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Saturday, November 24, 2012

The World is Small

First off, happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family back home. I came across the unique opportunity to explain this holiday to many Guineans this past week. Not going to lie, its a tough sell. Even the Swiss guy who speaks great English looked at me with suspicion after my brief explanation. I'm currently enjoying Western comforts (internet, mostly consistent electricity, running water, and beers) in Conakry to celebrate Thanksgiving with some friends. As much of a big day as Thanksgiving is, I am going to use this blogpost to celebrate another day of importance to me: Michigan vs. Ohio State game day. I will commemorate this day with a touching story about an adventure I had back in the first weekend I moved to Wonkifong.

I was getting settled after the first few days of moving pains and feeling a bit restless. I figured that it was a good time to head out of my house and do a little exploring. I got on my bike with the intention of just seeing if I can get lost a little. I started riding away from Coyah, down a cement road for awhile. I really didn't see all that much heading this way. Most interesting thing I ran into was a bunch of kids who set up their own toll system. They hold a  makeshift rope across the road and hold it up like they're trying to trip Tom as he chases after Jerry. They get this idea from the military here in Guinea who use the same technique but up their game with large guns. After a while I just turned right around and headed towards Coyah.

I got to Coyah and realized quickly that being near the market on my bike is the worst idea in the world. A bunch of people selling things off the top of their heads swarm me and make it impossible to move forward without hitting them. I knew I needed to get out of there quick, so I bought some cookies and some cheese (neither of which I went their for) and high tailed it out of there with the plan of just heading home.

New friend Alain in front of his hotel!

On the trip back I know I would be passing some hotels. I always see them through the taxi windows but never really gave them a second thought, except for one. One of the hotels on the road between Coyah and Wonkifong is a lovely little place called "Hotel Le Michigan". Yes, no lies here, its named after the prettiest state in union, which if you're a Guinean student then its one out of 52 states. So, I knew I had to stop by to investigate to the source of this namesake. Luckily, when I pulled up there were two guys sitting out front. After the normal lengthy salutations they invite me to sit down. I waste no time and ask the owner why he chose the name "Hotel Le Michgian"? He tells me he has family in Michigan. No way! He says his cousin plays football there....That's crazy!....for the University of Michigan! Get the hell out of here, this is incredible!!!! I couldn't believe it. I definitely know the name of his cousin and he graduated the same year as I did, but I will refrain from mentioning his name because he was dismissed from the team during his tenure. That's not the point of the story, the point is that I love how small the world is. I'm outside of a small town outside of a kind of  big town in Guinea and I find someone to talk Michigan football with.

Little did I know but this was the gentle start to my adventurous afternoon. This part of the story isn't as blog friendly, but I spent the rest of the day with my new best friend. He offered to show me around a bit and I, dumbfounded, agreed. We followed his friend to see his new house. During our conversation in french he turns to me and asks in perfect English "What do you think?" Come to find out his friend is the son of a former Guinean UN Representative. Next stop on this unexpected tour was another hotel called Hotel Le Basfond. Things got a bit weird here after meeting the captain and the commissioner of the police force with their assorted guests. A Guinean woman wearing a camo shirt and a hairstyle TLC would be proud of brings me a beer. She sits back down and picks up her cigarette. This sets off an alarm for me because we've been told that women who smoke are assumed to be prostitutes. Contemplating this fact, I sit back to enjoy my beer, I did after all go for a bike ride. A new guest arrives and greets the table. He oddly grabs the face of one of the women. Then as he's talking to another girl she gets up and walks him towards the hotel rooms....ummm. The whole table notices, subtly laughs and continues drinking. I decide then that I'm at a table with corrupt cops and their "ladies on the side." I'm contemplating my polite escape. The story does continue for quite a long time but it's not that exciting. Mostly just me trying to get out of there and meeting more people: a French guy, two Canadians, more police and more girls.


I get home and can't believe the day I had when I started with the simple intention of going for a bike ride. The results were meeting a fellow Michigan fan and parts of the Coyah mafia. Quite the crazy ride for my first weekend at site. Well for now I'm off to see if I can find some way to keep track of the game this afternoon. GO BLUE!