I am decidedly not a beach person – too much sun, too much sand, and too much ocean that I never learned how to swim in. But I was invited to visit the Los Islands yesterday, so I went. Islands! A boat ride! Out of the city!
You hop on a pirogue (a long, narrow boat) that has a small motor. The sea was choppy, and we got hit several times in the face by small waves, making my heavily applied sunscreen run into my eyes. I wish I could have taken more pictures from the boat, but I didn't want to lose my phone.
When there, there's some ruins, but we really just laid around (me in the shade mostly) and enjoyed the quiet and the cleanliness of the beaches. Boat ride and lunch together cost me about $20.
The trip home by taxi is a different story. I dropped off my friend and continued to a roundabout just outside of the city center. From there, it's down the same road about 12 miles (20 km), so I take a shared taxi to save money – and because otherwise would save very little time. There aren't technically any private taxis in Conakry; you just pay "déplacement," or buying out all of the seats of the taxi to make it private.
I didn't know the hand signal to stop a taxi headed in my direction, so a 20-ish-year-old guy showed me how to wag my index finger like I'm pointing outward. He said he was also going that way, so when the next taxi came by, we both shoved in the front passenger seat – four women and a baby were already in the back – and went on our way. After a minute, this guy pulled a tuber from his backpack and asked if I wanted to try the manioc, or cassava. No, thank you, I've already tried it. You could take it for later, he suggested. I prefer my manioc processed and fermented in atteike, but thank you for the offer. The tuber was tucked away.
A few minutes later, a police officer on a motobike stopped the taxi in a large roundabout that has an informal market at the center. A woman in the back seat patted my shoulder and told me to stay calm, which I totally still was from my day at the beach. People stopped to both see what the argument was about and to wonder at the white woman in the shared taxi.
After a few minutes, I gathered that having two people in the front passenger seat is illegal, though many drivers do it on Sundays especially because police aren't working. So for the police to stop us means that he just wants money. He was telling the taxi driver, but in a way to make sure that I heard, that he knows people in Italy and in France, and they definitely don’t do things like this, that this is not European behavior. I said to the woman behind me that trying to get a bribe is also not European behavior, and everyone in the back, including the baby, just nodded wearily. The young man sitting next to me kept making sure I was okay, not scared.
Eventually, the taxi driver leaned in and pulled 10,000 Guinean francs (about $1.25) from his wad of bills, and after a little more yelling (and presumably an exchange of the money), we were on our way.
Travel and research notes
Fieldwork and travel in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, as well as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, and wherever else I end up. Plus occasional research-related thoughts.