on to new adventures. Now the real Peace Corps experience is about to begin. Tomorrow morning I'll hit the road bright and early for installation at site.
Since last posting I had the opportunity to meet my community counterpart and then spend five days visiting Timbi Tounni-- the village I will soon call home. Those days were a crazy blur of meeting local officials, touring the local community forests (of which there are fifteen), attepting to utilize my meager knowledge of Pulaar (the local language spoken at my site), eating new foods, and doing my best to not get overwhelmed by it all. I am happy to report that my visit was great. Although nothing is finalized yet it looks like I'll be spending time working on expanding the community forest program, sharing the wonders of moringa olifera, the "miracle tree", assisting with the national mosquitoe net distribution locally, and hopefully many more things to come.
Home in Timbi Tounni
 Despite all the uncertaintity that comes with moving to a new place, regardless of whether or not you speak the language or know anyone in the area, I am excited and optimistic about moving forward. My counterpart and community are incredibly excited to have me-- I'll be the fifth volunteer to date, but the first working in AgroForestry.
Making mud stoves at training.

My host family