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Well, damn.

Forty-six hours from now I’ll be landing in Philadelphia. It seems to have come so soon, even with the four month warning. I’ve had a couple wonderful going away parties, some lovely time at my dad’s cabin, and a wonderful Thanksgiving with the family. I’m mostly packed, there will likely be more re-packing tomorrow, and I’ll run once more through the streets of Davis tomorrow morning. There have been a lot of questions about communicating with me and mailing packages to me once I’m in country. Well, here goes…

Letters and Packages:

Send these to:

Jesse Gubert
c/o Corps de la Paix
BP 1927 Conakry
République de Guinée (West Africa)

Because I’ll not have a reliable source of internet [terrible, right?! 😉 ] snail mail can be more reliable. It helps to number the letters so I’ll know if I’m missing one [start at #1, Brendan]. If you send a postcard, send it in an envelope, as they tend to get lost or stolen.

Packages have high rates of theft, heavy custom taxes, and take a long period of time to arrive. It’s not suggested that expensive items be mailed. The best and cheapest way to send me those lovely care packages is by using the USPS flat-rate boxes. Padded envelopes have a lower rate of theft than boxes, so if you can fit it in one of those, go for it.

For more advice on how to send things to me check out this recent PCV’s blog post:

http://dorianinafrica.blogspot.com/2008/11/epic-mailing-guidelines-post.html

It’s long and detailed and full of useful information.

Phone and Email

My email address: jdgubert@gmail.com
My phone number: TBD
Skype name: jdgubert

I will be giving my US cell phone to my brother once I head to Guinea, if you call the (650) 888 number you’ll have a blonde guy answer. 🙂 He’s nice, feel free to chit-chat [no embarrassing stories, Casey!].

I’ll be getting a local cell phone once I arrive in the country, though the service is spotty at best. Once I know the number I’ll post it on here. I’ll try to set up times to have people call so I can go to a place where there is service. Skype seems to be the cheapest way to call at a $.20 each minute. It’s cheapest if you call from a computer or a smartphone that has a Skype application.

I’ve also set up a Picasa account that I’ll try to upload photos to. I’ll post the link once I set up the first album.

Tomorrow is my last full day in California and this weekend will be my last in the US for a few years. My next three two Thanksgivings and birthdays will be in Guinea, and my next three Christmases! What an awesome thought!

Thank you to all the wonderful people I have in my life! I have so much to appreciate and so many things to love about my life and the people in it. Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving!

Now, back for more pumpkin pie!

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Each step you take is a decision in a certain direction. My direction is Guinea, to volunteer with the Peace Corps. My decision is to represent what I believe is the best my country has to offer, knowledge and generosity, and to take part in what I believe my country lacks: a strong sense of global togetherness. I am not going to wield a gun or to point a finger; America has done enough of that. I am going to share and to learn; these are the acts that will bridge cultural divides and develop enduring connections. I will become part of a community that has little and I will use my knowledge and skills to leave them with a little more. I will evolve and I will grow in the process by gaining an understanding of a culture different from my own. I will accept what is given to me and I will give what I have to offer. I will act on the best interest of my community, both overseas and upon my return.

Despite my leaving, and for all the aspects of this country I wish to change, the United States is my home and I love it. I’m not the only one. America still tops the list as the most desirable country for immigrants, both low-skilled and high-skilled. America is still the top destination for foreign students, who wish to partake in our fantastic, yet poorly funded, higher education system. There is a reason that 60% of the foreign students that study here remain as permanent residents: there are opportunities in the US that are not present in other parts of the world.

These opportunities have been given to me and I’m more than grateful that I hit the socio-economic jackpot and was born in the States and to a family that is relatively well off. Only a tiny percentage of the global population has had the opportunities I’ve had to pursue an education at one of the world’s best universities and to do so with very little financial strain. One third (that’s more than two BILLION) of the people that populate this planet live on less than $2 a day. I’ve been lucky enough to never have experienced the stress and moral degradation that is associated with such extreme poverty. One aspect of my service in the Peace Corps is to provide an avenue for me to promote an understanding of what is happening and the poverty present in undeveloped and developing nations.

