jeudi, janvier 25, 2007

The Time is Now

One of my biggest frustrations during the past two years was the hopelessness that weakens Guineans. The idea that God has ultimate control reached a new level here and thus left man powerless. There was a lack of courage, desire, and willfulness to take charge of lives--to act rather than being acted upon. Day in and day out I heard complaints and criticism about the low standard of living primarily due to poor governance and corruption (Guinea and Iraq are tied second for the most corrupt countries in the world). The conversation almost always turned to la souffrance. In the taxi--c'est la souffrance. At the market--La souffrance. On the street, at work, at home, drinking café toujours--La souffrance! Ehh La Suffrance! Waving their arms helplessly, they shouted My God, my God why hast thou forsaken us!?!

Ok a bit over dramatic I realize, but you get the idea.

Although convinced that only a grand revolution would set them free, no one was ready to make that sacrifice. They sat under the mango tree sipping tea waiting for God to change their lives. A wise(but not always right)friend told me:

"Melinda, Revolutions kill people. Revolutions mean death, suffering, hunger, lost generations and lost opportunities. Successful ones are celebrated. Those that are unsuccessful are condemned. If the time is not right, people will not heed advice [to start a revolution] or they will fail if they do. When the time is right even the sheep and goats will take up arms."

January 2007-- Guinean civilians decided the time was right.

Guinea police clash with strikers
Security forces in Guinea have fired live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters on the sixth day of a national strike

Guinea Protests Turn Deadly
Clashes in Guinea between protesters demanding the president's resignation and security forces claimed at least 20 lives and led to dozens of injuries.

Death Toll Rises from Crackdown in Guinea
The death toll from the ongoing strike action in Guinea has risen to at least 60 people. Some protesters who were injured during Monday's security crackdown died in poorly serviced hospitals. Union leaders are continuing the protest while local humanitarian workers are struggling to answer growing needs.

So where am I during all this? Safe and Sound in Niandankoro. Not much going on there; only way I can tell there's a strike is that the school is closed--but that's not extraordinary. I listen to the radio nightly to try and understand what’s happening in the cities. I’m a bit nervous, but I’m reassured that it will be over soon. I believe them too. That is until I receive a note from a neighboring volunteer marked URGENT!! The pit of my stomache grows deeper as I read:

I'm sorry the be the bearer of bad news. A car will be there to pick you up tomorrow. Pack only one bag. We're evacuating...

samedi, août 19, 2006

Hello...Is anyone there...?

No one probably reads this anymore ‘cus it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything. To many of you, it may feel like I’ve dropped off planet Earth—some days I feel like that too. But rest assure I’m still here, living the African Dream…oh wait the African Dream is really the same as the American Dream (I’m definitely not living that dream). So I guess I’m still here…living.

In my world hot topics of conversation have been The African Cup, The World Cup, Zidane, Guinean teacher strikes, president’s health, and anything else to do with Football (know as soccer to Americans)

I enjoyed watching the African, then the World Cup in my village video club next the young and old sweaty Guinean Men. Maybe a year ago the shoulder to shoulder seating on hard wooden benches with no backs and 100% humidity caused only by human sweat would have bothered me so much that I wouldn’t have made it 5 min before I decided I didn’t care that much. Mais au contraire! Watching the games was sometimes the highlight of my day. Now that the African Cup and the World cup are over, honestly I’m sick of talking about soccer all the time…no really ALL THE TIME!

The Guinean teacher strikes made international news, even thought I doubt my family even heard of them. I was stuck in the village for my safety and things went on as usual there. I’ve heard stories about the protests en ville (in the bigger towns) and I’m definitely glad I steered clear of those. Here’s a couple of personal accounts of the events in Conakry and Labé from Human Rights Watch (

“I was sitting next to the mosque for evening prayer. I saw a group of kids running by. Two policemen then passed me, but then they turned back when it looked like the kids were out of reach. One of them started to beat me with a club. A group of neighbors came out to help me. The other policeman fired in the air and some of the neighbors fled. The police took me and put me in their truck. One of them punched me in the eye with his fist. Then my aunt came and gave 200,000 Guinean francs [about US$40] to the police and they let me out of the truck. Otherwise, they take you to the police station.” -- 45-year-old electrician, beaten by police in Conakry on June 16.

“The police were dressed in full riot gear with shields and helmets. When they arrived, they leapt out of their cars and immediately started beating anyone they could catch with their clubs. The students stated fleeing. It was total panic. Then some students came back and started throwing rocks. The police responded by firing their rifles straight into the crowd. I don’t know if it was just one policeman firing, or several. The students fled again, and the police chased after clubbing those they could, and kicking those who fell to the ground. I saw four dead.” -- Taxi driver in Conakry, witness to police killings and brutality in Conakry on June 12.

