Click your heels three times...

July 26, 2013
At the end of The Best Movie of All Time, also known as The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wakes up muttering while her family and friends stare down at her. None of them really understand what she has just returned from, and she tries to explain, "This was a real, truly live place. And I remember that some of it wasn't very nice - but most of it was beautiful."

For all the years I loved watching the Wizard of Oz, I never really got that scene. Why was she so happy to be back? Oz was way cooler than Kansas- what's a few flying monkeys in the face of all that excitement?

Now that I've completed my entire Peace Corps service, I think I'm finally starting to relate. I'm already back in America, "readjusting" to life as most Americans know it, getting used to things like flushing toilets and constant internet access and A/C and ice and... well you get the picture. Thank goodness I've moved back to the south, where it isn't weird to greet strangers on the street- one of those Guinean habits that will be difficult to break. I used my hefty "readjustment allowance," to make a down payment on a new car, and I'm stocked up on my Close of Service meds - pills galore intended to rid me of things like amoebas (which I happen to have), schistosomiasis (which I may or may not have), and malaria (which I really hope I don't have).

But the fun of those back-to-America things pales in comparison to the real joy of being back with my family again. The people are what make any place a place worth loving, and the same goes for Guinea. I'll miss the friends I've left behind more than the sweaty fun of teaching, more than the beautiful landscape, and more than the mangoes. And unlike Dorothy, my friends in Guinea don't have strange lookalike counterparts in America.

On the last leg of my long journey home, my flight was delayed a few hours. I filled myself on a juicy bacon cheeseburger from the Five Guys in Dulles airport, and sat down to write one last blog post. I didn't get very far- I'll blame it on my my zombie-like exhaustion, but here's what I was able to crank out in those last few hours:

"It's been stated many times before, but I can't help saying it again: time doesn't move at a normal speed in the Peace Corps. It drags or flies, zooming or dragging by at strange spurts no matter where you are in your service. Sometimes you feel like Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse Five, unstuck in time. Sometimes you feel like things are rushing by so fast you have no time to catch any of it. And sometimes you get bored beyond imagination.

So here I am, on the very last stretch, sitting through my last layover before I get to return home, and I've decided to write one last blog. I've been stuck in Dulles- a little less than two hour drive from my parents' house in Richmond- for the past five hours. But I'm not bored. Part of it is the magic of America (be it an airport version of America), part of it is the excitement of seeing my family in short time, part of it is awe that I'm actually done with this two-year adventure.

On July 11th at 4PM Guinea-time (that's noon on the East Coast), I got in a Peace Corps car and rode to the airport. My service was officially closed. I had completed my two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

A part of me is bursting with success and accomplishment, another part is already starting to feel nostalgic for what I left behind. In Brussels, I sat with a friend from the US Embassy who was also returning to the States from Conakry, and in between naps and Starbucks runs we rehashed our favorite parts of the crazy country we has just returned from. We were joined in our conversation by two women who were returning from an NGO work project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were extremely impressed with the work I had done- as well as the purple-black weave I had braided in my hair. We talked a little longer, and the women and I exchanged contact information. They were interested in recruiting teachers to work in a Girls' Empowerment summer camp next year, and I expressed my interest as I thought- "Maybe I'll make it back to Africa sooner than I thought..."

There ends my jet-lagged rambling. I finally made it to Richmond around 10:00PM, where my mom and sister were there to meet me. Cue tears of joy.

Since that happy return, time has kicked up speed again. Here I am, already down in North Carolina, moved into my new apartment, ready to begin my new job. Jumping into everything headfirst, I didn't think readjustment would be too much of an issue- but the little things have started to freak me out. "Is this bathroom really mine?" I say to myself every morning. I knew people in Lafou with homes small than that. "Is this car really for me?" I feel like my new Civic is the fanciest thing in the world. I had a hard time driving it on the interstate when I went down to my new place for the first time- road lines and three lanes and speed limits- oh my!

But I think I'm getting the hang of it. Little by little, as we say in Guinea, I'll get into a new groove, find new adventures, and continue to share the old. For now, I'm saying goodbye to Guinea. And now that I'm an RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer), I can handle anything.

