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

Guinea 2015 Episode II - Onward to Doumba!

Day 1 - Thursday, August 27th -Shortly after I got up and had breakfast (8:00?) the Winrock driver, Kamera, arrived to pick me up. He was actually significantly early, unusual in Africa, and caught me still eating. The drive out to the field took about eight hours, of which at least an hour of it was just getting out of the capitol. The capitol, Conakry, is on a long peninsula, and even the inland part of it is a long skinny strip along the road, it is a very oblong city.
   After about an hour the buildings start to finally thin out and one finds oneself on the road winding through green canyons. Since Kamera does not speak English we didn't speak much, but it's interesting how you can get along with someone without being able to talk directly, and I think Kamera is fantastic. He's also a great driver, I've had a lot of wild rides in Africa but never felt unsafe with him behind the wheel. The road winds through the occasional village or roadside market, and I had noticed there were always little tables with liter bottles of some red juice. Last year I had noticed them and another volunteer and I had wondered aloud what this very popular beverage sold universally by the roadside was. Well this time I later asked someone and was told they are bottles of petrol! Of course! There's very few normal gas stations, so the ubiquitous motorbikes buy their gas in one liter repurposed water bottles by the road side!!
   Drove through the town of Kindia with it's bustling marketplace and moldy looking old colonial buildings (this is the last place I'd see an abundance of multi story buildings, as well as women wearing pants (as opposed to skirts or dresses)), and then after another few hours arrived at the town of Mamou where we picked up my interpreter, Morlaye Damba:

   He was an interesting fellow. As he got in the car and I asked him how he was he said "oh just trying to make ends meet," which I thought was a slightly weird first thing to say to someone. Then he was particularly insistent that he'd show me his resume as soon as we had a computer up. He's fluent in English, French, and three local languages, and was working in a radio station in Liberia during the civil war there. "the things I've seen [shakes head] you wouldn't believe."
   Shortly outside Mamou we crossed a large river which I would later learn was the River Bafing, which is one of the major headwaters of the River Senegal, one of Africa's major rivers. Before all this I didn't even know there was a "Senegal River," but there is and it apparently was a semi-mythical "river of gold" in the European imagination for centuries before they finally were able to explore it. continued through the hilly terrian up into Dalaba ("the Switzerland of Africa"). Short pit stop at the family home of the Winrock country director where I saw his nephew, who had been part of my training last year. Shortly after the town of Pita we turned off the paved road, picked up Khalidou at the villagelet there, and drove for about forty minutes down a dirt road. Then we turned off THAT road and drove through grassy pastures on just two worn wheel-paths for about five minutes, occasionally having to stop for goats to get out of the way. Then we came to the low wall around the village of Doumba, Khalidou got out and opened the gate for us and we drove in.

   Before us were the two pictured beautiful large huts. I thought we had arrived, but in fact we drove between them, around a few more other small buildings and large huts before finally arriving at our destination:

   Now, when one says "village," I would picture a close cluster of huts or houses surrounded by fields. As it happens, both Doumba and the other Guinean villages I've visited actually have their agricultural fields within the outer fence of the village, between the houses. As such, the interior of the village is a green leafy place with internal trails upon which one finds oneself surrounded by lush greenery. The entire thing is surrounded by a fence / wall outside of which the goats, sheep and cows graze all day. Inside it is divided into family units a few acres in size in which several immediate families lived who are all brothers/sisters/cousins, though I'm sure their neighbors in the next section are only marginally less closely related, as evidenced by the fact that each village seems to have a mish-mash of only a very few last names. I was housed in a new "modern house," that had just been built, they had hurried to complete it for our arrival in fact and it still smelled of fresh paint. The neighboring structures consisted of a smallish kitchen hut (no chimney, the smoke just filters out the roof thatch), and a large beautiful hut of the typical local design, with a roof that comes down to enclose a walkway around the outside. In this hut lived the grandmother of my host family with several of her grandchildren. I'm told her son offered to make her a "modern house" but she declined, saying "this is the hut I lived all my life in, this is where I lived with my husband, this is where I'll live the rest of my life."

   As for a toilet I only had a hole in the floor (which appeared to lead to a tube leading out at an angle so not just splashing right down and the accompanying stink), which scared me into using it as infrequently as I could stand, but I survived and "it builds character" right?

Doumba had a really nice mosque for a village its size

   About once a day in the early evening, typically after Damba and Kamera had returned from the mosque, we would walk to the karafou (crossroads), which took about five minutes winding through the village. At the crossroads the main (dirt) road to the town of Timba-Madina intersected with a much smaller road leading to toward the interior of the village on one side and out to another satellite village on the other. Here there were two tiny kiosks made of corrugated aluminum sheets, which sold various sundry things (but not, for example, anything so exotic as a coca cola), a small generator puttered away to one side for purposes I never learned, and there was a "restaurant," in which a young woman with a stove and a pot might make someone something, but mostly I think she chatted with her friends -- the older girls liked to sit on the bench there by the "restaurant," while mostly men sat by the kiosk across the road, and the young boys seemed like prefer to sit near the generator. As many people would pass this way either to visit the kiosks or catch a ride to town, it was a natural place to hang out and see what was going on.

   In the evening we returned to our veranda, where Damba, Kamera, Khalidou and I were joined by a number of other men from the neighborhood who would also be in the class. We ate from communal platters at around 10pm. Most of the conversation was in French or Foula and when I'd inquire what it was about Damba would usually only give me a general topic ("we're talking about politics,") which was a little disappointing.

   Khalidou was another individual who would feature prominently in the proceedings. He had been present last year but had kind of taken a back seat, sitting with the participants, this time he had more of a leadership role. With a bachelor degree in agriculture from a local university, he is the beekeeping federation trainer, and I am quite impressed with his level of beekeeping knowledge and ability to teach. At 32 he is just a year younger than me and being as he's employed in kind of the same thing as me I feel like he's sort of my Guinean doppleganger. On this first evening he alarmed me a bit by saying we'd probably meet my wife later -- I was afraid it was going to be this female trainee from last year who had slipped me a note saying she loved me but fortunately it turned out not to be her...

   And so we set the scene for the next ten days (:

The classic "chase a tire around" game pictured in depictions of the 1920s is still alive and well in the African village.

Tags: africa, agdev, guinea, travel, travelogues
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