Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy New Years!

So you are probably thinking it's a bit too early to say Happy New Years, but well we celebrated New Years last night because we all haevt o leave for our sites tomorrow, thus we will not be spending New Years together. We threw one hell of a party last night...I am not sure I remember half the night though...I woke up at 5:30AM on the living room coach, showered, and did verbal reasoning problems for like an hour...comes to show what a nerd I am.

Anyways we are all heading back to site tomorrow because although things are safe in Conakry from what I can see....they still want us to get back to our sites as a precaution because if anything is to happen with the government change, we would all be safer in our villages than conakry. Things have been pretty peaceful in Conakry though. The military appointed a new president which people seem happy with. So things are looking good.

I don't really mind spending new years at site and in a way I am excited to go back to site because I have a lot of projects to start working on . I will be starting to teach 5th and 6th grade females some basic english and I will also begin planning female sensibilizations with Barry an NGO representative who lives in my village.

At the end of January is In service training which will last for a week. All the PC volunteers will meet from my stage to discuss secondary projects and get some additional language training in either french or local language. I really hope to work more on my local language when i go to site now. I want to become semi conversational in it.

Okay well that is all for now.

till next time!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

NOthing like a military coup to put you in the Christmas spirit!

Wow it has been a long time since i have updated this. Its difficult because i do not have internet access in my site (or electricity for that matter) and I am only in Labe maybe once a month with limited internet access.

Anyways right now I am in Conakry for the Christmas and New Years celebrations. As many of you might know by now Lasana Conte (president of Guinea) passed away Monday night. Right now the military has taken over the government. Things are relatevely peaceful here and I honestly do not feel that my safety is being threatened in anyway. A lot of stores are closed and I guess now the military has imposed a curfew of 7PM. I mean it doesnt affect us volunteers because we are on standfast which means that we are not allowed to leave the peace corps compound in Conakry at all. Some volunteers are stuck in their sites for christmas. So it is a bit sad, but we are all safe which is all that matters. Oh and I just found out that the military apparently announced a new president and apparently the people of Guinea are happy with the it could be that this all ends peacefully.

It really doesnt feel like Christmas eve. I think its the heat though well and the fact that Its my first Christmas away from home. At this time back home I would be helping mom cook in the kitchen. Either way though we decorated the peace corps house for christmas and have been singing Christmas carols and such.

Site has been really good. I love my site actually. I mean not only is it in a naturally beautiful location, but also the people are great. I have a host family taht lives about 50 feet behind me. Well its the principal and his four wives and about a million kids. I eat with them on most evenings. I have grown somewhat close to the four wives. The second wife is called Madame BInta and she is a primary school teacher. During my first two weeks at site she helped me a lot with learning pular and finding my way around the market. The children come to my house often to play or just say hello. It's nice. I know I can turn to them with just about any issue I may be having and they will take care of it. For example the one evening there was a huge bug in my room that I was scared to kill. I dont know what it was. This huge black bugs with giant i went to my host families house and told my host mother. She got out of bed and went to my house to kill the bug...I was embarassed when she told me the bug was absolutely harmless, but at least i could sleep in peace knowing that I didnt have thisfrightening bug next to my bed.

Teaching has been the hardest part of being at site. I am teaching Chemistry 7th to 10th grade. I am also teaching physics to 7th grade since my school does not have a physics teacher. In addition I will be teaching some english classes to primary school students...just some basic salutations because there is an American organization that donates money to the primary school here and I guess they are coming to visit my site and the director of the primary school wants the students to be able to great them in English. So i agreed to teach a couple classes to them. I am also teaching basic english to Centro NAFA which is this small school also established by the organization. It is for students who do not start school before the age of 10 because their parents cant afford it. So they stay in this school for 3 years and then they graduate and enter primary school at the 5th or 6th grade level before going to middle school. The kids are really cure. Last wednesday they all came to class with oranges and maniocs and formed this huge pile in front o the class and told me it was for me.

The hard part of teaching i think is partially the discipling...but also just the lack of motivation of the students. There are so many of them and its just hard to get them to care about any of the stuff i teach them, Also theya re not used to thinking logically...they are used to memorizing things but not coming up with their own answers. So its difficult to get them to think for themselves . If I ask a question in class they will respond word for word what i gave them in their notes...there is no understanding of the material though. Also the students are always late...I usually dont erally get started with class until 8:30....teachers are also late. They are supposed to be there by 7:40 but most dont get there until closer to 8, but actually my school is one of the better cases. The lack of resources is also frustrating because you want to show them cool demonstrations but its hard to find chemicals. Also its difficult to keep the kids from cheating. I gave out a total of 40 zeros to by 7th and 8th grade classes for cheating during a test...I was so angry with them. I had them write over and over that they would not cheat...the second test i gave to my seventh grade there were only 2 zeros i gave maybe things are improving.

I am starting to feel comfortable at site...I will now wear pants around my site without feeling slf conscious about it. I actually asked my host mom if it was okay before i did it just because i didnt want to be disrespectful. She said no one would care. I get funny looks from kids sometimes, but no one gives me a hard time about wearing pants. They just think I am a bit weird.

