February 6, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Cyndi in Guinea

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guinea: Peace Corps Guinea : The Peace Corps in Guinea: February 6, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Cyndi in Guinea

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, February 06, 2003 - 12:38 pm: Edit Post

Cyndi in Guinea

Cyndi in Guinea

Cyndi in Guinea

Cyndi's classroom in Guinea

Cyndi's classroom in Guinea

Cyndi's classroom in Guinea

The Good Word: Messages from Cyndi about Guinea

Cyndi is teaching agroforestry to the Peace Corps Volunteers in Guinea, West Africa from October 2002 to January 2003. Communication is difficult: the phone at the Post Office rarely works; the email access is limited and the computer terminal is an hour away from where Cyndi is staying; and mail takes its own sweet time in arriving. However, even with those challenges, Cyndi would appreciate hearing from you.

Consider this a golden opportunity to revive those rusty handwriting skills and pen a letter to Cyndi:

Cynthia Szymanski

Corps de la Paix Americain

BP 1927

Conakry, Guinea

West Africa

cynthia_szymanski@hotmail.com DEPARTURE... October 4, 2002

FIRST CALL... October 15, 2002

HELLO FROM GUINEA... October 20, 2002

WEEK FOUR... November 17, 2002

October 4, 2002

Cyndi basking on a stone bridge near Lake Cayuga. Hello again. I am off in a few minutes and wanted to get you all my contact info in Guinea. I should have access to email pretty regularly but if you want to send mail that would also be appreciated. For those of you in Peace Corps this might make you nostalgic...

Cyndi Szymanski

Corps de la Paix American

B.P. 1927

Conakry, Guinea

West Africa

I'll be wrapping up my work in Guinea on January 7th and from there I'll be traveling with Jason until Feb. So I'll talk to you all then but in the meantime don't forget to write and I'll keep you posted about my adventure.

Take care,


October 15, 2002

Hey y'all, I just heard from Cyndi this afternoon. Sounds like she's doing fine and loving life. The big game starts tomorrow when the volunteers arrive! Some quick remembrances from our conversation:

* She's polishing up her French very quickly.

* The volunteers are due tomorrow afternoon, and then the real fun starts.

* She has a washing machine, running water, and electricity in her pad; though it's not quite the Ritz.

* The closest phone is at the Post Office.

* The trainers have wrapped up their 10-week work and lesson plan; and all the planning was done in French - sounded like she had to race up to speed from 0 to 40 as soon as her flight landed last week.

* Her classroom, where she'll be teaching two hours a day, is a shaded pad of grass under a giant tree with a breeze.

* The food is good and is based on rice and peanuts with some hot peppers.

October 20, 2002

Cyndi's classroom in GuineaCyndi's notes.

Ikena. Tana mu xi? (Hello and literally, did you sleep well last night?) I canít say I did, but itís the only night I havenít slept well since arriving in Guinea.

Things are going really well here but I think the eminent arrival of the 20 Natural Resource Management trainees kept me awake. (Our program is called NRM for short, yes, it rhymes with worm- I forgot how people like to pronounce acronyms like words in other parts of the world).

The other thing that kept me awake was one of the most intense rainstorms Iíve ever experienced. Itís inconceivable to me this is the end of the rainy session. When I first arrived, there were incredible but brief rainstorms several times a day. The thunder and lighting was dramatic as well. But people just keep on working, barely noticing, unless they are out in the rain of course. I guess when you get close to 12 feet of rain a year you just get used to it.

Iíve spent the last ten days working with my team, developing a 10-week training program. The most amazing part itís all been in French. My team has been very patient to say the least! There are four of us at the moment. Iím serving as the team coordinator and working with two Guineans: Yansane Amadou and Baht-Tierno Ibrahima (otherwise known as TIB- people like to use their initials in lieu of their name), and a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader named Jesse Fleisher is helping out for the first few weeks.

When I arrived I quickly learned what community-based training is- our classroom will be under a beautiful mango tree in the middle of a local village. The trainees will all be staying with local families in two nearby towns, talk about emersion! For tech training we will be out in the field planting gardens, starting nurseries, creating composting pits, grafting fruit trees, creating mud stoves, visiting local NGOís, and much more. These trainees will be exhausted by the end of the ten weeks but hopefully well informed and happy to get to their future sites.

