More than when I went to Senegal, my first time in West Africa, or when I went to Côte dʼIvoire, where I was to live for nearly a year, I felt like I more or less knew what to expect in Guinea. I was used to the food and regional culture, my language skills were far improved, and I had a place to stay for the first few days. This was all true.
Yet what really surprised me was how the level of development is so much lower than other countries I have visited in the region. Friends in Abidjan had warned me of the trash situation; I thought that was because they had been there for a week or so, only in the city center, while I would be staying in a somewhat well-off area on the outskirts. Oh no. Trash is everywhere.
My water comes from a cistern that has been recently dug and then goes into a tank next to the house. I don't think we've had consistent electricity for 24 hours, often going out for hours during the middle of the day, though we do have a generator when necessary (mostly to watch the end of a Real Madrid match).
But aside from a real lack of infrastructure, Conakry and Guineans have been lovely. Because the city's on a peninsula, the hot afternoons are relieved by a decent breeze. West African good humor is evident, especially directed toward me, and people have been incredibly kind both personally and in my research work.
I guess I pride myself on finding fun or joy or interest in the little things when some of the big things (electricity, tacos) are lacking. Evidence:
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.