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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why Teachers Need a Summer Vacation Too.

Growing up we all remember how sacred of a time that summer meant. It was the highest of holidays for anyone below highschool. The surprisingly similar experience for me has been my first summer vacation from the other side, a teacher's summer vacation. To be fair to educators back home, one's who are a bit more certified than myself, probably won't take to a break like a volunteer does but the intention is the same: I finally had time to do things I wanted to do. Luckily, the Guinean academic calendar is also, shall we say, liberal, than that which I'm accustomed to back home in the States; leaving me with ample time to pursue secondary projects and some "projects" that are just for fun.

Back in May, the school year came to a quiet close as the students gradually stopped showing up. It definitely lacked the end of the year BANG that field days and class parties added (something I'll try to rememdy next year). So with the second half of May I turned my focus to starting secondary projects. The first one I jumped on was a Training of Trainers, ToT, (Peace Corps loves their abbreviations) for a Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program, YETP (see what I mean). It's a volunteer developped program that focuses on the basics of entrepreneurship in a legal and formal (key terms) market. Being business-savvy in the States is something that we see from a very young age and certain aspects are just natural to us at this point but in a country where a large percentage of transactions are informal, business management takes quite the different path. A simple conversation about creativity and the role it plays for an entrepreneur took up an entire 2 hour class for me and my participants who were all educated adults, some with years of business experience. Overall the class took me just under a month and I trained 20 Guineans in the art of "the sell". The course went well so I will most likely give another soon but the real results for me will be whether or not in 6 months my participants have actually started a new business!

Whilst giving the YETP class was the only formal project I accomplished during my summer so far, I've been quite busy with other ideas. Since April, I've been working on what I hope will be my "lasting effect" project. It all started when I wrote a small theater piece to perform in front of middle schoolers about malaria. It's since then grown to a highly edited version of the same piece but for a children's book. I've already found a local illustrator for the book and the pictures are amazing. I'm really excited about this project and the next, and biggest, step is to find a publisher who's willing to work at a volunteer level or close to it. My malaria projects will be one of my main focuses for the second half of my service and I hope that this book will be the highlight.

Outside of real work I've been doing a lot of traveling and seeing other volunteers. Time in the regional capitals and an amazing 4th of July celebration where a friend and I built a brick grill were a great way to pass the sometimes slow moving summer. But really the best trip is just about to start as I'm sitting in Conakry before flying back home! It's a really weird feeling knowing that I'll be home so soon, nothing's changed right? So prepare for a celebration because I can't wait to see everyone!

Across the world...for now,

Dante