I really havenít seen much of Guinea yet. I was in Conakry for 24 hours when I first arrived but I basically slept off my jetlag. Iím now outside of a town called Dubéka, which is about an hour NE of Conakry. Itís actually quite nice here. Iíll be staying at the training center (an old Forestry headquarters) with the other training coordinators. We have running water-cold only, sit down toilets, refrigerators, air-conditioners, and a washing machine. So Iím feeling pretty comfortable at the moment.


The nearest towns of Dubéka and Kilometre Cinq (literally the town that is 5 kilometers from Dubréka) are a 15 minute bike ride away. We go there every day for lunch. Lunch, and almost every other meal for that matter, consists of rice and sauce. The best dish Iíve had so far is the peanut sauce, with plenty of hot pepper! Basically you order up a bowl of rice and then ask for the sauce you want and how much meat you want. Beef is pretty common, as are the other parts but Iíve done that before and thatís enough to know I donít need to do it again! Iíve eaten lots of other things too, many leaves cooked down into sauces and then spiced. Some of the things, like foinio, we donít have in the United States, and other things, like potato leaves, we donít generally eat. Iím still trying to find ďediblesĒ in the market. But I keep coming back with potatoes, onions, and eggplant. So if you have any good recipes containing those ingredients- please send them my way!

Iíve squeezed in a few evening walks and a day of hiking so far. It really is beautiful here. We are near a mangrove swamp- which has crocodiles, some beautiful rice patties, and some very dramatic mountains. On Sunday we climbed up to a nearby waterfall. We started out walking through some small villages, then fields and finally we bush whacked our way up to the waterfall. We were able to get right under it, which was amazingly refreshing. Apparently there are other waterfalls near by where we can swim. So as it gets hotter, Iím sure Iíll find my way there.

I hope you are all well. Iíd love to hear from you all. Be patient if I donít respond immediately, I have to go to Conakry in order to check my e-mail and with our schedule Iíll be lucky to get there every few weeks.

A bientôt-


Cyndi's view of the mountains of Dubreka

Cyndi's view of the mountains of Dubreka

November 17, 2002

Sorry itís taken me so long to get back to you. Thank you all for the great messages, please keep them coming. I canít get to email often and even when I do it works erratically; but every few weeks I should be able to check my account. Itís really great to hear what you all are up to back in the states.

We are well into Week Four of the training. Its odd because time is flying yet the days are so full of activities and often itís hard to distinguish what happened earlier in the day from what happened yesterday or the day before. So, to say the least, since the trainees have arrived, my time has not been my own. But Iím happy to report I have a great group of trainees. We still have twenty NRM trainees and they are holding fast. Itís quite amazing but I think they are all going to make it through training and I have high aspirations for them at the future sights.

For the most part the group consists of folks right out of college. There are two men that have experience with the Peace Corps already- one with almost 12 years of experience as a volunteer. I was a bit afraid as to his reasons for continuing to be a volunteer but he really wants to work for PC, so heís busy gaining valuable experience. The other volunteer was in Mali but was medically separated a few years ago. These two have been helpful in some respects and disruptive in others. They are helpful in sharing their experiences but for a little while all the trainers thought we were going to have a rebellion on our hands. Things here are run very differently than in other countries, especially since we use the Community Based Training approach. This means total immersion in the village at all times. This also means rare visits to Conakry and rarer visits elsewhere. So for someone who has already been a volunteer this feels like prison to be constricted to where your bicycle can take you.

Anyway, I think we have successful squashed the rebellion and Iím finding ways to integrate these old volunteers into the sessions to keep them engaged. The other trainees look exhausted but seem happy. To date weíve covered the following topics: Ecology of Guinea, Tree Identification, Creating Gardens, Establishing Tree Nurseries (we actually have demonstration gardens and nurseries established in Yorokoguiya, where the trainees are living), Composting, Introduction to Guinean schools and school visits-which is always interesting, Poultry Raising, Environmental Education, Teacher Training, and weíve visited local examples of reforestation efforts.

