Monday, January 1 10:00 p.m. Kindia
Words may have failed me in describing my bed in Mambiya but when it comes to describing my first impressions of Kindia they run screaming from my pen like frightened children. It’s these car and truck skeletons that make a particular impression. I didn’t know cars could be so stripped and yet still retain a car like appearance. Things have been torn out and removed that I didn’t think could be removed short of using a metal cutting torch. And if torches were used here (and I’m sure they weren’t) I wonder why the rest of the car wasn’t taken away as well.
Perhaps these extreme impressions don’t apply to all of Kindia but only to this neighborhood. I’m staying at the “Buffet de la Gare” which sits beside the abandoned railway station and near the main market and bus station. It’s a powerful combination of elements particularly after the calm and lush beauty of the bike ride to get here.
The abandoned train station and surrounding derelict buildings strike me, like the stripped cars, as perfect examples of what they are. Artists couldn’t begin to create images that portray so exactly what an abandoned building should look like. There’s a quality to them, indeed to everything here, that’s more vivid than I thought possible. I’d almost say it’s extreme to the point of caricature but I know it’s real.
My first impressions weren’t helped either by my not going out into the city to find dinner till after dark. I stood for quite some time at the gates of the hotel pondering the dark chaos. Even the market stalls and little places offering cafe touba and beer seemed more dilapidated than anything I’d seen in Conakry or Coyah. One such place was built entirely around the base of a large tree. With its four foot height made entirely from debris and sacks it looked like a poor Hobbit’s hole. I glanced into its kerosene lit interior and saw little tunnels branching off to small corners. The one clean and organized place I saw was a large Elf gas station on the corner. Its vast expanse of clean white concrete and its gas pumps standing neatly in a row only served to accentuate the crowds, noise and confusion all around it.
I had dinner at Le Relax, Kindia’s version of “the place where all the tourists go.” I was led there by a young man dressed all in white but he soon left and I had to wonder if I could find my way back again to the hotel. I really started to wonder when the power in all of Kindia suddenly went out and stayed out. I emerged into pitch black streets and total disorientation.
Just as the Elf station’s cleanliness only served to highlight the surrounding dirt and garbage, the darkness, which hid the abandoned buildings and market shanty towns, made everything more alien and other worldly. I retraced my steps carefully, reduced in this pitch black to a stunted shuffle like a man feeling his way through a dark and unfamiliar apartment, worried about slamming his shins into hard edges.