Friday, December 18, 2009

Transitional Blog Post

Alright, so this will be the final post in this blog (though many of you have probably already given up on it since it's been months since my last post). For those who don't know, I will be continuing on as a Volunteer in Liberia for the next 8 months or so starting in early January, then hopefully working in France - and after that....who knows. Because of this I have decided to end "Fed in Guinea" and transition to "Next Stop: Liberia" which is located at fedtravels.blogspot.com. This way, as I change countries in the future I can just change the blog title without needing to change the URL as well. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Updates on the Situation

So this morning we got the official word that we have suspended the Peace Corps Guinea program, which means I am definitely not returning to Bintimodia. Tomorrow morning our options will be presented to us for transfers, so I would assume I'll know what I'm doing with my life in a day or two (depending on how long it takes me to make up my mind, and/or negotiate end of contract dates with Peace Corps). The main issue is that a transfer would normally require a one-year commitment, and I'm not willing to commit until next November. If I can negotiate an earlier end-of-service date (my original date was set for June/July, but I would settle for as late as September), I may be moving to another program, most likely in West Africa.

I will definitely need to be somewhere else by this time next week, I will be forced to decide one way or the other (transfer or finish service early) by Friday, and will be a free citizen on Sunday if I choose to finish my service. I suppose that's enough info for now, I'll update this when I have concrete plans.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Evacuation

So by now most of my readers have probably given up on my blog since it's been so long since my last post, but I'll still use this avenue to let you all know what is happening with me (and the rest of Peace Corps Guinea).

With all that's happened, I'll start with September 28th, when after having finished training for the new group I made a trip out to visit my best friend Jarrad's village accompanied by another of my good friends Marg. Jarrad lives(lived) 85 km or so from Boké, on a pretty bad road (mostly rocks and potholes). We were lucky enough to find a car going out there early in the day and so by noon of the 28th we were in his village. We enjoyed the day, said hello to everyone, etc etc. Around 8pm we went to his principal's house to chat a bit, and (because we had heard rumors in the preceding week) I asked his principal "so, did anything happen in Conakry today?". This is when we found out that 60 people had been killed in violent protests and 5 of the main presidential candidates for the elections coming up in February had been attacked. Upon hearing this, we immediately went to the village "video club" - a generator-run TV that people crowd around for the evening news, soccer matches and/or pirated DVD movies. The state-run news program (gov't runs the radio and TV stations) started with a 10 minute lesson on the history of Guinea's independence almost 51 years ago, showed a 2 minute story of "violent protests" in Conakry which showed a lot of property damage, but didn't mention deaths. The remainder of the program (a good 20 minutes or so) was coverage of President Captain Moussa Dadis Camara's recent trip to Labé where (based on the televised proceedings) thousands of people seemingly showed up in support of Dadis, and where long-winded speaches were made by key community members all of which mentioned how great he was, and how nice it'd be if he stayed in power. People were very upset and demanded the channel be changed to the stations that broadcast out of France, but by the time the video-club owner did so the "France 24" coverage of Guinea was wrapping up.

The next day, Marg and I hiked with Jarrad up to his "reseau point" - the point nearest to his house where he can get cell phone reception (a 5-6 km hike uphill past a couple of wide ankle deep marshlands). When we got there we made a few calls to find out what the status of Peace Corps was at that point (we wanted to make sure we were allowed to travel back to Boké). We found out we could travel, and were worried we would be trapped in Jarrad's village with no cell phone access if that changed so we caught the first car out of his village that would take us.

