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

Guinea 2016 Part 1 - The Journey There

Wednesday, August 3rd (today), Moriac, Australia - Well I just got home today from my third project in Guinea. Let me tell you, it was an ordeal getting there as well as getting back! I think I can break this down into just four entries, (1) on getting there; (2) the project itself; (3) on the drive back from the interior to the capitol; and (4) the FIVE DAYS it took to fly back.

Monday, July 11th, Moriac, Australia - I was due to leave on Wednesday, the 13th. As of Monday I was freaking out because I had sent my passport to Washington DC for the Guinean visa stamp and as of Monday it hasn't been released yet. At this point it was no longer physically possible for my passport to arrive on time. In fact I had been stressing out since the week before when I realized it was still in the Embassy in DC. I don't stress out much about things that I can control but thins like this that are entirely out of my hands can really freak me out. I was barely sleeping, constantly feeling stressed.
   I tried to contact the US Consulate on Monday and after initially having some trouble getting through the bureaucracy to actually talk to a human (they only actually answer the phone on Tuesdays and Thursdays or something and the appointment system is automated), but once one of my emails reached a human there they were actually quite helpful -- they called ME and said even though the next day was booked out they would make an emergency appointment for me. They were very careful to say they could by no means guarantee I'd be granted an emergency passport but I figured it was my only chance to save this project.

Tuesday, July 12th, Melbourne, Australia - Arriving at the consulate I began to tell the guy at the window my situation and he was like "oh, yes, you, we've been briefed about you." I had to fill out a bunch of forms, pay a $130 fee I hope will be reimbursed by the organization, and wait an hour, and... voila! they issued me a new flimsy temporary passport! My old one, by now finally in transit with DHL but a week from arriving, was cancelled. I still needed a Guinean visa but I was told the Organization's contacts in Guinea could arrange that on arrival, and I didn't even think of it until I was in transit myself but my yellow fever vaccination document was in my old passport .... could have been a big problem but they didn't ask for it on entry to Guinea -- just re-entry into Australia but that's another story.

Wednesday, July 13th, Geelong, Australia - The first frantic misshap of the actual travel occured on my way to catch the bus to the airport. The airport is about an hour and a half away but there's a direct airport bus from downtown Geelong. My housemate has to go to a train station on the outskirts of Geelong to take a train into Melbourne for work so she gave me a ride there and I was going to catch an Uber from there. I had 40 minutes, plenty of time, ... but my uber app on my phone decided THEN was the time it needed to update! It spent ten minutes updating and then still wouldn't load, as I begin to panic anew! And my prepaid phone had run out of its monthly payment just that morning and I wasn't about to put $20 more on it just for one call!! So I put in my American sim card and called a regular taxi. Succeeded in catching the taxi to the train to the plane.

Thursday, July 14th, in transit - Had a bit of a sore throat by the time I landed in Dubai after a fifteen hour flight, which progressed to stuffed up sinuses during the flight to Ghana (but the sore throat actually went away) ... and I don't know if you've ever gone through elevation/pressure changes with entirely stuffed up sinuses but it's actually agonizingly painful, feels like you're head is going to explode.
   In Ghana we landed, disembarked some passengers, and took off again. As we landed in our next stop, Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire, my seat mate my have wondered why I was leaning forward cradling my head in my hands silently rocking back and forth with tears rolling down my face, I don't know and I don't care, I'm just glad my head did not in fact explode and my eyes did not pop out (I'm really not 100% sure it's not possible for something to catastrophically burst in such conditions). The pain subsided pretty quickly after landing but my right ear remained plugged for most of the project, making me a bit hard of hearing.
   Optimistic that the trip was just one quick hop from being over I sauntered over to the connections desk ... only to find out that the flight to Conakry had been cancelled. On this occasion everyone I interacted with in the airport was extremely friendly and helpful and really made a positive impression of Cote D'Ivoire.
   Since the flight was cancelled they put me up in a hotel, which had a shuttle to take me, so no stress. During the drive there I observed that Abidjan has broad streets without too much traffic or squalor. Apparently it's the second biggest city of West Africa (and here you'be probably never heard of it before). The little hotel they put me up in was cute and the manager, a young man who looked in his mid twenties, was very friendly, though his English wasn't great. When he found out what I do he asked why I wasn't working in Cote D'Ivoire. I said I only go where I'm invited ... the next day he had printed out this really cute "invitation letter" which I promise I will link in here asap. voila:

Friday, July 15th, Conakry - I had bought a massive 250gb "microSD" memory chip for my phone, so I was looking forward to actually being able to take lots of videos even, without constantly running out of room. Well on day 1 it started borking out. Some 85% of the pictures I took resulted in unreadable files until I removed the chip and then things worked fine. It's weird though because I have been using that chip for months without a problem, but the moment I'm out in the field counting on it it completely fails!
   At this point I did succeed in recording and uploading this video, which is mostly just me telling the above story. It cuts out abruptly but all attempts to record the second half resulted in bad files so this is all you get. Anyway I pretty much just spent Friday and Saturday trying to recover from jet lag.

Sunday, July 17th, Labe - The drive from Conakry, a peninsula on the coast, to Labe in the interior, can take 8-10 hours, plus 3-4 hours of traffic in Conakry itself. Fortunately, being Sunday, there was no traffic!
   My driver one of an infinite array of Mamadous, didn't speak much English so we couldn't really talk but he seemed like a capitol fellow. The drive is always beautiful once you get out of the city as well. In Mamou, about 2/3rds of the way up, we picked up Monsieur Morlaye Damba, who had been my interpreter last year. In Labe we stayed in a hotel, and while we were (for some reason?) standing by the front door a well dressed man in a suit came in accompanied by some other guys in suits and some uniformed soldiers. He shook our hands as he went past and I was afterwords informed he is the Guinean Minister of Justice!

Monday, July 18th, Labe - we met up with some people I knew from before from the beekeeping federation, and it was good to see them, and then we greeted the regional governor in his office. And then we were off to the project site about half an hour north of town! But that's another entry!

Tags: africa, agdev, air travel, cote d'ivoire, guinea, travelogues, travels, west africa

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