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Back from Guinea, Round Two

posted Feb 20, 2014, 5:22 PM by Jessie Beck   [ updated Feb 20, 2014, 5:30 PM ]
    Another successful trip to Guinea, West Africa to study traditional dance & drumming. I absorbed so many beautiful experiences as well as worked through many difficult challenges. It was so wonderful to see family and friends for a second time and build deeper connections. I spent most of my time in the outskirts of Conakry (the capital), in Countia. Conakry is a crazy, over-stimulating, and unfortuantely very polluted city. The people are very poor, but so rich and colorful in many ways.  Guinea will forever hold such a deep place in my heart. 
     I spent three weeks at a dance intensive workshop with my teacher, Naby Bangoura. In this small camp (with 4 others) we took classes twice a day for two hours long each.  I learned eight, serious pieces of choreography/traditional rhythms. In addition to dancing, we had drum classes once a day.  My last two weeks were spent taking classes from various US/Guinean teachers around Conakry-   Youssouf Koumbassa, Moustapha Bangoura, Farra Tolno, and various women from the local ballets. Dancing in Guinea definitely pushes you to your next level-- the heat, the training, the teachers and the drums all converge to guide your feet, soul and mind.
    In addition to dancing, we shopped for fabric, had clothes made, visited friends/family and went on fantastic excursions. Some of my fondest memories are the crazy adventures we had-- swimming in the clean rivers/cascades, staying overnight on the island, and literally hiking up a mountain. Leaving the city of Conakry is like a breath of fresh air. It's less hectic, meaning less people and pollution. Guinea has some beautiful lush, tropical spots. The people everywhere welcome you with open arms and invite you to have  a meal.
    The time has come to transition back to this reality. It's hard, but I know Guinea has impacted me in so many ways. It's incredible to have electricity 24-hours a day, we forget how privileged we are to flip on a light switch or plug phones in to charge. I'm thankful to have clean, running water and a toilet. We have so many options in food when grocery shopping and once again electricity to keep our food cold. I'm thankful to have my health, my job working with kids and teaching my passion to all.