19 July 2007

Mangee dem!

So, soon I will be an RPCV and enjoying some post-service travel in West Africa. My friend Jon is coming to Dakar on the 25th. From there we'll make our way to Guinea-Conakry, to visit another good friend of mine. While there, I'll try to put to use my rudimentary Puel Fouta (different from the Fula spoken in the Njau area) that my bean sandwich lady Kindeh taught me. She also gave me directions to her brother's house ("Get out of the car in the Bambeto Quartier and start asking for him"), so we may have a couple of people to visit. I'm looking forward to some nice upcountry hiking, and sour milk. This is going to be great!

After that, Jon will return and I shall chart a course for Ghana. After eight years away, I'm eager to catch up with old friends there, and to see what changes have taken place. I've heard and read a lot of good things about how the situation in Ghana is gradually improving, and I remember it as a place where people seemed motivated by the possibility of bettering their lives in the future. To be sure, it's still a very poor place, but I remember there being a lot of spirit there.

I'm not yet sure which route I shall take to Ghana; it will depend on the rains and the available modes of transport. I will go via Liberia or Mali, and I have potential hosts in both.

As for my Peace Corps service, I am ready to move on. I feel that I worked pretty hard while I was in Njau, although often on the micro-level, with individuals. Also, my direct style, though refashioned as time went on, often rubbed teachers the wrong way, so that I wasn't as effective as I could have been. Still, I got to know the community very well and shared ideas and thoughts with a lot of people. I think this can slowly lead people to reevaluate their life choices; it certainly helped to give me some perspective and to make me more accommodating. As for the students, they were the most fun to work with, since the reverence of elders here and general norms of politeness served me well here (i.e. I don't have to be as diplomatic around kids). In all, a satisfying experience and one that will help me with my future activities. I will miss Njau.

As for my post-travel plans, I expect to fly to the UK from Ghana. There I will stay with some good friends in Edinburgh, Scotland, work for up to a year, and look into graduate school in education -- either in the UK or through one of the Peace Corps Fellows programs.

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