Monday, March 7, 2011


And in no particular order, here are more random excerpts from Guinea…

I was at a fancy restaurant in another town for a conference recently and ordered a salad. It came with fries in it! (I’d thought they were tomatoes at first cause it was dark and hard to see, and they were covered in dressing. Surprise!) Who knew how good that could be? (Very good.) Another African delight!

Also at this conference, my Guinean counterpart surprised me one night after dinner. We’d all eaten a lot, and he leaned back, rubbed his belly, and said, “ooohhhh, haari bébé!” Haari is Pulaar for “I’m full,” …my counterpart had an “I’m full baby.” I always say when I’ve eaten too much and feel like I’m going to pop that I have a food baby. Apparently Guinean men get food babies too!

Another interesting run-in I had was on a bicycle. The closest volunteer to me is 14 miles down the main road in a small town. I was riding over to pay her a visit and feeling just a little bad-ass for biking it instead of taking a bush taxi. I came upon a couple frail-looking old men on the road, also riding their bikes, and we exchanged greetings. They were very friendly and seemed to be enjoying themselves, chatting, in no great rush to get wherever they were going on their rickety old bikes. (Most bikes I’ve seen in Guinea and Cameroon are pretty low-tech—one speed, with foot brakes.) The men asked me where I was going, listing a couple of far-off town as options. I told them I was just headed to the next town, and inquired after them. “Kouroussa!” they said cheerily. That was humbling. Kouroussa is about 85 miles past where I was going. And I thought I was tough. Hats off to the happy old men!

On another unrelated note, I am apparently building a reputation for myself as a traditional healer, complete with bag of fetishes. In the part of Guinea called Haute Guinee, in the Northeast corners where the Malinké folks live along the Malian border, I’ve been told that the traditional healers carry their fetishes, charms, and goodies in a little black bag. Well, I have been carrying the same little blue bag (kind of a wallet on a string) since I found it in my apartment in France in 2003. Needless to say, it is getting a little ratty. OK, it is exceedingly ratty, and is held together with electrical tape and safety pins (which have also doubled to hold up my pants when the zipper on those bust in the middle of an Ethiopian museum.) So my little blue bag has long since given up its shade of blue, and is now resigned to a sad and dingy shade of black. And so, I’m a sorcerer! I was recently approached by some co-workers with inquiries as to what fetishes I carried in my bag, and what I could potentially do for them… Safety pins, anyone?

And lastly, work is going well. I’ve been hammering out the training modules for the members and staff of my microfinance organization, CAFODEC. It’s really enjoyable to collaborate with my Guinean colleagues because they have great insights and examples, and I just put it all on paper. Plus, Guineans are really entertaining to work with! I was with about five of them to review some drafts of the training modules, and between practically every module, someone had to stand up and “warm up the room” by telling a joke or some ridiculous story. Some of them were totally inappropriate for a work setting, by American standards, and so were that much more awkward/entertaining! I’ll translate my favorite one, but I’m sure I won’t do it justice. I should note that the days of the week in French, starting with Monday, are lundi, mardi, mercredi, jeudi, vendredi, samedi and dimanche. (That’s important for the joke.) Soooo, a man takes a new wife. Satisfying this man’s sexual appetite is just wearing her out, so they talk about it and come up with a truce. They’ll have sex only on days that end in redi—mercredi and vendredi. (Wednesday and Friday.) However, on a Monday, lundi, the man comes home and is feeling particularly hot to trot. “Madammmmme!” he calls out, “Can we…?” She stops to calculate the say of the week. “It’s lundredi!” he cries out!

That’s all from Guinea for now! Gros bisous!

1 comment:

Teacher Lucinda said...

i thought that was just a western pennsylvania thing to do=french fries on a salad!