Guinea

April 30, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Dear Loved Ones,

I find myself at the end of another fun and very social weekend.  Perhaps too social.  Sometimes it’s hard to find that fine line between being the right amount of extrovert and introvert.  Life can be so heavy and hard that my appetite for fun increases and then I’m tempted to excess.  True peace is truly found in temperate living though.  It’s a reminder God gives me every once in awhile that’s humbling and life-giving.

Thanks again for your prayers.  I have been making an extra special effort to keep you who read my blog in my prayers.  It’s just one big, loving, prayer-fest!  :-> 

I continue to enjoy the constant hot temperature here.  You never have to worry about bringing a sweater anywhere with you.  Traveling light baby, in sunny weather!  It’s great.  Of course, I could do with less humidity but, I’m not about to complain.  I’ve been here over a month now and I actually got cold for the first time last week!  I was lying in bed with my sheet over me in the early morning and woke up feeling slightly chilled.  I looked at the temperature on my travel alarm and it read 79 degrees.  79 degrees!  That’s a downright hot temperature for Seattle.  I couldn’t believe it.  So I guess I am adjusting which is nice to know.  I don’t know how I’ll survive cold North America when I return to visit.  Probably have to walk around in a parka in the middle of summer.  {:-[ 

Some of you have been wondering about my work so I’ll cover that a bit.  On Tuesday I leave with my team for Guinea to work with the mainly Liberian refugees that are there.  I’ll be on my own to do all the different interviews necessary for processing so it will definitely be stressful but I’m looking quite forward to getting a good handle on my job.  At the beginning it takes a person usually a couple hours minimum to do one case as there are so many questions to ask and so much information to gather that must be gotten quickly.  We’re supposed to do five cases a day as soon as we can, so there’s definitely a considerable time component to all of this. And if enough people have shown up for the day you don’t get to leave at the end of those five cases.  You work until your supervisor calls it quits for the day.  Add to the mix translating in which everything is repeated at least twice and you can see what a pace one must keep to get it all done in a day.  One of the main reasons for the high turnover here is the stress level of the job.  My does a good job of hiring pretty accomplished, bright and competent people (of which I could well be one of the lesser – at least on paper) but I guess the long hours, heavy caseloads and travel eventually get to people.  Still, we have a couple caseworkers who have stayed with the job for a couple years which is encouraging. 

Until recently Guinea has not been safe enough for us to travel to.  I just met a Peace Corps volunteer who was stationed in Guinea and was pulled out due to the violence.  Some volunteers actually had to hide from gunfire at certain times.  Rough stuff. But as of the last couple of months the riots have stopped and we’re glad to be able to get in there and process those that have been waiting to leave.  Guinea is right next to Ghana and is a mainly Muslim country.  In my reading on Guinea I found the situation of the mainly Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees to be particularly sad.  Many got caught between Charles Taylor’s rebels, Liberian rebels called LURD and the Ghanaian government forces in forced conscription, labor and sex services.  Each of the afore-mentioned groups tried to take advantage of them and abused them.  Even the UN had difficulty protecting them as deliberate efforts were made to mislead them and keep them from getting to the areas where they could help.  Then, those that promised international aid to the refugees reneged on their promises.  Can you imagine trying to flee from violence in your country and then being forced to work for a cause you don’t believe in as slave labor for God knows how long?  One woman had her children taken from her as collateral.  The stories are endless but none unimportant. 

So I would love your prayers that all who need to be approved for processing by the CIS (INS or Immigration) will be and that our team stays healthy and has energy to do the work.  As I said, because of the stagnating economy and crumbling infrastructure there it’s pretty easy to get sick and people usually do.  We’re all excited to go to La Fourchette Magique (The Magic Fork) though.  It’s a nice restaurant/club in Conakry that plays great local music and has a cool ambience.  It’ll be a good place to decompress.  It’ll also be nice to use my francais in Guinea as its francophone.  Apparently it’s even more humid than Accra is so I’m trying to prepare myself to be at peace with being a hot, sweaty mess every day.  Internet access may be even more limited there also so it may be a couple weeks until you hear from me (I’ll miss you if so! :-*(  ).

