Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.
emo_snal

Guinea Part III

July 11th, Friday - After ten days in the field it was finally time to return to "civilization." And by civilization I mean spend most of a week in the crowded, dirty capitol of Canakry, ground zero for the burgeoning "worst ebola outbreak in history." But at least I'd be able to shower again!!

   The Organization's landcruiser came up from Mamou, where the other volunteer (Edie) has been working, and after many rounds of photographs catching every combination of us, Bara and I were off!
   The several-hour journey to Mamou was mostly uneventful, as we wound around Guinea's lush green hills. The rain was only a sporadic sprinkle so I could see mountainous landscape of "the Switzerland of Guinea" much better than I'd been able to on the way up (when it had been pouring).



   Arrived at the hotel in Mamou at the same time Edie and Ibrim (the Organization's country director) were pulling in from whereever they had been. After hellos, Edie retired to her room and wasn't seen again that evening. Ibrim, Bara and I reconvened about half an hour later (19:30) to break fast for the day. In many ways it was similar to breaking fast in the village, after they all the men got together and prayed, large bowls that looked just like the bowls used in the village were brought out and everyone sat either on the ground or small stools to eat it with their hands. The food was very similar to that in the village (millet soup, for example), but had a different flavor, which I found an exciting change.

   After breaking the fast, Bara and I continued our tradition of sitting on the porch idly watching the moon for about half an hour. It was a nice pleasant clear evening, with swallows swooping about in the day's last light to catch insects.
   Shortly, it was dinner time. Bara, Ibrim and the driver and I got in the landcruiser and drove through town (we were just on the end of the town). I don't like to unnecessarily perpetuate stereotypes, but most African towns aren't very pretty. We slogged through a traffic jam of beat up vehicles while around us throngs went about their business trying to sell things to one another on the dirty medians. It was dark by the time we arrived at our destination, the house of the president of an agricultural cooperative. We parked and headed down a not-very-impressive alley. Entered the side of a compound, and as I stepped over the rough hewn stones I thought to myself how very much this setting probably resembled a medieval village. I was startled to notice a red glow coming out of one door, and as we passed it I looked in and saw it was coming from a large oven -- several young men were vigorously engaged in baking loaves of bread in there. We entered the house and proceeded down a nondescript hallway, but true to form, at the end of it we turned a door and entered a room that was like a little nest of civilization -- cozy, clean and well lit, with a big screen tv on one side. Edie would later report that when she'd been there for dinner the tv had started smoking.
   We were greeted by the coop president and someone (his brother?) else who was there with him. His wife brought us plates of food, which had some meat of surprisingly decent quality on them.

   Back at the hotel I was very excited, veritably giddy, with the prospect that I could finally take a shower. I'd been told after 7pm they turn on the generator and thus there's water pressure and hot water. What I hadn't been told was that then there's ONLY scalding hot water!! My excitement quickly turned to alarm when I realized it was too hot to shower under and no amount of twiddling the cold water handle would have any effect!!! I had to make do with little more than some desultory attempts at splashing myself with scalding water.




July 12th, Saturday - Continued the journey to the capitol. Once again several hours of driving through beautiful countryside. It was raining off and on and some huts we passed were steaming in the morning sun. I desperately wanted to get a picture of this beautiful occurrence but alas I only succeeded in getting a lot of bad blurry shots out the car window. We made a very short detour to visit a pretty epic waterfall along the way:


(Pictures don't do it justice, see this video I made there!)

   At "Kilometer 36" outside Conakry we stopped in at Ibrim's house. His family hadn't seen him for two weeks and in a few days he's off on another project so they were all very excited to see him. I don't know how long its been since Bara saw his family, who are still in Mali. There I was fed lunch (Edie was still fasting during the day), and leaving Ibrim and Bara there to rest and recouperate in this much nicer setting than the city, Edie and I continued with the driver into the city.

   Shortly after checking in to the hotel someone knocked on Edie's door, he was there to finish grouting her shower. I was very excited to finally have a decent shower, though they had failed to secure the showerhead and so it shot out at me. Third World Problems.
   Its these easily fixable problems that are the most baffling. Why couldn't they properly secure the showerhead? I think its a sort of work ethic thing. Back home, if you do a shitty job at work, such as not properly installing a fixture, you're probably getting fired, but out here, "good enough" is good enough, and "good enough" is all very relative.


July 14th, Monday - Went into the Organization's office this morning, because USAID was supposed to show up at 11:00. Edie kept saying "they won't come, they never come" but around 10:50 they said tehy were running a little late but were on their way. They updated us again at 11:15 saying there was bad traffic ... and finally after 11:30 it was announced they weren't coming at all. Were they ever coming??? One of life's great mysteries.

   Another volunteer had just arrived from the states. Apparently he had first arrived in March but they sent him back home after only a day because of the Ebola outbreak... but now the outbreak is literally a hundred times worse and his project is NOW going forward.

