Flood of joy. And Chimpanzees.
Bissau and the confusion I leave behind it me on April 15th, - and the more I drive, the better I feel. When I finally cross into Guinea (Conakry) (wiki) a flush of joy refreshes my heart, hot blood rushes from toes to neck, the tension is gone, I feel relieved. Despite its beauty, something is wrong in Guinea Bissau. Police kill police, Jeune Afrique story in French..
There is still one hundred kilometers of the most miserable roads through the jungle of Maritim Guinea via Kaminafara and Kissoumaya to Boke ahead with fine dust entering the cabin from everywhere. But I am in Guinea and happy. It's been all Kashews in Guinea Bissau, just over the border a lot less here. Missing these tasty nuts when they're freshly roasted already.
And - as if I should have known shear luck strikes. I encounter a group of (must be) 20 or so chimpanzees in the open wild. I stop to take a picture of the Land Rover and palm trees, a little depression in the land and I can hear their threatening calls already. Also I realise the palm tops, half destroyed, leaves folded upside to serve as homes/shelter. But slowly I react, not willing to accept my luck. I observe a little while before going back to the Landy and take the camera with the long lens but then the chimpanzees have ended their shouting and one by one climb down from their palm tree tops where they squatted and go somewhere else. Also I was a little afraid approaching them. They are after all strong wild animals, may hurt/kill when they feel threatened.
I enter Conakry at one in the morning, after a tire change at midnight, after one of my BFG Goodrich tires has blown up. This is home, even the police know me, wink me through.
And again there is a dance and percussion festival going on in Conakry. And this is what Guinea is so famous for world wide. Without knowing, timing has been again on my side.
But most people here have become poorer over the last couple of month, again poorer. Seems nothing ever goes their way. Basic food prices all have risen sharply, petrol just recently jumped from 4300 to 7000 Francs Guinéen (up to 1 Euro) the liter. As a result taxi fares went up some 40% as well. Some people now pay more in taxi fees than what they earn during the day/night. "What's the point coming to work?" one asks. Still it is quiet. But for how long? If people cannot feed their hungry ones at home what other choices are they left with then take (again) to the streets.
P.S. 29th of May 2008: And while I post this from Ivory Coast, one month after leaving Guinea, news break from Conakry, (Jeune Afrique in French) the military on strike, shooting heard, airport closed. Lansana Kouyate (wiki) the prime minister since the deadly Feb 2007 strikes, embodied hope for many, had already been dismissed on May 21st by ailing president Lansana Conte (president for 20 odd years wiki). AllAfrica.com May God protect Guinea.
Impressions from the Percussion/Dance/Drumming Competition/Event.
Held in the Centre Culturelle Franco Guinéen, Conakry. And I play with my camera settings.
For more on my earlier Guinea Percussion and Dancing and Drumming pages.
- 20061223 Conakry - The Concours National de la Percussion, National Percussion Competition.
- 20061220 Conakry - Doundounba, Ballet Sanké at the Concours National de la Percussion.
Ballet Sanke 2008.
Conakry still dazzles, the drums, the dancers, friends. Ballet Sanke has moved to a new rehearsal ground, the group has grown in numbers, now comprises a total of 25 dancers and drummers, acrobats and comedians. Motivation is high, talk of discipline, directrice Macauley still shouts about. First day in new location, everyone gives money, a sacrifice, a prayer to Allah, some soup/meal is given to poor children. May the new hall bring them luck. Repetition hours have been extended, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
This is hard work, some cannot afford a taxi to come and return home, walk instead, some don't eat before repetition, and don't eat much after 5 hours of work out, the spectacle they perform this Friday (25th of Apr) night brings some 7000 FG (1 Euro) for a drummer, 4000 FG (50 Euro cents) for a dancer. Hardly anything you can live on. But "we are together", goes their favorite quote. Won Tan Naara, in Sousou.
Monday morning they're all back for training. Hope keeps them coming, hope to be touring Europe and the US one day.
As for me, Friday night Conakry and Kassa, the island where the performance takes place see the first rain this year, after 3 extremely hot days. Rainy season has now officially started, I've got to get moving, south.
My Visas are ready. I have no idea what awaits me in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire. Certainly more rain, bad roads, no idea. "Don't expect much" said the clerk at the Liberian embassy wryly, "after 14 years of civil war". I am aware of that, but maybe this is the slot in time to go, before it gets a lot better or worse again.
For earlier Guinea Ballet Sanke pages.
- 20061213 Conakry - Ballet Sanké, Djembes, African percussion and dance.
- 20071118 Conakry - Sayon Camara performances, Ballet Sanke.
My last time here!? At least for a long while. Guinea has been three times very good to me. I have always stayed in the Catholique Mission, small clean value-for-money rooms, bathroom inside. Internet and beers (Skol and Guilix) and Zusanne's great food downstairs. Over time I have come to know many people, befriended some. Michel, Simon, Pierre, Dario ... One year and a half ago I parked the Landy near that Raffia tree. Today (29th of April 2008) it is still there, twilight, late, sky is pink, 1000s of bats circle the skies.
Also Conakry the friends Bofe, Lansine, Lansana, Cloe, Aisha, Fatoumata, and so many more from Ballet Sanke and other dance groups. We still hang out in the local bars of Coronthie with their bursting loud speakers. Music is Guinean and Ivorian. Also we hang around Cloe's place in petit bateux, she has a terrase with a view on to the sea at the edge of the shanty town.
Also there is the Austrian Rudi who works for the EU election team here. For now we have a plan to meet in Nigeria in July. But all always comes different than planned in Africa. We both know that. I will miss Guinea a lot. But my inner bell drives me away, forward, into the rain of West Africa.
Also I have to make decisions. What journey next with Hasna my wife and my boys Daniel and David (now 15 month old)? They have made it well via Dakar to Casablanca. Hasna is such a strong woman. The main problem is that the Landy has only 3 seats. We are four. And maybe we won't want to travel Africa for the rest of our days!? means go somewhere else!
I drive out of Conakry Wednesday 30th of April.