Early Termination

Early termination is a term that carries a lot of weight in the Peace Corps community.  There’s a definite stigma surrounding the term, and unfortunately it’s a negative one.  A Peace Corps Volunteer can decide to end their service before their contact is finished, and doing so is considered Early Termination.

While technically this is a volunteer position, it’s also very much a job.  And while very few people would judge someone for leaving a job where they were unhappy, this is often not the case for Peace Corps Volunteers.  It’s unfortunate, but within the Peace Corps community I’ve found there to be a shame around the idea of ETing.

I’ve considered ETing many times during my service, for many different reasons.  I considered it in Mali after I’d been at site only a month or so.   While I was greatly saddened by our evacuation from Mali, I also had a sense of relief.  Here was my out: I could leave without saying I ETed.  Yet at the end of our week long transition conference in DC, I had signed up to continue my service in Guinea.  I got caught up in the excitement of a new country, and a new adventure.  And I felt like I hadn’t really gotten to ever be a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I’d done the training, but no projects.  I hadn’t really gotten to do any of the things I’d joined the Peace Corps to do.

I struggled in Guinea too.  I came close to ETing in June.  Really within a weekends worth of time.  I needed to discuss it with my mom before I could make the decision, but she was too busy to talk until Monday.  By the time the weekend had passed, I’d resolved to stay.

I struggled again with the decision in September, as I was leaving a 2 week vacation at home to come back to Guinea.  Getting on the plane to come back was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  And the month following my return was exhausting.  But I was busy with grad school applications, and convinced I needed to be in the Peace Corps to get into graduate school.

I’ve recently struggled again with the decision, but this time I’ve decided not to stay.  And honestly, it’s a huge relief.  I’ve decided to ET.  I’ve decided to come home.  This, thankfully, is the last time I’ll have to agonize over this decision.

There are a million reasons any PCV decides to end their service.  And I’m sure for most, it’s an agonizing decision, as it was for me.  But in the end, you have to do what’s right for you, and I’m certain this is the right decision for me.

I’m sure most of you reading this are wondering what the final catalyst was for the decision.  What pushed me over the edge this time, that hadn’t before?  The straw that broke the camel’s back was a change in a PC rule that infuriated me.  Probably beyond reason, but something cracked, and I decided I needed to go home.

But the deeper, underlying reasons are really what spurred my decision.  They say Peace Corps changes you.  And it’s true.  I’ve changed, and I’ve learned a lot about myself.  I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything because I’ve grown as a person and learned invaluable lessons about myself, the world, and what I want in my future career.  I’m better prepared for a career in public health and international development because of my Peace Corps service that I could be through any other experience.  But there have been changes in my personality that I don’t like and that I don’t want to continue.

I’ve always prided myself on my work ethic.  I’ve had at least one job, sometimes as many as 3 at a time, since I was 15.  Yet here I’ve become lazy.  PC runs at a different pace, and I’ve struggled from the beginning to adjust to it.  As hard as I try, there are days where you don’t do much accept read and sit under the mango tree with your host family.  There are days where I’m ok with that, but mostly it drives me up the wall.  I struggle with a work environment that doesn’t conform more to a traditional American work schedule.  I want a job with more set hours, where I know have things to fill my time during those 8 to 9 hours, 5 days a week.

I’ve also taken on a negativity that I don’t like.   PCVS bond over the trials of everyday life in their country of service, that’s normal.  We gripe about being stared at, being asked to take people back to America with us, and having to eat rice and sauce day in and day out for weeks on end.  But recently, it’s been more than that.  I find that whenever I’m talking to another American, be it another PCV, or my friends and family in the USA, I complain.  About everything.  I have very little positive to say about anything.  And I’m so tired of it.  That’s not who I want to be.  Ever.

For most of my service I’ve pushed myself to stay for a variety of reasons.  In the end it always came down to that I hadn’t yet done what I came to do and that I was not a quitter.  I’ve never quit anything in my life.  The first job I quit was to join PC.  I played 6 years of field hockey despite being the worst player on the team.  I was a Girl Scout from Daisies until I was a senior in High School, and I now have a lifetime membership.  I stick it out until the end.  Always.