Okay well I am going to go and see what is going on for christmas dinner. Oh yeah It is almost my 6th month anniversary in Guinea....crazy! I can still remember my first few days in philly for orientation. We now have a new group of volunteers that arrived early this month. I cant believe we arent then new guys anymore. Time is flying by.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So I have been informed that I will not be moving into my site until thursday because of the end of Ramadan festivities. This is cool with me since I think it would have been hectic to move in during the festivities anyways. SO I am in Labe for another night. It is kind of nice to get that extra day to relax before moving in .

Today I went shopping for even more stuff that I will need at my site. I bought a tea kettle and some more plastic storage baskets. I really have no idea what I am doing. I have never really lived by myself before and I dont even know what my house looks like so it makes it kind of hard to buy things/. THat and the fact that buying anything here requires a semi chaotic search in the market where you must constantly keep your eyes open for pick pockets.

I am somewhat excited to be moving into my village soon and also really nervouse. I have this semi irrational fear of starvation , I have no idea why,,,well maybe its because I have never lived in a placed before where i cannot just walk down the block and buy food or open my fridge and have tons of food stored. I mean the idea of having to bike however many kilometeres once a week to buy food scares me and what if i run out of food in the middle of the week then what. I know it is an irrational fear because if worse comes to worse, guineans are very hospital people and i could just eat with my host family, but i am still a bit paranoid...perhaps its the malaria medication kicking in again. Yes the mefloquine medication I am in def. makes me have irrational anxiouty and hallucinations....I mean it is nothing out of control...but it definetely does happen. Last night I was convinced that another volunteer had given me a blancket with a spider on it and i kept looking for the spider for like hours...i would wake up and keep thinking the spider was going to bite wasnt until morning that i was able to rationalize that there was no spider and that no one had offered me a blanket in the middle of the nite....this is like the third time i have nightmares with spiders....and the thing is that i never really had an irrational fear of spiders to begin who knows. I also get insomnia from the medication...personally i prefer the hallucinations.

I dont know the next time i will update this because i dont think i will be in labe again until thanksgiving. some people are coming down for halloween but i dont think i will be able to. chances are i wont be able to update until christmas in conakry because thanksgiving is a short break and i wont have the time i am sure.

I feel that i need an amusing story, there is this giant cow that always hangs out in the middle of a main road in labe...he was there when i came for site visit...and he is still there now. It is like in the center of the traffic circle eating god knows what....I am surprised that with all the crazy motorist there are here, it hasnt gotten run over yet...

okay i should go...tired of sitting in the internet cafe....i want to go get some delicious riz gras....until next time

Friday, September 26, 2008

I am a PCV now!

I swore in as volunteer today at the American Embassy in Conakry!! The ceremony itself was pretty short and not that exciting, but our spirits are all very high. ALl 25 of the G-16 made it through Preservice training and I coudlnt be more proud of us. I really could not have picked a better group of 25 people to have spent the last three months with. As Conor said in his french speech today..really the perfect blend of quite and outgoing people.

I know I have not written in this thing in forever, but in Forecariah I did not have internet access and although I was in Labe during my site visit, I didnt uise the internet for a long enough time I update the blog and in all honesty it ios just an overwhelming task because there is just so much to be said.

Okay I guess I should talk a little about my site. I cannot specify it location due to PC policy but I can say that I am in the Fuota region of Guinea which means it is mountainous and very cool...when I was there for my site visit I was actually freezing cold at night and i had to wear a hoody...i told my mom to send me a few long sleeve shirts and a jacket. I love my site. The people seem to be very hospitable and the site itself is beautiful. It is a very small village in the mountains with houses that are spread out. I do not have a market but will have to bike a couple kilometers every week to do grocery in my neighboring villages. When I went for my site visit they were renovating the college and ecole primaire. They were also building me a new house which consist of two small rooms and an indoor latrine/shower. It seemed like it would be a cute house with a small porch and it is also fenced in which makes me happy because I think I will be getting a goat at site.

As for Forecariah,,..we had our farewell ceremony on Wednesday and in all hoestly I was happy to leave. I mean I should first say that I really appreciate the hospitality of the people, but I am ready to live on my own. As nice as my host family was I really just look forward to being able to cook my own meals and have my own place to unpack and do what I want with it. I dont usuallyu like having to depend on others all the time for food and such.

My family consisted of mom and dad, a teenage sister, an 8 year old girl, and a 3 year addition there was an uncle, aunt, 5 year old boy, 3 cousins, and a baby who came and went from my house in intervals...we always had guest and it took me a long time to figure out how everyone was related...I personally did not become very close to my familyu. I mean I guess I didnt spend a lot of time with them. They named me Zenape after my 8 year old sister who was a really cute little girl. The three year old used to be scared of me. For the first three weeks you would scream when she saw me, but she grew to love me. I usually had my meals alone because my eating schedule was different than theirs and they usually just served me in a separate bowl while they ate from a common bowl with their hands. I never argued with this. I mean you really do get to choose as a volunteer how much of the culture you want to adapt and while I do not mind eating from a common bowl with my hands if need be, I prefer to eat with a spoon. My family spoke susu most of the time....well all the time to each other which sometimes made it a bit awkward for me...I mean eventually I got used to it and felt more comfortable.

Probably my favorite thing to do with the family was watch them cook. Well that is the women in the family since the men usually sat around talking. I enjoyed sitting in the cooking hut having them try to explain what they were cooking or ask me questions like "Do you have rice in the USA?"

However in all honesty...during preservice training i bounded a lot more with fellow stagiars than with my family and I don't have any regrets for it. Your fellow volunteers provide a support network for you for the next two years you are in country. They really have become like a second family which probably sounds really cliche, but its a fact. Many of these people i feel that I have known for many years now and its hard to believe that we have only known each other for like 3 months. So I think its important to bond with other volunteers during the first three months of training...once you go to your site you will have 2 years to bond with other Guineans (which i am looking forward to a lot) but you will already have those volunteers you bonded with at staging as a support group when things get rough...which they will.

That being said, there are some volunteers who did become somewhat close to their host families...I mean it really all depends.

So right now I am in Conakry and in about in hour I will be heading to the Country Directors house for a pool party and barbecue...tonight we will also party in the volunteer house to celebrate our new status as PCVs...then tomorrow we shall roast a pig to celebrate our last night together....I will leave conakry on Monday and I think I arrive at my site on Wednesday which is the end of Ramadan feast. I am excited and also really nervous because it will be the first time in my life that I am completely alone in a village with no one who really speaks my language...I mean my French is obviosuly better now, but I am no where near fluent and I still do not speak Pular which is the local language of my village.

School will begin the 15th of october so i will have some time to get my house ready before school starts. I will be going shopping for pots and stuff tomorrow. Oh yeah during PST we had practice school where we taught two hours a day 7-10th was quite an experience. My students were good for the most part...sometimes a little disrespectful, but for the most part good kids. Teaching them made me realize how much they are lacking math skills, but even more much they are lacking logical thinking skills and the ability to apply knowledge rather than just memorize. They will memorize tons of notes, but will not understand any of it which makes it really frustrating and a challenge to teachers who ask for more than just memorization.

So yeah...I am really happy with the way things are right now. I feel like even in just three months of being here I have discovered so much about myself as in individual and I will continue to discover new things I am sure.

OKay well i will get going...I will try to update more often but cannot promise anything since i do not have internet near my site.

till next time

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The End of Orientation orientation is offcially over today...meaning we are finally done with all the "this is our policy, break it and be kicked out" talk and we are finally going to begin the actual training etc...

So far my days in Guinea have been spent at the Peace Corps house in Conakry under air conditioning, americanized food, few mosquitos and overall a lot of time spent with people who speak my language etc...

Meaning life has been easy...

tomorrow however I along with other volunteers will be adopted into a Guinean family in an adoption ceremony involving dancing and food....I think. I will me living with them for the next three months. These people will help me to learn more about Guinean culture and also helo to integrate into a community and learn the language.

I am feeling very excited right now adn also very anxious and nervous. I am worried about the fact that I will hardly be able to communicate with them. I am nervous to mess up and offend them. Yet at the same time i know that this is exactly what i need. I absolutely need to receive a complete slap in the face and be thrown into the culture. I have come to realize that I will not be doing much growing and adapting if I remain where I am now which is a very comfortable environment for me.

On Tuesday I will begin classes which I think run from 8-5 every Monday-Friday and I think on Saturdays we have to do something or other also...

Orientation has been fun though. They treat us very well and they try their best to explain everything so we do not feel as nervous going into all of this. The people are very friendly as I have said before.

Let the challenge begin!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 I come!

I finally am taking the time to post a very quick blog entry. I am currently in Philly getting ready to catch my bus to JFK airport and fly out to Guinea West Africa. The past two days of staging have been pretty good. They mostly covered safety and security issues mixed in with some role playing, drawing, storytelling...oh yes and body sculptures.

I am in the G-16 group. There are 25 of us all of which are science, math, or english teachers. We have two married couples and all of us are below the age of 30. There are two otehr spanish people besides myself--one from Ecuador and the other from Mexico. We also have two African Americans. Oh and a French guy. Everyone is extremely nice and I am really looking forward to working with these people.

Last night was my last night in the of course we decided to pick a hardcore American restaurant (well some of us did since the rest decided that Italian would be better)--we went to Chilis which is basically a wannabe foreign restaurant with a total American twist--perfect. We all headed out to the pub afterwards where they were having a Trivia challenge night. A certain person decided he would cheat his way through it--but it was all part of the 'information sharing' which the Peace Corps promotes.

Anyways...other people are waiting for the computer so I should get off. In 24 hours I will fly into Conakry!

I will try to post as much as I can, but I dont know what my internet access will be like so we'll see.

Au Revoir!