Tana mu fenyé? If I'm not butchering my Soussou, that should mean, 'how's it going?'. Spending over a week in the Basse-Côte of Guinea, you start to pick up on the essentials; I kena - good morning, Pia - avocado, Gégé - cockroach, Foté - white person.
Though the official language here is French, Guinea has over 10 local languages, each associated with a particular group or region. We took a one hour crash course in Soussou at the main Peace Corps office in Conakry (Guinea's capital) before being placed in our host families, but more emphasis was is being placed on French, as that's the language we'll be teaching in. To facilitate our French learning as a group, our trainers matched us with host families according to our French speaking abilities. Meaning, those who knew the least French were placed with very fluent families, and those of us on the other end of the spectrum were placed with families where less French is spoken. My family chats back and forth all day in Soussou, but we manage to generally understand each other in French. Accents here are wildly different from other French speakers I know, and a lot of the time Soussou words will pop in and out of conversation. I felt reassured when I spoke with another Peace Corps Trainee (PCT, as they like to call us) who is a native French speaker, who told me she was just as lost as me when conversing with Guineans. As much as I would like to master my Soussou though, we have the possibility of being sent to one of four regions of Guinea where different local languages are spoken. On verra...
When we were arriving on the plane from Brussels, I was sitting across from a family with two little boys who got extremely excited to finally have a view out the window as we started to descend. ''Is this THE Africa?'' one of the little boys kept asking the mom in English. "Oui, c'est l'afrique," the mom replied in French. I smiled, just as excited as the boys. Is this the Africa? There's no mistaking it, this is definitely the Africa.
So many things here surprise me because they're just as you would have guessed. Women in colorful garb strutting with giant basins and baskets on their heads. Huts for cooking that look like they were stolen from the set of Survivor. Markets that spill out on the road and cram into allies. Women who don't dare show their knees, but are chilling outside, bare breasted. Children playing soccer barefoot in the street. Children pooping in the street.
It's also HOT. Hot, in a very gross, sweating all the time, humidity that kills kind of way. It's the rainy season now in Guinea, so during the periodic storms that come through once or twice a day, things cool down a little. The rain is supposed to get heavier and heavier through August, which is the peak of the rainy season, and we're all looking forward to then.
Peace for now,