A Good Month

Oh, Boy!

Deep breath.

Here we go.

Just over three weeks ago thirty or so volunteers arrived at ENATEF, a forestry school and hotel slash conference center, for a two week IST (In Service Training). That Sunday was our three month reunion since first arriving at site. It had been that whole time since I last saw half of people I crossed the Atlantic with. The two weeks that followed were full of days that dragged on endlessly and nights that were never long enough. We were in session seven hours a day, sitting, minds engaged only half the time and day dreaming the remainder. It was a completely different type of thinking than what I do at site, requiring a concentration I hadn’t exercised in three months. How I made it through high school and college? I don’t know.

Those two weeks were exhausting; seventeen days exactly, the last three all in French. We studied local languages, gave abbreviated business skills training, learned how to write grants, to design projects and to evaluate them. We visited a pineapple farm, drank beers, went dancing, and played Four Chair (a game inspired by Steve and his Frisbee buddies, thanks Steve!). I think there might have been a day or two where we did a majority of those things. We lived in a dorm setting, sharing rooms, showers, bathrooms, and meals. By the end of those two weeks I was ready to go home, back to Dabola. I learned a lot, and was reminded of even more. Most importantly, I was reminded of why I’m here. If I ever forget, I only have to look to the thirty other Americans that shared a flight from JFK to Conakry six months ago.

SIX MONTHS!

Holy time machine, Batman! Time must move faster closer to the Equator. It damn well doesn’t feel like it’s been six whole months. December, January, February, March, April, May. One, two, three, four, five, six. Yup, that’s six month, alright. And from what I hear the first six months are the slowest. At this rate I’ll be stateside in no time flat.

Sooner, actually. Jesse, whatever do you mean? My dad was going to come visit me, but for several reasons that is no longer happening. So, what is happening…? Don’t worry; I’ll feed you, baby birds.

Drumroll…

Extended silence… (you know, to build suspense.)

I’M COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!

AND NEW YEAR’S!!!!

Ok, now calm down. Breath. In, out. In, out. That’s it.

Oh, boy! I can’t wait for some In N’ Out and an It’s It (or a dozen).

Here’s the scoop (mmmm… ice cream), since my dad won’t be making the trip to Guinea my parents have generously offered to co-finance a trip home for the holidays. Yeah, my parents kick ass. The itinerary for said trip has yet to be solidified, but the initial estimate is for me to be in N.CA for roughly three weeks starting a few days before Christmas. The tickets haven’t been bought yet. We are waiting to see if things clear up in Mali over the next month or so. If they do, I’ll be flying out of Bamako, which is cheaper and easier for me to travel to. If not, I’ll make the pothole laden trek to Conakry and fly from there.

Stand by, with sharpie in hand, to mark the dates on your calendars. 🙂

So… there’s this girl… I guess she’s kinda cool in a thoughtful, beautiful, dorky, sassy, I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-her sort of way. We met at the end of March when all the volunteers in Haute met in Kankan for our monthly dance fest. A month later she was in Dabola celebrating Cinqo de Mayo with the small group of volunteers I had over for the weekend. We hit it off and things have progressed from there. I was lucky enough that she had to visit ENATEF a couple times during our IST and afterward I spent some time at her site. I didn’t come to Peace Corps with this sort of thing in mind, but if Guinea has taught me anything these last six months it’s that you just never know exactly what is going to happen. Suffice it to say, I’m smitten.

While at her site we helped a volunteer in a nearby village with a project. With three other volunteers and dozens of young Guineans we climbed the not-so-high-but-rather-steep Mount Sebery to plant a bunch of trees at the very tip-top. I can now say with complete certainty that scaling a mountain with two seedlings in each hand is not so easy. However, I believe it is easier than scaling that same mountain with a flat of seedlings balanced on your head, as the Guinean in front of me did. I was quite impressed. We planted the trees, enjoyed the view, and climbed back down to town just in time to avoid a downpour. There are four tiny trees on top of that mountain that were planted by a certain young man from Northern California.

Her site is the home of an enchanted place… a pine forest. A WHAT?! A pine forest. Oh, and there are also eucalyptus trees! It was like walking through Hillsborough at times. We took a small hike through the pine forest and the smell took me right back to my dad’s cabin in Arnold. There is a creek that runs through the pine trees that is lazy and cold and speaks in a gurgling whisper. Small and medium gardens spot the hills where the pines don’t grow or have been cleared. It was a whole other world. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Africa.

In her town a wide dirt road runs down a hill until it meets with the main paved road which descends down a hill of its own. Power lines drape on rusted poles that are centered in the wide divider bisecting the road. Trees line the way down and on the distant hills are houses with red roofs. From a certain vantage point and with a bit of imagination a similarity can be found between this setting and driving north into San Francisco on 280. A fellow Californian agrees with me, though she is from LA and so her opinion can only be considered marginally viable. hehehe

Now, here I am, back in Dabola and full of ideas for projects. I can’t wait to get started, but getting things done in Guinea is a slow process. Little by little, as they say here, though they say in in French so it sounds more like petite á petite.

Oh, I nearly forgot! As you know from a previous update all the PC volunteers in Mali were evacuated because of the coup d’état. Well, some went home and some transferred to other PC countries. Guinea is the proud recipient of two lovely ex-Malian volunteers. One will be a public health volunteer in or near Conakry, the other will be based in Dabola as an agroforestry volunteer. *does a little shuffle* Soon there will be three white-folk in Dabola: myself, Rob the Brit, and Rebecca the tree planter. Come on, say it with me. SITEMATE!

Something wonderful happened the weekend before IST: four lovely packages arrived at my doorstep. Ben’s had my rain coat in it and was stuff to the brim with all my favorite treats (mmmm… rosemary and olive oil Triscuits). Jill’s was direct from the magnificent aisles of Trader Joe’s (seriously, who doesn’t love that store. If you don’t, we can’t be friends. It’s like Snack Central, USA.) Mom’s had seeds to jump start a garden, drink mixes, toys for the kids, redneck cookies, and a much needed fly swatter. And then there was the package from Matt & Co., a team effort that included magazines, newspapers, handwritten notes, and enough goodies to ensure diabetes. Thank you all so much for the time and money and love you put into those packages. They mean more than you know. Alba, I’m still waiting on yours, but rumor has it that I have a package in Conakry and my guess is that your name is on the return address.

This last month has been phenomenal.

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