Typical Travel Stories

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August 8th 2008
Published: August 9th 2008
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"Work Clothes""Work Clothes""Work Clothes"

This is what I look like if I'm dressed properly for "work." :)
Typically Amazing Travel Story:
Because there are no taxis that go from my Regional capital to my site, I thought I'd try taking a taxi to my prefecture capital first and then to my village. I got to the taxi stand at the late hour of 9 AM and became aquainted with 3 girls from the prefecture capital who had just finished Terminale (we run on the French education system here which means everyone goes to Grade 13, which is called Terminale or, the last year). This was truly a blessing as the night before I couldn't sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about the plight of girls in my village. Around 10:30 we finally got going. The girls took care of me the entire time and made sure I was fed (cookies, avocados, and oranges: Guinean roadtrip treats). One girl asked if I was PC and when I said yes, pulled a photo album out of her small bag that had pictures of the last volunteer (Joyce) in her town and Ryan (last volunteer in my village) and others. So I spent the rest of the day with an old volunteer's host sister. It was wonderful (even though we got
Best FriendsBest FriendsBest Friends

The girl on the left, Mama, and the guy in the middle, Soukere, are my best friends here. They also happen to be brother and sister. They also run a café, so I subsequently live there most days.
3 flat tires and finally broke down for good 18 km outside of town.)

Talking to them was so validating. At that monent they were proof to me that it really was possible to make a difference. Less than 24 hours before I was almost in tears about how none of the girls in my village had the ability to speak French. How they were being married off at a too young of age. How no one saw this as an issue except me. And then suddenly I was surrounded by three young ladies who had just completed all their primary schooling and were looking forward to going to college in a couple months.

We sat on the side of the road for more than an hour as 2, then 3, then 4 members of our taxi got rides on motos. A large taxi was coming our way and the large Peuhl woman (oxymoron) that was traveling us shouted back to me, "Stop the taxi and ask if they're going to your village. You'll never get anywhere in life if you don't raise your voice!" The taxi was in fact going to my village. Although I didn't recognize
Spires of the MosqueSpires of the MosqueSpires of the Mosque

The first thing I see when I finally get back to my village from where ever I've been traveling.
anyone inside they knew me well enough to know me as "Sam" instead of just "Oumou" (my Guinean name). An hour later, 5 PM, I was in my house. It turns out that despite breakdowns and going 30 km out of the way, I got to my village at the same time as the giant truck from Labé that I had refused to ride in the back of.

Success all around 😊

Typically Painful Travel Story:
I live in the capital of a sous-prefecture, which can maybe be seen as equivalent to a county. There are about 18,000 people in the sous-prefecture. Where I live, there's a Health Center that's in charge of overseeing the health needs of each of those 18,000 people. With a staff of two (a doctor and a woman who serves as both the cashier and the pre-natal technician), you can imagine the difficulties. Luckily there are three Health Posts in the sous-prefecture to help out a little bit. These are usually staffed by one person, and generally have little to no equipment, but at least there is a building to go to to organize activities if materials and labor show up.
Playtime in GuineaPlaytime in GuineaPlaytime in Guinea

Susanna and Brienne were staying with me so we built a fort in my living room!

Every Tuesday, the staff from my Health Center is suppose to go to one of the Health Posts to at least do vaccinations. They have a large market on Tuesdays, so there's usually a steady flow of people in the Health Post. The man who works there told me no one had come out for the last two weeks, so I decided I needed to go.

Usually people take motos to this other village, but Peace Corps Volunteers aren't allowed to ride motos. I could have ridden my bike, but the last time I rode it (about four months ago), I fell off it. So I decided to walk. I walk a lot here. It didn't seem like a big deal. I figured as long as I left early in the morning it would be okay. I thought that even if it took four hours (I walk really slow), it would be okay. I could do it in a day. No problem.

I woke up at 6:30, ate breakfast, got ready, and went to the Health Center a little before 8:00 to get the vaccinations to take with me. In the vaccination room I notice that a pile
Photo WallPhoto WallPhoto Wall

These are ALL of the pictures I have here. Send me more! (Thanks Nina!)
of vaccination cards have been moved. I start looking through them. They've all been filled out so that every baby in that pile was vaccinated sometime in July. Normal enough. Except that I had filled out every vaccination card in the month of July when a baby got vaccinated, and the handwriting on these 40 or so cards was not mine. I quickly became very angry. I looked through them again to make sure I was right. Oddly enough, two days before I had made a list of every child that was late for their vaccination appointment. The list for one district was 35 long. Two days later, 35 had mysteriously dwindled to 3. The next two hours were spent running around trying to figure out what happened (which I never did.)

At 10 AM, I finally just wanted to leave and deal with everything later. I found Abdelrahmane, my 15 year old neighbor, and "guide" for the day, and we set off. Following him to the other village had seemed like a good idea until we started walking and I remembered that he walks extremely fast, even by American standards. At first it didn't really bother me because
Short WalkShort WalkShort Walk

Going to visit a friend in Justin's village. Don't you see the path on the left?
I was so angry that I was able to keep pace with him easily. As I started calming down, I started slowing down. About an hour and half into the journey I realized that my shoes were too small for me. We kept going. I kept getting slower, and the gap between us kept getting wider. The last 30 minutes I thought I was going to pass out because of the heat, but hearing the noise to the market in the distance pushed me forward. We made the trip in two hours and 40 minutes.

I got the Health Post, gave them the vaccines, and immediately sat down and took off my shoes. I refused to put them back on. My feet were throbbing. I had no idea how I was going to be able to walk back. I decided to try to get some work done and worry about leaving later. Helped fill out some vaccination cards, talked to some moms about breastfeeding, found some vaccination cards that said the baby had been vaccinated that day, and ate some rice with soup sauce.

Suddenly it was 4 PM. Abdelrahmane was asleep on one of the benches. Painfully putting my shoes back on, I woke him back up and said that we had to go. We had to make it back to our village before sunset. We speed-walked out of the Health Post to find giant imposing storm clouds. We walked faster. The clouds got darker. After an hour, the sky was still threatening, but we were dry. My body felt like a giant bruise from pushing it so hard to move so quickly. I slowed down a little bit. Thirty minutes later it began to rain. Luckily though, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't very hard, but I had glasses on (read: I was blind), and we were now slushing through the mud that was the road. Thirty minutes later, the rain gave up and so did I. For the next hour I was fighting back tears (never cry in front of a Guinean!) as a sloooooooooowly limped through the mud.

When I finally reached my house, it was dark out. I immediately unlocked and then relocked my door, took off my shoes, went pee, and then went directly to bed even though Neene Kanné was yelling at me to come eat. I didn't leave my bed for the next 12 hours.

It's been over two weeks since then, and I still have a quarter sized blisted on my right heel. Turns out that village that I figured couldn't be more than 6 miles away is actually 10 miles away. Whoops.


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