bienvenue en guinea!

23 Jul

It’s a whole different world here…  We are realizing how spoiled we were at the BMC guest house in Nalerigu with our cooks, easy coffee, microwave, 24-hour electricity, hot water, and wireless internet, even if it was sporadic.  While we are enjoying the relative down-time and quiet, we are definitely missing the “luxuries” of Ghana.  We were talking with a man named Mathias yesterday who is from Liberia and has been living in Guineafor 8 years.  He lived in Ivory Coast for a short time prior to coming to Guinea and has been to Ghana twice in his lifetime for conferences.  He said that he likes Guinea better than Ivory Coast because the people here are more hospitable to foreigners, but that Ghana, well Ghana is “excellent.”  While we are enjoying our time in Guinea, we would have to agree.

Upon our arrival, we were met by 4 people who greeted us and welcomed us to Guinea.  They took us to the OCPH (Catholic Organization for Human Promotion) guest house and helped us settle into our rooms.  We were thankful that Surata (Ishmael’s wife) was with us, as she thought of many things we would need overnight – toilet paper, water, towels, and cleansing cloths that she had her driver bring us after they went home.  Our first night was tough – the generator turns off at midnight and so that means the fan does too.  It was pretty close to stifling in our rooms, so we all slept poorly.  In the morning, we had planned to make our oatmeal, but then found out there was no stove here – only an open fire pit.  So we had peanut butter sandwiches instead.

We then went with several pastors (Elijah, Marcel, Desire) to visit Pastor Elijah’s school called Emmaus.  We were impressed by their organization and the success the school has had with their students.  Their exam pass rates are higher than any other school in Guinea and there is a waiting list of students who want to enroll – they are hoping to expand soon.  The tuition is $70-100 per year, depending on grade level.  The Guinean education system is set up differently than in the U.S.  The students start in nursery school and then progress to primary school which lasts through 6th grade.  They then have to pass a national exam to move on to “college” which is equivalent to 7th through 10th grade.  The students then take another national exam, and those who pass move on to secondary school, or 11th-12th grade.  During this time, they pick a track to purse – math, science, or arts.  If they pass the national exam after secondary school, they can then apply for the university.  On average, about 50-75% of Emmaus students pass the exams at each stage.  We met several of the professors and the accountant of the school, and then took a brief tour of the building.  Everyone was very pleasant and they answered all of questions with fervor.  We were excited to see what good work they are doing through the school – all the teachers are Christian and they say morning prayers before class daily and teach theology to the students who are predominantly Muslim.

The pastors then took us to visit Pastor Sanyo, who leads Bethel Church where we have had clinics on previous trips.  He was surprised to see us (not sure that anyone told him we were coming by) and unfortunately has been sick and in the hospital for 3 days recently.  However, despite his fatigue, he was more than hospitable and greeted all of us warmly.

We then visited a clinic associated with one of the local churches.  It was very well organized, though had very limited resources due to lack of funding.  They had a small laboratory with an incubator, centrifuge and microscopes.  There were several consultation rooms with exam rooms connected.  A dental room had a single exam chair in it, and they said they rarely have the supplies to do much dental work on the patients as it is very expensive.  They are able to deliver babies for mothers with less than 3 risk factors (short stature – less than 150 cm, age less than 16, age over 35, previous C-section, etc) and has supplies for neonatal resuscitation (aka a bag-mask), which we were happy to see.  A unique aspect and our favorite part was that they had an observation room where they can give boluses or short infusions and observe patients for up to 24 hours before sending them to the hospital if needed.  There were so many times at the BMC that we wished we had something like this connected to the clinic there as many patients only needed a bolus or a transfusion.  It’s fun to get see a need in one place and then see a solution somewhere else – we’re taking notes for our own adventures in the future.