The trip back to Boké was interesting, for starters we had to wait by the side of the road for about 3 hours before a car came that would take us (only one other car had passed on this road, but it was full). Once we were loaded into this mini-bus (think cargo van with wooden benches nailed to the floor of the cargo space so that 25+ people can sit in the back, windows are triangles cut out of the sides of the van) we started down the road. It took us over 8 hours to travel the 85 km back to Boké. This included a storm that poured down rain for about 4 hours (I was fortunate enough to be sitting directly under a hole in the roof of the car, so I was completely drenched within minutes and stayed that way the entire ride (my hands were so pruned up that the skin on the back of them was beginning to wrinkle by the time we got to Boké)). At one point (mercifully after the rain had abated) we got a flat tire, then we had to stop in the first village we saw to get the spare patched up in case we got another flat on the way. The fixing of the flat took over an hour, and it was cold enough to make me (and most everyone) shiver, but there was a lady cooking dinner for her family nice enough to let about 10 of us crowd around her cooking fire and warm up/dry out a bit. We made it into Boké around midnight, found out from the volunteers there that the unofficial story at that point was 157 people had been killed by the military in Conakry, then went to sleep. I woke up to my phone ringing at 2am, but was too asleep to get to it in time, I woke up again at 4am and this time managed to answer in time to let my (very worried) mother know that I was safe and that I would call her as soon as I was awake enough to explain the situation.

The next day I got a call from my director letting me know that my parents had called Peace Corps Washington worried about my well being and would very much like to hear from me. I never thought I'd be that volunteer....but there you go. I called my dad and filled him in, then called my mom to give her the rest of the story as well. I spent a day in Boké getting my bags packed again to go to my village, anticipating that I might be stuck there for the duration of this mess on "standfast" orders. The next day I caught a taxi back.

My taxi actually was going to a different village, but they dropped me off on the road 2k from my house (this is acually what happens about half the time I come back from Kamsar, I prefer to walk the 2k than wait for hours at the taxi depot). As I walked in with my bags people from my village seeing me for the first time in 3 months were so excited that I felt it necessary to stop and say hello to everyone who called out to me, as a result I was a tired, sweaty, but very welcomeded (i nu sene! i nu sene!) mess when I got to my house. I was sent two separate bowls of rice and sauce and a bag full of (very sour) oranges within a couple hours of arriving.

My house, as it had been sitting empty for so long, was a mess. Luckily mold didn't take over like it had in some of my friends houses, but the mice took their revenge on my 10 month period of keeping them in check. They ate through the plastic tub my margarine was in, through the plastic lid of my gatorade mix, the plastic lid of my oatmeal, etc etc. One even chewed a hole into the corner of my peanut oil bottle so that I found a big tacky puddle of oil with an empty bottle in the middle of it. They also tried eating my bar of soap, and chewed up one of my earbud cushions pretty badly. I also found several frogs and lizards had taken up residence in my house. Luckily it was all cleanable and repairable, and luckily the mice didn't find a way into my metal trunk where I keep my cheez-its.

Some of the village kids were showing up to chat with me, and so I put on my iPod's african mix over the speakers and started bringing things out for them to wash while I swept up and mopped my floors. I also got them to pick most of the weeds and sweep my porch so within a few hours my house was looking much better and the kids' energy level had dropped beyond the point of wanting to hang out with me any more that day. They got a hearty amount of Jolly Ranchers as payment.

I finished the evening by spending more time greeting people, then I crashed early (long day). The next morning I had started continuing cleaning my house up and unpack when I got a phone call letting me know that we were starting our evacuation procedure on order of the US State Department. I was told it was unlikely we would be exiting the country, but that we were getting the ball rolling just in case. This sort of killed my enthusiasm for house cleaning so I spent some time greeting some more people and hanging out with kids on my porch instead. A couple of days later I got a phone call letting me know officially that we would be leaving on Tuesday the 6th of October for Bamako, Mali on our evacuation.

After spending the little bit of time I had back in my village, this news was pretty awful. I had learned Susu, made friends, found people I trusted and cared about in my community and all that was all the more evident by the welcome they gave me, yet in 2 days I would be leaving again, and may never see any of them again. Most sadly, my best friend Corso was in Kindia, home for the summer break and wouldn't return for another week. I called him first to break the news and he was as upset about it as I was. I then went to my principal and told him what was happening and that I was going to Mali with the rest of Peace Corps and that I didn't think I'd be returning. In addition to me one other teacher wasn't going to be returning to our school this year (he's dying of some abdominal cancer, as best I can figure out from what's been told to me about his treatment), so our already overworked and underpaid school is going to be stretched so much thinner this school year. I gave all my chemicals to the French teacher Tavara Diallo who I gave a quick training on since he'll be teaching my classes this coming year.

