I wake up in the morning. I walk into the bathroom and see a roach crawling in the sink. I go to get dressed and find a roach inside my sock drawer. I walk down the hallway and see a roach scurrying across the floor, and another going up the wall. I pick up my wallet and check inside. Yes, there’s even a roach in my wallet.

That may sound disgusting to you. Yes, it IS really gross. When I first arrived, I was freaking out about all of the roaches, spiders, and plaster worms in the apartment. But when you discover that trying to kill them all is a battle that you will never win, you learn to get over it.

I go outside. I step over trash, rubble, and puddles to wait on the road for my driver. The driver picks me up and takes me to the university as we cross unpaved roads with major potholes and puddles. It’s a bumpy ride. There’s no seat belt. I pass by construction workers wearing flip-flops. I pass by little boys going to the bathroom on the side of the road. I pass by women washing their clothes in a bucket of water in their front yard. This is how it is here. Get over it.

I arrive to the university and start class. Students come in 10, 15, 30+ minutes late. Get over it. There are no lights or air conditioning. Get over it. There’s no eraser for the blackboard, so I use balled-up tissue instead. Get over it. I get interrupted constantly by my colleague. Get over it. Today, I’m asked to leave the class and go film a commercial for the university. Well, okay, that part was kind of cool.

I don’t have a clear indication of when the semester will start. I don’t know when the English department will begin preparing for the semester. I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. Get over it. This is Africa.

And you know what?

I’m LOVING it.

I have been in Guinea for 4 weeks now. The first couple of weeks were overwhelming; everywhere I went, people needed my help, and I’ve had no idea where to even start. The past week and a half, however, I’ve gone places and made connections that have allowed me to assess where and how I can help. My plans are beginning to take shape, and it’s exciting. Here’s a look at what I’ve been up to:

 

First week in Guinea (September 2 – 10):

  • Orientation at the American Embassy
    • Introduced to all staff present
    • Security briefing
    • Health briefing
  • Orientation at Barack Obama University
    • Introduced to all staff present
    • Given a tour of all of the classrooms and facilities
    • Interviewed on national TV regarding my role at the university and in Guinea in general
  • Meeting with the Guinea English Language Teachers’ Association (GELTA)
    • Introduced to all members present
    • Listened to presentation about the organization and what it does
    • Was asked to help write curriculum and develop materials

Highlights:

  • Already being held in such high esteem by my colleagues
  • Being in a French-speaking environment again
  • People-watching from my apartment

 

Second week in Guinea (September 11 – 17):

  • Taught at the summer English Language Center at Barack Obama University
    • Taught about 15 students, ages 16-25+, of varying levels of English proficiency
    • Met the rector of the university
  • Edited two textbooks written by my colleagues

Highlights:

  • Being in a classroom again (I’ve been teaching online for the past 2 years)
  • Having my first teaching experience in Guinea
  • Taking a Guinean taxi for the first time (read about that experience in my second post)

 

Third week in Guinea (September 18 – 24):

  • Attended the swearing-in ceremony for new Peace Corps volunteers in Dubréka
    • Observed the ceremony and took pictures
    • Mingled and dined with Guinean and American dignitaries
    • Introduced myself to Peace Corps volunteers who will be teaching English
    • Met the professor of American Studies at Kankan University
  • Visited the Centre d’Etudes de la Language Anglaise (CELA) at the University of Sonfonia-Conakry
    • Met with the Educational Advisor and various B.A. and M.A. professors
    • Given a tour of the classrooms and facilities
    • Met students doing independent research on universities in the U.S.
    • Was asked to teach B.A. and M.A. courses despite my limited free time outside of Barack Obama University
  • Began coordinating a visit by the founder of Barack Obama University to Georgetown University (it will be his first time in the US)
    • He will meet with the Regional Program Officer for Africa for the English Language Fellows program
    • He will also be meeting with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
    • This will most likely end up in local news (so stay tuned!)

Highlights:

  • Getting out of Conakry for the first time
  • Eating my first traditional West African meal (riz gras, a rice dish)
  • Watching traditional Guinean drumming and dancing (check out my photo gallery)

 

Fourth week in Guinea (September 25 – October 1):

  • Taught at the summer English Language Center at Barack Obama University
    • Taught the same group of students
    • Was filmed for a commercial about the university
  • Began mentoring colleagues who are applying for the Mandela Washington Fellowship
  • Started a study-group for my colleagues who are preparing to take the TOEFL exam
  • Was asked to be president of an NGO being created by the professor of American Studies at Kankan University (who I met at the Peace Corps swearing-in ceremony)
  • Submitted my 30-day report to the ELF administrator for Africa Participants
  • Finally updated my blog
  • Will make a guest appearance on Guinea’s only English language radio program (on Saturday, October 1st)

Highlights:

  • Attending my partner’s choir rehearsal at the American Ambassador’s residence (he joined an international choir consisting of Americans, Germans, and him – the only Canadian)
  • Finally figuring out some projects to work on
  • Receiving gifts from my colleague: fresh coffee beans still inside the cherries, fresh cacao, and traditional handmade cloth from Nzérékoré, the forest region (the one farthest from Conakry)

 

I already have a lot to be grateful for, and also a lot to look forward to. It’s worth getting over the small things to be able to appreciate the overall experience.

One thing I simply cannot get over is the amazing sunsets we have every night:

img_0489

 

P.S. Happy birthday, Dad!

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