As usual I’m behind on publishing this blog. This last month has been busy and stressful. While I am grateful to have been asked to attend the Let Girls Learn conference in Guinea the travel to and from was tiring.
The week before I was to leave for Ghana there was a strike to demand lower fuel prices. All shops were closed and taxis- the only form of public transportation in Guinea- were not operating. It started Monday and it dragged on until Friday when the government and the trade union reached an agreement. Thankfully I had arranged to get a ride to Conakry with someone who works for the embassy and was in my region. Otherwise I don’t know how I would have gotten from my site to Conakry.
Traveling in Guinea is really taxing. The only time I’d experienced carsickness in my life was when I ate some spicy corn chips before going on a windy mountain road in Mexico. That ended in me throwing up on the side of the windy mountain road. I had never had problems reading in a car until traveling in Guinea. Here, I can’t even look at my phone without getting nauseous. When you say “bad roads” everyone thinks they have bad roads too but after traveling in Senegal and Mali I can tell you that Guinea takes the cake for worst roads. There are some parts where there is more pothole than actual road.
The day I flew to Accra was really hectic. Aside from almost forgetting my Yellow Fever card, there was an issue with my reservation. Thank God I got to the airport 2.5 hours early because it took about 1.5 hours to figure out what had gone wrong with my booking. Staff has traveled earlier and I guess my flight was booked for an earlier date and then changed. They said my flight reservation was for the 17th and that I had missed my flight. After a lot of back and forth between Peace Corps staff, the travel agency, and people at the airport they said I was good to go. I was told I would get another boarding pass in Abdijan. When I arrived in Abdijan the people there recognized my name and told me my flight was on the 17th. I told them everything had been fixed in Conakry but I guess not because they made me pay around $150 as a penalty fee. Thankfully I had my credit card on me.
Airport security at Abdijan was different from anything I’d ever experienced. The heightened security may have been due to a broken scanner but the guards were doing intense security searches—intense as in flipping through the pages of my journal, opening the money flap in my wallet, opening my Bose headphones case. They looked at my license and asked if that was me because my hair was darker in the picture. I wasn’t sure what exactly they thought they would find in the pages of my journal.
Also I discovered that West Africans who don’t speak English get as much shit for not speaking French as non-African foreigners. The girl in front of me in the security line did not speak French and the guard said “You don’t speak French? Why?”. Hmm maybe because she grew up in an Anglophone country let her be.
The conference was pretty awesome. It was a really good experience for me to see what more established programs are doing especially because my only experience in Peace Corps has been with country programs that are reopening. Peace Corps Ghana has a really legit media crew that makes awesome videos.
I really was not there long enough nor did we get very much free time at all to get a sense of Ghana but it felt really weird-I felt like I wasn’t in West Africa at times. Our last night there the volunteers all went out and it was really fun. It was interesting to see an almost even mix of expats and locals at the bars. A lot of the bars were playing American music which I wasn’t too excited about. I wanted to hear some African music, specifically Franko’s “Coller la Petite”. As fun as the bar and club scene was I’m not sure I’ll be making an effort to go back there in the near future.
I’m sure I would have liked it more if it had not been for my purse along with my phone getting stolen on the third day when we went to a beach bar =( Worse than the loss of the phone the shame that comes with being stolen from is probably worse. My bag was right behind me when somebody came and took it. That’s how easy it is to steal from me =/ On the bright side, it was really just my phone that I was upset about losing. I didn’t have any credit cards or my passport in my purse. Also I had backed up all my pictures just 2 weeks before so I didn’t lose too much.
I was ready to declare it a loss that night and move on but the manager at the bar asked me what had been lost as if some of it could somehow be magically recovered. I was very confused but I felt like I should at least try so I checked back at the bar each night that I was there but it was to no avail. Live and learn.
Update on things at site
English Teaching: I had many people asking me to teach English so when I got back I decided to start English club in the early evenings. As expected, there is a discrepancy between the number of people who told me they want to learn and those actually attending the club consistently or at all. It won’t make much of a difference now anyways because the sous prefet (government representative in the villages) asked me if I could teach at the local middle school. They haven’t had an English teacher because he was moved to the local town when that teacher left. I had been told that they had a teacher already but he has a lot on his plate at the moment. He is supposed to teach at two middle schools which are not very close to each other so I’m coming in to lend him a hand. I’ll be teaching 7th to 11th grade once a week.
I’m a little nervous but also excited that I’ll have an in at the school and with a lot of students. I’ll be teaching 4 2-hour classes each week so it won’t be too bad.
Beekeeping: I was told beekeepeeing would start in April but now they’re telling me it won’t be until May or June so we will see. Either way I’ve asked to go check out the hives before the harvesting time begins.
Electricity: When I arrived in my village in February people told me that we would be getting electricity in a month or so. I was very skeptical of that estimate but I figured maybe by April. But for some reason when I got back from Ghana I didn’t see any more work going on. They had raised some poles during my time away but since then the work had stopped for no clear reason. 2 weeks ago one of my work partners said maybe we’ll have it in 5 months so we’ll see. I don’t know what changed the timeframe so much. I need to ask around.
I’m thinking of just buying a solar panel because charging my laptop can be difficult even when I go into town. We are currently in the dry season and since the electricity is coming from a nearby dam it is scarce. In the nearby town, it is turned off in the day and once it gets dark they turn it on. So I don’t have the luxury of charging my laptop when I go into town for market day Thursdays. Instead I have to leave it overnight with a trusted work partner. Not a big deal but annoying when you didn’t know to plan ahead for that.