Gettting on the internet has been more difficult then I imagined! It will be far easier once I have my own place and I'm at my site. Right now however, at our training site, it's nearly IMPOSSIBLE!! This will be a brief update as I have probably about 10 minutes on the internet available. My goal has been at least one update a week. So bear with me please and I will try to return to that schedule with gusto after Christmas.
It is hard to believe that yesterday was Christmas considering it's 90 degrees outside, I rarely look at a calendar, and I live in a Muslim country. Christmas season came and went without any announcements, santa clauses, crowded malls, Salvation Army bell ringers, or hours of radio Christmas carols. It’s been extremely bizarre to say Merry Christmas.
Though I missed my family dearly, Christmas in Guinea was blissfully beautiful. We celebrated in Conakry with a couscous stuffed goat, fried chicken (courtesy of moi), mashed potatoes, grilled liver (seriously amazing!!), and a plethora of other amazingly, tantalizingly, delicious fair. We shopped for a few of the items at a grocery store in Conakry and couldn’t believe the prices in comparison to our humble marché in Dubreka. A 1 kilo block of cheddar cheese was 438,000 Guinea Franks, the equivalent of about $70 US!!! A bag of frozen chicken was 125,000 GF, around $17 US. We listened to Christmas carols as we ate at our directors absolutely stunning home with tiled floors, white walls, and gorgeously detailed archways and architectural details. It felt for several hours that we were in a San Diego cottage style row house. But when we left, the dust, French yelling, and smell of grilled meat and rice on the street quickly snapped us back to down town Conakry. Oh what a Joyeux Noelle!!
My Guinean name is Fatou Sylla!! Pronounced Fah-too See-lah....first name, last name :-). And when I come home everyday from school I have about 15 kids tackle me at the gate yelling, "Fatou, Fatou, ça va? Ça va?" It's the best homecoming ever.
My family is extremely artistically talented. My little sister, Mah Benti - 13, is a beautiful singer and writes her own music. My little brother, Modia - 16, is a break dancer and has his own break dance group that performs around the Base Cote, the coastal region of Guinea. He also sings and writes music. We have dance competitions at night and act out Nigerian movies lol! My mothers, who previously approached me with caution, now greet me with, “Ma fille”, or my daughter, with a tender kiss on my cheek or forehead. I’m a part of the family now J
I found out this past Thursday where I’ll be working, with what organization, and what I’ll be doing after my training in February!!! We had our interviews last week, and this past Thursday, after a week of painstaking patience from all the volunteers, we received the news. It was an extremely exciting day that we’ve all been waiting for since we first opened our invitations to Peace Corps.
Drum roll please……
For the next 2 years I will be living and working in LABÉ!! Labé is one of the most beautiful cities in Guinea. It’s the second largest city behind the capital of Conakry and is located in the Fouta region. With cragged mountain plateaus and breathtaking waterfalls, it is the most lush and scenically beautiful region of the country. The temperature is the coolest of the regions in Guinea because it’s situated at the highest altitudes in Guinea. It is the most sought after placement by volunteers.
The region is populated by Fula people, which in Guinea are called Peul. They are considered the most economically inclined, and also the most physically beautiful. I will be learning Poular, which is the same as the Fulani language (big up to lil Wey, I’m working with your people)! I’m extremely excited about this because there are Fulani people all over West Africa (including Liberia), which makes it a great language to learn for working within multiple people groups across several countries. This is also the region that is known for its artistry. I’ll be working with a federation for artisans in downtown Labé, helping them develop innovative marketing techniques, organizational and business development, and entrepreneurship training. I will also be working with a microfinance institution and health insurance company catered specifically to artisans as well. The website for the federation is www.artisans-guinee.org/fepal/fepal.htm
I’m still in awe at how fortunate I am to have received this placement. Since I first started my Peace Corps application, I’ve gotten everything I’ve asked for. God has been extremely specific in answering my prayers. I wanted to work in a francophone sub-saharan African country in community and economic development. After being told that there would be no more hiring for the rest of 2011, I was asked to come to Guinea against all odds, which couldn’t have been more perfect because not only does Guinea fit my criteria, but it’s right next door to my family’s home of Liberia. After finding out Guinea would be my new home, I researched the country and knew immediately that I wanted to work in the Fouta region. But after finding that it was the most sought after with very few placements, I had let go of the idea that I would be placed there, opting to be grateful for whatever I received. However, in the end, not only did I get the Fouta, but I’ll be in the second largest city in Guinea, another difficult to obtain placement. ANNNNND working with artisans. Over the past year, God has given me idea after idea for marketing artisan products in West Africa.
All things come together.
I cannot stress enough, how important it is to dream. I have believed for a long time that the reason why the bible says that God gives us the desires of your heart is because he is the one who places those desires there from the beginning. Imagine this. When you were created, God placed inside of you the seeds of your purpose, knowing you would be forever drawn to that desire and accomplish something specific. Don’t ignore those dreams in your heart. Because they are the pathway through which you will affect the world. That is where your purpose lies.
And once you realize what those desires are….BE SPECIFIC. If you want to build a house, don’t just stop with the dream itself. Imagine every nook and cranny, each door and fixture, the size and greenery of the land. And go then go further than that! Imagine each chair, couch, table, curtain, carpet, and flooring. Then go FURTHER! Each piece of clothing, each vase, each plate, each painting must have a name and a place.
Take the dream God has given you and go as far as your mind will let you with it.
Because it will grow so large in your heart, that you can do nothing else but achieve it J