But now, I’ve completed 18 months of service and I’m unhappy.  And it’s just not worth it anymore.  I’ve done what I came to do.  I started a peer education health group for women in my community.  I at least tried to make a difference, and my homologue assures me I did, though I’m not so confident.  And while, technically, I’m ending my service early, I don’t really feel like I’m quitting.

There was one more thing I always dreaded about ETing: telling my host family.  I have adored them from the beginning.  My homologue is technically my host brother and he did everything in his power to make me feel like part of the family.  His daughter, who I refer to as my host sister, stole my heart from the get go.  Aichatou Bah and I were nearly inseparable.  She was glued to my side whenever I was at my host family’s house.  Recently she took to calling me Neene Porto which is Pular for White Mommy.

It broke my heart to tell them I was leaving early.  My homologue cried, which is very unusual for a Guinean man.  But I did enjoy unloading all my stuff on them before I left: food, clothes, flashlights, coloring books, crayons, a watch, an old phone and my old glasses for my host mom.  It was the least I could do to leave them with these gifts.  I told my homologue that I could never give them enough gifts to signify my gratitude.  My homologue told me I had been enough of a gift.

My leaving early is eased a little by the fact that another 30 volunteers recently arrived in Guinea.  They will finish their training in February.  At this time, I’m hoping one of these Public Health volunteers will be sent to my site to continue my work and start their own.  My town, and especially Souleymane, my homologue, deserve another volunteer.  They are kind people, and while I struggled, that doesn’t mean another volunteer won’t thrive there.

I will always treasure the memories I made during my Peace Corps service.  It’s amazing the connections you can make while having so little in common with someone else, including language.  My host mom always asked me how Aichatou Bah and I understood each other, when I knew so little Pular, and her so little French.  I really can’t answer that, but we did have an understanding between us that went much deeper than words.

It’s time for me to move on.  I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be doing when I return to the US.  I plan on begging for a job at the ski resort I worked at in high school and college.  I plan on volunteering with some sort of public health organization.  I’m planning a trip to Peru to visit my college roommate, another PCV.  I feel content and at peace with my decision and I’m happy and excited to be coming home.

As for the future of this blog, I’m not sure whether I’ll have any more posts to share.  But I appreciate the support I’ve received about it throughout my service.  It was not ever anything I thought I would enjoy, but it came to be one of my favorite things I did during my service.  So thank you for reading.

Presidential Elections

I have never been overly involved in politics.  I’ve only voted in three elections: the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, and the most recent gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania.  Yet, with the results today, I feel compelled to say something.

Over the past few months, I’ve been glad to have missed the horror that this presidential campaign has been (though I do miss watching the SNL skits…).  It’s been a relief not to see the mudslinging commercials.  I did watch the first debate, but as it was 1 am here I dozed through a lot of it.  I scrolled past most people’s political Facebook posts because I just didn’t want to see or hear the negativity.

However, as the election got closer, I became nervous.  Plenty of Guineans asked me my opinion on the election, or shared their own (always Hilary Clinton).  As Peace Corps Volunteers we’re advised to stay away from local politics as well as American politics as a discussion topic, so I always tried to keep the conversation short, but my response was always that I supported Hilary, and that I didn’t think Trump would, or could win.  He was too extreme and had offended too many people.

My homologue asked me last night if I would stay up to hear the results.  I knew it would be the wee hours of the morning here, so I said no.  I went to bed pretty confident I would wake to find America had elected its first female president.  I thought I would awake proud to be an American.

However, I awoke at 7:11 am to my friend Kelly calling me to tell me Trump had won.  She told me she was sorry to wake me up, but she just had to talk to someone about it.  I was blown away, shocked and totally taken aback.  That was not what I expected at all.

When I went to get water this morning, I asked me homologue if he had heard the results.  He said he had, at 5 am this morning, and that he was sorry.  I think he could tell I didn’t want to talk about it further.  Later, around 1:00 pm, during lunch, I still had no words.  He told me that the whole world would now suffer, because America was a premiere presence in the world.  That this was a blow for everyone.  Guineans across the country are shocked and horrified by the outcome of the election, just as many Americans are.

And why shouldn’t they be?  What kind of message does this send to the rest of the world?  That we as Americans chose a misogynistic, racist, homophobic white many to lead our country over a qualified, experienced white woman.  What happened?  What were we thinking?  Trump running for president started out as a joke, and now he’s been elected.  It’s like a prank gone too far.

