Life in Guinea
So for those of you who would like to know more about our life in Guinea. This is for you. My, oh my, where do we start? Let’s just begin with some of the basics.
Home: We live in Conakry, the capital city. There are about 1.5 million people here, give or take a few.
House: We live in an apartment of which we will have pictures on facebook when we get it finished. The apartment is on a busy street in the middle of town.
Amenities: Our apartment has indoor plumbing and electricity, but we only get electricity from about midnight-6 or 7am each night. On the weekends we might get a day with power. We have indoor plumbing, but we rarely get water out of it. We usually get our water from one of the three 50 gallon drums we have in the apartment. We fill those back up when we get water through the plumbing.
Food: We eat well. Leslie is learning how to cook more and more each day. We buy most of our food at the local market across our street. We get things like bread, fruit, peanuts, potatoes, vegetables, rice, flour, sugar, beans, etc. Everything is made from scratch. We drink filtered water and use powdered milk. All in all, the food is not bad, but it takes a long time to cook and clean. It is also difficult to get protein here. There is not much meat.
Weather: Right now, it is dry and hot. The dry season lasts until about May, and then it will be wet and hot. It will rain practically every day, but not all day. Currently, since there has been no rain for quite some time, the skies are dirty and it’s difficult to see in the distance. There can be a mountain half a mile in front of you and you can barely see it. The Africans also burn the fields during dry season, adding smoke to the dust. We look forward to seeing the lush, green country during the rainy season.
Money: The currency here is a Guinea Franc (GNF). The exchange rate is 6,900 GNF to $1 USD. There are no coins, and the bills come in amounts of 500, 1000, 5000, and 10000. Therefore, there are a lot of bills. When it’s time to get money, you end up with a sack full of cash. It’s like trying to buy things in America but carrying $1 bills everywhere.
Language: We are learning French…slowly. However, we are learning and will continue to learn as long as we are here. It’s difficult here since there are so many tribal languages, but the Lord will do as He sees fit. We just need to obey.
Social Life: This is a very different place. Being a white person in West Africa gets you lots of looks and stares. People either look at you like you are crazy, like they want something from you, or like they want to marry you. Occasionally, though, you will be treated like anyone else. It’s difficult to make real friends in a different culture, especially in West Africa. Many times people will expect something from you. However, we trust that the Lord has and will put people in our lives that can truly be impacted by the Gospel.
Village Life: Now village life is a whole different story. In the village, you eat rice and sauce every night out of a common bowl with your team. In this culture, it is expected that you provide for guests, so when we go into a village we take them a sack of rice, peanut butter, tomato paste, peanuts, tea, spices, and oil and ask that they cook us one meal per day. You get a huge bowl of rice, pour the sauce over it, and dig in with your hands. You take bucket baths in the village, which is what we usually have to do in our apartment as well, except in the village you are outside and have varying amounts of privacy depending on the village. The bathrooms are little concrete and mud huts with a whole in the ground. The villagers live in concrete and mud huts with thatched roofs.
Traffic: Now this is a good topic. I cannot begin to describe the traffic here. Over a million people, thousands of little taxis, and no rules. There are no traffic lights or stop signs. There are no lanes. It is simply a chaotic mess that everyone understands. Somehow, it works okay most of the time. Granted, there are often traffic jams, especially when the police are directing traffic. There are some roundabouts, which work pretty well. In the busy intersections without roundabouts, it gets pretty slow. The roads across the country vary. Some are great, but most are terrible. It’s really hard to explain. You will just have to come over and see them.
Life here is certainly different. However, God is good and has given us much support in the missionary community. Sometimes we struggle with getting ourselves motivated to go out and do things. It takes forever to get anything done in Africa. You can be out and busy all day and accomplish almost nothing. Language is difficult and it’s hard to find motivation to practice, so pray for us in that area. We have adjusted pretty well to the city and culture, but we want to be disciplined and effective. It takes time to build relationships and to even be able to speak to anyone here about anything substantial. Fortunately, God has called us here and we always have a purpose.
Commanded and Called,
Matt & Leslie Atwell