We finally made it! 

Our 11 week training period has ended, and yesterday we were officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers! We're the first group to do so since the evacuation in 2009, and it was incredibly exciting to be part of such a big event.

Backtracking a little to our last few days of training...

The final days of the "stage" were a whirlwind in Dubreka, mixed with excitment and last minute activities to close out our training. Practice school ended well, and we had a big ceremony with local school offiicals and all of the students, where we awarded prizes to the top three students in each grade level and to the highest scoring girl. A few days before the ceremony, I accidentaly made myself in charge of the student entertainment portion of the celebration. What seemed like a chaotic mess (you try getting a bunch of young Guineans to organize something on their own..) actually turned into a very cute little presentation by the oldest group of humanities students (Terminale SS). They gave a quick speech in English, then presented themselves as future doctors, scientists, teachers, engineers, presidents, etc, thanks to each of the Peace Corps teachers.  They finished with a very cute chant, ("I know I can/Be what I want to be..).

Our final sessions of training after practice school were long and intense, but our afternoons and evenings were filled with soccer games, talent shows, frisbee competitions, and final bike rides and runs through the rice fields around Dubreka. We were left to pack our bags and spend some final hours with our host families on Wednesday night. The Peace Corps van showed up to grab my stuff to pack away right as the photographer had come take the "family photo" that my host family wanted to get at the last minute before I left. Dressed in our African best, we took lots of awkard poses, and my family promised to send me copies of the pictures at my site.  We finished off the night exchanging riddles on the front porch, where I would tell them a riddle and then my host brother would translate it into susu for the rest of the family.  My host mom proclaimed that I was "une vielle" (old wise lady) because I knew so many.  We got dressed in our best once again for the Farewell Ceremony the next morning, where we all came together to sweat and stink and listen to lots of speeches together one last time.  Saying goodbye to the host family was sad, but I was super excited to get to Conakry for the next big step in my Peace Corps service.

On the morning of our swearing-in, we were carted off on the Peace Coprs bus to the downtown Conakry bank, where we were given our settling-in allowance in gigantic heaps of millions of Guinean Francs. Now Guinean millionaires, we nervously explored the downtown area, dirtying our feet (Conakry is truly the dirtiest place I have ever been- even so there are still chickens and goat and other livestock everywhere in the city!), searching for ice cream and other cold dairy products while the rest of the volunteers were given their allowances.  I succesfully found both ice cream and yogurt, neither of which sat too well in my stomach, but were totally worth it. On my way back to the bus from one of several walks around the bank area, with a Guinean yogurt in hand, a soccer team of small kids ran up to me chanting, surrounded me, showed me their trophy and started chanting something about a Fote.  One child was even dancing with a puppy in his arms. The other volunteers who were nearby me just laughed, and since I could only assume they wanted money for their vicotry and Fote dance, I enjoyed the attention for a bit then darted out of the way.  Only one of many incidents of crazy things seen on the street in Conakry...

We made it back to the center in time to shower and get pretty. Putting on makeup for the first time in a few months was actually pretty exciting! All of the volunteers had planned on wearing matching fabric for the ceremony- a vibrant blue and yellow bird pattern that we had bought together in bulk, so we enjoyed comparing outfits and seeing how everyone's garb had turned out. We looked amazing.

The ceremony was well put together and inspiring; we got to hear from our country director, Julie, and the Ambassador to Guinea, Patricia Moller, among many others. Right before we took our Peace Corps oath, the drum group from Dubreka (and a few volunteers who had been taking drum lessons during training) serenaded us to some happy beats. Suddenly, one of the little drum girls got up and walked toward our group of chairs, stuck out her hand, and pulled me up from my chair, and brought me up front to dance. I am a bad dancer unless in a crowd, and a terribly bad african dancer, so needless to say, I was a little mortified to be pulled up to dance alone in front of the entire swearing in audience, the important invitees, and our Ambassador. I put on a smile and tried to follow what the girl was doing, which looked to me more like a modified strip tease dance than anything else. Finally, a few other volunteers got up and joined me, and I laughed off the ridiculousness of the moment. More and more started coming up to join us, and by then end of the drumming, all of the volunteers, our country director, and some of the trainers had stood up to dance with us. Great fun.

Finally, we took our seats and took our oath, and here begins my two years as a volunteer! We leave Conakry on Tuesday, and I move to my site on Thursday. Right now we're enjoying our last bits of American company and air conditioning, and going on major shopping trips to the markets all over Conakry. Shopping to furnish a home is pretty tricky here, especially when you're a white person barganing in a tiny, muddy, fly ridden stand for every little thing you might need for the next two years. I've gotten pretty good at spotting things from a distance and wandering into tiny stands with things that I need out of dumb luck. With three trips to the market today alone, I've knocked out a good portion of my moving list, but there's still a lot of important things I need, like a stove. The million dollar question: Propane or Charcoal?