West Africa Love

Peace Corps Volunteer Experience in Mali and Guinea

Things I Will Miss & Things I Won’t Miss

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When I was leaving Dakar, Senegal after a semester abroad, I made a list of “Things I’m not going to miss about Dakar”.  I remember feeling really excited to be going home and not having to live with a host family anymore.  And then I got back and  I was hating everything  and all I wanted to do was leave the US again. Despite my list, I over romanticized my experience and it took me awhile to appreciate living in California.  So as my months in Guinea started winding down I decided to list out the positive and negative aspects to help me remember what my life was like during these past 19 months.  I’m also including one of my favorite journal entries from this past month.

Things I’m going to Miss:

  • Washing laundry at the river- I had a GORGEOUS river at my site. It was hard to find bread and phone credit sometimes but the river made up for some of that =)20170729_132602
  • Feeling of accomplishment after I’ve finished laundry at the river
  • THE MUSIC!! West African music is the best music in the world. I feel like happiness is bubbling up inside me when I hear it.
  • Happy relief and gratefulness when I get a car to Labe- my regional capital that is an hour away. Hitchhiking was the fastest way to get there. Hitchhiking is pretty normal in Guinea and I never felt unsafe doing it.
  • Chaos of the market- I feel ambivalent about this. Sometimes I liked it and sometimes I couldn’t handle it.
  • Hassatou and Jeynabu playing with my hair
  • Cooking with Lamarana (my 17 yr old boy neighbor )
  • Discovering someone made my favorite sauce when they invite me to eat
  • Having dinner with Mariama Dalandah, her sister and her mom20170625_185252
  • Learning new words in Pulaar
  • Harvesting honey
  • Eating leaf sauce with neighbors
  • Biking in the bush
  • Having an active lifestyle (I used my bike A LOT, around 5 days a week) and not having to worry about working out.

Things I’m not going to Miss

  • Kids and adults calling out “Porto” (white person). This may sound very innocent and it is, people generally don’t say it in a mean way, but it is something that gets under your skin and annoys you so much after a few months of having people say it. People will call out as if  they’ll win some game for spotting you and calling it out first.
  • Waiting up to 5 hours at the taxi station for the taxi to fill up so we could leave. See post  Transportation in Guinea: Pushing the Limits on How Much You Can Fit In and On a Car
  • Boredom. It was important for me to plan out what I was going to do each day beforehand. Otherwise I ran the risk of getting bored and then getting upset and having to get myself out of that funk.  The following phrase sums it up.  #1 goal as a Peace Corps Extension (Health or Agroforestry) Volunteer: Stay busy so that you don’t get bored because boredom can lead to depression and when you’re depressed you don’t want to do anything. So do what makes you happy to ward of depression because if you’re unhappy it’s unlikely you’ll be doing anything productive.  You can be happy and unproductive but you can’t be productive when you’re unhappy. 
  • People asking me “why don’t you want to get married here?” Or “Let me find a husband for you”.
  • A neldi lan?- “Did you bring me something?”. This is a common Guinean joke but one that I’ve never found all that funny. . Anytime you come back from traveling somewhere or sometimes if you’ve just gone to the market town people will ask you this. Sometimes you’d say no and people would drop it but other times they’d ask “Why?”
  • People in the village asking me A defi? A gagni defuude? (“Have you cooked? Have you finished cooking?).  I always wondered if male volunteers had to deal with these questions or not.
  • Feet getting dirty with dust or in puddles- no matter what season I was always getting my feet dirty.
  • My work partner saying he’s going to meet me somewhere or come to my house and knowing he’s not going to do it even before I hang up the phone. He was very reliable in the beginning but he really disappointed me the last few months before my departure. I considered him one of my best friends but sadly I lost a lot of respect for him towards the end. =/  Sometimes people disappoint you. That’s life.
  • Washing my sheets. It was such a pain to wash sheets. I had to slap the sheets against rocks at the river. I was lucky I could wash them at the river versus in a bucket but they were still so much work!

Journal Entry

Friday, July 7, 2017

Last night was one of the nights that you realize Okay between all the boredom and complaining about being bored there are really nice moments in Peace Corps. Mariama Dalandah called me to go have dinner. She mentioned that her fasting [for Ramadan] was over. [Women have to make up days that the didn’t fast due to their period].  I said “thank God” and that got us on the subject of pregnant women fasting. I told them Kani was fasting and that I was not happy to hear about it.  [Pregnant and breastfeeding women do not need to  fast but they believe they will have to make it up later and it’s harder fasting by yourself than when everyone else is doing it].  They didn’t realize she was 6 months along.  I told them that her stomach wasn’t very big but her boobs were. Then I asked what women here preferred and Fatoumata said “it depends”. I asked what do men prefer and she “it depends”. And then I explained how we like bigger boobs and how we do plastic surgery if we want them enough. That was crazy to them.


I had lots of ideas for this blog which I didn’t follow through on but I may be continuing some posts that I had in mind now that I have more reliable internet.  In the least I’m going to make a playlist of some of my favorite West African songs =)


Author: moniq77

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

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