Simply, back to Africa: The cultural and sociological significance of making the reverse journey across the Atlantic from the Americas should be clear. Much flows naturally from the Gulf of Guinea westward. Lucky for us to visit slave transhipment points like Ile de Goré in Sénégal to see the horrific departure point for many slaves.
Kind and gentle people: Both Guineans and expatriates living there create a rich network of caring and wonderful friends whom I’m glad to still count on today. A country that’s 90% Muslim but celebrates Easter and Christmas? Says it all, for me. People with little who’d provide you with food for days simply because that’s how visitors should be treated.
Beautiful landscape: Few places beat the simple beauty of the Fouta Djallon and its mountains, or the Nimba Mountain range, of which I can say gladly I got to the top of the mound of iron ore. Wonderful waterfalls and rivers and people who live by them.
Best work set-up: It was nice to have my own office in a separate building within the central bank complex, with my own staff, and being able to choose how it looked and worked. It was the first time to set my stamp on how it should all be, from our work ethos, to how it was decorated and who could come and go-my close contacts at any level always found my door open. Having a sofa was a dream, and as a long-time believer in naps, it got good use. But, working with a new born on the scene was better for being able to start and stop when I wanted, so going home for lunch was more norm than rarity, so was working from home most afternoons The time difference between Conakry and Washington DC really helped.
House by the sea: As accidental outcomes go, we landed on our feet finding a house destined for the proprietor of the housing complex. A lovely villa in the middle of three, with the ocean inlet being at the back fench. A new house with new garden that we could enjoy seeing grow, groomed by a gardener who cared so much. We lived and ate outside a lot and our youngest had the best days being able to run around freely, inside and out.
The curse of riches in plain view: Guinea should not be a poor country, based on its natural resources, water, mineral riches (gold, diamond, bauxite), fertile land, geographical location. But, politics and bad management got it there, added to its neighbours’ willingness to keep fighting within their national borders and seeing citizens flee to Guinea. Guinea should have been a leader in hydroelectric power. Instead, it was plagued by inefficient power generation for most; life couldn’t go on without a diesel generator for back-up.
Hardest country from which to fly: It was often easier to fly to Europe then on to get to a neighbouring country because Guinea has few direct flights, except to Paris and Brussels. I had to do it enough times to reach Sierra Leone to Guinea’s south. Otherwise, it was tough road drives or getting a flight on a UN helicopter.
Corruption in plain view: Wont say too much beyond suggesting some reading about major acts of malfeasance that were untaken in the name of President Conté and his supporters.
Harmattan/Sahara dust: The Harmattan is a season in West Africa, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by the dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind, of the same name, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. Its residue finds its way across the Atlantic, so we still get to ‘enjoy’ it in Jamaica, with the hot air that it also brings.
The rainy season: Guinea is one of the wettest countries in West Africa. The monsoon season with a southwesterly wind lasts from June to November. It’s notable for the dampness that is everywhere, lingering for months, so that mould growing on clothes is more norm than exception. Don’t leave you home unoccipied for a couple of weeks during this time but have someone who can keep it aired. Driving rain, like hurricanes is also part of the season. That moisture, too, finds its way across the Atlantic to form the Caribbean’s annual hurricane season.