August 15, 2008

Hi From Haute

Bonjour tout le monde!

It’s time for a long overdue update. So I’ve been in Guinea for just about a month and now that my life in training is pretty well established I figure I’ll give you guys an overview of how I spend my time here.
Monday through Friday I have to be at training site by 8:00am which means I’m up by 7:00. Before I leave for the day my mom gives me breakfast which is always bread and tea. At the training site we have 4 different courses each day with small breaks in between. There’s always at least one language course and the rest are a mix of technical training, culture, health, safety and security, and more lang.
Our trainers are mostly Guinean and they’re an awesome group of people. All of them are completely over qualified for their jobs (there are two former Fulbright scholars on staff) and the fact that they’ve decided to work with Peace Corps instead of taking a higher paying job elsewhere really says a lot about their dedication to their country’s well being.
At midday we get a break for lunch. Tuesdays and Thursdays they feed us at the facility and we usually get some combination of rice, sauce, salad, and various other deliciousness. Bureau lunch (as it’s called) is always a cause for celebration.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday we’re on our own for lunch and I usually go to the market and get food there. Choices in the market are pretty limited and I usually get rice and sauce, an egg sandwich, or meat on a stick.
Rice and sauce is by far the most popular meal here. I’d say the Guineans I know eat it for at least two meals a day. Every day. Always. There are three different kinds of sauce, leaf sauce, soup sauce, and peanut sauce. It’s all pretty good but it can get a little monotonous at times. And there are rocks in the food because everyone dries their rice by spreading it out on the street.
After lunch there’s more training until 5:00. At which point I usually head home and hang out with my family. My family here is really amazing and my parents are two of the kindest people I’ve met in my life. They’re always willing to help me with my French and they never lose their patience with me no matter how inept I prove at figuring out life here. They don’t have any direct children but the family unit in Guinea is really fluid and right now I have two cousins living with us.
I usually eat around 7:30 or so and dinner is always plain spaghetti with meat, avocado salad, or french fries. That is, of course, my dinner. My family eats rice and sauce. For some reason my mom doesn’t believe that I can eat rice and sauce everyday with them and she insists on making me a separate dinner during the week. On the weekends I get rice and sauce with them and it’s awesome because my mom’s a great cook.
After dinner it’s dark and that means not a lot goes on. The town I’m in gets a few hours of electricity at night every few days. So days with power mean the whole family watches poorly dubbed B movies from the states or static on the TV (which is the only thing my family’s antenna picks up).
Nights without power usually consist of sitting in the dark living room with my family listening to French radio. None of which I understand. Sometimes I’ll listen to the BBC in English in my room or read a book with my headlamp. After a few hours of that I go to bed so I can start all over the next day.
Those are the weekdays however, weekends are a whole nother ball of wax. And by that I mean the time I would be at training turns into me sitting around with my family some more. Highlights of the weekend include hand washing my clothes (which takes forever), playing soccer, and rice and sauce.
There’s also usually at least one opportunity to hang out with the other trainees and go to one of two bars here. I use bar in the loosest sense of the word since almost everyone here is Muslim and doesn’t drink so we’re usually the only people there. I honestly have no idea how they stay in business but I don’t ask questions. It’s the only place in town to get a cold beer and if you’re willing to wait the hour they take to make you can get french fries too. They even have Ketchup!
So that’s pretty much my life here for the time being. We all found out last week where our sites are going to be and now we’re on a week long trip to visit our sites. My site’s in the north eastern corner of the country and I’m about 20km away from Mali, which means that anyone who wants to come visit can fly into Bamako and we’ll be relatively close to my site (maybe 8 hours or so).
My region is the hottest in Guinea and supposedly temperatures during the dry season can reach 125 degrees. Yay! Right now I’m in the regional capital, KanKan. Hence the internet access. We just got in last night but so far the city seems really cool. It’s the second largest city in the country after Conakry so there’s a lot going on. The market is supposedly gigantic and there are a lot of really cool artisans here from Guinea and Mali. Tomorrow I get to go visit my site and I’ll finally get to see my home for the next two years. I can’t wait. I’ll try and post an update when I get back if I can make time. For now though I’ve got to go since my time at the internet cafĂ© is almost up. I hope everyone is doing well back home. Peace.