December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas and a very merry coup d'etat

It's only been eight days since my last entry but a lot has happened here in that time. For those of you who haven't been keeping up to speed, on Dec 23rd Lansana Conte died after twenty four years as president of Guinea. According to the constitution the president of the national assembly is the successor in the event of the death of the president. However, only a few hours after Conte died the military staged a coup d'etat, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the old government. The leader of the coup, Capt. Moussa Camara, is now the self-proclaimed president of Guinea.

In the time since the military took over all the volunteers in Conakry have been confined to the Peace Corps compound on lock down. So over the past few days we've basically been spending our time waiting and speculating about whether or not Peace Corps was going to be evacuated from the country. In the beginning it looked like it could go either way but now after a few days of playing wait and see it seems like the situation is stabilizing. When the new president was announced people took to the streets to cheer, apparently relieved that there would be a return to some sort of stable government. So, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we're going to be able to go back to our sites soon.

Anyone who's interested in reading more about what's going on here, BBC has been covering the situation really well. Here's a few stories they've run that give a good overview of the events of the last few days.

Due to the lock down we had to cancel our trip to Sierra Leone and all of the new volunteers had to stay at the training site for Christmas so we didn't get to meet them. It was a little disappointing having to change all of our holiday plans but at the same time it's been an interesting experience to see how everything has played out so far. After all, how many people can say that they've lived through a military coup?

Regardless of the change of plans we've still been making the best of our time here and it's been nice seeing everyone who made it into Conakry before the lock down was imposed. I've been having a great time hearing everyone's stories from their villages and I've also been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I didn't realize how much I missed cooking until I got back here. Cooking at site is really time and effort intensive so I hardly ever do it, opting instead to just eat all my meals with my host family at site. But since getting back to Conakary I've been cooking up a storm and having a great time doing it. So rest assured I'm still enjoying the holidays.

Anyways, I just wanted to let everyone know what was going on here and that I'm OK. A lot's been happening over the past few days and I'm sure a lot is yet to come. The new government is still forming itself but as always seems to be the case in Guinea we're just going to have to exercise a bit of patience and hopefully everything will work itself out.

December 18, 2008

Fêtes and Freetown oh my oh my!

I'm back in Conakry now for some much anticipated R & R. I got in yesterday from Kankan and I'll be here until the 27th, then I'm going to spend New Years in Freetown with a bunch of other volunteers. I've been anticipating this trip for quite some time and now that it's here I'm really excited for it. I've heard Freetown is beautiful and it will be nice to spend some time on a beach where you can actually go in the water.

Adding to my excitement is the fact that a new group of volunteers just arrived in country at the beginning of the month. The first time I'll get to meet them will be when they come up to Conakry for Christmas, which is just one more thing to look forward to. I'm really excited for the new people because I remember what it was like arriving in Guinea and having everything be new and foreign. It's quite a shock at first and it makes for some interesting times.

As far my own life goes it's moving along, petit á petit. Tabaski, which is the Islamic celebration of when Abraham climbed the mountain to sacrifice his son, was at the beginning of the month. It's the biggest holiday of the year in Guinea. There was tons of dancing, eating, and visiting from extended family. It reminded me a lot of Thanksgiving actually which was sort of a nice substitute for not being at home this November. Plus my family slaughtered some goats and a cow and we ate meat with all of our meals which never happens normally. It was delicious.

Also because of the holiday, school has been closed for pretty much the entire month. Which left me plenty of time to read, dance, read, eat, read, and sleep. It's been a tough month, which is why I need a vacation.

In other news I finally got my act together and went through the photos I've taken so far in country and posted them online. There's a link on the right hand side of the page but here it is again for those unable to turn their head slightly.

By the way, Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to everyone. It's so easy for me to forget that it's the holiday season since the temperature never drops below seventy here. I don't know what I'm gonna do after I go home, I'm shivering when it does hit seventy and just looking at pictures of winter in Massachusetts makes me cold. Who knows though, maybe by the time my service is up global warming will have taken care of all the snow for me. Fingers crossed.