So, I am going to be updating my blog via our laptop and copying and pasting once a month. So you’ll still only here from me once a month, but now it will be much longer. We are officially moved into our house! We’ve been here since Monday and since then we’ve painted both rooms (it looks awesome!) and finally unpacked our bags. It felt GREAT to do that. We’ve been living out of suitcases since July. We’ve been spending a lot of time with some of Caron and Eldon’s friends here. They’ve showed us around and today took us to the carpenter to get some shelves made. We did this specifically to avoid the “porto price” but as it turned out just having John and me present gave us the porto price. We discuteed it down to a reasonable amount, but our friend said that next time he’s going to ask about the price and get it set and then we can walk over and join him.
Tomorrow we are going to meet the chef de cartier – we have to present him kola nuts as a sign of respect. Let me just say, that kola nuts are the nastiest tasting things I’ve ever tried and if someone gave them to me as a present, I would not welcome them to my neighborhood. But basically, they have the effect of caffeine without the pleasantness of drinking a cup of coffee. You suck the juice out of these and it gives you energy. Personally I’d rather fall asleep on the job than subject myself to knawing on kola nuts, but it’s a sign of respect to give them, so we’ve got to.
I definitely got a false sense of shyness from here the first time we visited. I thought, “Wow, what a nice change from Forecariah, no one is screaming FOTE at me.” But no, I was wrong. It’s like all the parents told their kids, “Don’t scare off the portos on their first visit.” I got porto-ed at least 20 times while I was walking to and from the market today. They know we aren’t going anywhere. It’s now safe to yell at the white people.
I had an experience today that I feel compelled to share (not for weak stomachs.) I went with John and a friend to the market to buy meat. We had to wait because they were in the process of killing the cows when we got there. But as soon as they brought them in, people just swarmed into the butcher’s shop. They apparently only bring meat once a day, so you have to be there as soon as it’s killed. So there’s everyone crammed up against the counter while a few butchers are hacking away at the cow. Rather than having separate cuts of meat here, they just hack it up into little pieces. And lucky me, I got a front row seat to the show, which was definitely in the splatter zone. They even threw in some stomach for me to eat. I don’t think I’ll be cooking with cow that often. But I do have to say, I understand why most people here eat ALL of the animal. After cutting up the meat that I considered acceptable, I was left with less than a pound out of the kilogram that I paid for. I gave away the stomach.
For a random change of topic, it’s very weird to not see my other 23 G-16ers all the time (23 because John is with me, I see enough of him…:o)) I’m already looking forward to when everyone will be together for Christmas. Until then, we’ve got a couple of Labe trips and Rachel’s birthday! coming up. And speaking of Christmas, all of you are going to want to get my cards and gifts out by mid-November, so I’ll get them in time. Mark your calendars now.
We have survived our first two weeks at site (yay!) We’ve actually been pretty busy. Let me qualify “busy”. At home, when I say busy, I mean doing things. In this sense of the word, “busy” refers to sitting on lots of porches, saluer-ing lots of people and making lots of besap, ginger juice and tea with the neighbors. All of these are good, although I fear a diabetic coma will soon result from consuming the massive amounts of sugar they can squeeze into drinks. But it has been fun so far! We had a grand tour of the town and surroundings that ended up lasting more than 6 hours! We met with the missionary who lives here. She is very nice and has been living here for 18 years now and has pretty much raised several boys from childhood.
Funny story: our neighbor was talking to us about what we’d be teaching and has been insisting that I should teach biology at the high school because the teacher is “really terrible” and apparently only about 3 kids out of 50 passed the national exam for bio. So we got into a discussion about how I would like to do that my 2nd year. But it turns out that I know the bio teacher very well: he is the neighbor that shares a compound with us. Basically I can’t leave my house without walking through his yard, and my neighbor wants me to replace him. I can see that going well. School was supposed to start today, but did not because the ministry of education in Conakry “was not ready”. I’m hoping that it starts on Monday, but when I asked my neighbor if he thought it would he just started laughing at me. I’m going to interpret that as a “no”.
A few of the other volunteers and John and I went to Ditin the other day, which is a waterfall semi-close to us. We took a taxi there, so first of all we were a taxi full of portos. Second of all, the driver seemed to know everyone in between us and Ditin, so every 5 minutes we stopped to saluer. I think part of the reason for stopping was to say, “Hey check out my car full of portos.” We finally got there and hiked up to the waterfall and it was beautiful – and a ton of water. We went swimming and I imagine that if you went swimming under Niagara Falls, it would be a similar experience. We had to stand backwards because spray from the water was blinding us and the force of the spray was painful. Needless to say it was a short swim, but as soon as we got out of the water it started to downpour, so we got to walk a mile back to the car in the pouring rain. We then piled back into the taxi (SOAKED) and had a pretty cold ride back. All in all it was definitely an experience – but fun.
