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 September, things have picked up and gotten back to their normal routine in Lafou. The start of the school year was similar to last year's; you know you're in Guinea when more cows show up at school than students on the first day. There have been a few changes, however. We've gotten a new principal, and though I was close to the old principal's family, this new one seems to be a little more on-the-ball and no-nonsense than our previous one. Our school year picked up more quickly, and his enforcement of certain rules even provoked a girls' dress code strike one day in October.

I've got quite a packed schedule this year. Since the departure of the other chemistry teacher, I've taken all of the chemistry and biology classes for the entire school (7th-10th grades). I'm teaching six days a week, though I only have one two-hour class on Saturday- an 8th grade English class where we mostly just play games and sing songs. My favorite classes are by far the biology ones. I loved watching my students' eyes light up in 10th grade when I gave an introduction to genetics and getting my seventy 7th graders to do a ridiculous dance I invented for photosynthesis.

The American election was followed with interest by my Guinean colleagues in early November, and, because I had not hid my political leanings from my village friends, everyone continuously shook my hand and congratulated ME for Obama's victory the day following the election. I kept trying to explain that I didn't deserve the congratulations, all I did this time was vote, but the good wishes continued throughout the week following the election.

In other news in the village, a Chinese construction team has undertaken the paving of the road from Thiangel-Bouri, a town 15km north of me, to Popodara, another town 30k south of me. They have literally been bulldozing their way through town, widening the road and tearing up fences and trees that are in their way. The main stretch of road that I walk to get to school each morning is now unrecognizable, as huts and homes I have never seen before have appeared along the now cleared roadside. The biggest landmark in Lafou, a large tree in the center of "town" was torn up and chopped into wood for the villagers. The strangest part about these changes is the town's reaction. Though excited for the soon-to-be paved road, the villagers are also afraid of the evil spirits that the uprooting of these old trees might have released.

After noticing many children had begun to sport red wristbands made of cloth or string, I tried to ask my students what they were for. No one would give me a straight answer. Finally, Moussa, a girl who only speaks Pular who lives across the way from me explained of the red-bracelet mystery to me with the help of lots of charades and repeated words. I finally got the gist of it. Because the Chinese had uprooted the trees, two (not one, TWO) evil genies who had been living in them escaped and were now circling through town, causing trouble and casting curses on people. The red, supposedly, would protect you from the genies. I later confirmed this story with my gateaux-making friend, Batouly. I was extremely proud of myself for having figured out the secret in Pular. Needless to say, I keep forgetting to put on red to protect myself from any evil genies.

I spent Thanksgiving day in my village, frying up fish and potatoes (a Guinean luxury food) with some of my neighbors. A group of volunteers got together this Saturday in Labe to have a postponed 'American' Thanksgiving feast, complete with chicken (in place of turkey), mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, stuffing, and of course, pumpkin pie. I'm sitting here quite full and content after the meal as I type this post.

Be thankful for your loved ones and all the luxuries you have this year- and be especially grateful there are no evil genies chasing you around your town.