Thursday, November 11, 2010

City streets are Full, but of What ?

Driving our from Conakry by bus, I watch out the window as the mundane passes by at wharp-speed, making the life on the other side of the glass seem oh so much more active.   In the span of 30seconds we pass in a whirl of color:  Obama Restaurant; guys shoveling cement to make the crude blocks that make up 90% of new city housing, and another guy tossing buckets of water over the finished blocks to keep them from cracking in the drying process; women tressing hair, sitting on chairs outside to view the comings and goings; kids tearing off their school uniforms the moment they leave the school grounds (ie: kacki shirt for boys with an urban tee underneath); a guy fiddling with his radio, propping the antenna up in various positions hoping for the clearer signal; women tailors sizing up shiny blazen cloth; metal workers welding gaudy, elaborate, so-utterly-not-down-to-earth-Africa doors and bedframes; women peeling oranges and adding them to the white-peeled pile of the ones for sale etc etc. Life is lived on the streets here vs. driving down the street in the US where most things are done behind closed doors and gated neighborhoods. 
     Conakry draws people in from all regions of the country; lured in by ideas of the 'good life' and that things happen in the capital.  People come to build a better future here and the city is expanding exponentially - what was open country land last year has turned into the new suburban shops, buildings, and new homes. The building doesn't stop.  Along the main roads out of town, one can find a veritable Home Depot of supplies ready for the entrepreneurial builder:  window frames, cement blocks, beams, boards, tiles, and squat toilets.  If you are looking for quality - well that is another matter - but the quantity is here. (I've been told that Guinea is one of the receptacles for all unwanted goods in the world. i.e: If it cant sell anywhere else - send it to Guinea ! This would explain the incredibly-stylishly-tacky-bulky-mid 80s- faux leather couches for sale in numerous places on the side of the road.  I must buy one for someone as a white elephant cadeau !)


  1. Katie - you don't need to go to grad school - you ARE an anthropologist! Great observations about urban life. Keep it coming!

  2. Merci Beaucoup ! Can I get a diploma with that in writing on it : ) glad you're enjoying the blog ....feel free to pass it on !