We then took a nap while the boys went to exchange money into Guinea francs and get minutes to add to our phone (which by the way was the best purchase we have made on this trip, as it has allowed us to have flexibility since we can always reach our contacts here or each other).  Surata then came to get us and took us to an internet café so we could let everyone know we made it safely – it will be difficult to post any pictures for sure, but we should be able to post a couple of blogs while we’re here (we think, seeing that the electricity went out in the internet café in the midst of checking emails…).  She then took us to their home and prepared dinner for us.  We sat on the back porch and watched her make our meal from all fresh ingredients – onions, garlic, parsley, peppers, tomatoes, and freshly slaughtered and plucked chicken – over a charcoal flame.  It was a treat, and she taught us some of her tricks.  She can tell when the fried potatoes are done by the sound the grease makes, which she apparently has to do at times when they have no light (crazy!).

We were all very hungry by the time dinner was prepared (around 9 p.m.) because none of us had really eaten lunch, but it was worth the wait.  The chicken was boiled with spices, then grilled over charcoal with extra sauce and seasonings – to die for!  We also had fried potatoes and plantains, and rice with peanut sauce.  It was by far the best meal we have had in the last month, maybe since we all went to Capital Grill.  And she is planning on cooking for us most nights we are here, a treat we are all looking forward to.  We also enjoyed spending time with Surata – she is so fun and because she has spent time in theU.S., she is so easy to relate to.  Her 7 kids are adorable, and they loved the toys we brought them – the boys immediately started kicking the soccer ball around the Adam and Aaron while we were waiting on dinner to be ready.  We also gave Surata chocolates, since we decided that’s what we would want if we were here.  It rained while we were at Ishmael’s house, which helped cool our rooms down, so we all slept better last night.

This morning, we were true Africans – we cooked oatmeal over that open fire pit using a pot Surata loaned us.  It tasted so good to have a normal breakfast!

The boys left after eating to have a meeting with administration from the Prison Fellowship to discuss plans for future endeavors.  We are waiting on Surata to pick us up.  She is taking us to look at another guest house in the area (one with 24 hour generator power and a stove apparently) – if it’s nice, we will likely move there for the next 3 nights.  We are then going to the market for avocados (apparently they ARE in season now, at least inGuinea) and salt to make avocado sandwiches for lunches, sandals, and maybe more fabric if we find something fabulous.  The rest of the day is pretty open, which sounds great to us – time to relax and sit around while the boys stick to their “program” (aka their plan for the day).

We will continue to write blogs while we’re here and hope to post them as often as possible to keep everyone in the loop.

3 Responses to “bienvenue en guinea!”

  1. carl & Elaine Baldridge July 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    We love getting your blogs whenever you can send them. We really do feel like we have shared a part of the whole experience through your wonderful descriptions and pictures. You all have a way with words!
    I wonder how our grandmothers and great-grandmothers ever kept food on the table. It really was then (as it is now in Ghana and Guinea) a full time job and more to grow or trade the food items, gather the other materials to prepare and cook them…on and on. It sounds like it really makes eating locally take on a whole new meaning. (Aaron, I didn’t open the computer until after I talked to you. Thanks for the call) Love, Mom and Dad B

  2. Chuck Jamison July 25, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    Glad it is going well. Greet all the brothers and sisters. Stop by and see Karim and ask Joel about the prison library

  3. Linda Jamison July 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Been in Tyler,then Longview to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday! Will, Emily, Madison, Lindsey, Chris, their 4 kids, Kelli and Mark and their 2 boys, James, Connie and Steve were all there. (Of course, you do not see Chuck’s name there) It went well.
    I am so jealous that you all are getting to spend time with Sarata and her family! I love them so much!! Tell her I wish I was with her. Although, that is the only part I am jealous of! I am so happy for the four of you…being stretched and totally out of your comfort zone. I am loving reading your blogs and seeing pictures. Can’t wait to hear what all God said to you all about Guinea and your future!
    Ben landed in Texas last night or this morning, will debreif then the plan is for him to fly into San Diego on August 1rst. Lizzy is so excited. Madison got dropped off at Sky Ranch yesturday and wll be there until Saturday(compliments of Will’s one free scholarship). She was giddy!! Love to you all! lLinda

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