LAGOS 2 DAKAR: MY WEST AFRICAN ODYSSEY. (6E PARTIE – Guinea: Accommodation Gone Bad in Conakry)

Continued from 5e Partie

I couldn’t believe my ears. Here I was, drained from a very eventful road trip, as dirty as the mad man I had run from, and hungrier than I had ever been; and this strange man was telling me that I would sleep next to him, on the same bed, in this room that was so hot and smelled so bad that I could hardly breathe. It just didn’t seem fair. It did not seem fair.

I thanked the women who rode with me for all that they did and said my goodbyes. I immediately called my would-be host to tell him I was at the designated pick up spot, then everything changed. He told me he would not be able to pick me up because of work, but he gave me his cousin’s number, Mahmadou, who he said would come get me instead.

I wondered why he didn’t say any of this beforehand or why he didn’t just tell his cousin to meet me there; I had spoken to him throughout the journey and was promised he would be waiting for me at the pick up area. Without letting this dampen my spirits even longer, I quickly dialed the number for his cousin and this is what happened:

Mahmadou: Allo

Me: Allo Mahmadou

Mahmadou: Ehhh?

Me: C’est toi, Mahmadou?

Mahmadou: ….Ehhh?

This went on for a few more seconds. Remembering that my phone was roaming, frustration got the better of me and I hung up. Two seconds later, I recognized how stupid that was, so I took a couple of deep breaths and called him back.

He did the loud “ehhh” thing again, but this time, I didn’t wait for him to confirm his name; I calmly told him that his cousin asked me to call him and that he was supposed to come get me. He seemed to be hearing of this agreement for the first time, but to his credit, he agreed to pick me up. I just needed to wait even longer.

About fifteen minutes later, Mahmadou showed up at the pick up area and immediately recognized me. I guess I stood out. We hoped in a cab barely saying anything to each other. I had no idea where we were going. For all I knew, I could have been walking into an elaborate kidnap plot.

Looking out the window, I marveled at how rural the capital looked. I tried to process what I was looking at, but I was so beat up from my trip so I decided to just close my eyes. We arrived at our destination and I was pleasantly surprised. In spite of the rural surroundings, the house was quite big and beautiful. Was this where I was going to stay?

Mahmadou and I walked in and my spirit frowned. I could not put my finger on it, but something about the house seemed weird. He led me through the living room, hallway, and kitchen, down to a room. He then told me to feel comfortable, his first words to me since before we got in the cab. Then he left. The house must have had at least five rooms. It didn’t make any sense that he would leave me here, in a room where he obviously slept.

Suddenly it hit me. That was it; the house, save for Mahmadou’s room, was completely empty. When I say completely empty, I mean there was no furniture, not even a fridge in the kitchen. Forget the fridge, there was not even a stove! This was, for all intents and purposes, a Potemkin village. My heart sank.

Was this where I was going to stay? Did Ibrahim, my original host, live here? Was he going to show up? I had so many questions that I asked myself in disbelief. I had to talk to Ibrahim. Luckily enough, he called Mahmadou, who passed the phone to me. This is what happened after we exchanged pleasantries.

Me: So, what’s up? (he spoke English)

Ibrahim: Things are really tight at work. By the time I’m done with work, it will be very late. So if I don’t see you today, I’ll try to see you tomorrow.

Me: Wait what? So am I sleeping here?

Ibrahim: Is something wrong? Are you not comfortable?

I wanted to tell him that his cousin barely spoke to me, that I didn’t feel welcome in the house, that his cousin didn’t seem to be expecting me, that I was very uncomfortable.

Me: Oh, just asking because I wasn’t aware of the plan. Nobody told me I would be sleeping here. I don’t even know where I am. I haven’t been told anything.

Ibrahim: Yeah, you know, I thought that place was the best option for you. It’s just Mahmadou in that house. I can’t invite you to my house because of the family. You won’t be comfortable….

Ibrahim was a friend of a friend who had suggested I stay with him when I got to Conakry. He promised my friend that I would have a great time. He had many cars, I could use one. His would ask his cousin to take me wherever I wanted to go. He would spoil me rotten, he said.

I gave the phone back to Mahmadou who spoke to his cousin for a little longer. He came back into the room and that is when everything became surreal. Mahmadou confirmed that I would be spending the night there. I asked where exactly; was there a guest room? He responded negatively. So I asked which room he would sleep in, to which he responded “On va passer la nuit ensemble ici. On partage le lit, quoi”.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Here I was, drained from a very eventful road trip, as dirty as the mad man I had run from, and hungrier than I had ever been; and this strange man was telling me that I would sleep next to him, on the same bed, in this room that was so hot and smelled so bad that I could hardly breathe. It just didn’t seem fair. It did not seem fair.

