So as not to confuse anyone, I'll give some back story. If you've diligently read my blogs so far, in April I wrote that the largest health concern in Guinea, by far and away, is malaria. Guinea is not alone in this battle; throughout the entire continent, malaria weighs a heavy burden on men, women and children alike. One of the first goals that the Peace Corps was founded on was the fight against malaria, but it's only in the past few years that this fight has found a great new weapon. Peace Corps service takes many forms but a new program is creating a new type of volunteer. Through continent-wide trainings of selected volunteers, Stomp Out Malaria, an initiative-based program, is helping PCV's collaborate and synchronize their public health efforts. They reason that many small separate events are a nice effort and lightly effective but more large scale events connected by a common brand and message create a movement.
And thus, I'm now in on the movement. I'm hooked. I'm motivated. I'm encouraged. I'm empowered. All thanks to Stomp Out Malaria's Boot Camp. Two weeks in Thies, Senegal with a group of 32 PCV's has entirely refocused my service and maybe even my career path.
I was selected to attend the Malaria Boot Camp after a brief application process in June/July. I had heard great stories from other volunteers who had already been, so I was really excited to be apart of the team. My flight leaving Guinea was a bit in question due to the upcoming elections, so I arrived at the airport at 4PM for a 9PM flight. After 4 hours waiting in the lobby, I found out my flight was delayed to 1AM which then became 3:30AM. Great start.
I landed in Senegal around 5AM and got my finger prints taken for the biometric VISA. The poor chauffeur waiting for me woke up from his cozy front sear sleep and brought me to a hotel where I promptly passed out. Waking up a few short hours later was tough but I didn't want to the “that” guy who missed the bus. Imagine my sleep-deprived stupor being broken by the sight of an old college friend! I couldn't believe my luck finding a friend in a hotel in Dakar, not to mention he was going to the same training! My morning was saved and I handed decision powers over Dan. The ride to Thies, Senegal seemed quite familiar. Despite being in a new country with people I had just met, boarding a large bus, identical to the one we use in Guinea, packed in with bags and other visiting volunteers just felt like normal Peace Corps.
|Sleep under your nets kids.|
|Wherever you go, GO BLUE!|
Nearing the end of the training I got a message telling me I had a choice to make: leave in the next 10 minutes or stay in Dakar for an extra week and a half. This dilemma caught me off guard but was caused by the mounting tensions in Conakry over the impending elections. Not wanting to miss any of the training, I chose the long-stay option. And thus, I prepared to spend another week in Dakar. The last night before everyone else left we went out for a nice dinner and some dancing. Then, for the first day of my extended stay, I sat on the beach all afternoon. Rough. My luck continued when I found out my COS'ed friends from Guinea, who I thought I had said goodbye to already, were still in Dakar. The next week was looking pretty great now. Unfortunately, I found out early the next morning that I'd be taking the a flight that evening. It was bittersweet news because it meant that things were calm in Guinea but it also meant that I wouldn't be spending my birthday in Dakar at a bowling alley. So I went downtown, had some Korean food, ate some ice cream, saw my friends then ran off to the airport.
|Surprise last visit with Shane and Syd!|
I've now been to Senegal twice. Both times were amazing and unforgettable adventures. Going to Malaria Boot Camp had a large impact on my professional and personal life. I don't know how, but I hope the rest of my second year will be this great.....eh a guy can dream, can't he?