I was very intent on listening to the Radio to learn what was going on with the strikes, but somehow you don’t get the same image when you listen to government owned radio. I can’t even imagine that this was going on because there was not a single difference in my village; stores and cafes were business as usual.

In other news, my sister (in the village) recently got married and I learned that marriages aren’t the same here as they are in the states. Instead of my sister, a beautiful blushing bride, presented to her husband in the most extravagant way, the final day of her wedding started out with me and 20 young girls sing as she prepares to leave her family. How beautiful and poetic you think? Sure, until the mother comes in and the bride with all her younger sisters start wailing and they have to drag her out of the hut and continue wailing through the streets as she makes her way to her husbands house. Perhaps the first time I saw this I was petrified to see that this women is not just shedding tears of joy, but was shrieking with pain and fear. It’s not that she doesn’t want to be with her husband. It’s that she’s used to being a girl with little responsibility, surrounded by her family with whom she finds her sense of security. Then it’s almost as if everything changes over night. Once she leaves her family my sister has 3 days before she starts resuming her new role as wife and mother (to other children in the concession). I’m sure she is a little scared to leave her old life to start a new one, which causes many of us girls to shed a few tears. I also know that these tears are usually a little over exaggerated because you don’t want to appear to excited to leave your parents now, do you? But the air was much heavier many of those tears were shed in remembrance of her older sister whose marriage ceremony would have been this year had she not have passed away this past Feb.
Before I came here I always pictured Africans having such a healthy way in dealing with death because it’s such a part of life here. Whether that’s true or not I can’t say, but what I do know is that those who were close with my sister still hurt by her absence, still cry on occasion, and still long for her with us.

vendredi, janvier 13, 2006

Photos from parents visit

Here's the link to see photos. click here
The most recent is under "Parents' Visit 2005-2006"
Hope you enjoy

vendredi, janvier 06, 2006

Somethin' to write home about

Well, the parents are on the final stretch. Only three more days until AIR FRANCE whisks them away to America. They've managed to use a pit latrine(and various other forms of 'places to go'), eat the food, get sick, eat again, navigate through the market, ride in bush taxis, learn how to really appreciate a warm shower, and are still kicking--well, less kicking really and more like shuffling. I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of their flexibility, willingness, and patience. They amazed me. These past couple of weeks has been an experience none of us will forget anytime soon. I've really enjoyed sharing my life here with my folks as much as, if not more then, they enjoyed seeing it. I'll leave the story telling to them.

I wanted to share pictures with you all but once again I'm experiencing difficulties with technology.

samedi, décembre 17, 2005

The Grand Cross-Cultural X-change

So here I am in Bamako, the capital of Mali, with their interesting architecture, fabulous restaurants, and street lights that work--contrary to Guinea's capitol of Conakry. As much as I am enjoying my stay, my heart jumps into my throat everytime I think of the real reason I'm here...To greet the parents at the airport. I am so excited that they are coming to see and experience a little of my life here, but a little (a lot actually) but worried about this HUGE cultural-learning experience. How are they going to react to the housing, the food, the bathrooms, the transportation, the service,the children? I hope they're prepared and armed with a lot of patience. Anyways just wanted to get my anxieties out there.

jeudi, novembre 10, 2005

Some photos

I have some more photos up there marked "some fete and others" just follow the link

mardi, novembre 08, 2005

Un jour special

Il y a trois moustique dans mon mousitiquere, oh OH oh, Qu'est-ce que je peut faire?

I'm not quite sure how many times a musquito that is stuck in your net can bite you until he's full, but it's enough to ruin a good night's sleep. Once he's in there's nothing else to do, but sit and listen for him to come close enough to meet his fate....Nothing. I wait. Nothing. I could pass the entire night looking for this miniscule beast, but I've been there before and it's not pretty. I'm just goning to suck it up and let the guy have his feast for the night.
Ugh I can't sleep with that racket, why on earth is some one pounding at this time of night. It's gotta be almost 3 in the morning. Now the sound is simultaneously coming from all differents directions...definately drumming. As it passes over my head the bass is so resinating that it would rattle your windows-- or in my case my thatch roof. My heart is thumping in sinc with these floating drums. In fact, so much so that-- I'm out of breath. Part of me wants to rush outside to witness the commotion. The more rational side tells me it's better to rest safely tucked in my misquito net. No sooner than my heart returns to normal speed does the hollering and shouting increase my blood pressure once again...

To be continued (the next time I'm around electricity)