As it turned out, Mecca overrode the non-moon seeing Guineans, and we did end up having Ramadan the same day as the rest of the world! Waiting to know for sure about the holiday was a lot like waiting for a snow day back home, except there wasn't any snow, and I knew at 4:00am that the fête was on when I heard the obnoxious banging of drums and a xylophone-like instrument outside my window.

The fête was a long day of praying and eating, and I was up to four meals before two PM rolled around. For Ramadan in Guinea, everyone has snazzy new clothes made, and the days leading up to the holiday were serious crunch time for all the local tailors. I was not left out of this tradition, and once again under the digression of my host sisters, I had another "complet" made out of lapis, the traditional fabric of the Fouta. It turned out nicely, except when I accidentally put it on backwards the first time and wasn't corrected on my mistake until I'd been sitting on the porch for at least thirty minutes, in the company of my host family. How was I to know the tacky rainbow zipper was supposed to be in the FRONT, and not the back!

My Ramadan adventures continued when my host brother announced that we were to go to Conakry that day. I was happy, yet surprised to be heading on a spur of the moment day trip. After consuming way to much spicy rice and chicken, we were off in an overcrowded taxi towards the capital of Guinea.

Since our arrival in Dubreka, a large amount of services and items have been rumored to be found in only one place in Guinea. Need school supplies? You can find them in Conakry. Looking for a good chicken or goat? Better get it in Conakry. The non-crappy batteries? To be bought in Conakry. Ice Cream exists in Guinea? Only in Conakry. You get the picture. It seemed like all our problems could be solved by a trip to the city we had only briefly seen on our arrival in Guinea. Among us Peace Corps Trainees, we began to call Conakry the Emerald city of Guinea, the place where all our problems could be solved. Our APCD, (the guy in charge of our site placements and work assignments) was called the Wizard, as he was the guy we were supposed to go to with all our questions. And until our site visits, he remained illusively in Conakry, where no one had seen him. The Wizard of Oz metaphor continues, but I'll leave the rest of the parallels for another blog post.

Needless to say, I was very happy to be heading out for one short day in the emerald city... The day was filled with site-seeing all that Conakry has to offer, and I passed by landmarks like the US embassy, the grand Medina marché, the place where they attacked the president a few weeks ago, the old presidential houses, the Atlantic ocean, and the naval port in Conakry. I shared another meal with some cousins of my host family, and was given lots of food off the street, like grilled corn, oranges, and juices in plastic baggies. On our way back to Dubreka, we caught a minibus heading in our direction. The number of people crammed into the back of the small van exceeded 26; I stopped counting when a woman sitting on my feet and a kid nearly in my lap blocked my view of the rest of the people in the bus. We made it back somehow to Dubreka, and I was sufficiently exhausted from the holiday.

Out practice school continues, and I'm teaching a different level of high school chemistry each week. This week I've been happily teaching 12th grade. I've even successfully blown up some hydrogen gas from a zinc-acid reaction for the science-track students. The humanities-track's curriculum coincides with biology topics that I've taught in the US before, and I'm loving adapting some of my old lesson plans to the Guinean classroom. Last week, when I had some time after the exam I gave to the 11th graders, I started teaching them science words in English. The kids loved it, and I got a kick out of getting them to say things like "I want to be a scientist," or "I am studying chemistry." Problems arose, however, when the actual English teacher caught some cheaters during her exam later on that day. "I know these three kids copied off each other," she told our group. "Their answers were just so wrong, they couldn't have come up with it on their own. I asked for the past participle of 'to study' and they wrote down 'chemistry'!" Oops. My fault.

One week of practice school remains, and then we'll be wrapping up training with final sessions in preparation of swearing-in. I'm almost a real-live Peace Corps Volunteer! A bientot,