I spent a pretty misrable couple of last days going through every emotion imaginable while packing up my bags. I forced myself to spend much of that time working on and finishing my world map (it's done, all countries labeled, list of people who worked on it with the year painted on). In the end, I found myself up at 9pm with my headlamp on during a storm finishing the last few countries (Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe) while Mèrie, one of the three girl students I taught who is going on to high school, chatted with me about what I thought she should specialize in the following year (Guinean high school students focus on either social science, experimental science, or math science).

The next morning I set my bags outside and read on my porch for an hour until the Peace Corps car showed up. I had already said my goodbyes to the main people I cared about, and at that point most people who I had worked with knew I was leaving. Around 9am the car showed up with Dan, Mary, Jarrad, Astrid, Marg, Annie, Julie, Molly, Daffé and the driver. I said my last goodbyes to my neighbor and susu teacher Fodé Moussa, thanking him (in susu) for having been my teacher and friend the last year. He gave me like 10 different benedictions (god bless your ... family, health, work, travels, self, and a few others I didn't quite decypher) and hugged me goodbye.

The car drove off, and we were on our way to Coyah where we would meet up with the Peace Corps bus which took us to Mamou that night. I found out in Coyah that we would be picking up the volunteer from Kindia, so I called her to see if she would mind Corso being there when we picked her up so I could say goodbye to him in person. She didn't, and so I called him. We ended up getting delayed but he waited with her outside her house for 2 hours until we pulled up and had our 5 minute goodbye. She later told me he spent most of the time chatting with her about how much he was going to miss me and how great an english tutor he thought I was. When we said goodbye he gave be a plastic bag with gifts in it, a new pair of bazin melange pants, a new indigo dyed pants and shirt outfit, 2 pictures (one for me, one for Tim), and a very heartfelt note. He is definitely the best friend I've made during my time here, and I'm really going to miss him.

Our trip to Bamako took two days (we spent the first night in Mamou), and in the end took me 29 hours from Bintimodia to Bamako, excluding the time in Mamou. We are staying in the Peace Corps Mali training compound which means we are staying in a large group of huts, 3 to a hut (Jarrad, Bryan and I are hut-mates), getting 3 meals provided to us, shuttles into the city, are sharing 3 computers in addition to people's laptops to use internet, edit resumés, etc etc. This is partly why it's taken me this long to finish this post.

The upside is that because Peace Corps is worried about our morale we are getting good food, and activities planned for us (outing to a waterfall this weekend, trip to a world cup qualifying soccer match (Mali vs. Sudan) last weekend, etc. We're not sure if we'll be going back to Guinea, we originally were not very hopefull but it seems DC wants us to wait and see for a couple of weeks to a month while they determine if it will be safe for us to return.

I've gone through so many decisions on what I'm doing with my life from this point on that I'm not even going to bother mentioning them now. I may go back to Guinea if that's an option, I may transfer to another Peace Corps country, I may go home soon while I seek out a new job abroad (those options include high schools in Guatemala, Japan, and France who need Chemistry or English teachers, etc etc). I will write a post when I figure out where I'll be going next, but for now, expect that I'll be in/around Bamako until at least next week unless the situation in Guinea changes drastically for the better or worse.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Longwinded Return to Blogging

Alright, so since my last blog post (3 months ago!), I've been a busy person, I went to an HIV/AIDS/Malaria/Excision workshop with my best friend from my village Corso, then I spent a week and a half helping get the last details worked out for the new education group's training before their arrival. During this process I wrote a 50 page chemistry experiment guide with appendices explaining where to find chemical materials, and how to build certain apparatuses from market materials (mayo jars, etc).

I then took a WONDERFUL month long vacation that was much needed. I spent two weeks traveling in France with my Mom, sister, aunt, cousin and cousin's daughter. We mostly stuck around Paris, but took a 4 day trip to the Alsace region to see small towns, staying in a "gite" aka a guest-house in the small town of Breucshwickersheim (or something like that...). After this I took a train to Madrid and met Tim there and then traveled around Spain with him, his parents and sister to a farm in the Asturias region of Spain (near Arriondas), then to a wedding in a tiny town (population 9, seriously) near Burgos, finally we spent a few days in San Sebastian (during which Tim and I took a day trip to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim there) before returning to Madrid for a couple of days before I made me re-entrance to Guinea.

