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Monday, April 22, 2013

A nalle e jam? (How's your day going?)

Being a Peace Corps volunteer, what in the world does that actually entail? Are you having fun in Guinea? What are you going to do for two years? I'll admit that many days I don't seem to know the answers to those questions myself.
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? 
Baby chickens!

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.

Anyways. I digress. After all of those morning delights comes lunch! Always a reason to rejoice. Often I cook for myself in my lil' kitchen. Common meals include spaghetti, stir fry, egg sandwiches, or pancakes. But the possibilities are pretty wide. Made some pretty tasty peanut brittle and tomato soup the other day. Though I'll admit that my cooking space is a bit more cramped than I'm used to (see above). When I don't feel like cooking there's always somebody who's more than happy to invite me over for rice and sauce or I can buy keke, rice and sauce, and other tasty treats in town.

By this time. The sun is HOT! It's generally accepted to be the hours of repose here between 2 and 5 or so. During those hours you can usually find me chilling out at my house: writing letters, reading, playing with Bobo, doing projects around the house or garden, hanging out with petities, or napping. All activities always accompanied by glorious music, BBC, or This American Life (and the roosters and sheep bleating).  Some afternoons I pass the time visiting my friends & family, teaching an after-school English course, or exploring the wild lands and forests surrounding Timbi Tounni. Then again there's always the fun of getting pump water.

At 5:00 comes another call for prayer. And as many people head to the grande mosque for prayer I often go to the trails and forest not far from my house to find some mental solace of my own. Going up and down those hills, like so so many before them, brings such peace to my soul-- even if it's followed by five petites who decided to join.

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!