West Africa Love

Peace Corps Volunteer Experience in Mali and Guinea

Conakry in the Rainy Season

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Finally got back to site  after being in Conakry for the last 2 weeks to help train the new volunteers that just arrived.

“The sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar…..”  That song does not apply to Conakry in the rainy season. O-M-G.  I thought I liked the rain. I was thinking “I’m gonna miss rainy days in Guinea soo much, I should move somewhere where it rains a lot after Peace Corps” but rainy season in Conakry will change your mind.  I can’t stay it was literally nonstop, there were some reprieves, but I think I saw the sun about 3 times during those 2 weeks.  I love cloudy weather but I don’t love not being able to dry clothes.  I washed some shirts and it took 1.5 days for them to dry because there was no sun.  Also I had some leather sandals that got wet on the ride into Conakry and they got moldy.

Getting into Conakry was not so fun. Actually the whole ride was not horrible, more like the last 4 hours of it.  I already expected that ride to be bad but WOW my expectations for how bad it was were surpassed.  I wish I could take a picture to convey what it looks but really you have to be inside a vehicle and experience the bumps. Sometimes people get together and take it upon themselves to fill the bumps with rocks which is definitely helpful but it’s still bumpy.  I wonder if they are not building the road well or if it gets so much rain that it will still wear down quickly no matter what. It’s probably a combination of both.

I was mostly at the training center which is about an hour outside of Conakry but one of the weekends I got to come into Conakry. This was actually the first time I ventured out and used taxis in Conakry. All the other times I had gotten rides with Peace Corps cars.  The taxi system in town is actually pretty good because they’ve made it into a taxi bus system.  I waited less than 5 minutes to get a ride.  There is a “taxi stop” that is about a 10 minutes walk from the Peace Corps office in Conakry. You use hand signals to indicate whether you are going nearby or farther away. Pointing to the ground repeatedly=going nearby. If you’re going farther away you make a peace sign and motion right repeatedly with the flick of a wrist.  If the next taxi that passes has room they will stop and pick you up.  People were unusually nice to me in the taxis.  On two occasions people paid for my fare. Granted it was only 1000-2500 GNF (about 25 cents) but it was still super nice.   I needed to go to the ATM because I was running low on cash.  I was able to get to the closest bank sans probleme but there was no money at that ATM and it was a Sunday so the bank was closed.  I was almost going to go to the next closest bank, which is actually not very close at all, but luckily someone told me there’s no money there either so I headed back to the office.

On the way back I saw a woman and man fighting in the middle of the street! What was crazy was it looked like the woman was winning. Men are generally skinnier than the women here so I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. She was getting under him trying to lift him off the ground and then he tried to bite her in the neck. People were running in to break them up.  I don’t know why all of that was taking place in the middle of the street. I caught myself assuming it was a certain ethnic group in Guinea and I realized it’s very easy to perpetuate stereotypes when you’re in a new place. You’re interacting with people that are unfamiliar to you and you will put them in boxes to simplify things for yourself. Gotta be careful about that.

After my unsuccessful bank trip I headed back to the office to figure out my money situation. Another volunteer that was in Conakry was able to lend me money thankfully.  With my wallet slightly fuller, I headed out again to visit some of my host family’s family that lives in Conakry. If you read the post about the wedding I attended, you may remember the couple whose wedding night I altered by occupying the bed the bride and groom were supposed to sleep in.  I think it actually wasn’t that big of a deal here. Someone in my village showed me a wedding album where I couldn’t find a single picture of the groom. Why? Well because he wasn’t there that day. His brother stood in at the ceremony for him. The groom was about 12 hours away in Upper Guinea where he works and I guess the wedding had to happen that day.  Anywho I went to visit that couple and some other extended family in Conakry. It was really nice seeing them. They are really funny. They have a TV so I got to watch some of the Olympics with them. Before I left we ate cassava leaf sauce (aka hako bantara in Pular) with rice. They had limes out and were squeezing it on as we ate. I already love that sauce but the lime took it to the next level!

Getting back to site was not stressful because I was able to get a ride with a Peace Corps staff member who was headed out to hike around my area.  I was SOO happy to get back Friday. The sun was shining and the sky was clear and it was beautiful! I haven’t been running lately but I wanted to go for a jog right then and there because it looked so beautiful. I was thinking “Yes I can finally do laundry!!”

Getting back to site after being away for awhile can be a little weird because a lot of people will ask you “Did you bring me something?” It’s supposed to be a joke and they’re supposed to drop it after you say “No I didn’t” but sometimes people respond with “Why not?” and I’m unsure of what to say at that point.  Not as many people asked me that this time and I was able to joke with the ones who did.  Plus I was super happy to be back and practice my Pulaar. I know I’m still massacring it but its a fun language.

As nice as it is to eat pizza and ice cream I was ready to get back because my stomach was not so excited about eating these foods that I don’t have very often. At one point I was scared I was going to become a member of the Oopsy Poopsy club. In Mali, this is what we called the group who did not make it to the bathroom in time.  I have not joined that club yet but if and when I do it’ll make for a good story.

New Kids on the Block

It was really nice meeting all the new kids. It was interesting seeing how different the training Education volunteers receive is from Public Health and Agroforestry volunteers. The Education volunteers will be teachers at local middle schools and high schools so there is more emphasis on French.  Their training is 11 weeks of super intense lesson planning + language + learning local culture.  Some education volunteers said they felt they had it harder because they were super busy right now but honestly each type of assignment is hard in its own way. Yes Education is super swamped in training in the beginning but they also have a clearly defined job. The community will not be confused as to what their role is and even if they don’t plan another project they can feel accomplished that they taught for 2 years.  Public Health and Agroforestry have less intense training in the beginning but then they get dropped off and have to find/create their own job sometimes.  They may have to find completely new people and/or organizations to work with.

One volunteer trainer said that seeing all the nice cool things the new volunteers brought made him get a better idea of how Africans must feel when they see us whip out our nice electronic gadgets and camping gear. These new kids brought really cool hammocks and alot of them have this inflatable solar powered battery light that is water resistant and that you can pack really easily if you deflate it.  I obviously don’t need any of those things to get by here but when you see these cool and convenient items you can’t help but want one a little.

I’m Not Allergic to Eggs Anymore!

Also, I thought I was allergic to eggs. For the last 4 months every time I ate one I got really bad stomach cramps and I felt like I was going to faint but I had one the other day and I felt fine!  I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to eat eggs ever again without paying for it an hour later.  Eggs are widely available here (I can even find them in my village which doesn’t sell many items) so I’ll be able to get some more protein now.

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Author: moniq77

Peace Corps volunteer in Mali before the program was suspended due to security concerns. Finishing my service in Guinea.

One thought on “Conakry in the Rainy Season

  1. really like the bit about stereotypes and what you said about oversimplifying, good reminder for me too.

    Liked by 1 person

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