I arrived just as the new training group was about to depart for their site visits, and so I arrived in Conakry at night, slept, woke up and got right into a bush taxi headed for Boké to lead the 4 new Basse Côte volunteers on their first visits to the villages they'll live in the for the next two years. It was a fun week, though a bit hectic at first (didn't really get to eat in one of the villages because nobody offered to feed us and we hadn't brough anything with us - we eventually found bread and mayonnaise for dinner, in another village we were stranded for several hours while attempting to leave because there just weren't any cars going anywhere, we eventually found our way out). It was a trial by fire return to Guinea, especially as I was responsible for the happiness of 4 trainees, but it really just reminded me what I had come to realize in my last week of vacation in Europe - I really like Guinea and am completely willing to sacrifice some creature comforts in exchange for the more wild and make-do lifestyle you find here...at least for the next 9 months or so left in my service.

I then spent a week in Conakry starting a translation of my chemistry manual into French to give Guinean teachers at the December Teacher's Conference I'm helping organize before heading down to Forecariah to be a trainer for the last 3.5 weeks of the new groups training. This period is known as "Practice School" and is when they all teach full-sized guinean student classes while being supervised and evaluated by experienced volunteers (comme moi), and their Guinean trainers. The first few days my evaluations were quite long and involved (things like "don't let students talk over you when you're lecturing" and "remember to leave things up on the chalkboard long enough for students to take notes" were just the beginning), but they quickly responded to the criticism, and by the end I spent most of their classes reading my book in the back, while making the occasional note on minor issues. I'm really excited that there are more teachers in Peace Corps besides my group, especially since a few of them are going to be living relatively near me.

During this time I had some tough decisions to make regarding where I'm going with my life after Peace Corps (did I mention I'll be done in 9 months....yikes!). I'd very seriously considered doing a third year in Guinea as a professor at one of the main Universities, after speaking with chemistry professors from the University of Conakry it seemed that even with my undergraduate degree, I could have something to offer their organic chemistry students, and I was excited to teach real chemistry for a change as opposed to reviewing basic math and introducing the idea of atoms, etc to middle school students. The more I thought about this option however, the less and less it appealed to me, especially considering the host of other options available to me.

In short (and I need to be, because attempting to write out everything I'm considering would take about 9 months), I've decided that, as much as I love Guinea and enjoy the fact that I've adapted pretty thoroughly to the culture here - I don't want to stay here for a third year when I have the option to instead spend my time abroad exploring other countries (and hopefully other continents, though I'd also love to explore other regions in Africa). I am very tentatively looking into being a trainer for a new Peace Corps program that will be starting with education volunteers next summer in Sierra Leone (this would mostly likely be June-September of next year, but at this point there isn't enough information to know who or what they'll need for this). I am also very seriously looking into a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher position in France for 9 months starting next October (to give me a chance to de-Guinea-ify my French, and live in Europe for a while, which is on my list of things to do before I die), I'm also planning on sending my resumé out to other Peace Corps programs that interest me as a potential third year extension somewhere else (Southeast Asia, and South America both interest me, I would love to get into teacher-trainer positions where my job is to work with local teachers on improving their methods to stimulate critical thinking, etc). Anyway, the list is long, and I've only scratched the surface of what my options are, one thing I AM fairly certain of though, is that I will be out of America for at least the next 2 years, and possibly longer (I'm looking at International Organizations (UNESCO), and NGOs (Academy of International Education Development, etc), and tons of other jobs that might keep me away and abroad for a while.

Wow, that wasn't short at all...

Anyway, this plan makes maintaining personal relationships stateside difficult, and while I know I have the support of my loved ones back home I do worry about not seeing my family enough (especially my little sister who I'm sure are starting to forget what I look like), losing contact even more throroughly with my friends, etc. This decision to remain abroad has already led me to break off one relationship that was/is very important to me, but given the circumstances it seems like the best thing for everyone involved from a long-term POV. ...Enough about that.

