The good news is that we're back. The bad news is that we haven't slept. There was, of course, that hour of fitful sleep I had on the airport floor in NYC (why florescent lights?!! Why seats with arm rests that don't lift?! Please, let me design an airport based on sleep deprivation!). Then there was the 7 hours of shifting uncomfortably in the plane next to the traveler who fell asleep with his overhead reading light on. Oh, how I struggled with the moral dilemma- Is it wrong to turn it off for him? Should I respect his right to have it on even though he's not using it? Such are the thoughts of someone desperate for the perfect sleep conditions. Around hour three of the flight I turned it off. Big shock, it didn't help. That, of course, sparked the next moral crisis. Do I take my seat belt off even though the seatbelt light is on? Maybe you're getting the idea. I was and am a mess. It has been over 36 hours and I haven't really slept. We flew out of Portugal yesterday (at least I think it was yesterday...June 8th, whenever that was). We got to New Jersey and then went to NYC where flights were delayed because of bad weather. We hit the middle of the night in the time zone we had just left and thought, okay, this is uncomfortable but perhaps useful in terms of adjusting to our new timezone. Surely, we'll be tucked in nice and tight for bedtime in the Pacific time zone. Not so. In an odd flashback to flight 720 out of Dakar to Conakry back in November, our plane arrived several hours late. We arrived in San Francisco at 3:00 am. Charlie, who deserves an award for putting up with us, picked us up around 3:30. We got back to his place around 5:00am. Just in time to start a brand new day.
I'm sorry for leaving everyone hanging with that last post. Thank you so much for all of your well wishes and worries. We left Conakry with no problems. A new strike was/is scheduled for the 11th I think. I don't have any updates on that front as of yet. In any case, we felt fortunate to get out of the airport when we did without any hassles. It was a stressful few days leading up to our flight but thankfully, the flight itself was uneventful.
One side note on the airport: When you enter the airport parking lot in Conakry, you often see a ton of people sitting or lying on the pavement and curbs, notebooks in hand. These are students. University students. They're there studying because there is always electricity at the airport, and large streetlamps lighting the parking lot. There has to be or else international commericial carriers probably wouldn't be so keen on flying in. The electicity in the rest of the city is at best, shoddy. This creates problems for motiviated students hoping to study for exams. The fact that these young people have come up with this solution is both inspiring and sad. Here are people taking control of a detail that is part of a larger situation that the government is neglecting. So what does this say about the state of Guinea? It's future? Are unlikely safety nets like the airport street lamps allowing the government to cruise a bit longer? Or is the students' initiative opening up a space for creative solutions and long-term change? A lot to think about.
In any case, we left Guinea and its students and airport and impending strike. We also left Max and his family and friends and characters who we laughed with and shared days and rice and dreams and games with for the past 7 months. Airplanes make travel easier (though not easy) but they also makes for fast and superficial transitions. A week or so ago we were in Kerouane and now we're in an apartment in the Silicon valley trying to figure out what the heck we're going to do. This is jarring to say the least. We spent three days in Lisbon, Portugal before starting that last long leg of our long, sleepless journey yesterday. Our time there, while a bizarre change of scenery, was also a breath of fresh air. We walked through those long twisty streets and alleyways and talked and talked, doing our best to figure out what our time in Guinea meant and means and how to best transition back. We happened upon a group of Guinean men on a street near our hotel. Matt heard them speaking Pular and stopped to ask where they had come from. Labe. They showed us a Guinean restaurant up a steep and windy alleyway. Our last meal in Portugal was a Guinean one. Rice and soup sauce and meat eaten with forks and knives and napkins on our laps. Guinea out of Guinea. If that's not the beginning of a transition back home I don't know what is.
So now it's time to figure out our lives. We've got a lot to think about and decide. We intentionally left so much behind when we set out for Guinea. Now it's time to think seriously about what we want as we start over. For the moment we're headed to my family's home north of here. My mom will be having surgery soon and we want to be there for it. We'd like to go back to Montana but we don't yet have details.
I hope you'll keep reading this blog for a bit longer. There are still a ton of photos and stories I'd like to share. Now that I'll have better, more consistent access to the internet I'll be able to post a lot of the stuff I've been wanting to post for a long time. I've been so focused on practical updates that a lot of my favorite stories about people have gotten lost in the shuffle. I also plan to keep you all updated about our plans.
I can't wait to be in better contact with you and to see a lot of you soon. Thanks for all of your support over these past 7 months. You could have called us crazy but you didn't. Instead you followed along as we stumbled through this experience. You have sent your well-wishes and have shared in the ups and downs of our time in Guinea. You have asked about our friends and families in Guinea with such concern and respect that it's clear you've become a part of this whole extended family. And you have never doubted that we'd come back home. Thank you.
For now, sleep.