Monday, December 10, 2012

So a Zebra, a Bandit, and a Turkey walk into a bar...

I know it's been a really long time, but honestly not too much has been going on...there have been a few adventurous moments, but mostly a lot of sitting around. I will try to fill you in as best I can.

So I got assaulted...then painted a mural : )

Towards the end of September I decided I really ought to start working since the rainy season was coming to an end and school was starting up. I drafted a design of a mural illustrating the uses of Moringa (a tree with medicinal properties to help prevent/treat hypertension, malnutrition, and diabetes, amongst other things). My idea was approved by my health center and I invited nearby trainees to come help. After drawing the image on the wall in chalk, I went to meet Liz at the intersection where taxis leave the passengers. On my way some guy came out of the palm tree plantation and asked where I was going. This is not so unusual so I told him and then he asked for my phone. It seemed as though he just wanted to make a call so I asked why he wanted it and who he wanted to call. At this point the man approached me and insisted that I give him my phone. Still I refused, although by now I was getting a bit nervous; I knew he was going to steal my phone. He went to grab the phone out of my hand but I held on and we "tug-of-warred" for a minute. At some point I fell to the ground, maybe he pushed me. Then I started screaming, hoping someone would hear me...but this just made my assualter angry. He began choking me, pressing one of his hands to my throat while I kicked him repeatedly and kept trying to make noise to draw attention to our location. After another minute or so it became obvious no one was coming so I released my phone and the guy ran off. I got up, a bit shaken but ok and continued along the road to meet Liz. Luckily I met a few people I knew so I told them what happened and they stayed with me until Liz arrived. We then walked back to my village center and I told Liz about what had just happened. By the time we got back to my house, the whole village knew about my attack and they were waiting for me to give an official report of the incident. I met my counterpart at his office in the health center with the sous-prefet (like mayor of my village and the surrounding area), the chief of police, and most of my brothers/random community members who wanted to help. I gave them a report and then went with the police to the "scene of the crime" where they looked for "clues" (all they found was one partial footprint...).

After I went back to my house I called the PC safety and security officer to tell her about the incident and assure her that I was safe and it was not a targetted attack. After this another volunteer, Allison, showed up and the three of us went to the health center to work on my moringa mural. The day ended well and Liz spent the night. Although it was quite scary when it first happened, I think of my aussalt as kind of comical now because the police "search" was so ridiculous and my community response was amazing. I was happily surprised that my whole village wanted to help find the guy and over the following couple weeks people all over my area of Guinea (not just my village) were talking about it and being extra nice to me.

Allison, Liz, and Salif at chez moi
Allison and me painting


Halloween and Thanksgiving

For halloween Mary (another volunteer) and I planned a party at the volunteer house in Boke for all volunteers in the region (about 15 of us). We bought tons of vodka, mixers, and delicious food from the supermarket. We made invitations for all PCVs in the region and took a vote on what we would have for dinner and breakfast. At the actual event, there were 13 of us and everyone had a costume!!! We made veggie and meat lasagnas, tacos, pudding and fruit trifle, and had bacon and eggs with pancakes for breakfast. It was unbelievably good and a great success as Boke house is considered "lame" by the other regions. With this party we put Boke on the map and we are now on par with the parties of other houses : )

Me and Megan representing Public Health-ers
Zebra and Giraffe : )


 This year Thanksgiving was celebrated in Conakry with 30 volunteers, Julie (our country director) and her husband, and a few friends of volunteers. Volunteers from all over Guinea came with each training group being represented. We all helped cook, and together made: pumpkin pie, apple crumble, fruit tart, veggie lasagna, pasta salad, mashed potatoes, sweet potatos, homemade rolls, green beans, grean bean cassarole, and wine. I made stuffing from scratch with a couple other PCVs and it was a great was seriously some of the best stuffing I've ever had. Julie and Paul provided two turkeys and homemade brownies. During dinner we went around the tables taking turns saying what we were most thankful for. The majority of people said the PC family...we all share something so special by living and serving here together, we become extremely close and these people do become our families.

pumpkin pie, apple crisp, apple pie, fruit tarts, and brownies

Gramma's homemade cranberry sauce!!

carving the turkey


yay thanksgiving!!

clean up time

and then I finally started working!

