The malaria medication I take doesn’t just have the amusing side effect of fun dreams. It also has the tendency to make me slightly nauseous the few hours and drowsy for a couple days after that. I take the nasty, little pill every Tuesday night and Wednesdays tend to feel like I’m fighting low blood sugar all day, Thursdays are better and by Friday I’m normal again. For those of you who know me well, you know that when I’m hungry and need to eat I become grumpy and lethargic (yet another area where I take after my father). Wednesdays are not good days for me to be moody since that happens to be the busy day for the Dabola ASF (Association de Service Fanaciares… I’ll explain in depth how these work in another post). Last Wednesday it took all my self-control not to get up and walk out of the building.
I’m still learning all the processes of the how CAFODEC and their ASFs operate and so I don’t feel completely comfortable making any suggestions quite yet as to how they organize things. That said, I know there is a better way to manage all the paperwork they deal with. We’ll spend no less than ten minutes searching for a paper and then find it in a binder it had no business being in. As you all know, I hate inefficiencies, especially ones that can be avoided. So, you can imagine me working for six hours in an office that is rife with inefficiencies and redundancies doing tasks that take much longer than they should. Add the sluggish grumpiness from the malaria medication and you’ve got yourself an explosive situation.
I’ve managed to make it through Wednesdays so far but they are far from enjoyable and so I called the PC doctor (PCMO) to talk to him about the possibility of taking a different medication that might work better for me. He suggested taking half a pill twice a week rather than a full pill once a week. I’ll be experimenting with that this week as well as moving the day I take the half-pill to Monday nights and Friday mornings. If this backfires and makes me drowsy the next day both times I can’t guarantee that I won’t be smacking the PCMO.
The inefficiencies and redundancies in many areas of work here, I imagine, stem from the way Guineans are taught in school. Critical thinking is not at all encouraged and is ignored in favor of rote memorization. I’ve harped on this before, but it’s an important barrier to development in Guinea in every sense of the word. Students are asked to memorize what the teacher writes on the board and then tested on their ability to reproduce exactly what they memorized. Only the smartest students ever make a connection between what they are told to memorize and how it applies to similar situations. And those students are hardly encouraged to explore those connections.
A side-effect of rote memorization is the need for something to be exact in order for it to be understood. If you ask a Guinean for the time you will never get the answer “a quarter to five” or “almost three.” The answer will always be “four, forty-four” or “two, fifty-eight.” During training my language trainer asked me what time it was and I responded with “10 o’clock,” she happened to see my watch and let me know that “no, it’s 10:02.” Approximations are not given here. In some instances exactness is necessary, but it becomes a problem when exactness becomes paramount over clarity of meaning. The education volunteers are here to promote critical thinking in the middle and high schools. I hope to supplement their efforts by working with the youth in Dabola outside of school, in social forums, to further encourage critical thinking.
New topic… Everything may be bigger in Texas, but things are harder to kill in Africa. Has it ever taken you four smacks of a weighty sandal and crushing in a paper towel to kill the cricket hiding behind your bookshelf and that has kept you up all night and is much louder than you would have predicted given its size? I didn’t think so, my American (and one Swedish) friends.
My APCD, Kristine, recently visited half of the CED volunteers in Guinea. She spent a week on the road and concluded her visits here with me in Dabola (she’s a firm believer in saving the best for last). We met at one of the two hotel restaurants and she bought me a wonderful and expensive meal of chicken and French fries (talk about fancy!). We chit and chatted for a couple hours and watched some of the footage of the riots in Spain.
(It was about damn time that those Spaniards got pissed about the 20% unemployment rate that has been plaguing their country for way too long. It really shouldn’t be a surprise that things became violent; look at the evidence from the Spanish Inquisition. I’m actually only speculating as to what started the riots and to the extent of the violence and damage. The news was in French and the lady talking was gorgeous, give me a break.)
The next day Kristine and I met with the staff at CAFODEC and that was when I found out that our office building may be moving. This could possibly mean I’ll be moving to another place in Dabola, but I’m not sure as to all the specifics quite yet. I like my set up and would like to stay here. Most importantly my place now is near the edge of town and when I run I only have to deal with people watching me for a half mile. I would miss that little bit of privacy.
Kristine isn’t the only one who has visited me in Dabola. I’m the acting halfway house for volunteers travelling from one side of the country to the other. Recently I had an education volunteer stay here and this week I’ll be hosting one of my favorite CEDers for a couple nights as she makes her way to a youth conference in Guinea’s second largest city, Kindia. I like the company and so far I’ve ended up with a house guest a bit less than once a week. If nothing else it forces me to clean and pick up all the crap I’ve left lying around (I get that from my mother).
I have a lot of little things to share but don’t want to allot them their own paragraphs since they are really just snip-its. So, here is a spattering of topics jumbled into one unorganized paragraph: I have a cookie lady who comes by my place a few times a week to sell me these wonderful shortbread-type cookies. She’s the only lady I’ve found that makes them and she always gives me a free one. I’m cat sitting for Betsy and Jack is still a kitten. I remembered cats being more fun and less annoying when I grew up with them. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned a certain promise I made a few months back at Swearing In to one of the other volunteers, but I, a little less than soberly, committed myself to growing out a ponytail. I figure, what the hell, now is the only time I imagine I’ll be able to accomplish this feat without constant berating from friends and family. So, here goes nothing. My British friend has Typhoid Fever. Suffice it to say, I haven’t seen him in a few days. He’s feeling much better now but we had to cancel some plans we had made to visit a nearby town together. I’ll probably still go. Mangos and avocados are now super cheap! I eat a mango or two every day and enjoy an avocado from time to time. I’m getting better at making tortillas. My last batch was near perfect. With so many avocadoes about the only natural progression is to try to make chips and guacamole! The new taxi station in town has been slow to attract travellers. Everyone continues to go to the center of town to get a taxi. That leaves the folks who use the new station waiting hours for a car to fill and leave. I hate to be part of the problem, but I will not be waiting at the new station unless I’m travelling with a larger group or until more people start using it.
Happy April to all you lovely people and to your friends and families as well!