Aetna Ambulance is proud to have EMT, Ryan Sullivan back to full time duty after his recent return from a volunteer Peace Corps mission in West Africa. He describes his amazing journey in the summary below!
It’s hard to describe my experience in the Peace Corps. Everything was just so different from what I was used to. I left home and four days later, I was in Guinea, a country where no electricity, no running water, and huge snakes were the norm. Guinea is close to the equator in West Africa. It has 6 months of dry season and 6 months of rainy season. No matter what season it was, the weather was always super-hot. And of course there was no air conditioning. Communication was always a problem. Guinea’s official language is French, but there are over 70 local languages used. All Guineans knew at least some French, but everyone spoke in their local languages most of the time. In my town, people spoke Pular.
Peace Corps provided language and cultural training for the first two months, and after that they placed all of the volunteers in their assigned town. Once I was in my assigned town, my closest neighbors became my family. They took care of me like I was their child. It was a super heartwarming experience to be with them. In return for the generosity, I would give them $25 each month. That is about 250,000 Guinean Francs, so they were very happy with me. I was the only American in my town, the closest volunteer was a 3 hour taxi ride away. Everyone was very eager to start working with me. I felt like a celebrity because everyone wanted to be friends with the American. I was a Public Health Volunteer, so I tried to teach people simple ways to improve their health. How to use a mosquito net, how to properly wash hands, STI prevention, things like that.
Everything had to be communicated in Pular, which made even the simplest concepts hard to explain. I never really grasped Pular, but my host family was always so happy when I could say a simple sentence. Everyone was always super kind to me and I learned many things while in Guinea. The only unpleasant part of my experience was the food. It was usually rice with some sort of dried fish sauce. I ate that 3 times a day, every day. When I got back to America the first thing I did was eat a bacon cheeseburger with a chocolate milkshake. Best meal of my life.
Now that my experience is over, there are definitely things about Guinea I will miss. But my host family calls to check up on me every day, so at least I can still be a part of their lives. And keep my Pular skills strong.