Early in November my friend Liz, an education PCV in Kolabui, asked me if Bintimodia has a girls’ soccer team, because her team would like to come play in my village. At that time there was no team, but with the help of my host brother, Amadou, we created a team so Kolabui could come play us. The first week in November Amadou and I invited all the girls in the middle school to come play soccer after school and Amadou found a coach for the girls. Every evening the girls practiced and had a few games against other local girls’ teams in preparation for the game against Kolabui. To increase participation and interest I agreed to train with the girls each day. The match verse Kolabui was scheduled for December 1st, World AIDS Day.

I have also started a youth group, called GJECB (say it like Jacob) or Groupement de Jeunesse pour l’Education Communautaire de Bintimodia (Youth Group for Community Education in Bintimodia). We are a group of about 10 boys and girls from the middle school (mostly high school aged though) and we discuss issues pertaining to the health and wellbeing of young people.  We perform skits and present on various health topics at community events and in the schools. Our first presentation, on HIV was scheduled for World AIDS Day, the same day as the girls’ soccer match.

The day of the match my soccer team gathered at the coach’s house after school to eat and relax before the game. The Kolabui team arrived in the afternoon and after a brief warm-up the match began. All the girls played extremely well and the game was 0-0 until the last few minutes of the first half. A defense player for Bintimodia kicked the ball down field and the Kolabui goalie missed the ball, which rolled the rest of the way into the goal, scoring a point for Bintimodia. The first half ended on a high note for our team and I was hopeful for the second half.

During half time my youth group was scheduled to perform their skit after the health center chef gave a brief introduction. However, the chef was nowhere to be found. Kadiatou, our goalie and member of the youth group, ran to the health center to find the chef. Luckily he got back in time to give an intro of our group and HIV before Kadiatou and Dione (a male member of the group) talked about HIV from the perspective of their generation. Because of the initial delay, we were a bit rushed and had to cut the presentation short because Kadiatou had to get back into the game. The second half of the match started off well, until Kolabui scored. The Bintimodia girls were discouraged by the goal and stopped playing well, allowing two more goals to be scored against us. The final score was 3-0 with Kolabui winning, but overall I was extremely proud of my girls and made sure they understood that. Kolabui has been playing together for over a year and my team had been together for only a month…that the game was as close as it was made me very happy.

At the end of the match Dione asked me if he and Kadiatou could do a condom demonstration. The chef of the health center was there to help and provided the model and condoms. All the audience and members of both teams gathered in front of Kadiatou and Dione while they demonstrated proper use and disposal of condoms. At the end they threw condoms out to crowd, who all climbed over each other and jumped into the air to catch them. Overall, the match and presentation were great successes, and I could not have been happier.

