Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

vendredi, décembre 29, 2006

AIDS Project – December 2006

December 1 is World AIDS day and the month of December in Guinée is devoted to education and other activities to promote awareness of this disease that is killing millions of people worldwide, but especially in Africa. It has been projected that between 2000 and 2006, 55 million Africans will die from AIDS.

At the end of October, I teamed up with an elementary school teacher to work on a project that would be presented to the community during December. We began with 12 students (8 from the middle school and 4 from the elementary school) evenly split between boys and girls. The plan was to meet every afternoon Monday – Friday until December 16, the Saturday we had chosen for our big day. To start, I taught the students about the disease, their bodies and prevention. The students had heard of AIDS, but I was somewhat surprised as to how little real information that they knew. After the “learning” portion was over we began planning a theatrical presentation for a community sensibilization (the buzz word for an educational event). I was amazed at the students’ ability to switch between French and Sousou. We began discussing the skit in French so that I could provide input and then the students switched to Sousou. It was important to do the presentation in the local language so more people would understand.

On December 1, the group went to school wearing red ribbons and carrying others to distribute to their friends. The next 15 days were busy as we readied for the 16th. The skit was rehearsed and we anticipated it lasting almost an hour. Posters to advertise the event were made as well as banners for the entrances to the village. The community now knew that something was going to happen! The program included an afternoon soccer game, the theatrical sensibilization and a dance.

Finally, December 16th arrived. A public announcement system was rented with an announcer who began publicizing the activities of the day. To branch across communities, the soccer game was held in an adjacent community 2 km away. A large meal was prepared by my neighbor and at 3:00, we began walking to the game. The game was started a little late but treated the spectators to a short, exciting match. After the game, we walked back to Wonkifong, showered and got ready for the evening event. Chairs were brought into the cultural center, a single light bulb screwed into a source on one wall and a microphone was provided. Low tech at best…

In true Guineén fashion, the event got started an hour or so late but the skit was great. I was a little concerned because this was the first time for the students to perform in front of an audience, but the students put on a rousing performance. Each one became animated and enjoyed their role. The audience laughed and I hope left with a heightened knowledge of HIV/AIDS. The event was well-attended with a few Peace Corps friends who had come for support estimating 700 in the crowd. After the skit, a dance evening began for the students.