A Day In Conakry

“I’ll have this,” I said, pointing at the extensive menu.

“Sorry Sir, we do not have that tonight,” said the waiter patiently.

“Ok then, I’ll have this instead.”

“Sorry Sir, we do not have that.”

“Well perhaps it’s better if you just tell me what you do have,” I said, getting hot under the collar after the fourth attempt.

“We have chicken curry Sir.”

So what can you do in downtown Conakry at nine at night except eat the hotel food? A decision I deeply regretted the following morning. Conakry in Guinea, West Africa. Unpredictable. Unsafe. Unbelievably hot.

Then the power cut again. Nearly two hours this time. When the lift doors eventually open out step a man and a woman both grinning. And life carries on as normal.

The next morning I can only manage a cup of tea. But why am I the only person at breakfast? In fact why am I the only person in the whole hotel? “It’s the General Election Sir. The first ever. It can go well, or not. Tomorrow could be peace or it could be civil war.” A heavy crunching sound which I realise is from tanks grinding down the road outside. Then an earthquake! No, not an earthquake – jet fighters speeding low overhead. Eardrums nearly burst, nerves beginning to shatter.

Can I get out of the country before all borders close for ten days? I rush to the airport with my trusty friend amid violent demonstrations, car accidents and general mayhem. Then, just as things are beginning to go well and I anticipate arriving at the airport safely, the car stops. My friend, who is driving says “Just one minute. I will not be long.”

“What is happening?” I wonder as the angry crowd gathers around the vehicle. I try not to make eye contact with anyone as some, then others, start to rock the car from side to side. If this continues I can see the inevitable end, like some Greek tragedy. I have seen people killed in Africa, and the thought is terrifying. I can see my friend a few feet away kneeling on a small rug, saying his Muslim prayers. I am filled with admiration for his courage and faith, but now very fearful for my own safety. Eventually, to my great relief, my friend returns to the car and we continue on our haphazard journey, avoiding obstacles, crashed vehicles, fights and burning buildings. Eventually we reach the airport, our coveted destination. My friend embraces me and gives me a jar of honey. “Eat one spoonful every day,” he says. “You are very pale.”

The plane leaves ninety minutes early. By a stroke of luck and a bit of shouting and grappling with other passengers I get on it by some miracle – at least fifty others are not so lucky. I promise myself that next time I will listen to my short wave radio.

Another day in Africa.

J Barrett

More information on advertising opportunities,
Click Here