People have asked me why I don’t focus on helping here in the States. If I love the country that has given me so much, why don’t I give back to it instead of going overseas? These people usually bring up the fact that the US is being challenged by China for the top spot in the global economic playing field. Why don’t I stay home and use my education to promote the US economy?

Here is why:

Yes, the economic gap between the US and the rest of the world, notably China and India, is shrinking, but only in relative terms. In absolute terms we as Americans are still far better off today than we were twenty or forty years ago. We are not falling back, others are catching up. Since China and India began their fantastic growth America’s GDP per capita has stilled continued to grow. There is no reason to be afraid of growth in these and other countries. The problem is that we are a competitive society and are used to a win-lose mentality, even in situations, such as economic growth, that do not follow this model. We also have politician touting nationalistic ideologies that predicate themselves on the erroneous foundation that global economic development is a zero-sum game, that when China grows the US is necessarily hurt. Global development is not a zero-sum game; one country does not need to suffer for another to grow. We can grow together; in fact, we grow better together. Many positive externalities arise for developed nations when a developing country progresses economically and socially. It is this idea we as Americans still need to grasp.

The Peace Corps understands. The title of this post is a caption from an advertisement for the Peace Corps which depicts the Statue of Liberty holding her book and pointing with her right hand away from New York City. That is exactly what volunteers do, they leave the country to improve the country. Volunteers leave the US to live and integrate into a community overseas in order to promote social, economic and cultural understanding. We improve America by acting on what we believe makes America strong.

This just got a bit more real.

One month from today I’ll be in Philadelphia meeting the people I’ll be spending the next two years of my life with. I’ll be a few long flights away from arriving in Guinea and seeing, for the first time, the country I’ll soon be calling home. A week after that I’ll be at my training site, living with a Guinean family and doing my best to communicate as effectively as possible. Two months later I’ll be moving into my final site, where I’ll be spending the next two years of my life. What an adventure lies before me?!

I received an email the other day that asks me to attend a conference call for all the CED volunteers on November 9th. There will be a follow up email next week with the instructions and details about what this entails. The email also asked for two email addresses that will be informed of my safe arrival in Guinea. Mom, Dad, expect emails!

My grandma and I returned today from a road trip to San Diego to visit family. I had good conversations with my aunt, ate my uncles fantastic cooking, saw my beautiful cousin and met her boyfriend, a nice guy and seemingly deserving of her. I met my older cousin’s adorable baby and lovely wife, both are gorgeous. I was also able to see a couple friends who study down there at SDSU and UCSD. One I knew from elementary school and the other from middle school.

What was most evident when saying goodbye was that I’ll not see these people for more than two years. When I visit with them next, I’ll be a different person. I’ll have experienced so much and they will have as well. There’s a chance I may never see the two friends I had lunch with again, or it could be ten years before we cross paths. It’s astounding to me that for some people I’m saying goodbye for two years, for others I’m saying goodbye indefinitely.

Packing is starting to take a vague form. I have a list, though a tentative one at best. I’ve purchased a couple of the bigger (read expensive) items: an iPod (thanks Brendan!), an external hard drive (thanks Costco & Alba!), and a solar charger (thanks 3point5!). I need a second pair of glasses, contacts, Chacos and a bunch of other little random things.

Things are moving along! I’m getting more and more excited each day. November 1st looks to be a good day for a couple reasons. First, it’ll be the month I’m leaving. Second, and just as important, all the HALLOWEEN CANDY GOES ON SALE!!! I’ll be stocking up on Smarties for the host family.

🙂

It’s an astonishing thought that next month I’ll be in Guinea, albeit the exact end of the month. There is a lot of preparing to do. Studying French, visiting family and buying assorted “necessities” for my upcoming adventure are all on the list. Not much of the list has been completed, though my dad is letting me use his spare car so I’ll be visiting family in Sacramento more often. Several fantastic books have distracted me from my French studies. I recently received an email explaining the French proficiencies required for Guinea; CED volunteers will be required to speak French at an “intermediate high” level. I don’t know what that means, but the email was a bit of a kick in the ass and has propagated some motivation to study the language.

