Site Visit Round Two

Trip Start Dec 01, 2007
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21
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Trip End Mar 27, 2010


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Monday, August 18, 2008

G-16 arrived on July 10th and began their training shortly after. They are the first group of education volunteers since the evacuation. There are 25 of them and they will either be teaching English, physics, chemistry or math. Four days ago G-15 (my group) got to meet the new volunteers in their region. So the G-15 Hauters all took a cab from Mamou to Kankan, where we prepared the house for the newbies. Since they were traveling from 6 hours further than us, we had plenty of time to shop, cook and clean. We were all pretty nervous because we really haven't met any new Americans in 8 months; we're kind of scrubby and weird, used to just each other's company; our main conversation consists of bodily functions and food we miss; our social skills are rather limited now so we're not so polite and yell at each other a lot. To outsiders it might seem like we don't get along but we do actually love each other. So all of this is going through our heads. I shower, even condition my hair; I shaved my legs and put product in my hair. I changed clothes three times until I realized I have no appropriate clothing to make a good impression on people who have only been in country a month. So I settled with my only pair of jeans and a t-shirt, then put my hair in its normal knot. Might as well not give them the idea that I actually tried and failed, so I just looked like I didn't try. And then they arrived. We've added 8 new Hauters to the family, 4 boys and 4 girls. Two of the boys are Lower Hauters: Levi, who is myclosest neighbor to the north 50 km away and Hunter who is 215 km away but still considered Lower Haute. Nick gets two new neighbors in the Dinguiraye region, which is good because he was pretty much in the middle of nowhere alone. Siguiri gets another girl as does Mandiana. Everyone seemed pleased with the new placements.
Even though I'm sure they were tired we didn't let them rest. David and Alex have recently added a basketball court, bowling alley, fire pit and lots of bamboo furniture to the Kankan house. So we all sat around the fire outside, chatting and being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I don't think it was  as awkward as everyone imagined it would be. We discovered we still knew how to make small talk and more importantly after just a month here, G-16 has no reservations about discussing bodily functions. We're obviously meant to be.
Next day we formed teams to prepare for our welcome/Nick's birthday party. Once again I was team mashed potato. But unlike my site visit, I knew where to find potatoes and I knew how to make mashed potatoes. Hunter and Alison were on my team so it was my job to introduce them to the wonderful world of Kankan and answer all their questions. When Candee and I were team mashed potato 7 months ago we didn't have an old volunteer to show us around. We spent hours lost, wandering around in the blistering heat until we stumbled upon our ingredients. This time around we were very efficient: Leb store, market, internet café, fabric (for costumes), lunch, home.
The theme for the party was "Hunters and Prey". I bought silky giraffe print fabric which I wrapped around myself and tied with a rope at the neck. There were a lot more hunters than prey and then a few lame ducks who didn't dress up at all. I am ashamed to say Zachary was the only G-15er not cool enough to dress up. Bad example for the new people. But the party turned out awesome despite their best efforts to the contrary. David grilled meat on the new fire pit, we had salad and my mashed potatoes. There was a cake for Nick and Sarah made her amazing key lime pie. And then as all our parties do, it turned into a dance party. And props to G-16 boys for letting loose.
Next day it was a bright and early rise for a Peace Corps ride the two hours to Tocounou, Levi's site. It is also our driver's home village so he introduced us around and then dropped me and Levi off in his new hut which is about twice the size of mine and has an awesome floor inlaid with stones. His hut is painted an obnoxiously bright blue which I said we needed to work on but Levi said he likes. We were introduced to a man who calls himself "Argent", literally money, who said he was good friends with the part 3 volunteers and so he would be Levi's friend too. He showed us around, took us to lunch, introduced us to the important people. Throughout this I was translator as Levi speaks French "small small" and absolutely no Malinke. It was good for me as it made me leave my comfort zone. Normally I let the other volunteers do the talking. I prefer to listen.
The experience brought back some of my site visit memories that I have tried to repress so I did my best to prevent Levi from going through what I did. When people criticized his lack of French or Malinke I jumped in to explain he hasn't been here that long. I was there to answer most his questions and explain or laugh over the oddities we saw. And then I was able to spirit him away to Gbangbadou after one night at his site (where I was almost murdered by bed buds sleeping on his moldy thin foam mattress).
In the big Gbang I showed him around, cooked him some good old American food (mac and cheese and tuna fish sandwiches) and made him go on a pointless 8 km walk that exhausted both of us. Today I sent him off to Kissidougou to spend a night with Zach, but he left the unpleasant bed bugs...
I can't say for sure but I think G-16 had a more pleasant site visit than we did. I enjoyed being a hostess and knowing a lot of the answers. I now know just how far I've come since being a scared stagier seven months ago and the difference really is incredible.
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Comments

travelingirl
travelingirl on

Thank you for your blog :)
Hey there! Thank you so much for posting your blog - I have been reading it on and off (checking it here and there to see if it's been updated) for the past few months - probably since May or even earlier! There is a possibility that I will be traveling to Conakry in December to study african drumming. All the best in your work - you are doing very important work and you should be very proud of yourself!
-Amy from NJ

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