Welcome to this unspecified-amount-of-time’s edition of the Jesse Gubert’s Peace Corps Update. I’m your host and title character Jesse Gubert. Thanks for joining us.
First on the docket, FAMILY BUSINESS…
I’M GOING TO BE AN UNCLE!! I’ve always thought that being an uncle would be a thousand times better than having my own kids. I’ll get to teach himinnocently offensive phrases and feed him spoonfuls of caffeine without having to berate him when she call a stranger a “monkey turd” or attempt to calm him down as he sprints around the living room. He will be almost a year and a half old when I return from Guinea, which is great. I’m not good with babies and he’ll be the perfect age to teach all the fun stuff.
I’ve already put a lot of thought into what sort of uncle I’m going to be. Yes, of course I’ll be “Uncle Jesse” (it’s not lost on me), but I’ll also be the uncle that always has cookies (I love cookies and dammit my nephew will too!). I also may have started a list of odd facts that I’ll have on mental file to tell him each time I see him (did you know that : the speed of light in fathoms per fortnight is 1.98×1014, Descartes was attracted to cross-eyed women, and Voltaire praised vegetarianism but himself ate meat). If I’m putting this much thought into the arrival the kid, how much are my brother and his girlfriend thinking about it? Do you think they’re so tired of thinking that they’ll let me name it?! No matter the name they decide, I’m calling him toubabou.
Next up is our oldest segment, THIS AFRICAN LIFE…
My life here has started to develop a sense of normalcy. That’s not saying my schedule is set, very far from it. What I mean is I see and experience things that would have surprised me a few months ago and now they seem normal. It’s normal for me to wait for people to show up late. It’s normal to be followed around town by young kids. And it’s seems normal to me to spend more time greeting someone than the following conversation takes. There are good and bad aspects of what is normal for me here, but overall I’m enjoying it quite a bit. How could I not enjoy when it becomes normal to be offered food a dozen times as I walk into town? That’s right, I couldn’t.
But you’re probably wondering what part of my new normal I like the best. So, what’s the best part of my African normal? Easy: my daily naps. If you know me well, you know I’m very fond of naps. They rank just below cookies and show tunes and just above hugs and iced tea in the Jesse’s Favorite Things Rankings. Guineans usually rest after lunch every afternoon for about two hours to avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day. I can’t nap that long if I want to fall asleep come bedtime, so I limit my naps to forty perfect minutes. It’s gotten to the point that I start feeling sleepy around 2:00, which is lunchtime here. It’s amazing our much our bodies respond to conditioning.
Also, people wake up early here and so I’ve been getting up around 6:00 or 6:30 every day. Sleeping in now means waking up at 8:00. There have been days where I wake up and I’m curtain it’s 10:00 at the earliest; I look at the clock and it’s 7:45. This last weekend I went to a wedding dance with Sekouba and I didn’t get to bed until 1:30; still woke up at 6:30. No way was I getting up, so rested in bed until I fell back to sleep. I woke up again at 7:30 and started my day. I love sleep; in the states if I was out that late I would have easily been in bed until 10:00. This place is changing me, and I’m not sure for the better.
And now for the newest portion of our show, THE DREAM DESK…
Every PCV in Guinea is required to take a malaria medication either daily or weekly. Mine is weekly and is the one that can cause some interesting dreams. A lot of the volunteers have been having great dreams and I have been disappointed by their absence during my sleepy time. I don’t normally dream a lot but in the last month I’ve finally had some fun dreams, four to be exact. I’d like to summarize a few of them and then describe one in detail.
The first dream involved the baking of cookies in underwear and despite the possibility for an unpleasant accident the cookies turned out amazingly. The second was brief but I managed to save the life of my best friend by divining that a mole was cancerous. The third I’ll describe in a bit. And the fourth was a far ranging epic that included a beach, small, medium and large waves, a teddy-dog chasing a teddy-chicken along a power line, an urgent need for me to explain to a mother and son where all the UC campuses are, and the mom making the outrageous assumption that the only hospitals in California are UC Medical Centers. That was a fun one and I’m not even sure how it all fits together.
As for that third dream… A lot of us new volunteers were gathered and meeting some of the volunteers who had been in country and asking them questions about their experiences. I didn’t consciously recognize anyone but I was comfortable with them and apparently knew them well. One of my fellow new volunteers (we’ll call him David) and I were chatting with a middle-aged volunteer (we’ll call him Stanley) who was in Guinea for a second round of Peace Corps having served in Benin a few years earlier.
“Which do you like better: Guinea or Benin?” David asked innocently.
I pulled David aside and whispered harshly, “don’t ask him to compare things!” David’s was baffled by my reaction and his eyes widened apologetically. I wasn’t sure why but the question had sent me into a panic. I was shocked that he would ask such an insensitive question and I was furious. Somehow, I instinctually knew the question was off limits and that David had stepped over the line in asking it.
As confused as David was about why Stanley shouldn’t be asked to make comparisons, I was in no position to provide him with an answer. So, we did the only logical thing and turned to regard our new friend, who I was sure we had just offended. He looked at us and understood our confusion about the situation. He lifted up his arms to show us that he had no hands.
That was it. He had no hands! I got so upset because I both knew and didn’t know that he was handless and, for some reason, I thought the only way anyone could compare things was to say “on the one hand… but on the other hand.”
And then the dream ended.
If dreams really do mean something and let us glimpse at our semi-conscious selves, then I can only guess at what these dreams mean. It’s no secret that I love cookies and underwear is fun I guess. You can call me a hero but I think anyone who knows their best friend’s mole is life-threatening would recommend seeing a doctor. And maybe I miss the beach and stuffed animals and California, though I though ice cream, hugs, and napkins would have ranked higher than the beach and teddy bears. I’m not sure I should even take a crack at the significance of the handless PCV.
Thank you for tuning in for this edition of Jesse Gubert’s Peace Corps Update. We’ll see you again this time, later.