I have been spending as much time with friends as possible and trying plenty of new things. Who knew I would have so much fun salsa dancing?! I’m terrible and I can’t keep a beat for the life of me, but I have a blast. I’ve been twice and I’ll be going back. There have been a couple trips to Sacramento to dance at a club. I’ll be going back there too. Trivia night has been a moderately regular activity for my coworkers and me on Tuesday nights. Runs with the roommate have become sparse, but we’ll get more of those in in the coming weeks.

Today begins the one month countdown until my last day of work. I’ve said it before; I work with amazing people. I love each and every one of the staff who make Fleet Feet Davis a wonderful place to be employed. JD and Chris have more than owned a running store, they’ve created a family. They’ve brought together people who work together seamlessly, and play together effortlessly. At work and away from the store I enjoy every minute with my coworkers. I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky that I’ve never left Fleet Feet in a worse mood than when I walked in. I’m lucky that I look forward to work. Yes, there are difficult customers; it wouldn’t be retail if there weren’t, but throw a dozen terrible customers at me and somehow my coworkers help me forget who I just dealt with. I will miss Fleet Feet Davis. 

Title courtesy of Beck.

As promised here is some more information about my assignment and Guinea.

Staging is on November 28th, most likely in Philadelphia. This is when I’ll meet all the people I’ll be volunteering with. We have an orientation where we “begin to identify personal and cultural adjustments you can make to promote you successful service.” We fill out even more forms, get even more shots and prepare for flying to Guinea.

Once in Guinea we begin pre-service training (PST) which is nine weeks long from November to January. During PST we learn some more French and begin our training in the local language of our site. We also learn about the culture and receive technical training to further our knowledge in our particular sector (mine is community economic development). During this time I’ll be living with a host family in order to make use my new languages and to become more knowledgeable about the culture. In January I’ll travel to the site I’ll be living in for the next two years and move into my own place. I have no idea where exactly in Guinea I’ll be.

And now for a bit about Guinea:

It is not where Guinea Pigs originate from, which is too bad. It is, however, a major exporter of bauxite (aluminium ore) and has more than half of the world’s known reserves of the ore. There are about 10.5 million people (53% of which are under the age of 25) and 80% of the labor force is employed in the agricultural sector. It’s GDP is roughly $4.6 billion, which puts the GDP per capita at about $410 (World Bank). According to the CIA World Factbook with power parity Guineans earn about $1000 a year.

Guinea is on the northwest coast of Africa. It borders Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Altlantic Ocean. It’s about the same size as Oregon. The weather is generally hot and humid and it has a wet season (May to November) and a dry season (December to April). It has many rivers and huge potential for hydroelectricity (sorry Matt, and fish).

There is so much more to know and a great resource is the CIA World Factbook (linked above).

If you find out some other interesting information about Guinea, let me know!

🙂

I checked the apartment office yesterday and the packet had been signed for by them sometime in the last few days. The timing was great because my grandpa turned 80 yesterday and there was a lot of family at dinner that I don’t usually see. I was able to tell them that I am going to:

GUINEA
for
COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
on
NOVEMBER 28TH

I read through a lot of the packet and there are a lot of forms to fill out. I’ll post a little more about the country and the assignment a little later when I have done a bit more research.

YAY!!

 

Placement contacted me on June 20th to let me know that I was moving onto the final review and to expect to hear from my Placement Officer (PO) in four to six weeks. On July 19th my PO emailed me to set up a “follow-up phone discussion.” We set the time for last Monday, the 25th. She called and we talked for about 25 minutes. She asked me questions about my motivation to join the PC and about my families reaction to me leaving for two years, among other questions. At the end of the conversation she told me she had a program in mind for me leaving at the end of November in francophone Africa for small business development.

“How does that sound?”
“KICK ASS!”

I don’t remember how exactly I responded, less profane I’m sure. This was the moment I’d been waiting for the last year! I was sitting on a bench in the beautiful Boston Commons while talking to the PO. I was in Boston visiting my best friend. The perfect way to end the trip. 🙂

This past week I’ve checked the mail hourly to see if the invitation packet arrived. I was hoping to have it by Saturday, but it has yet to show up. My PO said to expect it in 3-5 days, but it’s coming from DC and so it’s not surprising that it is still on the way. Tomorrow or Tuesday should be when I know what country I’ll be serving in and what day I ship out.