Bintimodia (in white) and Kolabui Girls' teams

line up before the game

Dione talking about condoms
Kadiatou and Dione showing how to use a condom

HIV presentation with Kadiatou and Dione

Kadiatou witha  picture book about condom use

crowd watching the condom demonstration

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ramadan and Robbery

Hello everyone! I know it’s been a super long time since my last post so this time I will try to update you on everything that’s been going in these past few months : )
For the past 30 days I have been fasting for Ramadan (Muslim holiday) with my host family. I was unable to eat or drink anything between 5 am and 7:30 pm (although I did cheat a bit and drink water from time to time, but shhhh, that’s our little secret). The whole point of the fasting is to experience how people in extreme states of poverty live everyday—how it feels to not be able to eat no matter how hungry you are. There are other religious aspects, but I am unclear on the specifics, but my reason for fasting was the poverty issue as well as to help my cultural assimilation.
All that being said, I LOVED Ramadan. It was a really awesome experience; my whole village was super impressed that I fasted for all 30 days (well, we’ll get to that in a minute) and everyone congratulated me at the end. In actuality, it wasn’t all that difficult. The first week was pretty rough, but once you get into a routine it feels kind of normal. Plus since almost everyone was fasting there wasn’t much temptation to eat. My favorite part was breaking fast with my family each night. Around 7 pm everyone gathered on the veranda, checking their cell phones for the time every few minutes. At 7:30 on the dot people chugged water, ate popsicle bonbons, or just started in on the rice….and then of course prayer began. After the prayer we really dug in to the food—imagine Thanksgiving-style feasting all in about 30 minutes time every night for 30 days. Intense, yes, but totally awesome. I realized after the first few days that this kind of binging sort of undermined the whole “how poverty feels” ideology of the holiday, but whatever, we were hungry!
OK, so I know I said I did all 30 days of fasting, but that is actually not true. I only fasted for 29 days, right up to the last day. I’m sure you’re wondering why I stopped when I was so close to the finish. Well, the answer is simple. My family tricked me into eating. It was malicious, but I still don’t know why they did it. I said I was fasting every day until the end and the second to the last day (my last day; Friday) came around and everyone was saying it was over after that. The fete was scheduled for the next day (Saturday) and that’s all anyone talked about all day. However, by that night, people were starting to say the fete was not Saturday, but Sunday. They did not say that fasting would continue, it was still clear that Friday was the last day for fasting. So Saturday morning I woke up all excited to eat in daylight. My mom asked if I was fasting and I said “no, it’s over, right” and no one corrected me. My brothers were joking around saying the fete wasn’t until the next day but they didn’t say I shouldn’t eat. (let me say here that one of my brothers started fasting a day late so I thought he was continuing to fast to make up for that) One of my other mothers then brought me a bowl of rice and I said again that Friday was the last day and asked for confirmation, but I didn’t get a straight answer, so I assumed I could eat. Well, I ate and only after when I counted the days on the calendar did I realize that there was in fact one more day of fasting. It wasn’t my fault, but I should have checked before eating…oh well, 29 days is close enough, and it’s not like I ate because I couldn’t handle fasting, there was just a bit of miscommunication.

Although I haven’t actually started working yet, I have planned out a few projects and am eager to get started as soon as the timing right ( I know that sounds lame, but keep reading and you’ll understand). Firstly, I plan to have a nutrition table at the “petite marche” in my village. I will be giving out samples of healthy meals I prepare using locally available foods and want to make the same dishes families currently eat but make them more nutritious. For example, I can make a simple rice and sauce dish without oil or salt and adding more vegetables to boost flavor. I am hoping to reduce hypertension and malnutrition by teaching the women why these simple changes make meals better and by giving a sample of how the food would taste the women might actually believe me.  I will also give demonstrations on how to make some new meals if any women are interested. Right now there is really no market (besides the larger one outside of town) because of the rains, but once the weather improves in the next month or so the women will start selling the vegetables and other wares and I can start educating them on healthy food prep : )
I am also planning on starting a small youth group with teen boys and girls (5 each, maybe) to discuss difficult and taboo issues in a safe, confidential environment. I want to cover serious concerns such as relationships, sex education, and female circumcision, as well as lighter topics like education, future goals, and life in general. I am hoping to use the members of my group as peer educators to give talks in the schools about important questions youth may have regarding health or anything else. In addition, I would like the club to put on skits for village illustrating some of the issues we cover, allowing the youth to express their opinions to elders in a culturally acceptable way. This project is on hold until school starts in October, because the majority of teens from my village are visiting family or doing summer school activities in some of the cities.
My third project is moringa education and distribution to families in my village. Moringa is a tree that can grow pretty much anywhere and is super easy to raise and very hard to kill. The leaves have all the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy growth and development for children and can lower blood pressure for adults (in addition to some other stuff). I have planted twelve trees at my health center from which I plan to harvest the leaves and sell to raise money for the health center (to buy a generator so women can give birth with some light instead of just candles—trust me, that’s not as romantic as it may sound). I am also going to use the leaves to make sauces and breads to give out at the above mentioned nutrition table so women can have a better idea of how to use the leaves. I am drawing up a design of a moringa tree illustrating all the health benefits to paint on the wall at the health center next month and have started growing 40 more trees to distribute to families when I discuss how to use the plant.
Finally, I have started planning a pre and post survey about malaria and use of bet nets to administer to people in my village and surrounding neighborhoods which I will use to monitor how malaria morbidity and mortality are affected after bed nets are distributed. This will be a long term project spanning pretty much all the rest of my service and will count towards my Master’s degree. I am hoping to create my final version of the survey in the next week and then start visiting people to talk to them about malaria and gather some data. Over the next few months I will continue to pre-survey and then in April distribute the bed nets (provided by various NGOs) after which I will follow up with the same individuals and ask similar questions to see how bed nets made a difference for them. Hopefully the results of this survey will show something about how beneficial bed nets are at reducing malaria transmission, but we’ll see.