   Edie wanted to go the craft markets so we went over there just prior to lunch. I've avoided such souvinir shopping in the past since I hate shopping, buy let me tell you I made off with some sweet loot. I have a thing for decorated (cow) horns. I really want a nice drinking horn but in my travels I've so far been flummoxed on this. Did find some really nice "musical" horns. The noise they make is kind of a "flooomp" so they're more suited for hanging on the wall then putting on concerts with, but they're very nice looking. Also got a large wooden spork ( / backscratcher??) as a wedding present for my friend whose wedding in France I would soon be attending. The Organization's accountant was with us as translator and negotiator and managed to get the prices cut by at least half from the original offer on all items bought. I think one item ended up getting knocked down by 2/3rds of its price.
   After this shopping Edie wanted to eat at the nearby Palm Hotel -- "the only nice hotel in Conakry." I ordered a $20 hamburger, which I asked for no tomato on and even though it wasn't an option, I figured for a burger that cost more than a local might make in a month they could god damn find a way to put a slice of god damn pineapple on it .... no luck, I got a shitty looking burger with a tomatoe on it, and no pineapple. The very nice seating area was overlooking some tide pools that were actually not covered in trash so I really wanted to go poke around down there and see what exciting things I might find in the tide pools, but the hotel wouldn't allow us down there.

My sweet loot, as seen hanging from my bunk on the ship in Sweden later in the trip

   Edie left this day.

   I had been kind of uncomfortable all day, but it wasn't until that evening that I suddenly realized I had had a sore back all day, exactly the way my back hurts when I'm getting sick. I didn't feel sick yet but I realized bad times were ahead.

   At ten thirty that evening there was a knocking on my door. It was some guy holding a cell phone, which he proferred to me and on the other end of the line the Organization's accountant told me he was going to pick me up at 8:00 the next morning, not the previously mentioned 9:00. I thought it a bit odd that rather than find the phone number for the phone they'd given me they actually sent a messenger with a phone. Odd.

Big organized soccer games regularly took over city streets

July 15th, Tuesday - Lay in bed in the morning feeling awful -- sore throat, sore back, runny nose, general feeling of fatigue. Interesting fact, what are the initial symptoms of ebola before you die by bleeding out your eyes? Sore throat, sore back, runny nose, general feeling of fatigue.
   But at least it was raining out so I lay in bed at 5am listening to the rain and the call to prayer that seemed to go on for an hour. Went to breakfast at 7 and commenced to sit in the lobby at 8 as instructed. 8:30, 9:00, 9:30 rolled around... Every half hour or so I'd text the organization's staff and they'd tell me they were on their way. Just like the USAID staff, I wonder if its a thing here to say you're on your way when you haven't even left yet. I really really would have liked to lie in bed longer but instead I was stuck sitting in a lobby possibly dying of ebola for three hours until they finally showed up at 11:00.
   And then I was very surprised to suddenly meet another American who had been staying in the same hotel as me since yesterday that they organization hadn't thought to tell me about. He'd just come from another project and had apparently spent most of the day before in the custody of some soldiers who had accosted him in town and been very disappointed to find he only had $50 on him for them to take.

   Also learned the other newly arrived volunteer had been unable to make it to the interior due to some striking workers blocking the roads out of town, so he'd been stranded for the day at Kilometer 36.


   At around 5 the driver took me to the airport on the outskirts of town, for my 9pm flight. A guard at the entrance to the terminal tried to jokingly tell me I had to pay him to take my luggage in, but when I laughed and tried to walk passed him he stopped me and insisted. I turned on my heel and grabbed my driver, whom I returned with. While the driver berated the guard I walked through into the terminal.
   Now, realistically speaking, I considered it unlikely I had ebola, though not entirely implausible. But what did seem overwhelmingly plausible to me was that they wouldn't want to let anyone with ebola-like symptoms to fly out into the international air travel network. So I was filled with a fair amount of trepidation was I walked past the watchful eyes of some people in white lab coats by the entrance. Did everything I could not to have a coughing fit while near them, and made it safely past them into the terminal before breaking out in a highly suspicious fit of coughing.

   I'd once crossed the border from Jordan into Egypt where they took everyone's temperature as they crossed the border. I was kind of expecting something thorough like that but other than the guys in labcoats at the entrance there didn't appear to be any attempt at quarantine. I was greatly relieved to be able to leave without that hassle but it also seemed wildly unsafe to me that they weren't being more vigilant about the "worst ebola outbreak in history."

   I also found, as I miserably made my sick way through the air over the next 24 hours that the possibility I might have ebola worried me even more once I wasn't in Guinea. If I had ebola in Guinea, well then, the consequences aren't significant, I'm just death number 867, end of story. But as I traveled through the Paris airport and tried not to cough on people in Frankfurt the idea that I might possibly have ebola and could be spreading it all over the world started to really gnaw on me.

Tags: agdev, guinea, travelogues, travels
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