Anyway, so I hope this post catches everyone up a bit on what I've been up to the last few months. I will hopefully get another out before I leave Conakry for Bintimodia in a few days, but seeing as how I'll be helping the Trainees(soon to be Volunteers) find and bargain for all the stuff they need for their new houses/huts, I don't know how much time I'll dedicate to blogging.

Don't forget, you can always call me, my phone number is listed in my facebook profile (I changed it, if you have one that starts with (224)65 instead of (224)62, then you need to update it), and I always welcome letters, care packages, etc. Until next time (hopefully before 2010 comes around)...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quick Update Regarding the Lack of Updates

So I've once again been spotty on my updating of this blog - part of that is still the continuation of Tim's visit keeping me busier than usual, and the other part is the fact that the Kamsar internet café STILL isn't opporational. I started a post with details of my hiking trip to the Fouta (Dalaba, Doucki, Labé, Mombeya, and Kankalabé) but it is unfinished, and I don't think it's going to get finished in the next couple of weeks...BUT here's my schedule for those interested in knowing what I'm up to for the next couple of months:

I have finished with all school related things in my village and I am now free to do more traveling than I would be during the school year, this is also when conferences tend to happen (for the same reason), and soon the new training group (G-18) will be here and I will be training them. So, the plan is to drop Tim off at the airport in a couple of hours (literally), then leaving for an HIV/AIDS conference for a couple of days (it started this morning, but I got a reprieve due to Tim's flight - I will be there for the second half of it). This weekend I'm probably going to take a Peace Corps car to Forecariah to do a training development workshop (to plan the final details of how the new group's training will be structured, etc). This will end just in time for me to spend 4th of July in Conakry - then spend a couple of days writing a chemistry demo booklet for the new training group before their arrival around July 8th. I will be around to do their training in Conakry, then I will see their adoption ceremony in Forecariah before heading back to Conakry just in time for my "real" vacation. I fly out of Conakry for Paris July 15th, I travel around Belgium and France with my mom, aunt, sister, cousin, and counsin's daughter for 2 weeks then take a night train to Madrid and travel around with Tim, Tim's parents, and Laura (Tim's sister) for two weeks including attending the wedding of a friend of the family. I fly back to Conakry in mid-August.

Phew, so it'll be a busy couple of months, and I assume my blogging will continue to be sporadic at best. I hope to be able to finish writing about my Fouta trip, and about my final weeks in the village before I head off to Europe, though, but that probably won't happen until early July when I'll get access to internet again. Until then!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

'Cause Mariana Said So...

Alright, I was going to slack on the blog writing because it's been a long day and I'm about to spend a good chunk of time uploading pictures to Facebook, but since my sister (and loyal reader) requested an entry, here goes...

Since my last post (which, by the way, was chosen as "Peace Corps Voluneer Blog of the Day" by some Peace Corps Twitter thing, as I've just found out in an e-mail), Tim and I have gotten a good start on the world map project, Jarrad came by and helped us out one day, I finished teaching my classes, and I decided to bring an entirely different girl to Girl's Conference.

The World Map Project is basically painting a mural of the map of the world to whatever size you want (1:2 ratio), we did 2x4 meters on the wall of the outside of the elementary school - facing a map of Africa and a map of Guinea done by previous volunteers (Sam and Michelle, respectively, I think). There is also a smaller map of the world on another wall of the middle school, but it's pretty small, only labelled the continents, and south america fell off when the wall cracked a few years back. Anyway, we measured out exactly the dimensions of our rectangle plus a 4cm border like 5 times, we penciled it out, we painted it white, painstakingly measured our 7 cm grid (28 squares high, 56 wide), and spent a few days penciling in the countries by a square by square grid system. For this process we used some of my students - though after they were done we had to make some minor (and in one kid's case, major) repairs. My two 10th graders did pretty well save for tilting spain at and odd angle and messing up a few international boundaries, but my 9th grader COMPLETELY screwed up Africa. After he left we had to erase it entirely and start from scratch. I was hoping nobody would notice but a bunch of kids who were watching us (there is usually a crowd) were chattering away about how so-and-so did it so bad that we had to re-do it...hope word didn't make it back to him.