Other Exciting News
Well, the past few weeks have been pretty intense here at PC Guinea. For starters, four volunteers were sent back to the states for riding motorcycles. This may seem like a minor offence, but motos are incredibly dangerous here as no one wears helmets and there are virtually no rules on the road. It was made extremely clear to all volunteers that riding motorcycles would result in immediate expulsion from PC but people still do it all the time. Unfortunately this time PC found out. Actually, one volunteer got a burn from the moto muffler and went to the PCMO to have it looked at. When the PCMO asked the volunteer what happened, he (stupidly) told the truth. The PCMO was then required to tell the country director that a volunteer rode a moto as this is a serious offense. Well, the volunteer met with the country director and told her the WHOLE story, about how him and three other volunteers took motos to a farm and whatnot. As a result of his huge mouth all four of them are back in the states.
Unfortunately, my stage has also lost two other volunteers but as a result of medical separations rather than disciplinary rulings. Firstly, Aprille, a public health volunteer tore her Achilles tendon during in-service training in May and had to go home for surgery. Her treatment and recovery are beyond the 45 days allotted for medical hold and so she is no longer a volunteer, but there is a chance she can come back at some point in the near future, if she wants to, that is. Also, my friend Marissa, an agfo volunteer, has recently been medically separated for an unknown medical issue. She is now in the states working on getting a diagnosis. I’m not sure yet if there is any chance of her returning to Guinea.
On a more personal note, one rainy night during Ramadan someone tried to break into my house. He cut my screen door, but was unable to enter my house as the door was locked with a dead bolt. I slept through the whole thing and knew someone tried getting in when I saw the screen but didn’t think much of it. Later the next day my family told me someone broke into my brother’s house (which is right next to mine) and stole his cell phone, a good bit of money, and a pair of pants. I then told them about my screen and they said it was the same person. They then scared the hell out of me by saying that thieves came at night when it was raining to steal from people and told me to keep my door and windows closed no matter what. Needless to say I didn’t sleep very well for the next week, and even called my brother a few times to come see if someone was trying to break in. It’s easy to think you hear things when it’s raining and the wind is blowing (plus there’s a branch of palm fronds the scrapes against my tin roof and sounds a lot like someone trying to cut open a screen). The person who stole from my brother was caught; turns out he was just a teen visiting family in my village on vacation and he won’t be stealing again (most likely), so no need to worry, I’m ok!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

May Reading List

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
       Suzanne Collins

Called to Conakry by the PCMO: Weeks 14 and 17

Week 14

So the week before IST (in-service training) I journeyed to Conakry to visit the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) to discuss a couple health concerns. No big deal, should have taken only one appointment, but this is Guinea, and everything takes an unneccessarily long time. Tuesday I spoke with the PCMO and he decided I needed to have an echogram so off we went to a provate clinic downtown with a few other volunteers (one needed an x-ray because she injured her ankle). While waiting at the clinic I decided to have a little snack and proceeded to eat a bit of bread with cheese (not real cheese, just laughing cow). As I was on my last bite, I was called into the exam room, where the tech yelled at me for eating, saying she couldn't get an image now. Well, that sucked, especially because I was not told I couldn't eat. An hour later the tech tried the imaging and it was ok, but they needed to confirm what they saw was from food and not actually a medical concern.

After the other volunteers where finished with their appointments, we went to a fancy French restaurant (Le Damier) for lunch. I had an amazing mushroom and chicken quiche, a fruit tart, and ice cream. It was pretty expensive, but after months of rice and fishy sauce it was definitely worth it!

That evening, Julie (CD) and her husband Paul took all the volunteers in Conakry (about 7 of us ) out to dinner at San Remo's a pizza place not far from the PC compound. It was a great time and everyone swapped pieces of pizza so we could all try the different kinds. The outing was made even better when Julie picked up the tab for all of us, a very welcome surprise!

