The busier things get here in Guinea, the less I have been blogging! March has disappeared, April is already halfway gone, and soon the school year will be finishing up here in Guinea.

Our spring break has also come and gone, which I celebrated with two other volunteers by leaving Guinea for the first time in nine months! Our destination was only one country to the south: Sierra Leone. As bad as "Blood Diamond" and other scary war accounts paint the country, Sierra Leone is actually much more peaceful than it was ten years ago, and a huge step up from Guinea to boot.

Minutes after crossing the border into Sierra Leone, the differences were already obvious. For starters, the roads were maintained, paved and had lines on them. The roadblocks and checkpoints only consisted of police checking the driver's papers instead of gendarmes harassing passengers for bribes. Billboards and roadsigns were existent and maintained. Even the ladies and children selling roadside snacks had something new to offer. Instead of French, Sierra Leonians speak Krio or English, so I caved buying some cinnamon cakes after one boy, sticking his tray of goodies through our taxi window, yelled, "Please! I want to help you put sweet in your mouth!"

We arrived in Freetown after seven hours on the road, and, struggling to not speak French (or Pular) to every stranger we encountered, found our way to the YMCA where we were to stay for the night. Another interesting twist Freetown had for us was the abundance of churches and "Christian" associations, in addition to mosques. We freshened up in our room, and went out to stroll down the streets of Freetown. Check out our pictures here:

We stopped by "The Cotton Tree," several times, which is a large tree in the center of a large roundabout Freetown, filled with hundreds and hundreds of bats. At dusk, the bats all fly out, which is pretty cool and slightly creepy. Exploring Freetown was a blast, especially with the broken English and miscommunications we frequently had with locals. One store vendor thought I asked for a place to pray when I really just wanted to know if his ice cream machine was working. He led us to an artisan's market with baskets and woven rugs, where he proceeded to borrow a mat that was for sale to give me a place to pray. When he started to unroll the carpet, we realized that there probably wasn't any ice cream waiting inside. Another friend we made while looking for a cafe told us his name was Chuck Norris and led us to a bar where coffee service was finished for the day. We said goodbye to Chuck and left to find our own cafe.

The next day, we explored more of Freetown, our main goal being to find a large grocery store that had been listed in the guidebook. We breakfasted at a small bakery while we waited for it to open then, as the grimy deprived peace corps volunteers that we were, made fools of ourselves rejoicing over foods we hadn't seen in months.

After our grocery store adventure, we taxi'd out to Lakka Beach, where we were to spend the next few days enjoying the other side of the Atlantic ocean. Our resort was situated on a large collection of rocks on the ocean, and when the tide came in, the resort became a small little island. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves the next few days, swimming, lounging, exploring the village, eating freshly caught barracuda, and keeping our feet constantly in the sand. Even the places we ate at had tables on the beach, so we could walk to dinner barefoot, and enjoy our meals with an ocean breeze and a view of the waves.

We caught taxis back to Conakry on Thursday, sad to see our vacation over, but eager to get back to our Guinean lives. Unfortunately, Guinea wasn't as eager to get going as we were. Though vacation was officially over on the 11th, my school decided not to reopen until the 12th, and even then, not all of the teachers were ready to teach, nor were all of the students ready to come to class. With second trimester grades due next week, some of the teachers have even been coming to school but not actually teaching, skipping out on class to calculate averages instead. I told my students that with me, it was show time, no matter what the other teachers were doing. This past week I've continued class as usual. My 7th grade biology students enjoyed our flower anatomy lesson yesterday, where we drew the flower parts, then each student did their own dissection with little yellow flowers I had picked out in the bush the previous day. I'd never seen boys so excited to be handed flowers before.

The wall world map I'm working on is advancing slowly but surely, and after soliciting the help of the students, the project has gotten a lot more fun. We finished the ocean blue background together this past week, and despite the mess we made, it was great putting the students to work. (I still have blue paint under my fingernails and on my feet.) The students seemed to enjoy it too, even with the whining they did while they eagerly slopped blue paint on the wall. Example:

Student: "Mi ronki!" (Pular, I'm tired!)
Me: (In French) "What? You've been painting for three minutes!"
Students: "No wooli de!" (Pular for "it's hot outside!")
Me: Yes, no wooli, but let's finish this can of paint first.
Students: Mi yahi! (Pular for, I'm leaving)
Me: Ok, give your brush to someone else.
What I should have said was the Directeur des Etudes' (Assistant Principal) new favorite threat : "In the name of God, I'll make you wash the latrines!" He says it about ten times a day, yet so far no one has washed the latrines.