Ishmaelia mon amour
Early July, I found myself back in Ishmaelia (aka Guinea, aka country #21). After my disappointing encounter with country #22, and my failure to leave the grounds of the hotel on my last visit here, my expectations of this African experience were low.
I was also travelling for work. I think it may be a supplementary rule of the country game that you are allowed to be as negative and sarcastic as you like if your employer is paying for the trip (unless of course you work for a tour company).
If you are holidaying or otherwise there at your own behest, you always feel the need to defend the choice – “such an interesting experience”, “dysentery is such a quick way to lose weight”, “the foul sliminess of the local currency really discourages you from over-spending”, and so on.
However, I strangely enjoyed myself. As one or two old Africa hands have said to me – either you hate the place or it sneaks up and grabs you by the heart. I can’t see myself living in Guinea – for climate reasons alone (loathe the tropics) – but it is growing on me. Its mad, baroque complexity is oddly fascinating, the people are charming and dignified, and once you get out of the urban renewal target that is the capital and into the countryside, it is lushly beautiful. No timetables or guarantees, but looking forward to the next trip back.