The next day, the three of us ventured off to our appointments with the PCMO, where Wiatta (hurt ankle) got a cast for her "sprained ankle" and I had another echogram which luckily showed no problems. Clara was unable to see the doctor because he decided not to work that day, nice huh?

When we were done we had the Peace Corps driver drop us off at Le Damier again for ice cream and croissants. The restaurant has a great atmosphere and stepping inside is like being transported out of Guinea and into the Western world. Of course we were a little out of place; sweat pants and t-shirts made us stick out when everyone else was wearing sleek dresses with heels and suits with ties. The staff, however, was very kind and a few of them new PC staff and so they gave us fresh squeezed juice (mango!) while we waited. From here, we met up with Janice (a PCRV who was leaving Guinea in the next few days) and the four of us had Chinese for lunch (needless to say it was incredible!)

That afternoon all PC Guinea volunteers received a text message from Julie, the Country Director, informing us of protests in Conakry due to upcoming legislative elections. We were told not to travel around Conakry and were pretty much limited to the PC compound. This warning carried over to the next two days making it impossible for us to keep our doctors' appointments. By Friday evening the protests had stopped and everything was back to normal in the city. A few more volunteers came to visit and we were able to venture out for dinner altogether (piza again!).

Sunday we all got on the PC bus and headed off to Mamou for IST.

Week 17

After IST a few volunteers, including myself, took a taxi back to Conakry for doctors' appointments and/or the quarterly visit we are allowed every 3 months. We left Mamou about 12:30 and made it to Conakry around 7:30 pm. Fortunately we were able to "de place" a taxi, meaning we found an empty taxi and paid for all the seats; there were seven of us and we found a car for 9 people (normally it's 2 people in the passenger's seat, 4 people in the middle, and 3 people in the far back seat) so we were at least comfortable on the trip. About 3 hours into the drive we ran into a traffic jam. This turned out to be the result of a damaged bridge which was in the process of being rebuilt.Yes, it was being built right then and there with hundreds of cars waiting on both sides to cross. We waited about 1.5 hours, during the hottest part of the day; oh, did I mention I also had a kitten with me?! (more on the cat in the next post) Once we crossed the bridge (super sketchy, basically just a couple metal sheets welded onto the existing framwork of bridge) it was smooth sailing for another hour or so. A little bit later, as our driver was speeding through a narrow road with a little market on the side, we rear ended a "patron" (wealthy person living in Guinea). Our driver tried to slow down and swerve, but there was a car coming the other way who sped up so we couldn't pass. So, the front passenger's side of our taxi hit the rear driver's side of the SUV and the patron flipped out and punched our driver in the face. There was hardly any damage to either car (taxi's are beat up anyway, most are literally falling apart) and no one was hurt; in fact, the kitten was sleeping on my lap all the while and didn't wake up once during the whole ordeal. After this, our driver seemed a bit more cautious, although we was driving very fast despite the fact that the brakes were not the best; from here we made it into Conakry in one piece.

This week in Conakry was pretty much the same as the last; a bunch of doctors' appointments and really awesome food. I ate pizza five times in addition to the delicious quiche from Le Damier. We made Mexican one night and a mango pie. At Le Damier I also tried a couple sandwiches: ham and swiss, and avocado, shrimp, and swiss. Both were amazing and I wish I could have them all the time.

The visits to the doctor went well and by Wednesday I was cleared to go back to site; although I don't really have any answers for my health problems, I know there is nothing seriously wrong, so we will see what happens. This, however, is not the case for one of my PC friends, Aprille, a fellow PH volunteer. She hurt her leg/ankly playing baskball during IST and had to see an orthopedic surgeon. The x-ray showed there was no fracture, but all her symptoms indicated a rupture to the Achille's tendon.

Aprille was medically evacuated to the US Thursday evenening to many hugs and a few tears, with little hope that she will be back (we only have 45 days for a med-evac before we either have to come back to Guinea or be medically separated from PC). At least Aprille will get the treatment she needs, but it is very unfortunate that her PC service is ending so soon, only three months in.