I’ve spent nearly two years of my life living overseas.  Nearly a year and a half in West Africa and 5 months in Australia.  And in each place, no matter the creature comforts I had, the quality of food, the friends surrounding me, I never felt like it was truly home.  I always knew I needed to come back to America.  That that was where I belonged, because it was home and I was proud to be an American.

Now, for the first time, I’m ashamed and embarrassed.  How do I explain this decision to the people around me?  How do I justify our choice?  I can’t.  Because I understand it as little as they do.

Only an American citizen can vote in the elections.  We have, and we’ve made our choice.  But we’re naïve to think that what the rest of the world think doesn’t matter.  We’re a leading power in the world.  People look up to us.  I was so proud when we legalized gay marriage last year.  Now, it’s like we’ve taken a giant leap backwards.  What are we saying to the rest of the world as it watches?

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, one of our three goals is to create a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served.  Right now, I’m a little at a loss as to how to do that.  But I choose to continue with a positive attitude.  I choose to continue with kindness.  I choose to continue with tolerance and an open mind.  Because while Trump will now be our President, I refuse to uphold the values he has shown.  I refuse to treat or speak to people the way he has.  And if we as Americans can continue in kindness and support, than we can uphold the ideals our country was built on.  If we choose to move on with those values in mind, we can remain proud to be Americans.

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.

Shoutout to Katy Kruse

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Back in August, I got an awesome care package from the previous volunteer at my site, Katy.

Katy had been in my town for about 5 months, but was evacuated due to Ebola in August 2014.  Katy was beloved in our town.  I still get called Kirikou, a name many kids used for her, and told about how wonderful she was quite often.  She’s been such a wonderful resource, however, that I can’t hold it against her.  She’s provided me with a lot of insight into our town and the people there, as well as set up a Community Health Agent group that I was able to continue with.

I’ve heard before about past volunteers sending their successors a package, but with the inconsistent mail system in Guinea and the price, I never expected one.  So I am so grateful that Katy was willing to risk the chance of it not showing up to send me this gift.

For me, she included a ton of M&Ms, as you can see in the picture, as well as Nutella, flavored Laughing Cow Cheese (so much better than the stuff here!), Sour Patch Kids Watermelon (the best kind), Swedish Fish (not pictured because I ate them immediately), Reese’s Cups, 2 jars of jam, honey, granola bars and Mio juice drink mix.

She also printed out some pictures I sent her so I could give them out, as well as a lot of her pictures that she took while in Guinea that she had not been able to pass on to our host family.  Guineans love pictures, and I can’t wait to watch them look through them.  I took a look, and loved seeing all my host siblings 2 years younger!

She also sent me a lovely and encouraging card that meant a lot to me, as well as a note to translate into French for my host family.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it made my homologue tear up.  He told me, when I first arrived and we were looking through Katy’s stuff that she left behind, that he couldn’t look because he’d cry.  She meant a lot to him and his family.

She also snuck some money she had left over from her time in Guinea to pass on to the family, which I’m sure they’ll appreciate.

So thank you Katy, for the wonderful package!  Fellow Peace Corps volunteers really pack the best packages, and now I’ve got enough chocolate to last me a while!  I will definitely send pictures of the family so you can see how much they appreciate your gifts!

First Care Group Meeting

Last week, I finally, actually did something.

For months now I’ve been attempting to start a Care Group.  This is a group consisting of women in the community who will then teach health topics to other women.  The set-up is this:  I found a woman in each of the 7 districts of my sous-prefecture (preferably who speak French)  who will come to my town each month to learn a health topic.  These women will return to their district and train a few women from each sector of their district on this health topic.  These women will then each do about 5 home visits with target women in their sector.  These target women are pregnant women or women with young kids (under 5), as the framework for Public Health Volunteers is focused on Maternal Child Health.

Since May I had been traveling to different districts to meet with large groups of women (as many as 70 have showed up), speaking to them about the idea of a Care Group and trying to find women interested in being part of it.  There has always been a great response, and women are eager to be a part of it.  Mostly, the few old men who show up to the meeting, usually important men in the community, chose the women for each sector, but the women always had some input and called out their suggestions.

These meetings were usually short and I said little, because the necessity of operating in Pulaar, as very few women speak French.  I just gave a short spiel in each district about how I was very thankful they made the time to come to the meeting and that they were so motivated to work with me to help themselves.  Short and sweet.

