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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring Break 2013: Heights, Hassan, Huts, and Hikes

Out to see the sites!

As surprised as I was, I’m glad Guinea observes the ever holiest of holidays: spring break. I’m pretty sure it’s a something leftover from the French influence but they have a weeklong break every year around the time of Easter. This year that week started on a Wednesday and ended on a Thursday, meaning that the students would take the entirety of both weeks as break because who would want a half week of school, right?

So in taking advantage of the moral loophole that is my teaching schedule, I headed out to the Fouta for a hiking adventure with a group of friends. There is a small village in Guinea named Douki (yes pronounce that like dooki) and in this small village is the oddest little Guinean man I’ve had the pleasure to meet thus far in my service. The owner of the location we stayed at was named Hassan and he can only be described as a man of many talents. A five and a half foot, chain smoker (those things may be related) who speaks not only the local languages of Guinea, French, and English but he also has a quick tongue in Spanish! Hassan always had a funny comment to add or some random skill (handstands, juggling, etc) to show us throughout our time with him.

I would definitely pay to just hang with Hassan, but the real reason we were out in the brush was for the hiking. Hassan’s place is a bit famous amongst Peace Corps volunteers and we wanted to see what was out there. The first night we arrived we took a shortened hike to the top of a mountain. It was short because we were already highly elevated. The real hike was the next day, with what Hassan named “Chutes and Ladders”. The 9-hour hike started with 4 hours of walking down a mountainside. We walked next to cliffs, next to waterfalls and inside crevices, the views were gorgeous. We even got to stop a few times to see some monkeys from a distance! So we started with the descent and we were all a bit wary about the ascent, but the trail was true to its name and the 4 hours of chutes were followed by 5 hours of ladders! Home-made ladders led us up countless levels of a massive crevice in the mountain range with a light waterfall on the side. The “ladders” were actually just bundles of branches tied together with vines, but if it works, it works.  Looking up from the back end, our group looked like they were in some kind of real life Donkey Kong, except thankfully there were no flaming barrels to trip us up.

We left Hassan after just two nights but a volunteer’s salary will force decisions like that. Next up we stopped by the Labe regional house for a night. We took advantage of being together in standard American fashion once again: beer pong. Good to see I still got it, ask Caleb for proof.

I made Labe a quick pit stop, as I headed back home to Wonkifong the next morning. I had to leave earlier than the others because I was expected visitors the next day! Two of the volunteers, Ben and Geoff, who had not been on the Douki trip were instead taking a bike trip. They started in their village of Telimele (telly-melly) and then, over three days, made their way to my village. A total distance of around 250 km!

Those two along with Caleb, who arrived by taxi the next day, spent a few days with me in Wonkifong. We spent Monday doing malaria projects (hanging mosquito nets and giving sensitizations) with general goofing around mingled in there. We managed to find some cheap wine and some cards for euchre making for a pretty good night. The next day we went to Forecariah (featured in the movie Blood Diamond) just to see some place new, plus they have a super market! That’s right friends and family, my vacation plans now hinge on the presence of a super market. Wednesday, we went back to work and did some more malaria sensitizations. Although whenever the four of us are together things are exactly like work anyways. To add a bit of spice to the day, we went swimming in a random spot in a river with a decent jump off a rock. That week overall was just amazingly fun and ridiculous. Those same guys are headed down towards me again near the end of the month and I’m worried we won’t be able to top it, but we’ll sure try!

Blending the line between work and play,

Had to do it. Go Blue.


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