July 21, 2009

I Remember

The new training group is here and PST is in full swing. It's been a weird experience seeing so many people viewing Guinea for the first time. I see myself in all of them and remember how, not too long ago, I was the wide eyed trainee stepping off a comfortable climate controlled airplane to be hit with the muggy heat of the rainy season.

I remember barely saying a word on the drive from the airport as I stared out at the streets littered with trash and people. I remember watching the ocean over the palm trees from the roof of the Peace Corps compound and thinking I had landed in a beautiful tropical paradise. I also remember my first trip to the market where I changed that opinion as I waded through rivers of sewage and tried to navigate my way through the labyrinth of unfamiliar sights and smells.

I remember constantly not understanding the people around me. I remember when I was still surprised that people would chant "White Person!" as I walked by. I remember not knowing how to take a bath with a bucket. I remember not knowing how to use a latrine. I remember thinking that toh was one of the worst foods imaginable, and then I remember getting used to eating it every day.

I remember learning that even if the person you're talking to is a complete stranger you need to start every conversation with them by asking about their family. I remember the first time I got offended when a stranger didn't ask about mine.

I remember learning to slow down. I remember realizing that tea is drunk for the two hour chat that comes with it. I remember walks down the windy paths of my village where people I have never met call me by name and invite me to dinner.

I remember all this and more as I see the new volunteers experience it for the first time and I realize that this is really what Peace Corps is about. We come here to a new world and we find it full of strangeness and unfamiliarity. At first we're lost and we don't feel like we have a compass to find our way. But little by little we change the way we see our new world, and in the process we change the way we see ourselves. By the end, the strangeness has peeled away and all that's left is a place we call home.

I don't remember when Guinea became my home, but somewhere along the way it did.

July 5, 2009

Ramblin Man

I've been away from my site on various errands and business since the beginning of June and plan to continue this trend until mid august. Apparently I've been getting too comfortable in my village because I seem to have forgotten the headaches that go along with living out of a bag and moving from place to place for months on end. Quite frankly I'm exhausted, and I'm barely half way through my travel marathon. Between a trip to Conakry for errand running and American food eating, a conference on HIV/aids prevention, and stint at the training facility assisting in the planning of the upcoming pre-service training I'm beat. I'm just counting down the days until I'll be back in my own hut with my own bed and my own schedule.

It seems to me that the grass is always greener is a philosophy that's quite directly applying to my life of late. Towards the end of the school year I was feeling a bit burnt out and was really looking forward to some time away to collect myself. But now that I've had that time I'm really missing my little corner of the world and I just want to get back and feel at home again. Although I'm sure once I get there I'll start turning my thoughts elsewhere again. Seems to be the story of my life.

On a more upbeat note the new training group is coming in three days and I'm excited to meet them all. It should be an interesting few weeks, anytime a new group of Americans comes to country it's cause for celebration. And what's more as soon as I leave training I'll be heading out to Ireland to meet up with my family. After a year away I'm just counting the days until I get to see them all again. It's going to be a nice little reunion. Not to mention some real westernized food.

Anyways I'm not sure what the moral of all this is but I guess I'll be thinking twice before I plan another stint of multiple months away from site. Not that I'll really have the chance again once school starts.