Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

mercredi, août 09, 2006

An Early Morning Run (July 8, 2006)

Conakry. A West African city bordering the Atlantic Ocean that is the capital of Guinea. At 5:30 am, my wrist watch alarm began sounding off and I react instantly with the words of one of my five bunk mates echoing in my mind, “if that alarm wakes me I’ll kill you.” An understandable saying coming from a group of Peace Corps trainees that had arrived early the previous evening after a long day of travel including a bus ride from Philly to New York, a transatlantic flight to Brussels and finally a flight to Conakry via Dakar, Senegal.

To shake out the travel jet lag, two others and I decided to wake early for a jog in Conakry. This suggestion raised the eyebrows of several current volunteers that know Conakry. But hey, we were just excited to be in country and wanted to get out and about.

Downstairs, I found another trainee and two volunteers. The first bout of sickness had struck the group less than 12 hours after arrival. She was pale and tired as the 1-year volunteers attempted to comfort her. Minutes later my two companions appeared and we checked out through the security house to begin our run.

The morning was cool. The humidity, which grasped me in a warm embrace when I stepped off the plane the previous day, had lessened and it felt comfortable. We began our job. At first, the run resembled many other early morning jaunts I have had in the States. The streets were quiet as only our conversation filled the air. As we continued we came across others walking in the street. On one empty section, a Guinean appeared from a side alley. Seeing us he exclaimed, “Vous faites du sport!” with a big smile. He was dressed nicely in a button down shirt, slacks and dress shoes. Without pausing he tore off down the road. “Allez! Allez!” The three of us began chase and he zig-zagged to block the street so that we could not pass. With a laugh, he eventually stopped and we continued down the street.

Suddenly, as we rounded a bend we came across many people. At 6:00, the sky was only beginning to provide the first hints of dawn. The streets were quickly getting crowded though the people did not seem to be heading anywhere in particular. Instead the feeling was of a general milling around. Stares were plenty as three white guys ran down a street. We received some salutations though most quietly watched us go by. At an intersection we hugged the right corner and found ourselves on a larger road running in the same direction as traffic. Suddenly, our peaceful jog had gotten quite busy. We fell into single file and increased our pace to get out of the area quicker. I was at the back and heard a car rapidly approaching. In Guinea, main roads are not wide and joggers are not common. This increases the possibility of an accident. I moved right to put some space between myself and the car. As I edged right, my foot landed on a bit of crumbling pavement. Smooth traffic shoulders do not exist in Guinea and the road was perched up on an embankment. When my foot landed, it slid out and I instantly took a tumble down the hill scraping the outside of my left leg from my knee to my ankle. The scrape ended below my ankle with a large, open wound. I guess my welcoming gift to Guinea was an offering of blood on African soil.
Of course the next day’s health session focused on the ease of infection and the long healing process in Africa. Scrub the wound until it hurts, scrub some more, apply antibiotic ointment, cover the wound so the flies don’t have a party and repeat regularly. The one month update: I managed to avoid infection but the wound is still not completely healed. I was nervous with a few river swims but my ankle does appear to be healing, though slowly.