We are in the process of doing the first round of evaluations and those trainees I talked to are happy to be here and looking forward to finding out their sites this week. For those of you that were in Peace Corps, can you remember what an exciting day it was? Finding out what your site will be is like Christmas. But ironically finding out the name of your site only leads to other questions that canít be answered until visiting your new site and home for the next two years. And thatís what the trainees are off to do next week. Iím still hoping to go with some of them, but most likely Iíll be here at the training center teaching my Guinean counterparts about giving effective presentations and helping them with their English. But Iím hoping for a personal tour of the local mangroves if I have to stay here. And yes, that might include an occasional crocodile sighting.

I did get to spend last week in Conakry, the capital. Itís a crowded city with bad traffic and people everywhere. Itís a lot calmer here than other African cities Iíve been to; itís a walk in the park compared to Nairobi and most Morocco cities. Actually, thatís one of the things I canít get over. The people here are nice and they want to talk to foreigners but they are not aggressive about it. I guess spending two years in Morocco can leave you with your guard up but itís been an easy transition here in Guinea.

But back to Conakry, this capital city is located on an island off of the coast. But the island has been connected to the mainland, so essential the city starts at the point of the island and continues onto the mainland. Despite the large number of people that live there, consistent electricity and garbage disposal are not available. Apparently, electricity is generated by a large dam that functions rather inconsistently. The rest of the country functions without electricity, unless the town/city has itís own generator.

I enjoyed being in Conakry for a few days but Iím much happier out here in Dubreka, where I can hear frogs at night and see glowworms and fireflies.

Currently, itís Ramadan, the holy month for fasting. So most of our trainers are not eating or drinking from 6:30 in the morning until 7pm in the evening. I canít comprehend how they are doing it; it is so hot here. I would fear passing out if I didnít drink something during the day. I drink at least three liters of water a day and still feel like Iím teetering on the edge of dehydration. Some of the trainees are trying to fast with their families but Iím living with a ďcretonĒ (or Christian ) so Iím not receiving any pressure. Ramadan does mean that it is difficult to find any food during the day. Unfortunately, there are no special meals served during Ramadan here, itís the same rice and sauce and itís served rather unceremoniously. It makes me miss the dates, harari, fat bread and other good food we ate in Morocco when breaking fast.

I guess I could ramble on and on but things here are generally going well. Iím really looking forward to traveling some more in the country and in West Africa as well. One last detail before I sign off. The women here have this amazing ability to carry anything and everything on their heads. They can carry buckets of water, plates of food, bundles of wood. Somehow they find the center of balance on these objects and hold on to it. They also can simultaneously carry children on their back, walk on unpaved rocky roads, eat food and carry on a conversation. Thatís balance!

I hope you are all well. As I said keep writing. Iíll try to get back to you all individually but if I canít, thank you so much for your correspondence to date. Itís great learning what you are all up to. I miss you all and will be in touch again soon.

Cyndi at a waterfall near Dubreka

Cyndi at a waterfall near Dubreka


Lodging (B&B's, Hotels, Camping)

Getting There (by air, land, or water)

Enjoying the Fingerlakes Region

About us

Family Contact Information

Our Story

Cyndi in Guinea

Birthday Celebrations

Engagement Party


4th of July

Cyndi at NPS Rivers & Trails


Apple Farm

Email us

The Wedding


Wedding Dinner

Wedding Party

Wedding Registry


This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Guinea; PCVs in the Field



By Marco Doelling (tide533.microsoft.com - on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - 9:25 pm: Edit Post


I wanted to know whether you or anyone would happen to know of any affordable shares, apartments or hotels where one might stay in Conakry? My wife is currently in Guinea pending the outcome of a U.S. visa petition. She is currently living with family though not under the best of circumstances. We have been looking for a accomodations for my wife for quite some time with no luck (I have been searching the Internet from the U.S. and she has been either walking or taking cabs to get around Conakry to look). I realize housing in Conakry is hard to find, but figure spreading the word can't hurt. I contacted USAID and the U.S. Embassy, but have had no success.

Also, I would like to know whether there are any blogs (other than this one) for Americans living in Guinea, where one can chat with expats living there.

Anything you might suggest would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

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