An Wato Guinea, Det!

So we're doing it- heading back to Guinea. Stay tuned for details of our journey back to a place we love.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Longest Day

It started with mud and goodbyes and ended with getting robbed at 4:00am at a police\military checkpoint. All the parts in the middle were spent in a bushtaxi. That was yesterday. Or today. Actually both. We haven't slept in over 24 hours so everything is sort of blending (that's my disclaimer).
.
.
We woke up to a wonderfully cool post-rain KanKan full of mud. We sloshed through it slowly, with huge sacks on our backs, holding Max's hand to keep him from slipping. Walking to the taxi park in deep, fresh mud with 20 to 30 pound backpacks on, and a child to look after is tricky. It takes time. Bottom line: we missed the first taxi to Conakry and had to wait until noon for the next car. For people who've traveled in Guinea you know exactly what this means: a painfully late (or, in this case, early morning) arrival in Conakry. This is bad. No one wants to spend the night zooming through the countryside in a bush taxi instead of sleeping. But it's not just that. No one wants to show up in Conakry (or any big city) when it's dark out. Especially if the security situation is shaky. So you can see how one thing led to another, the mud, the missed car, the late/early morning arrival, the eventual theft....
.
.
But let me back up. We decided to take a chance on Conakry. Our flight is scheduled to leave in a few hours. We've confirmed its departure and our seats and so, while I can't be competely sure, it seems our gamble might just pay off. The word around KanKan throughout the weekend was that the situation in Conakry was cooling down. In fact, the conspiracy theory circulating around town is that the unrest was actually staged by the dictator and his military "government." The theory is that after he sacked another minister the trade unions and general population started discussing dates for a national strike. They settled upon May 31st. The military uprising in the camp near the airport in Conakry sort of trumped the whole plan. A classic distraction strategy according to the conspiracy theorists. So now that things have calmed down, a new strike has been called for June 6th. If all goes well, we'll be following the news from Portugal and the states. In the meantime everyone is talking. We spent 14 hours in a bush taxi yesterday listening to the passengers' heated discussion about the state of the government. We heard the words "rogue state", "revolution," and "suffering" over and over again. It feels like this whole nation is really on the cusp of something. It has been facinating to be here inside of it for a bit but nerve-racking as well. I'm relieved that the airport is open again, that we didn't opt for the 3 day drive to Senegal and that tonight we can start our journey home.
.
.
But it's not that easy. Saying goodbye to Max and Na yesterday (or rather a few zillion hours ago it seems) was heart-breaking. Max tried so hard to hold it together but as we got in the front seat of the car he just stood there and finally lost it. He was sobbing and there was nothing we could really say other than that we love him and will come back to see him. Another passenger in the car was so sad for this kid she didn't even know that she opened up her pocketbook and gave him 5,oooGuinea Francs. This is about $1 but here it is actually quite a bit of money. I've never seen a kid Max's age with that much money. The last image I have of Max is of him sobbing, holding out this blue Guinean Franc bill as if it were a piece of garbage he weren't sure what to do with. I don't know if there's much worse than leaving a kid you love behind. And there's the guilt of it all as well. Who would want to cause a kid such sadness? On top of that, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'm worried about Max's well-being. I can't possibly go into it now (I've got a plane to catch!) but I feel like the environment in which he is living isn't healthy. This isn't about financial resorces or lack of toys or any such nonsense. It's about how he's being treated. Of course, culture and money and place and time, and everything else go into what ends up being a kid's home life. It's a lot for me to process and navigate (culturally and ethically) but for the moment, I'll say what I feel in my heart: I feel uncomfortable leaving Max in the situation he's in. If all goes well, he and his sister will move to KanKan in September to start private school. I have a lot of hope that this move will make a difference, though we can't be positive it will happen.
.
.
So the goodbye was hard on all of us. And then 14 or so hours later we arrived in the outskirts of Conakry in the largest, most infamous military/police checkpoint. Long story short A guy reached into the car window, grabbed my shoulder and took my cell phone and then ran. Matt jumped out of the window but the passengers told him it was dangerous to go after the group of three guys who were running. Meanwhile I was screaming and screaming. I just didn't see it coming...not at all. I'm still a bit frazzled by the whole thing.
.
.
But the day didn't end there. It's stilll going actually. We have to be at the airport at midnight tonight for our 3:00am flight tomorrow. We're packed and ready but still in the daze of post-goodbyes and lack of sleep. Tomorrow at 11:30pm if all goes well, inshallahaw, we'll be in Portugal.
.
.
It's an odd thing to leave Guinea like this, at night, at what could be the beginning a new chapter for the entire nation. But it's time for us too. And with that last image of Max in my mind, I'm as sure as I can be that we'll be back.
.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are probably at the airport right now! I guess I won't be able to call you since you no longer have your Thai phone....so sad. Just thankful you weren't hurt. Have a safe flight home and we'll talk soon. We are waiting for you both. We love you!
Love,Tulip

Jonathan said...

Where are you? Where are you? I hope you are on the way!!