At the end I was often offered a gift, usually a chicken or the equivalent value.  I always turned these down, with the help of my homologue, who always handled the situation with grace. He instructed them that I needed no payment for the work I would do with them and that I didn’t want presents and they should keep the money or chickens for themselves.  When money was offered, he often told them to use it for a woman who needed help with payment for transport to get to the health center or some other situation like that.

It took a long time to visit all these districts and have these meetings.  I missed one because I was sick but my homologue handled it on his own. When we finally had all these women chosen, we decided it was time for a first meeting.

Since I was soon leaving for a vacation in the U.S. for two weeks and then will be in Conakry helping with the training of the new volunteers for another 2 to 3 weeks, we decided we should have the meeting before I left, so it was set for the Sunday before I was to leave my town (exactly a week ago).

About 45 women are to be involved and all were told to come to my town on Sunday at noon to have our first meeting.  They were also told lunch would be provided.  This was a big discussion between me and my homologue.  I’m grateful that the women are willing to travel to me for this meeting, but I don’t want to make providing lunch for them a habit.  As much as I am thankful for their participation, I want them to be motivated on their own, not because they think they’ll get food and other presents for participating.  Many NGOs provide small amounts of money to people who participate in projects like this, so it can become expected.  I can’t and won’t do that.  But lunch was do-able.  We planned for about 25 women (in reality, getting 50% of them to show up is a major accomplishment) and I doled out the 110,000 (about $11) to pay for the ingredients for the sauce and the rice.

The day of the event, although some were late, 32 women showed up.  I was shocked at what a good turnout we had.  I really didn’t expect that.

Because of Guinean protocal and courtesies, we started out with the Sous-Prefet speaking.  He is the political leader of the sous-prefet (kind of like a county) and is a very nice man.  He gave a great metaphor that I really appreciated that went as follows: “She is like a tree with fruit.  And we can take this fruit and use it, or she can leave and take it with her if she don’t take advantage of it.”  Fruit being knowledge in this metaphor.  I really liked it and appreciated his commentary.  Especially him telling them to greet me but not be too aggressive about it.  Because greeting can get to be too much.

The mayor of our town also spoke for just a few minutes.  He told them that I would adapt to them as much as they would adapt to me and so if they just sat and did not work, neither would I.

As per my homologue’s request, we started out with an intro to PC.  Just when it started, the goals of PC and why it exists.

Then we covered Public Health in Guinea and that the goals are to address, specifically, health needs for mothers and children.

Then we covered the structure of the Care Group.  This took a while to get across, despite my illustrations of the pyramid like structure that is the Care Group.  We spent a lot of time discussing it and trying to explain how it would work.  Eventually, I hope, everyone got it.

Finally we got to the health topic of the month: Malaria.  Since we’re in the middle of rainy season, we’re also in the middle of malaria season.  Malaria kills 3 million people each year and West Africa accounts for quite a few of those deaths.  Within West Africa, Guinea has some of the highest rates of malaria.  This means it’s a dangerous disease for many in Guinea and one of the important things to address in maternal-health because children are more at risk due to weaker immune systems.

We talked about the symptoms and the cause (specifically how it’s a parasite that travels through the mosquito, rather than the mosquito who causes malaria), what to do if you have malaria (go to the health center and get the free medicine) and how to prevent it.  Mostly, the women clearly knew most of the information, but it’s important to reiterate it.  Hopefully, through repetition, they’ll understand better and take better precautions against malaria for themselves and their kids.

At the end I tried to do a True-False activity with basic facts from the presentation, but they weren’t super into it.  They didn’t seem to get the concept, especially that I wanted them to go to different sides of the room based on whether they thought the statement was true or false.  They just ended up raising their hands and very few even participated that much.

Overall, however, they were very participatory.  They responded to questions and gave their opinions and discussed a lot of different things.  I was very impressed.

I was very happy to finally have this group started and get such a positive response.  The women seem motivated and excited to work with me and be in charge of the group.  They’ll be responsible for spreading the information and I hope it empowers them to know that they can help themselves.

Last, but not least, we took a picture together.  It was impossible to get them organized to all be in one picture, so we took three, rotating women through so everyone could be in a picture. No one smiled, in true Guinean fashion.

And then, or course, we had lunch.

