Happy St. Patty's Day

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

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Flag of Guinea  ,
Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patty's Day.  I'm in Kankan, my regional capital with all the Haute Guinea volunteers to celebrate.  It is so great to see everyone and hear about their experience and to know that I am not alone.  I have now been at site a month.  It feels like home more and more everyday.  My fence has been built so now I have a little enclosure and I am no longer obliged to cook in my bathroom, though I do sometimes when I don't feel like feeding the neighborhood children or greeting everyone and their mother that passes by the opening.  I also painted two walls of my bathroom orange.  I'm getting pretty crafty.  I took the cardboard box that my thermos came in, flattened it, and cut 6 holes in it.  Then I painted it white and wrote the lyrics of "For Good" from Wicked on it and put 6 pictures of family and friends behind the cut out holes.  Then I nailed it to my wall so mom, dad, Mark, Jonathan, Amy, Jenna, Cindy, George, Ryan, Rachael, Grandma, Dana, Beth, Katie, Laura, Emily, Lindsey, and Elizabeth I get to look at you everyday hanging on the wall of my hut.  Isn't it weird that my first house all to myself is a mud hut?  I guess I never really thought about what my first house would be, but I guarantee this is not what I pictured.
             So I have been keeping myself busy.  I've started teaching English at the local college.  It is the equivalent to a middle school in the states.  I teach 9th and 10th grade and I really enjoy it.  I have over 50 students in each class.  Because school isn't mandatory some Guineans don't realize the importance of education until later in life so I have quite a few students who are older than me.  I've had class twice and so far we've covered the alphabet, greetings, numbers, and family.  Pronunciation is very difficult.  The first day I wrote 50 girls names and 50 boys names on the board and had each student pick an American name so that I can pronounce it.  It also helps eliminate confusion on my part as there exists about 10 first names and 5 last names among the group.  Variety is not the spice of life when it comes to Guinean names. But they really think American names are hilarious.  And if you are a family member or friend of mine, there is a Guinean in Gbangbadou running around with your name.  It brings me a little bit closer to home.
             I am inadvertently getting in shape.  Believe me this is totally unplanned.  But cars are hard to come by.  So this week I biked 15k to Kissidougou.  The next day I biked 27k with coming back from Kissidougou, visiting the Bible Institute in Telekoro and a trip to the river.  Then yesterday I went exploring for gold in the jungle.  Now that was an experience.  There is an expedition here, funded by a Canadian but crewed by Guinean geologists.  I have made a friend with one of the geologists, Sisqo.  He is a stranger to Gbangbadou too so he sought me out and we started talking about his expedition.  I expressed curiosity as to the process so he invited me to come along.  So I woke up at 6AM and he was at my door a 6:48 with a Range Rover to take me into the "brush" as they call it.  I wore knee high socks, tennis shoes, jeans, a jacket and a hat.  And by the end of the day I was thankful for every last article of clothing.  My hands and neck, left uncovered, were red and bleeding from being lashed with bamboo and jungle prickers.  It was just like what you're probably imagining.  Our party consisted of one man in the front hacking through limbs and vines that grab at your hair and clothes with a machete, then Sisqo following with a GPS, me trailing behind swatting away annoying flies and trying to minimize the damage done to my face by pushing away the sharp bamboo and lastly another villager carrying supplies.  He was only behind me to keep an eye on me, I think.  Every quarter kilometer we would stop and look for a termite mound and I would attach a little orange marker to tree and the men would take a sample of the mond.  Termites bring dirt from deep down o the surface so we could sample the whole and not just the surface.  They are fairly certain they will find gold because there is a lot of quartz; apparently that's a good sign.  By the end of the day, sweat had soaked through all layers of clothing and I was covered in ash and dust.  Sisqo said he was surprised I made it without even a word of complaint.  I told him the only reason I didn't complain was because I couldn't articulate all I wanted to say in French.  So I just kept my mouth shut and tried to appreciate the exotic experience.  I won't lie; I was very happy to get back to my cool hut and dump cold water over my head and then crawl onto my straw mattress (that I think is the host of bed bugs) and contemplate why I seek to punish myself just for the experience, to say, oh yeah I've explored for gold.  But would I do it all over again? Yep.  Because today I have the story and all the fatigue and soreness is gone.  And it was really interesting.  They'll be here for a month and then they'll go back to Conakry to test the samples for gold.  If they find it they'll come back, make everyone in Gbangbadou relocate and build a mine.  Such is life, I suppose.
             Other than that life goes on. I cook, read, write, teach and learn.  It's still new and exciting but I'm settling in nicely.  I have no qualms yelling at kids or even grown men if they're impolite to me.  I mostly wear Guinean clothes and wear a head scarf almost everyday.  My hair is getting really long and some girls asked me the other day if it was a wig because their hair cannot grow this long.
             I still haven't received many letter and most those have been from my mom. Thanks mom, love you.  I don't know if they're getting lost or if ya'll are just slacking.  Regardless, I running out of American stamps so if you could just enclose a few in your next letters I'll be able to continue writing you.  As far as other supplies I'm doing pretty well on necessities at the moment but if you feel the urge to send me a package drink mixes, candy, chips, granola bars and oatmeal is always appreciated.  Also now is the time to start thinking about visiting me.  Most all the other volunteers have someone visiting them this summer and I'm feeling very left out.  You don't even have to come to Guinea if you don't want to. I'll meet you anywhere in Africa. Ok, well I need to start getting ready for the festivities. Peace out, homies.
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