Officially a Volunteer

Trip Start Dec 01, 2007
Trip End Mar 27, 2010

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Where I stayed
Peace Corps Transit House

Flag of Guinea  ,
Monday, February 11, 2008

So I've been in Conakry since February 6th and I leave tomorrow.  It has been absolutely fabulous! Hot running water, hamburgers (granted it's no Wendy's or Steak and Shake, but it's better than nothing), pizza (also not Dominos but amazing nonetheless), real mattresses, movies, a pool, the beach, shopping at Lebanese stores (they have American food stuff); I think you get the idea.  I have been soaking up all these luxuries and thinking back to when I first arrived in country and thought I was living it rough the first few days here (see blog number 1).  In reality this is as good as it gets.
On February 8th at 11:00 AM, 35 trainees became 35 volunteers. The ceremony had an interesting start. I don't know if you didn't realize it, but we're pretty important.  The Minister of Health, a woman, came and spoke to us along with the Ambassador of the USA.  As they were walking in we all stood and when Katie, who was sitting next to me stood, her camera fell out of her lap.  She cries, "Oh shit, there goes my camera!" to dead silence.  You could have heard the crickets chirping except for me trying to suppress my giggles and failing miserably.  As we sat down both of us leaned in and knocked heads which prompted another bout of laughter from us, all the while everyone else is silent.  We decided not to think of it as a bad omen.  Which it turned out not to be.  The ceremony went really well.  Our keynote speaker was  the first volunteer in Ethiopia from 1962.  His speech was amazing and made me tear up a bit.  He was there for the first gunshots of the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia and stayed the whole 2 years during the war.  Peace Corps has a little stricter policy on war zones and volunteers nowadays. Steve, our country director, also spoke.  His term is up in August and he has to go back to the states.  He teared up while he talked about how much he was going to miss us, etc.  It was very emotional.  The swearing in was very simple. We all raised our right hands and repeated what the Ambassador said about protecting a country from domestic and foreign enemies, etc.  And that was it; we became volunteers.  I am now a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) so on all my mail instead of PCT you will put PCV, just fyi.  Then we were served hors d'oeuvres which were so good, mini-burgers, mini pizzas, eclairs, tuna, cheese on bread. Things we haven't seen in ages!  I ate far too much.  That night we had a party in the volunteer house to celebrate.  Candee, Katy and Amy made superlatives for all of the former trainees.  Mine was "Most Likely to Think Rat is Fine Dining".  From that we moved to an impromptu talent show where Candee and Amy did stand up comedy, Andrew and Adam sang for us and Raven stuck her whole hand in her mouth, a talent I also possess but which I did not feel like sharing.  Then we danced the night away. 
The next day was shopping day.  I don't like shopping in the states. It wears me out and its boring.  Here, it is much worse.  We went to a market called Madina and it is insane.  First of all it's huge. I can't even explain how huge it is because I didn't even see all of it.  It's hard to find what you want because you don't even know if Guinea sells what you want.  Plus a lot of the items I needed I had no idea how to say them in French.  I'm still missing sheets and a spade because I don't know what they're called. Three hours, one frying pan, one whisk, aluminum foil, and one box of baking powder later we left and it was none too soon for me.  I really hate shopping here.  You have to discuss the price on everything you buy and you never know if you're getting ripped off or not.  It's very frustrating.
Yesterday most of the volunteers left for their regional capital.  It was really sad to see everyone leave.  People in Haute Guinea I'll get to see once a month which is awesome but everyone in Fouta and Basse Cote I won't see again until May.  It felt like I was leaving my family in the US again, only not quite as hard.  But honestly, these volunteers are my family and I already miss them a lot. Only 9 of us were left behind.  Five of us are in what's called Lower Haute Guinea ( which means Lower Upper Guinea; weird I know).  But we stayed because it would be a logistical nightmare to get us from Kankan to our sites in time for installation.  So instead we leave tomorrow and go to Faranah for Candee's installation then I get to see Melissa, Sarah and Zach installed.  At least I'll be prepared and know what to expect for my installation on the 14th. 
Later in the day I went shopping locally and bought screens for my doors and my solar dryer which I will build promptly.  We relaxed the rest of the afternoon in the air conditioned house and then at night I called someone I had met who works at the embassy.  The company he works for gave him a house with 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms and a pool and he said we could come over anytime.  The championship of the Africa Cup was on between Egypt and Cameroon and so I asked if we could come over and watch it.  He said sure and came and picked 5 of us up.  It was awesome! The game was really good. He has satellite tv so it was in the announcer spoke in English which was cool.  Egypt won 1-0. I was rooting for Cameroon and they put up a good fight, but it was not meant to be.  Then our host served us dinner: BBQ chicken (real American BBQ sauce) and potato salad.  Then we hung out for awhile until it was time for us to go back the house to pick up pizza at the Beach Bar.
And that brings me to today.  I plan on buying American food at the Leb store and then eating Chinese food! I don't even care for Chinese food that much back home but it sounds sooooo good right now.  Anyways, that's about all I have right now.  I don't know when I'll next have access to the internet, maybe in a month when I go to Kankan.  And from now on I will only be getting mail once a month when the mail run (a Peace Corps car) comes through my village.  Also I only have cell phone reception with I stand on the suggestion box next to the third column of my health center so if you call and you can't get through don't panic.  When I'm working at the Health Center I'll leave my phone so if you call I'll hear it, but that probably won't start for 2 weeks or so.  Ok, peace out.
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