Today I leave Conakry for Boke and then tomorrow go back to site. I am glad to be going back, but after four weeks away from village it might be a little rough getting back into the sing of things. Luckily I have a few projects planned and I am excited to get under way and actually start working!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Time for a Vacation! Bel Air: Week 13


This week I took a mini vaca to visit my friend Megan, a fellow public health volunteer. She lives about 30 km from a beach resort, Bel-Air, which is one of the most touristy places in Guinea. Marissa, Phillip, and I stayed a couple nights with Megan in her village and got to meet a bunch of her friends and visit the health center where she is working. It was really cool seeing the diferences between my site and hers and having a chance to talk about projects we are working on.
Saturday we went to a fancy hotel in Bel-Air to check out the beach. The water was crystal clear, and the beach was white sand with tons of cool shells. Best part--no seaweed!! The weather was perfect, hot and sunny without a cloud in the sky and the water was cool and refreshing. It was an ideal beach day and things could not have been better...until lunch.
So the hotel we were visting is pretty expensive and we had kind of high expectations as far as buying food goes. When we tried to order for lunch they only had a few options including salads, sandwiches, and a few other things. No problem, we all found something that sounded appetizing and we placed our order. About thirty minutes later a server comes up to us on the beach and says their refridgerator hasn't been working and so they can only make a tuna sandwich, and it was going to be expensive. Well, after much deliberation, we decided to forgo lunch altogether and just ate a little left over bread and mango jam we had from breakfast. Despite this setback, the day was very relaxing, and a successful beach trip. I am definitely looking forward to going back : )

Some Pictures!!


Making rice at the primary school..three pots of rice, one full of sauce

shredding gumbo to add to the rice

students washing bowls

rice with gumbo, ready for serving

cooking hut at chez Kadiatou

rice and sauce ingredients

tub o' peanut butter

washing rice

mixing peanut butter with water for sauce

onions and piment ready for piler-ing

piler-ed pepper and onion

rice and peanut sauce cooking

lunch is served!!

river separating Bintimodia from Katangoro

our new bridge...and yes, it is as sketchy as it looks.

across the bridge, walking to katangoro

laundry day...bedding is the worst to wash 

all clean!

Lamar pumping my water at the hospital

freshly painted living room!'s not as clustered as it looks, actually it's pretty spacious.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bean Sandwiches and Fish Balls: Weeks 11 and 12


April 18, 2012

Today Mr. Diallo, the principal of the school/Kadiatou's dad, asked me if I would teach a few math classes a few days a week. After looking over the schedule I decided I probably could do it, even though math is not my strongest subject, to say the least. As if he could tell I was wavering about what I should do, Mr. Diallo then offered me the option of teaching English instead. Clearly I am much more comfortable with this and so I agreed. Now I will be teaching 7th grade and 8th grade English, each once a week.

This afternoon I looked at Kadiatou's English notebook to see what the 8th grade has learned so far. First of all, the last English class she had was in December, so pretty much anything she may have learned, she probably lost. Although this sucks for the students, it makes lesson-planning soooo much easier for me; I can just start at the beginning, which I plan to do, using the same model as for my revision class.

April 19, 2012

Well, today was my first day teaching English for the 8th grade. It went well, although it was a little overwhelming. There are about 45 students in the class (remember, my revision had only about 7) and they all talked at once and asked a million questions. However, the students were all kind, and listened to me and I think they actually understood what I was trying to teach. I felt a little bad at the end, because I told them I plan to give an exam next week, after having only one class in which we covered A LOT of material, but no one complained, and so I hope they are prepared next week.

April 21, 2012

Since I haven’t been working at the hospital, I’ve been spending my days selling bean sandwiches with my host mom. These are awesome sandwiches, simple baked beans on French bread with a sauce made from oil, onions, and I think mashed up fish (it doesn’t really taste fishy, so I’m not sure). They are a nice change from rice and sauce and so I enjoy having them for breakfast each morning. Yesterday my mom also started selling “banti” or meat balls made from fish. These are also delicious, although they take a little getting used to since they are made with the bones of the fish in addition to the meat. Banti are made with mashed rice, onions, mashed whole fish (literally the whole fish, but with the head cut off), and hot pepper. Some people sell these fish balls with a hot pepper/water sauce, which is delicious and is actually what I prefer, although my mother cooks the banti in the pepper water rather than serving it in it.

