Sent via e-mail on 4/10/08
So I'm currently in Labe for my monthly visit and I figured I would profit and hop onto the internet to give you an update on my wild African existence.
I went hiking in a gorgeous canyon near a little village called Douki yesterday with a couple other Peace Corps friends. It was stunning-- truly impressive-- and we enjoyed a pretty solid hike down into the canyon and back up a trail called chutes and ladders , named such because of its waterfalls ( chutes in French) and its system of ladders (tree branches held together by vines that some dudes had put together).
It was amazing, and not a little scary, as we often had to climb 15-20 ft on these rickety wooden ladders to get up this steep ravine. We all felt pretty hard-core after getting up the steepest section, until we ran into these two kids on the trail.
They couldn't have been more than 7-8 years old, yet each was carrying a huge bag full of mangoes on their heads. They had come up the same way we had and were planning on selling the mangoes in Douki and then heading back to their huts on the valley floor that evening. Each was wearing flip flops (not hiking boots like us rogue mountaineers) and possessed the uncanny balance that most Africans (especially women) seem to possess when carrying extremely large objects on their heads. My fellow volunteer Erich and I both decided to give the kids a little break so we relieved them of their burden for a while and tried the old carry-ridiculously-heavy-stuff-on-your-head-over-mountanious-terrain method.
Lemme tell you: Africans redefine hard core. Dang. We went maybe a few tenths of a mile with those bad boys and we were done. Plus I think we bruised the mangoes way more than we should have. Needless to say, my respect for Guinean women and children has continued to rise-- I'd say they're somewhere between George Bowling and Desmond Tutu on the respect-o-meter (and that's saying something ;).
To continue my email, I'd thought I'd share another journal entry from last month about my first planned project in my village. Don't worry, K-money, it's not a tear-jerker!
Salon de ma maison (living room of my house)
So yesterday was an awesome day and I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts to concretize the memory...
So Saturday evening was pretty rough. The whole afternoon I could just feel that sick feeling coming on: gas, burps that taste like puke, excessive tiredness, achiness-- it sucked. Then I went to Aboubacar Bailo's son's baptism and guess what happened? I was told to eat a massive platter of riz gras... Perfect.
I went to bed early hoping I would just sleep it off.
I woke up an hour later, rushed outside and ralphed up all the riz gras I could possibly have eaten, plus some rice from lunch and maybe a little breakfast pain. All this came much to the chagrin of Dr. Diallo (my counterpart and next-door neighbor), who rushed over and mothered me a bit, which I appreciated even if it was a bit overbearing. A little more diarrhea emptied me of everything vilain, and I shortly after hit the hay for good, dreading the next morning's proposed initiative: a grand cleaning of the Health Center with the Association de la Jeunesse [youth association].
Thank you God; the next morning I felt a lot better ( Aboubacar, a diki? ) [you feeling better? in Pular]. I choked down a little bread, threw on some work clothes, grabbed my soap and mops and gloves and headed over to the Health Center.
Sow, Ousmane, Dr. Diallo and I all worked pretty hard for the next couple of hours sweeping, sorting through papers, and tossing out old crappy stuff that no longer had any use. By the time 10am rolled around (the time the youths were supposed to show up), we were all pretty tired, Sow and the Doctor were ready to pack it in, and I found myself saying, well, if nobody shows up, at least we swept some stuff.
And we waited, and waited, and two kids showed up, whom I quickly put to work scrubbing (much to their chagrin-- what's this crazy porto want us to do?) (porto= white person. I hear that one a lot).
And then, just when I was ready to call it a morning (and the grand nettoyage [big cleaning] a bust)? Dr. Diallo calls inside, Aboubacar, regarde! [look!]
I walked out onto the porch and looked down the road. And there, walking in 2 groups (guys and girls), were at least 25 youths; each carrying a bidon full of water. I nearly had tears in my eyes just looking at them, and all I could think of was, thank you Jesus.
They came with tons of energy and liveliness. Guys were flirting with girls, they were laughing and screwing around and hitting each other with brooms-- it was just like an LDP outing to Habitat.
And I loved it. Couldn't stop smiling the whole time.
And then they cleaned the place. Inefficiently, perhaps somewhat haphazardly (c'mon, this is Guinea we're talking about-- nothing is orderly) (George would have had a fit if this was Chibougamau clean-up :), but dang, they cleaned it good. M. Diallo came and told me that in his three years here he had never seen this done before. And all I could think of was, thank you Jesus.
It was a great day.
Anyway, there's another taste of life in Guinea!
Love you all, and thank you so much for all who have sent letters and packages! I'm writing back-- it takes forever and the mail system blows but knock on wood, it'll get there someday.
'Til the next time,
Andre/ Aboubacar/ Porto