September 25, 2008

Cheeseburger in Paradise

The day is almost upon us! After two and a half months of training tomorrow I will be sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. I must say I am ready. Although I’ve had a great time during training and it was definitely a necessary part of adapting to life here it’s time to strike out on my own. Not to mention that swearing in will be followed by two consecutive days of BBQ and swimming in the pool at the Country Director’s house. Eh Allah.

Wednesday was our last day at the training site. We had a farewell ceremony with our host families. The actually ceremony itself was pretty run of the mill as far as things go here. We started an hour and fifteen minutes late. We sat through a bunch of speeches. There were some certificates handed out. And everyone got warm soda, which the Guineans had to save for later since almost all of them are fasting during the day for Ramadan.

The actual saying goodbye part of the whole affair was pretty sad though. Over the months of training I had some great times with my family and although I’m excited to head out to my site I’m also going to miss them. My little brother actually started crying as they were loading my bags onto the cars. But we all have each other’s numbers and we made some plans to visit. I told them it’s not adieu, it’s just à plus tard.

After the ceremony we boarded the bus and left for Conakry. I must say the relative comfort of the Conakry house is a welcome change of pace. Simple things like AC and reliable Internet can do wonders when you’ve gone without them for so long. It’s also just nice to have all of G-16 (and others!) in the same place for some final R&R before we leave for our sites.

Of course I still have stuff I need to do and getting ready to move to site has a whole slew of headaches that go along with it. Today we spent a good part of the day trekking around in the heat going around to different stores in downtown Conakry trying to get all the supplies we’ll need for installation (Peace Corps jargon for “move into site”). So far I’m doing good, I’ve got most of the important stuff like tuna fish, chocolate powder, oatmeal, and nutella. Saturday we’ll be reserved for the less important items like actual supplies for my house. I mean really, who needs to buy a stove when you can just eat nutella all day long?

Spending the day downtown was a bit of a trip. We don’t stand out quite as much in Conakry because Guineans here are more used to seeing white people from the embassies and such but we still garnered our fair share of attention. Most of it was pretty benign, like people yelling out Barak Obama’s name at us. Or trying to sell us calculators. I don’t know what the obsession is with calculators here but every time I go anywhere in Conakry there’s always a ton of Guineans who follow me around trying to sell them to me. Maybe they just assume white people will buy anything with electronics in it.

While most of the attention that we get here either falls into the category of “Hey look a white person! Weird!” or the category of “Hey look a white person! Let’s try and sell them something!” sometimes we get some attention of another variety all together. Such was the case today when, for some reason, the Guinean police decided to start stopping all the foreigners (a.k.a. white people) they found on the streets and demand to see visas.

Now, Peace Corps’ policy is that we don’t walk around with our passports on us and all we have when we’re en ville are Peace Corps ID cards. So when the police decided to start hassling volunteers for their visas they were none to happy to find they only had PC IDs. After many minutes of arguing about the necessity (or lack thereof) of showing them our visas they took a bunch of people over to the police van (where they were keeping a bunch of Asian people who were frantically talking on their phones, probably trying to get someone to come down and bail them out) and proceeded to have a ten minute long argument over the phone with our doctor, who was the highest ranking Peace Corps staff member anyone could get on the phone. After the argument they finally let everyone go, apparently having been convinced that, indeed, it was not necessary to act as though the entire city was one large boarder crossing. Although the situation eventually did resolve itself it was definitely a reminder that we always have to be on our toes when we’re in the big cities here.

Wow, time certainly flies when you’re using the internet. It’s already way past my bedtime here and I need to get up early tomorrow to head over to the Embassy for the swearing in ceremony. I’m scheduled to give a (possibly nationally broadcast) speech in Melinke which is a local language that I can barely greet people in at this point. Suffice to say I need as much sleep as I can get to be able to muddle my way through the page long oratory me and a language trainer wrote up together. I’ll try and post another update through the barbeque induced stupor that I’ll be enduring for the next few days.


September 17, 2008

Usually it makes hot, but now it makes cold

Just a quick update.

Right now everyone in training is on a 3 day trip to a town in the middle of Guinea. We're staying ensemble in a forrestry school in the mountains. We just got here but it's looking like the cool mountain air will be a nice little break from the hot humid weather that we get at the training site. The school itself is really secluded and overlooks the town from the top of a mountain, it's very monastaryesque.

Training is fast drawing to a close for me, which is exciting. PST (Pre Service Training) has been a great introduction to life in Guinea but I'm definitly ready to begin my service already. We leave for Conakry on the 24th for our swearing in ceremony at the U.S. Embassy and then I'll officially become a volunteer (as opposed to a trainee).

Hopefully I'll find some time in Conakry to jump on a computer and write a more substantial update but it might be a little tough, we're definitly going to be pressed for time when we get there. In addition to preparing for swearing in (I have to give a speech in Malinke at the ceremony) I also have to work out my banking situation and run around to various markets around the city buying supplies for my site.

I hope everyone's doing good and enjoying the onset of fall in New England. I've decided that although I miss everyone back home, and the food, and the cheese... Having different seasons (especially fall) is going to be one of the big things I'm going to miss during my time here. Oh well, enjoy it double for me. Next time you goto Raos pour out a coffee in my memory.