Sent via e-mail Saturday 2/9/2008
Bonjour mes amis,
So it's official. I have finally achieved the goal that I came to Africa to realize. All that planning, all the preparation, the arduous application process, the hand-wringing over the country placement, the frequent bowel movements once here, the lack of running water, the lack of electricity, the lack of virtually anything nice: it was all worth it.
I have finally updated my "facebook: where I've been" map, and put it so that now it says I've lived in Africa. It was a big moment for me and the other volunteers in the computer room; if we had had champagne I'm sure we would have toasted the occasion. As it was, I had to settle for a big pat on the back from my friend Astrid. I could have gone for a butt tap, but there were no male PCVs present, and as you know, I am not an equal opportunity butt tapper.
So there's something else that's happened to me that's also somewhat official, but far less momentous and exciting: I am now a bona fide Peace Corps Volunteer. No more of this trainee business. After two+ months of training, numerous language and technical classes, cross-cultural sessions, lots of "francais massacre," many long talks with my cousins and Guinean friends, basketball games (including an "all-star game," fotes vs. fores, to celebrate our time in Fo-cah), soccer matches (including the intra-Peace Corps cup championship won-- sadly-- not by Team Public Health, but by the Guinean language instructors) (it's not fair-- they're African), and a sad farewell ceremony in Forecariah (replete with tears), yesterday we were all sworn in as Volunteers.
The ceremony was amazing, actually. Speeches were made by the Peace Corps Guinea Director, the US Ambassador to Guinea, the Guinean Minister of Public Health, four different trainees (each doing a speech in one of the four languages we've been learning--French, Susu, Pulaar, and Malinke), and this dude Tom Gallagher, a US Consul who was a member of the first Peace Corps group ever, commissioned in 1962 by JFK himself. He served in Ethiopia, and gave an amazing speech. After the speeches we all swore in, raising our hands and pledging to defend the Consitution and serve faithfully as PCVs here in Guinea. Then we all shook a lot of hands, got a lot of "felicitations," and headed for the buffet table, where they had croissants and--get this-- cold orange juice. Amazing.
So there's much much more to tell, of course: I am in Conakry for the weekend and head off to Boulliwel by way of Labe on Tuesday morning. On the 15th I will be officially installed at my village and will begin my service! These next few days are for shopping, R&R, prep for site, and familiarization with our not-so-beautiful capital city. I will try to get out another email in the vein of the last one I sent before I leave on Tuesday. But, more importantly, I am also putting up PICTURES! It takes forever here, but when I get a decent number uploaded I will send them out via snapfish. Then you can finally get to see a little slice of life here in crazy, noisy, smelly, beautiful Guinea.
More coming soon.
P.S. When you send letters now, make sure to put Andrew Haile, PCV, not Andrew Haile, PCT. Bully for officiality (word?).