The Past 6 Weeks

I apologize for the delay in blog posts in the last 6 weeks or so.  I’ve spent all that time out of site and quite busy.  So I thought I’d sum it all up in one blog post for you!

August 18th I left my site to meet the Education Trainees in the regional capital of Labe.  They had just finished their site visit (of 3 or 4 days, depending on the distance of their site and availability of taxis), and I thought I should be there to show them around Labe, and for a little support.  Site visit is when they are first away from all other Americans and alone in their site, and it can be pretty scary and overwhelming.  I remember mine well, 7 full days of alone time, and I cried every day.  Thankfully, they seemed to have fared a little better, and everyone was in pretty high spirits. Some people had a tough time, but overall everyone loved their sites and was content with their housing situation.

I then travelled with them by taxi to the training center in Dubreka, where I spent 2 nights and helped with the homestay debriefing session.  I just wanted to be there to shed some insight and chat with anyone who had major concerns. This was done with all Education Trainees from all regions, but again most people seemed in good spirits, with few major concerns about site or their houses.

After the session Monday morning, I headed into Conakry to take care of some mid-term medical appointments.  This involved meeting with the doctor to talk about any health concerns, and having a dentist appointment.

The meeting with the doctor was fine.  I’ve been pretty healthy here in Guinea, so I did not feel like I needed any blood, fecal or urine tests, which can be done if necessary.  All that will be done for sure at Close of Service, however.

I was a little nervous for the dentist.  I had assumed I was going to the French dentist, who another volunteer had seen to get a cavity filled.  I heard she was pretty good, but didn’t wear gloves.  Gross, but I could take it.  Turns out I saw a Guinean dentist, named Adolph.  Dr. Adolph was the worst dentist I have even met.  I have been blessed by having an excellent and gentle dentist all my life, and have always enjoyed dental appointments (except for braces of course).  I now understand why people hate the dentist.  I have never bled so much during an appointment, even when I haven’t flossed in a while.  And I floss religiously here in Guinea.  He told me I had two cavities, but he didn’t have the time to fill them then, thank goodness.

Since I was leaving on a flight to the US the next day, I decided to try and get the cavities taken care of at home.  Normally, Peace Corps won’t authorize any medical work that can be done in your country of service to be done in the US, but I cajoled them enough for them to authorize the filling of two cavities by my normal dentist.  I’m so glad I went, because after X-rays, it turns out I really had only one cavity that probably could’ve waited but he decided to fill anyway just to be safe.  He told me dentists in other countries often don’t see patients as often as US dentists do, so they tend to do a lot of work when they have the chance, in case they don’t see the patient again for a long while.  Makes sense, and I appreciate Dr. Adolph’s preventative measures, but after his work just cleaning my teeth, I didn’t want him with a drill anywhere near me.

I then spent 2 weeks in the US, most of that leading up to my mom’s wedding, the reason I had come home.  I arranged it that way so I could be there to help prep for the wedding and do set up. Plus she left on her honeymoon just a few days after, so there wasn’t much point of me staying in the US after the wedding. I also go to see my sister’s new house and dog, my best friends new house in Baltimore, do some shopping for a dress for the wedding, visit 2 college friends at their house in Philly and spend a lot of time with friends and family.

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My mom and I after the ceremony

I’d heard a lot about reverse culture shock when Volunteers go home after being away for a long time, in my case 8 months, but I didn’t experience that at all.  While the site of a US shopping mall or a grocery store were a little shocking after 8 months in Guinea, it felt so good to be back home, with all the choices I was used to before me.  I gloried in walking around the mall. Especially the way everything was so shiny and clean.  I loved having my car back, and being able to travel in ease and comfort.  And to be able to travel long distances quickly.  I also got to have the first really good night’s sleep I’d had since arriving in Guinea.  Being in my own bed, with AC and a fan was wonderful.  Walking around on carpeted floor was also pretty awesome.

I was hoping after 2 weeks at home, I’d be ready to go back to Guinea, but that was not the case.  Getting back on that airplane to Guinea was one of the most difficult parts of my PC experience thus far, and that’s saying something.  The last two times I’d left the US on a plane for PC, I was going to a new country.  I was entering a new experience, and it was exciting.  This time I knew exactly what I was going back to. And while I missed my host family, particularly my host sisters, I wasn’t exactly excited to go back.

Thankfully, when I got back to Guinea, I had 3 weeks helping with the end of the training for the new volunteers.  I got to help with the last of the health sessions, including porridge making, how to give a sensiblization and then watching them give their practice sensibilization.

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Public Health Trainees practicing making ameliorated porridge, a skill they can then teach mothers in their village.  Ameliorated porridge is highly nutritious and an important food source for malnourished children. 

I also got to be there for their swearing in ceremony, where they become volunteers, and no long were trainees.  There were some wonderful speeches given by embassy staff, PC staff and trainees themselves.  Two new volunteers also did a dance performance with some local drummers and dancers that was awesome.

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My host brother, Bouba, and I at the swearing-in ceremony.  His family had an education trainee this time around.

My last week before returning to site was helping them in Conakry to buy all the things they needed to get by at site for the first month or so.  That ended up being the easiest part of that week.  I showed them where the market was and they were pretty self-sufficient from there.  I helped very little, beyond guidance on what to buy, where to buy it, and how much it should cost.

I did, however, spend a lot of time organizing taxis to their sites and the buying of gas tanks and stoves for their new houses.  This ended up being an exhausting experience, especially the organization of taxis.  While the Guinean staff figured out who would go in what taxi, and found the taxi drivers, there were inevitably some problems that took hours to figure out.  I was happy to be of service, but by the end of the week was completely exhausted and ready to go back to site.  It was a useful exhausted, however, and I got a lot of very sincere thank yous from staff and volunteers. I even got taken out for pizza and pedicures!

Coming back to site was mostly good.  I was a little nervous, but once I got back, everyone was so happy to see me that I forgot all about that.  All the kids came running, even my 15 year old host sister, Batouli, who I’m never sure likes me or not.  The hugs and excitement were wonderful.

Unfortunately, when I opened my door, there was about 6” of bat poop and dirt in my entryway.  The ceiling had fallen under the weight of it and collapsed.  It was disgusting.  The screen door had prevented too much from getting into my house, thank goodness, but there was still quite a mess to deal with. Thankfully Batouli took charge. She scooped it all up into an old rice sack with a dust pan and then swept my whole house, plus mopped the floor.  So there was at least a silver lining to the disaster I came home to.

I also came home to moldy sheets and pillows, which was pretty unpleasant.  I had to wait until the next day to wash them (and bleach them).  But now everything is fresh and clean, including all my clothes, so I’m finally getting settled back in and organizing my house again.

So I’m back in site now, with a few weeks ahead of me before I leave again.  I’m happy to be back, but its definitely going to take a few days to get readjusted.  Especially to rice and sauce again.  I’ve gone six glorious weeks without it, but the time has come to get back to Guinean food. I’m happy to be back, but still missing home a lot since I was so recently there.

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