July 7, 2001 - Personal Web Site: Owen's Guinea Experience

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guinea: Peace Corps Guinea : The Peace Corps in Guinea: July 7, 2001 - Personal Web Site: Owen's Guinea Experience

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, February 06, 2003 - 12:34 pm: Edit Post

Owen's Guinea Experience

Owen's Guinea Experience

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Information Page

Click below to get more information about:

* Me

* Guinea

* My assignment

* The Peace Corps

* How to contact me

* This web site


A few vital statistics, I suppose, just for kicks... I was born in 1973 and grew up in Atlanta. My dad Art is a pilot for Delta and my mother Eda teaches piano. I went to college at Furman University in Greenville, SC, and got a BS in computer science. Straightaway I went to Michigan State to get an MS in computer science. I worked for a year at Lucent Technologies in Naperville, IL, before returning to Atlanta to find another job in software engineering, which I held for two years almost to the day before quitting that job to begin life as a Peace Corps Trainee.

Here are some pictures of me and my family. I am the oldest, my brother Colin is three years younger, and my sister Ryll is seven years younger.

I had a very musical upbringing. My mother passed on her considerable talents to all of the kids in the family. She taught all three of us piano, and we continued to be musically involved after her instruction. Colin gets the award for breadth of experience: he's played piano, clarinet, and sousaphone, was the drum major his senior year in high school, and has sung in concert choir at UGA and in the Atlanta Symphony Chorus. I've concentrated more on singing myself, especially since starting college. Because it's my website and I feel like it, here's a list of all the (organized) singing I've done. (I hope to add some Guinean experiences to the list.)

* Atlanta Boy Choir

* My mother's church choir at Faith Lutheran, Marietta, Georgia

* Furman Singers and Chamber Singers

* MSU Chorale and Practicum Choir

* Oak Park Concert Chorale

* Atlanta Symphony Chorus

* Cantique

* Lutheran Church of the Redeemer Senior Choir

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Guinea is a small country on the West African coast. It borders Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, CÙte D'Ivoire, Mali, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. If you have trouble picturing it, just think of where the large bulge is on the western side of the continent. Guinea is at the lower left corner. It's not quite equatorial, but it is definitely tropicalãthere's a rainy season and a dry season. Some areas receive more than 100 inches of rain annually!

Guinea used to be a French colony, and was the first to gain complete independence from France in 1958. French is still the official language of state. About seven million people reside within its borders, belonging to many different ethnic groups, each of which roughly corresponds to a spoken tongue. The capital, Conakry, contains over a million people, and is situated on the coast.

Links for Guinea

Stephanie Chasteen's site has an amazing wealth of information about the country, and about her experiences there. Actually I'm a bit embarassed linking you over there, because my site is rinky-dink by comparison. Stephanie has done a wonderful job organizing returned Guinea Volunteers and putting together a whole lot of resources for those who want to be involved with the country.

Africa News Online's Guinea Page was blank the last time I visited (July 2000), but one hopes that useful information would show up there from time to time.

Here is the Consular Information Sheet on Guinea, complete with such sordid details as crime information and travel advisories.

The U.S. Embassy in Guinea has its own web site.

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My assignment

I am a math teacher for 8th and 9th grade students in the town of Friguiagbe; I have 84 8th graders and 52 9th graders at last count. Each class meets three times per week, for two hours each session. I managed to get Monday through Wednesday as my teaching days, leaving me with four days free of teaching. That means I can travel short distances from time to time without interrupting my classes. And of course, outside of the actual classroom teaching, there's plenty of things that I need to get done. Lesson planning and grading take quite a bit of time.

My other duties are a little more amorphous. I need to integrate into the town and really try to become a part of the community. Part of that is simply learning the local language, Sousou, which I'm attempting (at a rather slow pace). I can't say that I know a whole lot, but I can at least negotiate the standard everyday greetings and say simple declaratory things. Then there's just the fact of getting to know people and making friends.

Here is the assignment description that was mailed to me in my Invitation Packet. I was invited to serve in the Peace Corps in February 2000, and this was part of the information that I received at the time.

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The Peace Corps

Just some basic information: it was started by John F. Kennedy in 1961, and the first group of volunteers went to Ghana (not too far from where I am, in the context of the African continent). Volunteers are not paid a salary, but are given a stipend to cover living expenses at roughly the same level as those they are living among. Every volunteer must apply, be nominated for an assignment, be further considered and then invited to serve in that assignment, and accept the invitation, to become a Peace Corps Trainee. Then the volunteer must train for several months in-country before being sworn in as a Volunteer. Once sworn in, the volunteer typically serves for two years; occasionally, a volunteer will apply for and be granted an extension to their service.

Of course, the first thing you should do if you want to know more about the Peace Corps is visit their site. They have all of the standard PR and lots of good information about the basics. Plus, you can download a PDF application and fill it out on your computer. You know you want to...

There are more Peace Corps links on Stephanie's site...

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How to contact me

You can send your emails to oweninguinea@go.com. I have been accessing email fairly regularly; about once a month. I still don't guarantee personal responses, however. If you want to mail me a real letter, I do guarantee a response in kind. Here is the current address:

Owen Mathews, PCV

Corps de la Paix Americain

B.P. 1927

Conakry, Guinea

West Africa

Please number your letters because they may arrive out of order or get lost in transit. Packages may be sent; however, bear in mind that they may be pilfered or stolen. The best way to ensure delivery intact, according to a number of sources, is to use padded envelopes instead of boxes, and label them "materiels religeuses".

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This web site

I suppose you've already figured out that I am a by-the-seat-of-the-pants web designer. This is the first big site that I've tried to put together, and it certainly shows. But I do hope that amongst the warts and blemishes, you can find some good information. The primary purpose of setting this thing up was to give my friends and family a way to check in on me.

My dad, Arthur Mathews, is maintaining this site while I am away. You might want to drop him a line to let him know you appreciate his efforts and to suggest any improvements to the site. Better yet, if you have experience in web design and would be willing to volunteer your services, let him know.

I got the background patterns for this site from the following two locations:

* Indigo Gallery at Asianart.com

* West Africa Imports

The opinions I express on this site are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other Volunteers or the policies of the Peace Corps.

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By Tammy Schuette (cache-mtc-aa07.proxy.aol.com - on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:40 pm: Edit Post


I heard your email message sent to NPR the other day and was thinking about you and Guinea. Let me know how you are.

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