Published: December 20th 2006December 20th 2006
So it doesn't exactly feel like the holiday season because it's still hot and, well, no one here celebrates Christmas. The muslim Fete de Tabaski is coming up though - it's the day where you kill a sheep. That's all I really know about it. Everyone gets really excited to actually eat some meat. I'm sure there's some religious significance, too (Abraham and Issac story?), but people seem to be most interested in eating a sheep.
I'm in Conakry for Christmas, or I might go to Freetown, Sierra Leone. We'll see. Since my last update...
Thanksgiving dinner in Labe was fantastic. Our director sent a turkey to each regional capital. We also bought some fish and sacrificed a chicken. We had a vat of mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, fresh salad, stuffing, gravy, the works. We even made faux pumpkin pie with Guinean squash. I'd forgotten how wonderful American food was. We stuffed ourselves that night (Eldon actually ate until he threw up -- way to go), and we picked at the remains of the turkey carcass the next day. Mmmm. Looking forward to Christmas dinner.
Since Thanksgiving, I've stayed in the village. The dry season is now underway. All the grass is brown and the trees are starting to fade as well. The Guineans burn their fields and meadows this time of year, so large stretches of hillsides are singed and bare. I was making lunch one day when I heard a crackling and felt an intense heat come in my window. I looked out to see that the family had set a section of the field on fire less than 10 feet from the side of my house. Fortunately, the burning is pretty well-controlled. I'm not sure why they burn the fields - I've heard a number of reasons from improving the soil to keeping the snakes away.
It's hard to imagine that back home it's cold, gray, maybe snowing, and dark at 4:30 or 5pm. Here the sun has been coming up maybe a half an hour later than it did in the summer. Since everyone wakes up with the sun, this change has been enough to make all the students 15 or 20 minutes late to school everyday. It's still in the 80s every afternoon, and at night I find myself putting on a sweatshirt. Then I look at a thermometer and it's 72 degrees. It's been really windy in the afternoon. I can't dry my clothes outside lately because they blow away. Overall I'm sad to be missing a ski season, but for the moment I'm happy that its 85 degrees and oranges are in season. Orange trees are all over my village; the kids pick them and bring them to me by the half dozen. When I can't eat them all I make OJ.
On the weekend of the 3rd I had a visitor from the Office of the Inspector General in Washington. They were interviewing a sample of Guinea PCVs to assess how well PC Guinea is managed, how safe we are, etc. I didn't have much to tell them since I'm so new here, but the woman who interviewed me was very friendly and receptive. She had heard my phone story and arrived with a present: my phone and its charger! Apparently someone in Mamou or Conakry managed to track down my stolen phone and return it to me. After my interview, she visited my school and interviewed my principal before heading back to Gongoret on what she described as "the worst road I've ever been on - and I've been doing this for eight years."
I had planned a trip to Mamou on the 9th, but on the 8th the PC monthly mail run came around with a memo from the directors in Conakry. It said that national strikes were being planned and may or may not commence immediately. I received another note saying I was not to travel for this reason. My friend in town had sent some money since she knew I needed to go to the bank. So stuck in Kourou I was and Mom, I tried to call, I really did. I hiked and biked to every reception spot at all times of the day and night, but calls refused to go through. I'm hoping my phone will work better in town. For now it looks like I was given a phone which was stolen immediately, eventually retrieved, and doesn't work anyway. I'll look in to getting that fixed, promise.
The strikes have yet to happen. The demands from the last strike, in early November, have yet to be met by the government. Most of the teachers in the country have yet to be paid this school year, and they have not received the promotions they were promised. I have heard rumors that some money has been distributed to pay the teachers a little, but in general the government is in no shape to meet its end of the deal. Therefore, strikes are expected to happen, perhaps in January. If there are national strikes, PCVs are instructed to stay in our villages and not go to school for the duration of the strike, and to be packed and ready to evacuate the country in case of emergency. (Not likely, Mom, strikes in the past have been peaceful.)
Happy belated birthdays to Jaimee and Eric.
CONGRATULATIONS Eric and Amy on your engagement!!!! I'm so happy to be getting a sister like Amy!!
Love and Happy Holidays,