Hopefully we are able to attach pictures. We’ve done a lot of work to our little house in the past couple of weeks so it should make for some good before and after shots. This will rely on our internet connection in a couple weeks not completely sucking though, so I’m a bit skeptical.
I will never complain about travel delays in the US again. Ever. What, you want me to sit in this air conditioned terminal in my own comfy chair for another hour? Avec plaisir. Let me tell you all about our first real Guinean traveling experience. We went to visit Rachel for her birthday. Between here and there, its 82 km…50 miles. It took us 8…yes that’s 8 and not a type-O…..hours to get there by CAR. We figured out we could have biked faster. Or jogged at a slow pace. Or crawled at a fast pace. This is what happened. There were about 20 people in a minibus with approximately 10,000 pounds of bags, things to sell, and live animals (yes, live animals) attached to the top of the car. That was problem #1. Problem number 2: The engine cut out about 20 minutes into the trip. Problem 3: after that problem was fixed, smoke starting billowing out of the ignition. Problem 4: flat tire. Problem 5: some screws that were holding what I will assume are important parts of the car fell out. Problem 6, 7, and 8: repeat of problem 5. But at the end of the day I got to see Rachel and Erich (and unfortunately just missed Conor) and we had an excellent weekend. Getting back took less time (4 hours) but there were so many people in the taxi that I was bordering between extreme discomfort and moderate pain for the entirety of the trip. Welcome to Guinea. I feel like from this point on my stories will become more and more interesting. Stay tuned.
Yay, school started (sort of). We went yesterday and were introduced to all the other teachers (there is one other female teacher and 33 other male teachers, as a side note). I’ll be teaching 9th grade and John will be teaching 8th. I get to start tomorrow. John gets to start sometime in the not-too-far-off-in-theory future when the building for the 7th and 8th graders is finished. I really hope its done in the next week, although I’m worried because its going to be done “tout suite” which translated from French means “right away” but translated from Guinea means “this may be done next month or never”. That is just a rough translation of course. But tomorrow I’m going to give a review of 8th grade material to see what they know (this is mostly because I don’t have a 9th grade program, so I’m not exactly sure what to teach – of course). But don’t worry, I’m going to have one tout suite.
I decided to come up with an “ultimate care package” list for all of you at home that are thinking about sending us goodies. ALSO: for those of you that are confused because your letters are return addressed from Pennsylvania. It isn’t a façade, I am actually in Africa. HOWEVER…there is a mining town here (Kamsar) where I send my letters from that accepts US postage and sends mail every week to PA to be sent out everywhere else in the US. Mystery solved! But onto the care package list:
THINGS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER SENDING MARG AND JOHN
-PICTURES! Of you, other people I know, people I don’t know if you want…
-Magazines and newspapers (I will shamelessly admit that I love celebrity gossip here. I think this is because at home, it’s so in your face all the time and now I feel out of the loop. That being said, send me some legitimate news that I’d care about too!)
-CHOCOLATE! (M & M’s seem to mail really well, but send some other stuff too!)
-Things for smores: this is an American food I would LOVE to share with our new friends!
-Candy (Fruit snacks, Werther’s are my favorite, cinnamon candies are John’s)
-Stamps so I can write all you crazy fools and if you see any stationary that screams MARG, send that too!
-Anything Penn State for when I’m feeling nostalgic
-Granola Bars (Nature Valley are my favorite)
-Beef Jerky and other things with protein because finding good meat here is a crap shoot, as you’ve read by now in our blog – along those lines, John says pepperoni
-Good shampoo, lotion, and soap to make me feel girly (this probably isn’t as high on John’s priority list)
-Crystal Light drink mixes
-Coffee mixes (I think its made by General Foods, but there are a bunch of different flavors and I like ‘em all)
-Cookies (I love Oreos and Chips Ahoy!)
-Good tea (herbal, flavored, my favorite brands are Barry’s and Tazo, but I’m not picky since my options here are mediocre and less than mediocre)
-Mixed CDs (or bought CDs, but mixes are cheaper and more fun!)
-Little hand sanitizers
-Sauce packets! (I like just about anything)
-Movies (we can actually watch them on our computer here!)
-Chex Mix (or others)
-Cereal (Lucky Charms!)
-Well thought out and wonderfully written poems about how much you miss me
-Toys – soon John and I will be making an addition to our happy little family (we’re getting a dog, but I bet I scared some of you – so that’s dog toys)
-Mixed nuts (anything EXCEPT peanuts, we can find those here)
-Games (we have cards, UNO, and my dad just send checkers/backgammon/Chinese checkers, but other than that, have at it)
This is clearly something I’ve had some time to think about. Those are in no particular order (except the pictures, I’m making a giant collage on the wall for when I’m feeling homesick) and I won’t be upset if I don’t get some of the things – i.e. JoePa and ice cream. However, I’m serious about the poem.
