“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

~Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hey Baby, I Think I Want to Marry You

In November I hit my one-year in country mark. In January, I got to the halfway point and now today, I have officially one year left. That though is not the point of this post. While a lot has changed in the year I have been here- both personally and in Guinea generally, one thing has remained a constant. The marriage proposals never stop. The other day, I was facilitating a workshop and a participant came over before I had even started and said in English, “I want to marry you now”. I said that was fine by me as long as he was comfortable with being my 6th husband (as in polygamy) and that my bride price was a car, 100 cows, and a house with a pool. He said he would build a compound for me with a pool and a house for each of my husbands on the condition that I never leave the compound. It didn’t work out.

Last year, I spent 9 weeks living in a host family in Dubreka during my training. I had a 15 year old brother, Ishmael who acted as a surrogate mother, father, brother, and sister. He was the one charged with taking care of me and so we spent a lot of time together. Last year for Christmas he bought me a stack of 100 puppy stickers, a glow in the dark rosary and a ring. He knows I am obsessed with dogs because one of the first things I did was show him pictures of Leo. He knows I am Catholic because that is a the reason I give for not going to the mosque. The ring was supposed to keep me safe. It was a very thoughtful gift. This year, when I told him I was coming back to Dubreka for training he was excited. He had bought me a gift and didn’t know when he would be able to give it to me. So one night after training, I walked over to their house to say hello and get my gift. It started off with 5,000 GNF phone credit- a nice gesture since he calls me everyday and sometimes when the call drops I call him back. Then he put a rubber “Sylli de Guinee” bracelet on my wrist. Think Livestrong bracelet but twice as thick and the colors of the Guinean flag. Then he slipped a sweat band (also in the colors of the flag) on my other wrist except this one can with the decoration of a marijuana leaf and he had added “Grace a Maman” in pen. Then he handed me a opaque black plastic bag and told me to open the rest at home. Inside the bag was a packaged wrapped in cellophane gift wrap (Which can only be bought at a gas station and so is a luxury item). Inside this wrapping was a box, inside this box was a bag, inside this bag was a box. This time the box was clear and said, “I heart you”. Inside this box was a fake rose ring box open with a ring inside and a pack of mints. It may be hard to picture so when I get to a better internet connection I will add some photos. The package contained many other smaller gifts such as a change purse within a change purse with one of each type of American coin, some euro coins, and religious medals inside. A sheet that used to contain heart stickers with one letter of “Bonne Annee MC” written one letter inside each empty heart. A free bank wallet with 300 GNF (approximately 4 cents) in it. A illustrated card with some lovely stickers on it including one of a glittery squirrel. A certificate saying he had donated 5000GNF in my name (which he thinks is Meghan Cormick) to development funds. A nice gesture although I highly doubt those funds are going towards developing anything. A mardi gras mask and a paper asking me “In your opinion, what most quickly kills a friendship”. He then had 35 responses for me to choose from including not being yourself, marriage, and bad breath.

The gift was wonderful and strange. Opening it gave me quite the entertaining evening. My reaction was, “Oh isn’t this sweet”, but it was apparent to the other volunteers that I was with that this was a proposal. In this uncertain and instable world, it is nice to know that at least some things never change. 

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