Culture Shock

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

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Flag of Guinea  ,
Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hi. I'm in Conakry. It's good to be here. The Lower Haute people took the World Food Program flight from Kissidougou to Conakry so instead of a 15 hour bush taxi ride it was a 2 hour comfortable plane ride. Good stuff. I'm really happy to be here; I needed to get away from site.  Last week was my hardest week in country so far. Monday through Wednesday were hard.  I'm having problems with the men in my village especially a new guy who started working at the Health Center.  So I've kind of been avoiding the Health Center which means I've been staying in the hut more and more and isolating myself which I know is not helping the situation.  I recently got a kitten which was the only reason I was remaining sane. Her name was Vixen. She sat on my shoulder when I read, slept with me, followed me around like a dog.  She was so much fun to play with and such a comfort those bad days.  But the culmination of my bad week was Thursday which was the worst day I've had in country by far and it has nothing to do with sickness, amazing.  The mail run came Thursday morning.  I was really excited because I had invited Sarah and Melissa to come visit and I needed company after the previous three days.  But when the car pulled up Zach was the only one in the back and he was going to Kankan. My eyes immediately teared up.  I knew it was possible that they wouldn't come and I had been stealing myself for the possiblity but it was overwhelmingly dissappointing and I couldn't imagine spending another week alone.  Then I only got one letter. From Katie. Thank you Katie, you're awesome and I love you.  But that was a heart breaker in my already fragile condition.  So I sat on the bed with tears streaming down my face and Daffe, the regional capital director, looking at me obviously very uncomfortable and not knowing what to say or do.  They left quickly and I sat on my bed reading my one letter and crying a lot. Then a man came to my open door and said "Le vehicle qui est parti a toue votre chaton." translated as "The car that left killed your kitten." I didn't want to understand. He must be mistaken.  I walked outside to a devastating site.  My perfect little friend smushed by the side of my house.  It was too much to handle. I started sobbing uncontrolably.  Guineans are very uncomfortable with tears. Women wail when someone dies but that is about it.  This man did not know what to do with himself so he told me it was ok, we would find me another cat. Wrong freakin thing to say.  "I don't want another one," I screamed at him, "I want that one back!" Then I turned and rushed into my house, slammed the door in his face and threw myself on my bed.  I spent the next couple hours sobbing hysterically.  I couldn't stop.  When I finally got myself under control I walked outside and no one had had the decency to move her.  When I saw her again I started crying again and had to return to the hut.  This happened several times until I was able to breath enough to ask some children to move her to where I couldn't see.  Then I decided to go to the sous-prefets office because I couldn't cry in front of him and my roof had had a hole in it for three weeks and it needed to be fixed, so this was my daily supplication of "Please fix my roof, I can see the sky and when it rains I get wet while I'm sleeping."  So I walked over there, eyes puffy and read, and told him for the umpteenth time that my roof was in desparate need of repair but then I started crying again so I had to quickly run away.  I spent a couple more hours at the Health Center hoping work would take my mind off things but I had to leave because I kept randomly bursting into tears.  I returned to my house, made dinner and started to rain.  And there was still a large hole in the straw of my roof.  So to top off my marvelous day, I got soaked in my own house, my refuge.  So I started crying again but this time out of anger and frustration. And then I went to bed, bringing to a close a truly heinous day.
I wrote a letter to my mom on Wednesday trying to explain why this has become so difficult and I'm going to include an excerpt of it here because I think it explains my thoughts coherently, "Do you think this gets any easier? because it seems like its getting harder.  The more integrated I become the more the community feels comfortable to critisize me.  I won't come home for good unless they send me home but this is hard.  And it's not even the food I miss most. I'm pretty good at cooking.  I miss people knowing what is appropriate to say. I miss not being ripped off because I'm white.  I miss "Bless You" when I sneeze. They don't say anything. I miss hugs. They don't hug.  It's insubstantial things like that.  Sure I miss washing machines and movies, a down comforter, air conditioning, cold drinks and cheddar cheese but it's not too terrible to do without the nicities of life.  It's the culture. Maybe I'm going through a more profound culture shock than I first experienced.  It was obvious differences that hit you in the face when you first get here. The lack of things. Maybe I'm just starting to realize the difference there is between us as people.  They don't think the way I do.  In order to do my job well I need to understand and accept their way of thinking and right now I'm rebeling against that."
When I just couldn't take it anymore I went to Kissidougou. Zach had left me his keys.  I became a hermit for a day. I spent an entire day in his house reading and it was just the recharge I needed.  The next day Sarah came and spent four days with me.  She was amazing and lifted my spirits tremendously. We cooked so much good food, pasta salad, spring rolls, omlettes and hash browns, PB & J, etc. We even got work done. I scheduled a malaria sensibilization with the principal of the elementary school for World Malaria Day on April 25th.  I prepared a review Jeparady game for my English classes. I learned how to make a mud stove. It was great.
I have a couple other exciting events coming up. More training in 2 weeks, so I'll get to see everyone and that will last for 2 weeks.  At my Health Center we're going to have 3 days of training for community midwives.  I'm planning on painting murals at the Health Center and planting a Moringa tree nursery at the Health Center and the elementary school. Moringa is a miracle tree. It is so good for you, grows quickly and is very easy to care for but my village has never heard of it.  David, who is an agfo volunteer, is coming to help me in early June.  At the end of June we're having a Girls Conference. Katie and I are presenting on Family Planning so in the next month or so we'll be visiting each other.  Looking farther to the future I'm planning on coming home in September. One of my best friends is getting married and I am supposed to be in the wedding.  Unfortantely, it is very expensive and I can't come even close to affording it.  So I've set up a paypal account that is attached to this blog and I'm accepting donations.  The cheapest is $1200.  I already got one donation from my amazing boss at UD. Love you Judy!
Ok I just want to put a little blurb about the political/economical situation in Guinea, in case any of you are worried.  Gas prices have doubled like I said in my last blog increasing the prices of most other things as they need to be transported to where we are.  Rice prices are climbing with shortages around the world and as that's a staple food item the people are being hit hard.  Guinea has banned the exporation of rice and other staple food items.  Flour is increasing in price because of the wheat plague in Eastern Africa.  So far things are calm.  People are complaining but everyone is waiting to see how the government is going to react. So that's where we are right now. Ok I'm going to some islands today so I need to go get ready.
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