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A Day in the Life of Me

Many of you may be wondering what I do on a daily basis.  Many of you are also probably under the impression that’s a lot more exciting than it actually is.  The reality is…living in another country quickly becomes not all that much different than living in your home country.  You fall into a routine and it doesn’t change a whole lot from day to day.  Yes, I’m operating in a different language, without many of the creature comforts we as Americans are accustomed to, but overall, my day doesn’t vary that much from yours in that I get up, I get ready, I got to “work”, I eat three meals a day, I do some other random things, and then I go to bed.

My day typically starts at 7:30 am.  I get up, brush my teeth, and do a 25 minute workout video that I got from another volunteer.  After that, I take my bucket across the road to my host family’s house where there is a spigot, and get water.  I use this water to refill my salidaga (see a previous post) and heat some of it up on my gas stove, because right now it’s chilly enough in the morning that I want a warm bucket bath.  I set aside some of the water to make my tea, too.

I then bucket bathe in my “bathroom”.  I get dressed, I heat up the water I set aside for tea, and I make my breakfast.  Normally that’s oatmeal, an egg sandwich, just plain bread or bread with peanut butter, granola with “milk” (powdered milk and water) or pancakes, plus tea.

I usually peruse Facebook, Instagram and check my email while I eat.  Afterwards, I wash my dishes and read for the next hour or so (however long I have until 10:00), when I go to the Health Center.

I don’t do a whole heck of a lot at the Health Center.  If they need help with something, I do that.  Otherwise, I chat with the other workers, or I listen to podcasts on my headphones to drown out the annoying French radio station they listen to.

At noon, I return to my house and read for about 30 min before I go to my host family’s house for lunch. Lunch can be served anywhere between 1:00 and 3:00, though usually by 2:00.  So I hang out and play with the kids until lunch is ready.  I then, usually, eat by myself in the house while everyone else eats outside, unless my homologue is around.  If he is, we eat together. If lunch is early, I’ll hang out some more after, usually until about 2:30.

At this point, I go back to my house to “rest”.  This is what they call it.  Sometimes I take a nap, I read, I watch a tv show or movie, I do any work I need to do for PC or for upcoming presentations, I color, I make friendship bracelets, I listen to music, I research grad. schools, etc.  Whatever I need to do, or feel like doing, this is the time to do it. I do this until about 6:30, when I go back to my host family’s house and hang out again until dinner, usually around 8:00.

Around 8:30 I head back to my house.  I write in my journal, clean up my house a bit, I watch a tv show or read, I brush my teeth and I go to bed, usually around 10:30.  And that’s my day.

Like I said, not too exciting.

This schedule holds true from Monday through Saturday.  Sundays I don’t go to the Health Center, partly because there’s never anyone there, partly because I consider it my weekend.  Not that I’m really exerting myself during the week at all. I’ll also do laundry on Sundays, though lately if its raining I have to wait for a week day when it’s not, and so that day I don’t go to the health center either.

Once a month my Sunday includes a meeting with the Community Health Agents.  And soon I’ll have second monthly meeting with my Care Group (blog post to follow).  Starting in October I may be teaching English at the middle school, so my days will change a bit.  And my homologue says he wants to start English lessons soon, so that my change my afternoons a bit as well.

So there you have it, my day in nutshell. Not the exciting life you imagined, right?

Shout Out to Ashley Fehringer

In January, one of my oldest friends, Ashley Fehringer, put a package for me in the mail.  As is the reality with sending things to Guinea, this package has yet to make it to me.  At this point, I’ve given up hope that it will ever make it.  But I thought she deserved a shout out anyway.

I’m sure the package would’ve been perfect.  She definitely would’ve nailed the snacks.  And there would’ve been a letter that made fun of me for most of it, but in the end got all mushy and sentimental.  And then she’d make fun of me one more time before she ended the letter.

I’m sure there also would’ve been some awesome surprises in the package.  I can’t even speculate as to what they would be, but they’d be great and they’d be things I didn’t even realize I wanted or needed.

Ashley has since sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala.  She is a Public Health Specialist and has already done more at site than I have, of course.  I would expect nothing less of Ashley.  While I’m still a little surprised she chose to do PC (I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who dislikes bugs more), I know she’ll do a wonderful job and be an asset to her community.

Ashley also write an awesome blog that you all should check out!

http://afehringer.blogspot.com