Anyway, so we got the penciled countries in and went back to erase all the gridlines, this is where we enlisted the younger elementary school kids (though one of them kept erasing the map and I had to follow behind him redrawing where he had obliterated Hawaii or Equador). Afterwards we used small paintbrushes to do black paint borders of all the countries - something we just finished before leaving for this trip. Luckily we managed to talk Jarrad into coming to my village for a night, and then spend the morning helping us paint before he headed back to Boké. We also made a nice dinner (salad, mac and cheese, a bottle of wine) to celebrate the one-year-before-Jarrad-finishes-with-Peace-Corps mark (he's cutting out a bit earlier than I will next summer).

In other news yesterday was my official last day of teaching for this school year!! Well, sort of...I had planned around stopping this week all along because all around the country school is supposed to end around now, final exams happen, and school should be completely done by early June. As it turns out (and as I found out yesterday) my school is going strong for another couple of weeks because enough of our teachers are behind their syllabus that they're just going to hold out until June 8th to start finals, by the time most other kids will already be on break. I had already planned this trip I'm currently on, and I had finished my syllabus a couple of weeks ago (I've been reviewing since then), so I told my principal as much and called it a school year. When I return I will have to grade my final exams and remaining homework, then turn in grades. But, once that's done, I'm good until next October or so (except for my extra side-projects, etc).

It's weird, even though I haven't quite reached my one year mark (10 months and 2 weeks...and counting), I'm mostly done with roughtly the first chunk of a 2 chunk commitment. Time here is weird because it seems like days take a long time, but the months seem to be flying by. In no time at all Tim is going to be out of here, I'll be in Europe, and then school will have kicked in for a second school year...and then what??

Well, I'm still working on the big "and then what?" questions of post-Peace Corps life - I'll write more about that when I'm more concrete about it (hopefully by September or so....I might need/want to start applying for certain programs as early as then if I'm still seriously considering them (grad schools, JET, TFA, NYCTF, and probably half a dozen others).

Anyway, today was a long day - I woke up around 6 and Tim and I were out of the house by 7, yet we didn't make it to the peace corps compound in Conakry until 4:30pm (and I NEEDED to get there by 5 to get money out of the safe for this trip, so I was kinda stressed). Plus (and this is the thing that really ticks me off) I left my brand-new never-used Barack Obama umbrella in one of the taxis (ARG!). We ended up waiting over an hour at the main-road taxi stop for our car to leave, then the back tire lost its tread (it didn't go flat or blow out...the tread just fell off) so we had to wait under a shady tree for it to get replaced by the completely bald spare tire. Not an hour later the spare did the same thing and this time we didn't have a spare tire. Luckily we were able to duck into someone's porch along the road while the driver and a passanger "fixed" it by cutting off the loose flap with a razor blade. We drove on this disaster-waiting-to-happen for another 10-20km or so until the next big town where we waited another hour or so for a new tired to be put on the car. Of course this meant we got into Conakry right at rush hour and then our taxi made us switch to another car for no reason, on top of the third car we had to get in Madnia towards the Peace Corps office (this, I think, is where I left my umbrella....argh!). In the end we made it in time to get money, and I've since eaten (oh yeah, I had a small piece of fried dough at 8am, then 3 chawarmas at about 7pm, nothing in between...). What a day.

The good news is tomorrow (bright and early), we're going to Dalaba in the Fouta, hanging out with a couple of my friends for a few days, then going on a 3 day hike through the mountains in the middle of the country (Doucki), THEN going to Labé to show Tim around there before heading back to Conakry for a VAC meeting and back to my village. I'm excited to be away from my village for a while, not have to be responsible for work (though...I guess I'm going to be working on budgeting for a teacher's conference, but at least that's different).