I asked where I could take a shower. A shower would do me some much needed good. I came out looking better, but not feeling better. Sleeping on the same bed with a total stranger just didn’t seem right, but what choice did I have? I convinced myself that it would make one helluva story. After all, there had to be a reason I was experiencing all this drama. There HAD to be a reason.

After I got dressed, Mahmadou told me I had a visitor. I ignored the absurdity of actually having a visitor in Conakry and decided I was going to check out who was looking for me. I arrived at the gate and a man introduced himself. Apparently, Ibrahim had sent yet another cousin to pick me up; Mahmadou’s brother. Why Mahmadou didn’t just say that remains a mystery to this day.

Mamadienjalo took me to get some food. After that we went to a sports “lounge” to watch Real Madrid destroy Apoel Nicosia 6-0. During the entire match, Mamadienjalo made it a point to tell everyone that his friend from America was here. He also was relentless in his quest to get me to take home a prostitute. I stayed resolute in my rejection of that idea. After he stopped tryin to persuade me, I allowed myself imagine the scenario of taking a woman home and telling both her and Mahmadou that we were all going to share the bed. The commercial sex worker would have probably killed Mahmadou and I right there.

IMG_20171121_191649-COLLAGE
L-R: Guinean/Senegalese jollof rice; Attiéké with grilled chicken; Local beer

I drank so much beer at the sports bar. If I got pissy drunk, I wouldn’t notice that I was sleeping next to a man. That was the logic I sold to myself. For a while it seemed to work; the journey back to the house was a bit of a blur. Unfortunately for me, once Mahmadou entered the room and lay on the bed, I became sober real fast.

This was going to be a major test. I started by turning my back to him, but then I realized it was not a good idea to leave my bum facing him, so I switched positions. I then lay on my back, but I felt very vulnerable. It was almost like I was inviting him over, so I switched positions again. I decided to lay facing him. This was not much better, but it seemed the best option. I refused to close my eyes. That night, I think I slept with both eyes open.

IMG_20171122_144604
Mahmadou let me have the only pillow!

I must have shut my eyes at some point, because I opened them to find Mahmadou gone. It was 7am and the rooster would not stop yelping. After washing my face and brushing my teeth, I had to ask Mahmadou about where I could get a local sim card because I had exhausted my roaming minutes. Unfortunately, not only could I not find Mahmadou, the main door was locked. Was this when they were going to come kill me and harvest my organs?

I ran to take a shower but decided against it. I wanted to be ready if anything went down. I quickly packed my stuff and found what I thought was the best place to hide wait – right next to the window where I could see the gate. After about thirty minutes hiding waiting, I went looking for a weapon but turned up empty. I cursed my phone for running out of minutes. But who was I going to call?

Another thirty minutes went by before Mahmadou walked through the main door. From my vantage point, I could see if he came in alone. To my relief, he came in only holding a plastic bag. I would not need to break the window for my great escape. When I managed to control my emotions, I went to take a shower. It was during this shower I plotted my Get Out.

I told Mahmadou I was going for a walk. Upon exiting the house, I asked someone on the road for a phone shop. I found one and bought a local sim card. Immediately after, I went online and searched for hotels in the area. Booking a hotel meant I would break my promise to not pay for comfort, but events insisted. It was during this hotel search I realized that I was not even in Conakry proper, I was in a village/ town on the outskirts of Conakry. I cursed Ibrahim and booked a hotel in Conakry.

IMG_20171122_174911-COLLAGE
L-R: A church; The Senegalese mosque; random building

On my way back to the house, I stopped to get some food. After eating, I hailed a cab and haggled over the price to take me back to the house and then to my hotel. The price seemed steep, but it was money well spent. When I got back to the house, I told Mahmadou I was leaving and thanked him for the hospitality. I also sent Ibrahim a message, but left out the address of where I would be.

In the cab on my way to the hotel, I took a sip of my water and managed a smile. Victory tasted good.

I spent two more nights in Conakry before tapping out. In those two plus days, I managed to once again stumble into the middle of deadly protests, get grilled by three soldiers from the presidential guard (I somehow wandered too close to the president’s home), get threatened by a woman who sold roasted peanuts by the road side (long story), and promise a girl that I would bring her back to The States with me. Did that just so that she could leave me alone (another long story).

Suffice it to say that my entire Guinean experience was quite eventful. It was also my least favorite. With apologies to any Guinean reading this. It was such a depressing place for me, and this is not an indictment of the people. Almost everyone I met was nice to me, except that woman selling peanuts. For some reason, it was meant to be this way.

IMG_20171122_191519
First night in my hotel room. Glorious night.

Continued in 7e Partie

Song of the day: When my brother recommended that I add this song to my Song of the Day list, I didn’t think it would fit in anywhere until now. While it is definitely not as bad as The Sudan, I really needed a pick me up after my Guinea experience; this song did that. Living Darfur by Mattafix.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s