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Saturday, July 21, 2012

What's Been Happening

They always told me that life au village moved at a different pace, but seeing as I'm inherently slow-moving and easy-going, I didn't realize how much I'd fallen into and accepted that pace as normal. That is, until I went to Kindia a few weeks ago to work on a project collaboration.

Kindia, for background, is a huge city a few hours outside of Conakry. There's a university and agricultural research center. It's the home of several major NGO's operating within Guinea. All the random household products that I dream of making shopping trips to Fria to buy, such as bleach, oatmeal, and Nutella, are freely available in every boutique. There are internet cafes that not only have reliable connection, but have -wireless- access. (We sat at a neighboring restaurant and stole free wifi while eating. It was a very confusing and disorienting experience.) There's even a soft-serve ice cream machine across the street from my friend's workplace!

Basically, Kindia is the mecca.

The reason I'd gone out there was pretty simple - Koba has no electricity, and I needed to use computers to prepare a presentation. Some field agents from AGUIDEP, a fellow volunteer's counterpart organization, came out to Koba, tracked me down, and very excitedly asked me to work with them and a local women's cooperative. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! AGUIDEP already has helped this cooperative form accounting books, organized and solidified positions within the groupement, and is helping them purchase a machine to mass-produce red palm oil (a very thick oil used in nearly every Guinean dish). We decided that my input would be to present a training session on marketing. Over the course of a month I went through every material on marketing I had, and started to organize the presentation. In the beginning of July I went out to Kindia to work in AGUIDEP's offices and finalize the materials. I would be presenting as a team with one of the field agents, Ba, who would then be responsible for translating everything into Susu. We spent the whole morning and into the early afternoon sitting in what used to be a kitchen, now an office space, hammering out the details of our presentation. When we were done, we celebrated with soft-serve. =)
The materials may not look like much, but trust, the content was stellar!
This same weekend I found a fat little puppy living in the back corner of AGUIDEP's parking lot. She was healthy and happy with her sister, dry and protected in a sheltered corner. Naturally I bought a large piece of fabric and a bucket and kidnapped her. This puppy was a dream dog - she snuffled and sighed a bit, then fell asleep in my arms. She never whined, never cried, just accepted the new card fate had dealt her and turned to me as her new family.   
A neighbor kid carrying Yassa like a baby.
The next week I gave the marketing presentation! A crowd of 22 people showed up, sitting around on wooden benches and sharing roasted peanuts. We spent just over 2 hours together, drawing pictures, giving examples, testing each other on the concepts, and handing out cough drops as candy for exceptionally good answers. It was my first formation given in Guinea, but the experience went so well - on my end, as the nervous presentor speaking in her 2nd language, which was then translated to a 3rd, and on the cooperative's end, in terms of their satisfaction with and understanding of the material - that we're already looking for other opportunities to work together. The cooperative's next step is to install a sign at the intersection to their neighborhood of a lady holding a bidon of red oil. It makes my heart proud to see marketing in action! Though the field agents for AGUIDEP are only in town a few weekends each month, we're keeping in touch and the future looks bright!

This lady was not only a spitfire during the training, but she nailed the concepts when quizzed.
On the downside, though, that adorable wonderful puppy got run over by a moto last Wednesday evening. I was taking her to my sitemate's house to watch her for the weekend while I came in to Conakry. Yassa ran out into the road in-transit, and there were a few horrified seconds while I watched stunned as I knew what was going to happen but could do nothing to stop it. She ran into the road, and didn't even notice she was in danger. The moto thought this was a Guinea dog and that she'd move, and when she didn't, neither did he. (Pedestrians, and pets, absolutely do not have the right of way in this country. Thinking that car will stop because you're crossing the street can be a fatal error) After she'd been run down, the moto kept going. I sat and cried in the road while Guineans swarmed and watched the fote cry. Eventually my neighbors came out to see what was going on, and they herded me back to the house and buried my dog.

So, July's been a month full of ups and downs. Work is going superbly well - I'm hoping to have even more to report, but less time to do so, in the coming months. And I'm done with pets in this country.

Waterfalls in the rainy season are real nice.