Tag Archives: Guinea

Historical Manifestations of Poverty and Class Divisions

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  With the African sun beating down, I don’t have much energy for a vigorous yoga practice, so I find a nice shady spot and if I’m lucky, one that comes with a breeze, and I’ll settle in with a book.  I was gifted with many electronic versions of books ranging in subject from yoga to Reiki, fiction stories to historical non-fiction.

The fact that the books are electronic posed a bit of a challenge, given the constraint of electricity here.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m lucky to be in a city that has electricity even for a small window most days.  Out in the rural areas, electricity only comes from a generator, and those are few and far between.  I’ve discovered, though, that the smartphone I have will hold electronic copies of books, and will also be recharged by my computer.  Thus, I bounce back and forth between laptop and cell phone devouring book after book.

I’ve been reading a lot of Dickens, as well as more contemporary fiction and non-fiction set in the late eighteen hundreds and also encompassing the two world wars.  I’m struck by the descriptions of the poor because they mimic what I’ve observed here in Africa.

Dickens describes a world of poverty coexisting next to a much smaller realm of wealth and privilege.  He speaks of trash building up in the street and the smell of human waste running open in throughout London.  While the human waste disposal here does not run in the streets, the trash is omnipresent.  There is also a huge disparity of wealth, with a small sliver of the population living well above the poverty level that most Guineans occupy.

An ostentatious house sits well back from a roadside covered in the build-up of trash

An ostentatious house sits well back from a roadside covered in the build-up of trash

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Customs in Guinea

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When traveling, it’s important to drop your ethnocentricities.  You want to be able to look at the culture you find yourself immersed in for what it is, not what it is in comparison to your home culture.  Here in Guinea, that means embracing different standards of beauty, understanding that when voices are raised, people are not necessarily angry, and not being offended by constantly being called foti, white person.

Coca Cola bears a familiar look but a different language in this cooler outside a gas station

Coca Cola bears a familiar look but a different language in this cooler outside a gas station

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Hube

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“Hoo-bey” – dust (Susu)

The Dust in Africa deserves its own religion.  It billows when the wind blows and sticks like a second skin to children’s bare feet.  It clings to chicken’s feathers, goat’s fur and lamb’s wool.  When the sunlight slants in the window just right, you can see that the air is made up almost entirely of dust.  Cars that aren’t washed daily are quickly reclaimed by it, laying thick as paint over tires, hood, and windows.

A wandering mama lamb and her babies rest a moment in the shade.

A wandering mama lamb and her babies rest a moment in the shade.

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Soso

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Soso – “sue sue”

I try to spend at least an hour and a half each day on language training.  I’m focusing mostly on Soso, as I have more resources on my computer for that.  My resources for French language learning are all internet based, and as I learned in my first week, the internet here is not usable for much beyond sending email, and even that takes a looooong time.  Luckily, the French I learned prior to leaving the States has stuck, and the rest I can figure out with my background in Spanish, Latin, and English due to the root similarities of the languages.

So my sit-down and study time is devoted to Susu.  My boyfriend, with his many languages on hand, is my preferred teacher, but it’s difficult to get him to sit down for ten minutes, let alone ninety.  It’s been five years since he’s been in the country, and the home is a constant parade of long lost family and friends coming by to catch up.  That means that he’s usually to be found in the midst of a crowd animatedly telling a story about life in the States or a recent adventure we’ve had here in Guinea.

Gacim, 3 years old

Gacim, 3 years old

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Once Upon a Time in Guinea

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Travel

The snow began to fall the day of our departure.  When I checked JFK’s website for flight info, I saw that almost all the flights leaving between the one-hour time frame as mine were canceled….except my flight!  With fingers crossed and a cell-phone text alert engaged, we piled into my aunt and uncle’s SUV with our small city of luggage.  Only 2 suitcases held personal belongings.  The rest were packed full of the donation of soccer uniforms, deflated soccer balls, as well as an accumulation of shoes, clothes, and school supplies that we’d been buying the previous months. Read the rest of this entry

Africa

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My travels will soon take me to the grand continent of Africa.  I am humbled by and grateful that this opportunity presented itself to me.  I used to dream of traveling to Africa one day, when I was graduating college and considering serving in the Peace Corp.  At the time, I couldn’t articulate what about the continent was drawing me.  The energy tugging me there today is no less mysterious, yet my path is clearly leading east.

Africa

I will begin my journey in Guinea, which translates to “woman.”  This is a country that respects the role of the divine feminine.  Much of this wisdom is expressed through music – specifically drum and dance.  I look forward to learning the traditional dances of Guinea and then incorporating that movement into my yoga classes.

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I also am excited and inspired to be learning not one, but two new languages!  I have begun to study French and Susu, which are the two predominant languages of the coastal region of Guinea to which I’ll be traveling.  I’m finding that French shares enough in common with both English and Spanish that I am picking it up quickly.

To learn French, I’ve been working the the Duolingo app on my phone.  It’s a free app with short lessons in French – utilizing reading, multiple choice, writing, and the microphone to help you learn the language.  I can download the lessons when I’m near a wifi connection, and then practice offline.  The hardest part so far is getting that nasal french accent!

I also created a notebook to begin learning Susu, which is used interchangeably with French.  The language provides it’s own challenges and opportunities in learning.  On the one hand, the verbs stay exactly the same regardless of the subject.  After months of struggling to learn the many tenses of Spanish verbs, this is refreshing!  On the other hand, the language shares no roots with either English, Spanish, or French.  That means I will be relying completely on my memory in learning new terms.  Rather than learn vocabulary one word at a time, I am learning phrases for conversation.  Because there are no apps to learn Susu, I’m creating my own book as I learn.  This is helpful as I can use my own words and illustrations to help remember the language.

Like Nicaragua, Guinea has a history of revolution and poverty.  I look forward to studying the history and culture more in-depth.  The people of Guinea love to play soccer, and I’ve been blessed to be the recipient of a large donation of soccer clothes and soccer balls!  After vacuum-packing all the items, I am searching for just the right way to transport this abundance to Africa – be that by paying for extra bags on the airline (more than $100 each!), or shipping everything by post.  (Equally expensive!)  I still have a few weeks to figure it all out, inshala (god willing), a solution will appear soon.  The donation will make many children and adults smile.  Please click here if you would like to help with the transportation costs.

I expect to directly serve the people of Guinea while I am there.  I also plan to work completing a curriculum for an upcoming yoga teacher training.  This is a project I began while in Costa Rica, and I am eager to make this offering so that I can share my own yoga journey with others and continue the “golden chain of teaching.”

I will continue to share with you this wonderful journey!  Sat Nam, may we each honor the truth within.

Mendocino County

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I’ve spent much of the last few months in Mendocino County in Northern California.  Despite all the traveling I did around Central America, this is my first time traveling to California.  Northern California, especially, has always been a place I’d like to explore.  I’ve always heard of the beauty of the redwoods and the magic of places where the redwoods meet the ocean.  I’ve been blessed to have spent the last few months in this magical place.  Here are a few impressions I’ve accumulated.

People

My trip has been a mixture of reconnecting with old friends and discovering new ones.  I wrote earlier about reconnecting with a dear friend from college on my arrival to California.  I was also blessed to spend some time with a yoga teaching friend of mine I initially met in Granada, Nicaragua.

Kathleen and I were able to spend more time together than we had in Nicaragua!  We shared some meals, camping, and work together before it was time for her to return to the country.

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