I wanted to share some of my favorite photos of my time in Guinea.
During my time in Guinea, I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid major illness. Diarrhea and head colds have knocked me down, but nothing more severe than a few days of bed rest.
I have, however, encountered a nasty little creature known as a Blister Beetle twice now. The most recent time, it happened to my face. This beetle releases a defensive acidic spray when you try to brush it or swat it away. It causes an acid lesion that heals in about two weeks but is extremely painful. Thankfully it does not leave a scar. I took some pictures of the healing process because it was pretty gross and, y’know, battlewounds are cool. It was extremely painful and led to some weird questions from my Guinean family and friends and lots of sympathy BUT, allahumdulilaye, I am all healed up now with not even a scar left to mark the incident!
This morning I left my site by bush taxi to get to Conakry. With all of our baggage strapped to the roof, we were a packed car. Our chaffeur and a little girl took the driver’s seat, two grown men sat in the passenger’s seat and 4 adults and 3 children snuggled up in the backseat. And a live cow in the trunk. A normal day in Guinea transport.
Later that same night I visited members of my host-family who had left Koba and moved to Conakry. They turned on the generator for me and we sat under fans on a leather sofa and watched hip hop music videos on a TV nicer than my own back home. Their smart phones and iron charged while we chatted over the hum of the generator and the fans.
Africa is funny.
The beach in my village.
We dance every day here.
Cows and palm trees dot the coast here.
the three men in charge of the gardening collective near me. The man in the middle is Mangue TP, my counterpart.
My counterpart’s wife and the many children of their compound. Don’t ask me the relations because I couldn’t tell you.
My host mother preparing palm oil using the fruits harvested from her plantation.
My host-mom recently got remarried and looked fabulous as hell.
My super fly sister and best friend, Hadja. She is ridiculously hilarious and keeps me on my toes.
Another shot of the beach in Koba. Come visit.
My site-mate, Kelly, recently made a connection with a woman from Chicago named Helen who is working on clean water solutions for Guinea. Her connection to Guinea is through an artist named Fode Camara. Fode happens to be from the same village we are working in — Koba!
The world is funny and small.
This weird chain of connections led to this weekend. Me, Kelly, and Christine (another volunteer in the nearby area) traveled to Conakry this weekend to Fode’s house to learn how to make a biosand filter. Kelly was heavily involved in Engineers Without Borders when she was in college and actually made the same exact filter in El Salvador.
Did I mention how funny and small the world is?
Biosand filters work by using a column of gravel and sand with a biofilm to filter water. In the field they have been shown to remove 70 – 80% of heavy metals, turbidity, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. The model Fode and Helen use was designed by the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology — check out their website here for more information on the engineering and science behind these filters. Here’s a quick run-down:
So, we made one this morning. Fode already has a mold made, so all we had to do was purchase a bag of cement for 70,000 FG — $10 USD. This is enough cement to fabricate two filters. Factoring in the other costs — making the lid, the basin, the plastic hose, and the sand and gravel — I am guesstimating that the total cost for one of these filters is $10-15 USD. And it lasts a life time.
The mold, however, is the problem. It can cost between $1,000 to $2,000 USD to make. But Fode has made 63 filters using his mold so far, and they are working on more every day. It took us about 1 hour to make the filter, and then it takes 24 hours to dry in the mold.
Here is the mold:
Pouring the cement into the filter. You have to beat the side of the mold and simultaneously push the cement down to insure that no air bubbles are trapped inside. The air bubbles would cause the mold to crack later on after it has dried:
Here is a finished filter that they made the previous day:
A close up of the drainage basin — this is in place so as to not disturb the sand when you pour water into the filter:
After we made the filter we talked for a little bit. As I mentioned, Fode and his crew have already made 63 of these filters and distributed them throughout their community in Conakry. I wanted to see them in action so we walked around and visited about 15 of the nearby houses who had filters. All but one were using them and loving them. Fode said he will return to the one that wasn’t using it tomorrow and if it is still dry, he will take it and give it to a family that wants it. While we were walking around, several people stopped us and asked Fode when they could get a filter of their own.
So. We are looking at an expensive start-up cost with inexpensive routine costs. In the coming weeks and months Kelly and I are going to move forward with this project — finding grant funding (and calling on friends and family from home to fund the project), figuring out the best way to implement it into Koba and possibly Basse Cote at large, how much people can afford to pay for one (because giving them away for free will not foster a sense of responsibility and ownership), who will get the first ones (because Guineans are very jealous), how to educate people about the importance of clean water, etc etc etc. I am very excited and so inspired by Helen and Fode’s actions I almost cannot find the words to express it.
Big things are coming to Koba.
My counterpart pounding leaves of a local tree species rich in Nitrogen to make an organic fertilizer.
Group shot of a gardening collective, or groupement in French, I visited to learn about their practices, what they’re missing, what they’re interested in working on and how motivated they are. They grow corn, pepper, eggplant, and okra during the dry season.
My counterpart, Mangue TP, at his (our? I work with him there every day) garden. We just created those garden beds behind him and he is standing next to an orange tree nursery.
My friend Marijo and my host-sister Djenab. They are in their school uniforms and are about to walk 10 kilometers to attend class. They are both mothers.
One of the older brothers in my house family is a serious enterepeneur and extremely intelligent. He lives in the capitol but when he comes back to Koba for work or to visit the family, I give him English lessons. He called me out of the blue yesterday and asked me if I was home because a carpenter and an electrician were on the way to install an outlet and a socket in my room to run off of the family generator. Good karma has brought me LIGHT!!!
Garden beds mulched with hay at a groupement I visited.
My friend Mariam and her two sons, David Jr. and Papi.
Members of a groupement posing in front of their garden bed — pepper and corn and the Guinean stare-down. Guineans don’t have the same desire to say “Cheese” when the camera pulls out.
Took a bike ride along the beach.