Packages are expensive, so I’ll totally understand if you want to write letters. I like getting them just as much. What I don’t like is a lack of communication, so some of you need to pick up the pace a bit. I don’t want to make you feel guilty (that’s a bit of a lie), but I’m keeping a box of all the mail I get. I know all of you want to be in that box. I’m also able to get back to e-mails once a month now by saving them on my flashdrive (*hint*) so feel free to e-mail too (*hint*).
Beyond that, when anyone sends a package, if you could throw in a ruler (make sure there’s metric on it) and some crayons or colored pencils and a little plastic protractor, I’m trying to eventually have enough school supplies for my classes. I learned from teaching at practice school that only a couple of kids end up with rulers and supplies and everyone else shares them and it’s a huge distraction that ends up lasting for most of the class. I eventually want to have basically a makeshift physics lab, so I’m going to need a lot. I guess if you could throw in a small calculator, that would be nice too, but I don’ want to get too expensive. John’s going to need protractors and compasses for his math classes too. The crayons and rulers and such could fit in an envelope too, so you don’t even have to send me a care package, just the school supplies would be fine if you can. I can find most of the stuff here, but with the money we make, its not really possible to buy a large amount of school supplies for the 100+ kids we have in each class. If you ever happen to see anything that you think, “Gee, that would be great for a physics class”, pick it up. I don’t really have much to work with here. Once I find out the library situation, I’ll probably be asking for book donations too, so be on the lookout and excited for that! Thanks so much in advance for anyone that can send things! Its much appreciated!
You all are really going to have to pace yourselves on my blogs from now on. Its going from, “Doesn’t she ever update this?” to “Doesn’t she ever shut up?” I hope you all enjoy the change of pace! I might have to start writing in chapters.
I’ve been teaching in Guinea now for about a week. It’s interesting. You’re probably wondering if I’m ever going to talk more about my title of “I am the anion.” Or you’ve forgotten that I named it that. Or if you’ve forgotten your high school chemistry, you’re probably like, “What’s an anion? Did she mean onion?” Well here comes a story…
John hasn’t gotten to teach yet (still) because the building isn’t done (still.) But he watched a chemistry teacher give a class the other day. This teacher was talking about anions and cations and explaining the difference. I would have gone with this if I were teaching: The anion has a negative charge. The cation has a positive charge. He took a slightly different approach and said this: “It’s like a man and a women. The man is in front and the woman is in back.” Then he realized John was in the room and goes, “But in some other countries, the woman is in front.” At this point, all the girls in the class nodded their heads in understanding. First of all, let me just say that sentence has nothing to do with cations and anions and was completely unnecessary. Second of all, the comparison doesn’t make sense. Third of all, what about walking side by side? I said it was a good thing it wasn’t me sitting in that class!
On to my teaching: its been going alright. I’ve got classes of between 60-100 and they are still trying to see what they can get away with. Example: Yesterday, I had a 9th grader think that it was completely acceptable to take a picture of me in class. I turned around from writing on the chalkboard and this kid’s got his cell phone pointed right at me. He’s also got a “Crap-she-caught-me deer in the headlights” look on his face. I started yelling and went to walk him to the student director’s office at which point, he bolts out the door. Another man, whose job appears to be sitting by the door and watching the students, saw him leave and I told the director who promptly jumped on his motorcycle and chased down the offending student. I watched after class as he was yelled at by several other teachers, the principal and the director and was basically told he was a disgrace to Guinea. I thought that was a bit harsh, I just didn’t want him taking pictures of me in class. But basically, there are still no organized classes and I just walk in and teach something that has a physics ring to it. But that will be fixed “tout suite.” Mmmhmmm.
We aren’t really allowed to undertake any big secondary projects until after December, so right now this is what we have going on: John took over Eldon’s English classes, so he’s teaching to a group of 4 students two days a week. He’s also showing our neighbor how to use things like Word on the computer. Yesterday I started teaching a math class with Katy for women that sell things in the market. Although, I worked with a girl for over an hour that seemed to know basic math. At the end, I said that, and she said, “Yeah, I’m okay at the math, but I was wondering if you could teach me how to read.” After telling her she could have just opened with that, I said that we could start reading classes next week. Also, at the request of our principal, we are planting flowers around the school flag pole next week. He’s excited about that. Makes one of us.
I guess that’s all….all 6 pages of my blog for this month. I hope you all are doing well and thinking about me every day. I miss you all like crazy, but you could solve that problem by coming to visit us! I also hope that sending pictures works out with this blog. If it does, you will notice that our town (which I can’t say on here, but you all know where I am) and its surroundings are beautiful! I hope you enjoy and the pictures will entice you to visit a little more than my taxi story!
Love and miss you all! Until next month,