There's no place like home.


Thanks, 'I-love-you' guy!

July 2, 2013

An article from this week’s New Yorker Magazine on Guinea’s corruption and iron ore industry gives a pretty accurate description of the sticky sensations you get upon arriving in-country:

 “When you disembark from a plane in Conakry, the corruption hits you almost as quickly as the heat. At the airport, a uniformed officer will stop you, raising no specific objections but making it clear, with his body, that your exit from the situation will be transactional. Out on the rubble-strewn...

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Learning to Say Goodbye

June 12, 2013

Last week I sat in my village snacking on a messy mango my three-year-old fiancé had just picked for me, and I didn’t want to look at my watch.  I really needed to go and pack, but the hours left were starting to tick away. I had a matter of days left.  I couldn’t believe it; I was about to leave my home for the past two years.

Earlier that week, all of the volunteers from my training group attended our COS (close of service) conference in chilly Dalaba in the middle of middle Guinea. ...

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That's what it's all about

May 12, 2013

There are reasons I'm not an English teacher. Despite being begged, guilted and coerced into giving lessons to just about everyone and their brother in my village, I still do not identify myself as a teacher of the English language. Never the less, I have to remind people on a daily basis: I am a science teacher. I am here to teach science. I am a CHEMISTRY TEACHER.

"So you can teach me English, yes?"

Teaching science is what I'm good at. I love demonstrating abstract concepts in understand...

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Do you dare the moustiquaire?

April 25, 2013

Over our school's past spring break (a terribly timed interval spanning from a Wednesday to the following Thursday), I stopped in Kindia for several days.  Mme. Sow, a teacher from Lafou and my best friend at site, had invited me to spend some time with her family before we continued to Conakry.  On our first night in the sweaty city, Mme. Sow hesitated as we got ready for bed.

"Tu ose la moustiquaire?" An odd Guinean usage of the verb 'to dare' - "Do you dare use a mosquito net?" she a...
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The Fou Situation

March 15, 2013
One day, as I was sitting through another painful ordeal of getting my hair braided, a strange man shuffled by, muttering to himself. Mariama, my hairdresser, shook her head. "Life is like that," she said, tugging at another chunk of my hair. "Like what?" I asked. Her reply: "There are a lot of crazy people in life."

If you run into a person sleeping in the streets in Guinea, more often than not that person is a fou. (In French, 'fou' litteraly means 'crazy person.) Now, the 'Fou' situation...
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Girls' empowerment > Chimpanzees

February 4, 2013
Having neglected this blog for several months, I have double the normal number of amazing stories to share- so get ready.

Christmas, briefly: I traveled to the forest region of Guinea with a large group of volunteers to explore the cultural differences, the tallest mountain in Guinea, and of course, search for wild chimpanzees. On Christmas other another volunteer and I were able to visit the chimpanzee reserve on the border town of Bossu, only a few kilometers from Liberia. Two minutes af...
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Wear your red bracelet...

November 24, 2012
First order of business: Our Girls' Outdoor Leadership Conference has finally made it up on the Peace Corps Partnership website! Please read and consider donating to an awesome project!

I've neglected my blog for quite some time now- I'll blame the fact that I've been mostly at site these past few months, only making it to Labe for two short trips.

Since my return from Europe at the end of Sept...
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"That Paris Exists..."

September 29, 2012

You look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there's nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe…”

Thus rambles Gil Pender in the Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris.  Though I feel the sam...

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The Bar at the End of the Universe

September 28, 2012
It's hard to imagine that after scaling cliffs and waterfalls the adventure could get any more amazing- yet here I am, exploring some of the most exciting places in Europe. The past ten days have flown by, and I'm starting this post from a cafe in Paris on the last day of my trip.

I'll try to hit the highlights best I can, but this adventure will probably be retold over several blog posts. Through Paris and Italy I've been exploring towns, savoring food, catching up with old friends, making...
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Sarah R.

Lafou, Guinea
Lafou, Guinea

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