Guinea. Things happen for a reason? Few wanted to venture onto this assignment. Healthcare was a problem. Transport was a problem. Corruption was a problem. Communications were a problem. Poverty was a problem. Wasted resources were a problem. Goodness me!
What was not a problem? Most of the people. They showed kindness. They seemed to care. To seemed to be peaceful. They seemed to suffer their suffering. Poverty was a given. So, was lack of drinking water. So, too, was the reliability of electricity. So, too, were the roads–inside the capital city and outside into the far-flung interior.
Beautiful mountains. Wonderful rivers. Fantastic fruit and vegetable and fish. Give me the Fouta Djallon–its mountains, its misty skies. Give me the markets, and its women with their fruit in baskets so big. Half-naked children running in the rain. Lizards running over the tables.
Rain teeming down as if the skies really would be emptied. Mould growing in the humidity of the rainy season. Taking meals together, seated on the floor. Seeing children run with wildness to grab some second-hand T-shirts. A car falling into a hole in the road, with the only means of pulling it out being the arms and legs and ropes of those standing around. What good is four-wheel drive if the four wheels are in a hole? Rice fields. Monkeys swinging through their trees above our heads: we’re in their garden, now.
Taking breakfast, lunch, dinner all day with my Muslim friend and his family. Surviving rioters ready to put burning tyres in my way. Seeing a guard with a rifle pointed at my driver. Startled looks as a whale’s tail is rising high through the wave while I sat on a fishing boat. What was that? That close to disaster, yet amazed at what nature throws in your path.
Driving for hours and days because there was no other way to get there from here. Waiting hours for a bridge to be cleared of the truck that blocked it. Walking in a river bed because the bridge had been washed away by overflowing rivers. Dealing with robbers who only wanted to steal plastic chairs 🙂 Shopping with a bag full of cash. Bargaining. Smiling. Hands in pots and hands in bowls.
Music, dancing, singing, chanting. Ambassadors shedding all their protocols and their clothes, just like their hosts. Watching sacrifices before a soccer match: you need an edge. That’s chicken blood on the grass–not grass, dirt, my friend.
I could go on with the flashes of images. Many of my colleagues who worked there too say that it was their best time abroad. Some just want to go back to the friends they made in this land of richness and chaos.
The best of times in the worst of places? The best of times, for sure. Never, the worst of places.