The Other City That Never Sleeps

Hey Gals and Guys,

Greetings from Guinea!

Last weekend started with a visit from a new friend named Micky. As in Mickey Mouse. As in a mouse in my room! I spent the entire morning/afternoon packing up all of my things, moving across to the other side of the hotel and unpacking everything again. For context, I brought four suitcases to Guinea! My new suite has a large patio with furniture so I ended up pretty satisfied (thanks Micky!). By the time I finished unpacking it was time to get ready for my evening escapades.

The evening started with my “date” with Hassmiou. At exactly 6:00 p.m. Hassmiou called to announce that he was downstairs (I’m sure he was there at 5:30, but waited till six on the dot to call). When I got downstairs he told me we were going downtown to a place called “Obama Club Restaurant” (in 2008, after Barack Obama became president, half of the schools, restaurants and people in Guinea changed their name’s to Obama). As we drove downtown I noticed that the roads got much better and the environment much cleaner. By the time we got to the area with all the government ministries and parliament, you would have thought we were in a different country all together! When we finally got to our destination I was pleasantly surprised! Obama Club is a cute little restaurant built on bamboo stilts on the water. You have to cross a bamboo bridge to get there. I won’t lie, I was a bit scared to cross the bridge, but I figured if I fell and died at least it wouldn’t be from Ebola! (Is it too soon for Ebola jokes?)

For dinner, I had grilled calamari with fries and an “Obama Cocktail”, a.k.a fresh mango and orange juice. After dinner, Hassimou said he had a surprise for me and went to the car to get it. I sat there praying that this man did not come back with a ring to profess his undying love for me. God answered my prayers. When he returned he presented me with two wooden carvings, 1) a Thinking Man-because he’s always thinking about me, and 2) a Baga Nimba-I assume because I’m pushing 30 with no kids?!? LOL. I accepted both. The Thinking Man sits in my office and the Nimba is in my living room. I decided it was necessary to take my “little” lie a step further. I told Hassmiou that I am engaged to a Guinean that has brothers in Conakry (basically my ex-boyfriend, Alpha). I was hoping that it would scare him off a little bit. Unfortunately I think it just gave him more hope! (He showed up on Tuesday afternoon with “donuts/bofroat/puff puff/mandazi!” (How does he know everything I love!)

After dinner, Hassmiou dropped me off at my hotel and I prepared for my next outing: live music with some co-workers. Around 10:30 p.m., six of us from the office met at our Country Director’s house to carpool to a spot called Eco-Delice. I was a bit surprised that the Mission Director, Michelle, was joining us for a night out on the town. Usually Country Directors are too busy or important to hang out with the “worker bees” a.k.a “the sankwas”, but Michelle is actually really laid back and informal. In fact, we’ve become girlfriends since I got here. We spend a lot of time talking about fashion and hairstyles. She even showed me her wig collection!!! This should be surprising to those of you that knew about Michelle and I’s “virtual relationship” before I came to Guinea. Let’s just say our spirits didn’t really like each other. Turns out that we were soul mates the whole time! More on Michelle in my next note.

Anyway, Eco-Delice was pretty fun. The musicians played an array of music from around the world. There were songs from Guinea, Mali, South Africa and even Cuba! The wife of the Guinean Minister for Technical Education was celebrating her birthday at Eco-Delice that night, and so we helped her pop bottles! Some of us even ended up on the dance floor doing the Electric Slide. Unfortunately, the service was pretty slow and it took almost two hours for our order of fries and Alocco (fried plantain) to come out. But all the same it was a fun night. We left the spot around 2:00 a.m. By that time I was pooped and ready for my bed. When we got in the car, my colleague DAS suggested that we hit up a club next. I was pissed! As most of you know, I am an old lady with a bed time. At two o’clock in the morning the only thing I wanted to hit were my sheets. But I was the youngest person in the group (mind you, DAS has to be around 60!), and there was no way I was going down a punk! Party on! Next stop: Exo-Factor Night Club.

Exo-Factor is your typical African night club: dark hole-in-the-wall with flashing lights and lots of mirrors. The music was on point, as I expected it to be in French West Africa. When we got there the DJ had Guinean music on, but soon it switched to Coupe Decale, and then Ndombolo, and then the best of all: Nigerian! Anyone that’s been in my car knows that that is all I listen to. Fueled by Coke and rum, I was all over the dance floor. It ended up being a great night! On our way home I noticed that there were a lot craftsmen (carpenters, welders, etc.) working around 4 a.m. Guinea has a terrible power problem (“dumsor” X 10). Activities that require a steady stream of electricity are left till the wee hours of the night. During that time, there is less pressure on the national power grid and it is the only time power flows uninterrupted. It’s really bad and a damper to private-sector investment in this country.

The next day I spent most of the day in my suite (my knees needed to recover). Around 4 p.m. I got a visit from Sarafoudine, Alpha’s brother (Yes, Alpha is a real person, but we are not engaged or even dating). I don’t know why, but I was really happy to see him. We hung out at the beach (the BROWN-ish side) and talked about his advertising business, and his new, small family (he has a 6-month old baby boy) and of course, Alpha. Even though it was my first time meeting him, I had heard all about him and it was like we had known each other our entire lives. Every other day he calls to check on me. It’s kind of like having family close by. This weekend, I’m planning on going to his house to hang out with his wife and Alpha’s daughter, who is staying with them. I’m also planning on getting my hair braided this weekend. The humidity here is killing me! (Check out my “before and after” picture from Saturday evening.)

When I returned from the beach, I turned off the air conditioner and opened my patio door to let in the fresh air. I couldn’t help but smile in appreciation for all the blessings in my life and for my current circumstances. I have a wonderful job that has brought me to a wonderful country. YES, it is very dirty; YES, most of the beaches have black sand; and YES, there is even Ebola. But with the right company, there is NO WAY to not fall in love with this place.

For a discussion of the history of Jollof Rice and a final verdict on the decade-long debate of which country makes the best, tune in next week for The Chronicles of Conakry!

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