Hey Gals and Guys,
Greetings from Guinea!
It’s been a very busy couple of weeks. After weeks of planning, the acting deputy head of USAID visited Guinea as part of a three-country trip to Ebola-affected countries. He also happens to be the head of the Africa Bureau for USAID, which is where I work. He’s an awesome manager and one of my favorite principals at USAID.
Back in November last year, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel at a USAID agency-wide town hall meeting with him. It was my first time speaking in front of hundreds of people and I was very nervous to say the least. Fortunately, he sat with me before we went on stage and calmed me down with some public-speaking techniques that he uses. During the panel he sat beside me and practically held my hand the whole time. I did very well and it was definitely thanks to him.
On Saturday afternoon, the four-person delegation, which included a representative from the White House landed in Conakry after visiting Liberia. My “twin” Jonta is currently in Monrovia and worked on the wildly successful Liberia leg of the trip. Upon his arrival, the senior staff of USAID/Guinea hosted a welcome lunch for him at our director’s house. It was a good chance for those that had never met him to interact with him in a more intimate setting.
After lunch we all headed to afternoon meetings, which included a roundtable discussion with NGOs that worked on the Ebola response in Guinea. Since the number of Ebola cases continues to decrease, and even Liberia has been declared “Ebola Transmission Free”, development partners are transitioning from an “emergency response” to longer-term development. The big question is how do we “build back better”. It was a great discussion and provided an opportunity for USAID partners to share their thoughts on how we move forward.
On Sunday, the entire team took a trip to Kindia, a region about 137 kilometers outside Conakry. Since we had a day packed with activities, the team took a 30 minute flight to Kindia on a helicopter. I am terrified of helicopters, so I decided to hitch a ride with one of the drivers at 5:30 in the morning and do a three hour drive instead. (I’m actually afraid of flying on planes too, but I’m yet to figure out how to avoid it when traveling to Africa.) I was really excited about the drive out of Conakry. Since I got here in March, I haven’t been out of the capital. I had heard that the rest of the country was beautiful, but I never imagined how green and lush it was. The beautiful views of the mountains totally made up for bumpy roads.
In Kindia, we met with the Minister of Agriculture at an ongoing agriculture fair taking place at the Agriculture Research Institute of Guinea. From there we went to a midwifery training school that USAID sponsors. After lunch, we went to the Civic and Voter Center where we were welcomed by a performance by an African drumming and dance troupe. At the center, the delegation met with representatives from NGOs that have been remained active throughout the Ebola outbreak. The goal of the meeting was to better understand how USAID’s programs have been affected by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the country.
I was prepared to hitch a ride back to Conakry after our last meeting, but after a lot of encouraging words from the team, including the boss himself, who offered to sit by me and hold my hand, I decided to face my fears and join everyone on the helicopter. It ended up being a great experience and at the very least I can check that off my bucket list!
Back in Conakry, I took part of the delegation to my favorite Conakry restaurant for dinner: Obama Club Restaurant 🙂
On Monday, the delegation had some alone time with USAID staff. We had a Mission-wide lunch and town hall meeting where the USAID|Guinea/Sierra Leone mission was presented with a special recognition award for all their work during the Ebola outbreak.
On Tuesday, the delegation set off for the highlight of their trip, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Today, I’m slipping back into Accra for some rest and recuperation 😉
See you next time on Chronicles of Conakry!
P.S. Guinea was actually the highlight of their trip, but Jonta (who’s originally from Sierra Leone) wants me to say that Sierra Leone was the highlight. SHHHH….We’ll let her think whatever she wants!