Anyway, if you made it this far, I'm glad you're this interested in my life, I don't feel like editing this right at the moment, but i'm guessing it's one of my least-cohesive entries yet...I hope to write a better one from Labé or when I'm back in Conakry.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Blog Post from a Hard to Find Internet Cafe

Ok, this entry will be brief, hopefully explanatory, and probably not very well written. Sorry. The reason I've been so long in posting to this blog is because the internet cafe that I frequent in Kamsar has had technical difficulties for over a month now (getting close to two months actually...). In addition to this whenever internet has been available (Boke house, mostly), I've ceeded my right to the limited conenctivity time to Tim so he could catch up on all the stuff he needs to catch up on (he's nowhere near as used to being cut off from internet as I am now, and I suppose rightfully so since he actually has farm reservations to make for his WWOOLF plans after Guinea). The culmination of this was this special trip we've made to Boke so he could get access to internet here - last night the stars all aligned (Boke had electricity, our internet provider was functioning, there were no other volunteers who wanted to use the itnernet, etc) and Tim got to use the dial up connection from about 8pm until about 6am or so (got photos uploaded, farms researched, etc). I checked my e-mail and then typed up a blog post (not this one) on his laptop to uplaod to the internet eventually.

Since the internet stopped working this morning (our router battery died), we decided to venture out to the new iternet cafe that just opened in the past week or two that all the Boke voluinteers were raving about. We were told it was a satellite connection, with a generator backup, and that it was in Boke at the University. Only 2 of these 3 things are true - the cafe IS at the university, but what I didn't know was that the university was way the f**k out in the boonies of Boke, like 3 or 4 "suburb" villages away. I didn't know this when I started walking towards it this afternoon. Whenever I asked for directions I was told "you've got to take a moto-taxi, it's far" but since Tim is opposed to moto taxi's and Peace Corps policy forbids me from riding them we walked it. Turns out the university is 7km outside of Boke. We were on the verge of turning back and giving up (we'd been walking for about an hour and a bit in the hottest time of the day) when we got here. The things I do....christ.

Well, I'm here now, Tim is getting the last of his internet business figured out and I'm finally putting up a long awaited blog post (apologies to my regular readers, my mom's already told me that my sister was complaining about my lack of updates). Unfortunately my long post that I wrote last night is on Tim's laptop, this cafe doesn't allow USB drives, and the guys running the cafe couldn't figure out how to set up Tim's computer on their network (they're not used to windows Vista, and they're not used to computers being in English) so I will hopefully put that post up in a few weeks when I go to Conakry (or if the Kamsar internet gets fixed....this next weekend).

The quick and dirty summary is this: Tim and I have been hanging around in my village, I've been teaching and I only have a week or two of teaching to go before final exams - my school hasn't decided on the schedule yet. Our plan is to do "The World Map Project" on the elementary school wall in the time that Tim is here - painting a 2x4 meter map of the world using a draw-by-grid system. I picked my girl's conference participants (more on this in a later post) by doing an essay contest with all my 9th and 10th grade girls.

Girls Conference is basically a 4 day workshop where each volutneer brings a girl from his/her village and they are sensibilized about women's rights, female circumcision, HIV/AIDS, public speaking, etc etc all together in Boke. Their food, lodging and transport is covered by Peace Corps. For this essay contest I told my girls to write a page about "The biggest problem girls/women in Guinea face, and a possible solution". Of about 70 girls I got 6 essays back. Of the 6 only 3 actually addressed the topic (one of the other three actually wrote about how married women need to listen to their husbands because their place is in the house cooking the rice...). I narrowed it down to two girls - my principal's daughter Fatim, and the former Peace Corps host family daughter Merie - after consultation with the volunteer organizing the conference I decided to take both of them since there's room in the budget for more girls.

Other exciting news is that Tim and I made a trip out to Mankountan to see Teale in her village, we saw a girls soccer match that she had organized and spent the night in her hut. Pictures from this can be found on Facebook if you look up "Tim Baker" within my friends - his photo albums should be public. Also, his blog can be found at http://timjbaker.wordpress.org - he's written more than I have about what we've done during his time here.

Anyway, my itnernet time is running low - plans currently involve going to see the Fouta and go hiking with my friends John and Marg from Dalaba at the end of the month when I'm done teaching. Hopefully I can write a more complete blog post about the past 2 months and I wil be able to upload it when I pass through Conakry for this trip.

Now I've gotta figure out a way to get back to Boke, then back to my village before it gets too late....wish me luck!