Guinea 065

Sunday, February 25 10:10 a.m.

Kankan has turned me into an observer. Which I suppose isn’t a bad thing. Most of yesterday I sat on the balcony watching the world go by. This was after a second and longer bike ride around the city. I found the Milo River and the “gare voiture” on its banks. I saw a trio of Two Bobs in the middle of the usual mob of shouting and surging Guinean taxi brousse drivers. Against my better judgement I cycled up to them to say hello. I say against my better judgement because even from a distance it was clear they were European and of that variety I might call “cool” Europeans. They were young and travelling rough and on the cheap but even so managed to look stylish and cool, a feat I’ve never managed. I rode up to them in my Canadian country bumpkin style. Everything about me said ‘Hey, you’re travelling in Guinea too! That’s great. Want to talk about it?” The two women cut me dead. I don’t think I’ve ever been cut deader. The alpha male at least deigned to exchange a few words through his mirrored sunglasses but nothing remotely like a welcome managed to breach his cool defences. He didn’t want some ingenuous Canadian (on a bicycle for God’s sake!) spoiling the image he’d built up of his journey through Africa. I had no choice but to retreat.

My second and only other human contact of the day was just as unsatisfying. He’d approached me at the post office where I picked up my latest batch of post cards and stamps (this set’s theme was the Russian and American space programs). He was a Guinean, spoke English and said that he had a collection of old Guinean post cards, stamps, and currency if I’d like to look at them. I went with him through Kankan’s busy market streets to a hotel that I’d not heard about. His post cards were vaguely interesting and the currency of interest but he wanted far too much for them. And besides I found modern Guinea so full of oddities I hardly had to go back into the past to seek out more. He also had some key chains of tiny carved masks. I expressed an interest in these till he told me their price and that they were made from the tusks of a wild forest pig. When I tried to disengage myself he became very insistent and pushed harder and harder till he became nearly offensive. The whole situation had become uncomfortable.

Later in the day he appeared at the Bate’s Hotel while I was preparing dinner and started in on me again. I finally exclaimed in exasperation, “They’re only key chains! Surely, they’re not worth all this effort and hassle.”

“I get you,” he said and though I have no idea what he “got” he at least went away.

As evening fell I became sick again. I tried back eating but it was hopeless as usual. Anything and everything I’d eaten in Kouroussa or here could have been the culprit. There was nothing to do but put the bucket beside the bed and make sure a flashlight was very handy. I’m feeling better this morning so there’s hope this was just a system purge and nothing chronic.

If, as I plan to do, I cycle south towards the Forest Region I want to be in good health.



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