Each morning I get up around 6:30 to help my mom prepare the beans and fish balls and then we carry everything over the school to sell to students and teachers. It is a nice way to pass the morning because I can talk with my student friends and see the professors I work with (namely Mr. Soumah, my Susu teacher). In the afternoons, once school is out, I help Kadiatou prepare the rice for her family and spend time with her brothers and sister. I feel more a part of their family than my own sometimes, so this is a pleasant way to pass the day. Once the food is finished and we have all eaten, Kadiatou and I get water from the pump and then I head home for the evening.  Mostly I hang outside with my sister,  Namina, and my mom has to cook the beans and prepare the fish balls for the next morning (these things take a couple hours to make so it’s necessary to prep them at night so their ready for cooking the next morning). Sometimes, when Namina has finished her chores and cooking the “cookies” she sells, we walk to the port where a bridge is being built connecting Bintimodia to Katangoro, a neighboring village. I like seeing the progress of the bridge and its nice to be at the river in the sunset hours.


April 23, 2012

Today I had my first Susu class in about 3 weeks. Mr. Soumah was impressed that I remembered most of what he taught me, and that I have learned new things in the interim. The class progressed smoothly and when we were about finished I received a telephone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I noticed the country code was not from Guinea, so I was curious as to who was calling me and so I answered (normally I would just call back after class, that is the respectful thing to do, after all). Well, it’s a good thing I answered, because it was Raychel calling from Tanzania! It was so great to hear from her and share our PC experiences so far. It was an awesome surprise to get that call, and I look forward to talking with her, and others, again.

April 24, 2012

Every Tuesday there is a “petite marche” in my village where women sell vegetables, food (KeKe, bean sandwiches, etc.), and shoes, amongst other things. It is very small, but everyone comes to buy various things for meals and whatnot. Today was my first time experiencing the market, and it was rather exciting. Let me begin by saying I ate a ton of food. Before 10 am I had already eaten a bean sandwich, keke (shaved manioc with a little sauce and stuff), an avocado salad sandwich, about 6 fish balls, and a couple bonbons glacees. I was stuffed and happy, and could honestly not think of a better place to be at that time than selling beans and banti with all the other women talking in Susu.

Later in the morning, the chef of the health center gave a short talk about the importance of treating water and drinking only this water because there was a recent cholera outbreak in Kamsar, with two deaths as a result. The women all stopped their work and listened attentively while the chef went on about this; but once he was finished, it was back to business and chatting, just like women everywhere.

Today was also my first day teaching English to the 7th grade. I decided to give the same lesson as I gave the previous Thursday to the 8th grade. Everything was going well, except for a few disrespectful students, who apparently give all the other teachers a hard time too. This class is smaller than the 8th grade (about 25-30 students) but it is wayyy more challenging. No one understood anything, or so they said, and no one listened at all. I ended up cutting the lesson a little short because I could tell the students had checked out, and honestly, I had had enough. Hopefully next week goes better, now that I know what to expect from them.

April 26, 2012

Today I gave an exam to the 8th grade English class. It was awful. The class average was a 10 out of 20. The highest grades were a 19 and 18, but I’m fairly certain these students cheated, as I know the smartest kid only got a 16.5.  I gave a written part, which went ok, and an oral questioning, which went horribly.

Firstly, all the students were talking throughout the whole exam. Second, hardly anyone knew the answers to the oral exam. Thirdly, half the class cheated on the bonus I gave because they were all listening in on the oral exam. This was all very discouraging, but I made it through, and definitely have a better plan for the next time.

Grading papers was again slightly upsetting, once I realized how badly most students did, but this is normal, and I know education is not valued here and so this occurrence is not unique to my class. I was happy with some students, who I know, and who did well, namely Kadiatou who earned a 15.5. Once I got the last few papers, though, I realized there was a major case of cheating. One student’s paper had two different handwritings on it; one belonging to the girl whose test it was, and the other belonging to Kadiatou. I asked Kadiatou if she sat next to this girl, to which she said no. I then asked if this girl is a good student, and Kadiatou replied not particularly. I then flat out asked if Kadiatou helped her with her test, to which she, again, said no. I then told her I knew she did because her handwriting was on the test and the answers she wrote were wrong and unique to her own test. She then admitted that she wrote those answers in to help her friend. I told her they would both receive zeros, because cheating is unacceptable. I feel badly about this, but I know it is right and for the best.