I’ll end with some fun facts here:

**********************************

 1)  I’m proud to say I took a tro-tro here for the first time by myself this weekend.  Tro-tro’s are the typical ancestor of mini-vans prevalent in the third world that are equipped to seat way too many people in such a small space.  You hope that you can understand what is being yelled as it passes to make sure you catch the right one.  It’s less glamorous than a taxi (which is not glamorous anyway here) but the price is right!  About twenty to thirty cents for a short-ish distance.  You get lots of looks if you’re a whitey and you’re on one and of course conversations if you’re a woman but mostly people are just curious and nice.

2)  Walking through a typical, big-city African marketplace can be pretty overwhelming if you’ve never done it.  Even if you have it wares on you after a couple hours.  Everyone and their brother is shouting at you to buy something and people don’t hesitate to touch you or grab you if they want you to buy their wares.  Although, I’ve heard it’s worse in North Africa.  One woman tried to convince me that no, I really did need to buy the pair of sandals that were one size too small for me because in fact they did fit.  😦  And as always, walking around with less melanin in your skin means that your whiteness is a beacon that screams I’m rich.  I’ll buy something from you and pay too much for it!  I’m getting so used to bargaining though now that it’s going to be hard not to want to do that in department stores when I return to my country! 

3)  I’ve made nice friends with a typical, low-income Ghanaian family that lives across the street and sells local food at night: a white, fermented porridge called “banku” that you eat with your fingers along with spicy red sauce and fried fish.  The call me “Auntie Grace” which is a term of respect and teach me Twi (sounds like “chwee”, one of the local languages) and laugh at me whenever I speak it to them.  :->  It’s so nice to visit and support all the little kiosks nearby that sell bread, eggs, and any number of daily necessities, and to get to know the kids and people that work in them.  It’s just a chance to have another big love fest I tell you…

4)  Why not learn some Twi yourself?  Of course I like to be clever so I learned this to say to the taxi drivers: Minwia bayma mehdaasi pah “Thank you very much my brother”.  That usually invites requests for phone numbers although sometimes they act like they could give a damn but at least I’ll have made a gesture of respect.

 I wish all good to you and look forward to hearing from you whenever our paths shall cross.

Your sister soldier,

Grace

Advertisements

5 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. Thanks for the update Sister Soldier. Prayers are with you as you venture on to Guinea. When you wrote about anticipated stress my first reaction was “worry is waste” coined by a favorite published priest author. I do not picture you in a frenzied state but rather see you working diligently as a calming presence among those less fortunate who are fleeing atrocious situations. You will calm them, help them feel loved, and rest secure in the fact that you are God’s instrument in helping them feel His love as they seek safety. What an incredible feeling that will be for you! You will be tired but will simultaneously be energized. You will work long hours but will be given stamina by your indwelling friend. Continued blessings to you as you journey on and keep all of us updated regarding how privileged we are in to have food, running water, and the love of each other. I will keep you and all those you help in my daily prayers. PEACE and much love! – Juliet

  2. Grace,

    It’s been go good to receive your updates. Glad everything is well with you. Thanks for the prayers. You remain in my prayers too! May God Bless you as you travel and begin working.

    Love,

    Vonda

  3. It’ so wonderful how u r putting the gospel into practice. So often we pay lip service to the gospel values, but u r a living example of how these values can be lived. Continue to persevere
    and know u r supported by all of us here. Thank u
    for ur continuous updates. They are inspirational.
    luvron

  4. Dear Grace,
    Your name is so fitting for you. By God’s grace you are in His hands doing His loving care for others. I’m so proud of you! I love reading your blogs & am pray for you as often as you come to my mind plus in my prayer time. I love you in Christ. Your Aunt Carol

  5. Dear Grace,
    I’ll be sharing your April blog notes at the gathering this week. My theme is perseverance, so your blog will give me much fodder.
    Love, Pat Smith


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: