for Marines to be posted to - up there with Afghanistan and Baghdad
and other war-torn countries. Guinea itself isn't war-torn, and it's
certainly not a dangerous place to be. But the level of infrastructure
is so vastly different from what we're used to in the States that just
being posted to this country is considered a hardship for military
personnel (and perhaps for others, as well.) I'll admit that I forget
sometimes just how extreme of a jump I've made from life aux Etats
Unis to here. My cellphone and ipod get charged off someone's
generator every 4th day or so, when the sun goes down I have a tin can
that I knifed into a candle holder, during the day I often spend hours
at a time sitting on cardboard boxes swatting at flies and chatting
with a friend, and every 3 weeks or so I splurge and take a 2 hour
taxi ride to a place with Internet just good enough to check email and
see what you all have been doing on Facebook.
Thinking of my life back in the States, and all the things available
at my fingertips, I feel sick sometimes thinking of what we take for
granted. Did you know highlighters don't exist in this country? My
director gave me her only highlighter, which is several years old but
still going strong. We even discussed how to use it to stretch the ink
to its farthest capabilities. Remember when it was just a matter of
going to the grocery store or the student bookstore and buying a
3-pack for $2? I've been abusing my parents and their willingness to
send me things, but the truth is that daily life really is harder to
get through when you don't have cinnamon.
Despite the slower pace of life, I'm bursting at the seams with ideas
to keep myself busy. I came in to the capitol, Conakry, for the
weekend so that I could work on some projects (and party for St.
Patrick's day, of course!) I picked up a handful of moringa seeds
(Guinea's wonder tree! so much nutritional value, and grows like a
weed! If I take care of these seeds, I can have 20 ft tall trees by
this time next year). Got a new water filter - up to #4 now, here's
hoping this last one doesn't have any problems! Got a bunch of
official paperwork filled out and ready to turn it. And all weekend
I've been typing up and editing a manual for future volunteers when
they first get to site, offering Martha Stewart house cleaning tips,
jokes, and general support as they get through those very trying first
few weeks out of the bubble. It's called Pas du Panique, and is part
of a larger peer support network that another volunteer and I are
trying to resuscitate. Our opportunities, even within just the Peace
Corps bubble, are endless here since the program's just been
restarted. We're basically picking up the scraps of the old program
and patching together a brand new Peace Corps Guinea.
One unfortunate change to the PCG program that none of us were
expecting - my sector, CED, has been shut down. Since the program in
our country is rather small, the directions came from DC that we had
to narrow down our focus and train volunteers to very specific
strengths. So really, it's more like the objectives and activities of
the CED program have been absorbed by the agroforestry program, which
will become more of an agribusiness sector now. The next stage of
extension volunteers (that's me! along with public health and agfo)
will only have PH and Agro volunteers, but luckily, it doesn't effect
any of the work that I'll be doing. I barely sneaked in past the
cut-off, the same way I got admitted to college in the days before
Western asked for an application essay!
Still mountain biking like crazy. The other day my sitemate and I took
our bikes across the river and went adventuring on an island. When we
get tired of biking, we headed out to the beach and rested our pasty
hides on a white sand beach, eating mangos and watching the tide roll
out. Site can be stressful, adjusting to this life in Guinea is
sometimes near impossible, but fortunately I have numerous "escapes"
within easy reach to help me refresh and readjust my perspective.
Oh, should probably mention that I don't have a cat anymore. He ran
away/ never came home about 2 weeks ago. Yes, I cried when I realized
he wasn't coming home. No, I won't be getting another.
Miss you all! I'm slowly duct taping all the photos I brought with me
to the walls of my house, so your smiling faces encourage and support
me at all hours of the day.