Friday, August 2, 2013


Most of the best places to visit in Bissau are found via word-of-mouth. That’s how I’ve discovered some of the best restaurants, hang out spots, and vacation spots. There is almost no tourism industry here, so its easy to come to the conclusion that the country has very little to offer. But I’m learning that there are plenty of little gems throughout the country just waiting to be discovered. Finding these hot-spots has become a
Remy, my sister's partner, and Augustino at the River
            I have a friend who lived in Buba for almost a year named Rui. He recently moved to the capital Bissau (which is where I met him) and every chance he gets he makes sure to mention how much he misses Buba.
            Buba is a small town 3 or 4 hours south of the capital that lies at the head of the Rio Grande de Buba (river). After hearing Rui rave about how amazing Buba is, I decided I had to go, and my sister being in town was a great reason to escape the city to check it out.
            While Rui lived in Buba he stayed at a hotel called “  “. This hotel is owned by Abdon Dalga who just so happens to be the West African Regional Director of SlowFood International.  In1992 he opened his hotel and restaurant right along the Buba river. This was exactly where we were going.
            My stepdad was soooo incredibly skeptical about where we were going!! He kept saying things like, “ If we get there and there is no hotel, I don’t know where you guys are going to sleep.” And “we drove all this way I really hope there is something there” or “ Did you call the owner? Does he know we are coming?”. He brought his nephew with us as, in retrospect, his “security blanket. ” He said he would be sleeping at his house in Buba and not the hotel.
Our santuary when it rained and restuanrant when it was grub time
            I sat quietly and listened to him express his concerns. He had no idea where we were going and his anxiety was showing. But all his comments and concerns made the expression on his face once we arrived all the more priceless.
            Buba it’s a very small town. You can probably walk around the whole city in 2 hours.  There is only one paved road and it’s the same paved road we used to Buba  from Bissau. The road cuts all the way through Buba until you reach the river. Other then that, all roads are dirt and houses are layed out sporadically along side the main road.
            The hotel is at the edge of a mini-peninsula. There are 10-12 individual rooms and a sort of living room/dining bungalow area in the center.  Next door is another also very nice hotel called Bela Vista. It might even be a little nicer than the one we stayed at, but they didn’t have nearly as good as a chief.

            The fact that it rained almost every day was unfortunate, but we made the most of every second that the sun came out. In the mornings after breakfast we went with Abdon when he went to get fish for lunch. We watched the fisher men come back from their morning fish and saw the women at the waters edge just waiting to get their hands on the fresh catch. Before coming to shore, the fishermen arranged the fish to avoid the commotion they knew would ensue once they docked.
            The afternoons we spent swimming in the river, and if it was raining we sat and talked with Abdon, Augustino ( my step-dad’s nephew) or any of Abdon’s friends that had stopped by.
My sister Cecelia enjoying some time at the river
            We learned alot about Abdon’s role in Slowfood International and a lot about  the history of Buba thanks to Augustino. On one night we had asked why we saw so many check-points along the way to Buba. He shared that child trafficking is very common once you get out of the capital and into the south of the country and so the check points are to try and catch child traffickers. He said its common for a child or two to go missing from some of the villages. Child traffickers  go to isolated village’s and kidnapped youngsters to sell them in Senegal. I thought they were sold for slave labor, as if that isn’t bad enough, but the reality is they are being sold for their organs.. I was so surprised by this! The amount of human rights abuses are incredible in this country.
            However, all of the new learning and engaging conversation was just supplementary to the amazing food we ate. So when I say we were sitting and talking, we were actually just passing time while waiting for Abdon to finish cooking lunch or dinner.
            The food was absolutely amazing! In one meal we had gazelle, in another grilled barracuda. For dinner one night we had an appetizer soup and bread sticks followed by a main course of quiche, goat, salad, rice, and french-fries and desert was some pastry that
            It was a feast for royalty! And everything was made from scratch! Every time we had French fries I for some reason kept assuming they were frozen, because in the US more often then not they are. It wasn’t until I saw him slicing and frying the potato’s that I realized they were fresh. Then I felt silly, because I knew very well that there is no electricity in Buba!
            My sister and her husband couldn’t get over the fact that we were having five star meals at a small hotel that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Jokingly they would say that they were going to stay in Buba until it was time to go back to France. They were very under-impressed with what Bissau had to offer.  
            I was a little bit concerned about the damage this trip would put on my wallet. But 100 dollars covered my own room for 3 nights, breakfast, lunch and dinner for 3 days with all drinks between and during meals included!
            I would absolutely recommend this spot for any visitor in Bissau. In the end, my step dad wanted to make plans to go back when my mom comes in December!  The drive is 3-4 hours long, but if you can stay out of trouble, unlike us, the drive is smooth sailing.
Lunch: and this is nothing compared to other meals
            On the way home, we stopped for gas and took a bathroom break. Of course there was no bathroom so my sister walked around trying to find the next best thing. She found an abandoned looking building and handled her business there. When I asked where she went , she pointed to a cement wall that was just in front of two doors entering the building. I was surprised because it was obviously the entrance of a building, but everyone else followed suit: her husband, my nephew, my stepdad, and just before we left, I decided to go too. I was curious to know what else was in the area, so I peeked around the other side of the building. I saw there was a house with some folks sitting in the front and then went back to the front of the building to relieve my self. Less then 5 seconds into my pee I hear someone yell in creole, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!” I look up and 2 women standing in front of me.

“Im peeing!” I responded, half surprised to see anyone and half annoyed that they had interrupted me. 

“Oh my god, oh my god, I’m so mad. This is a disgrace!! I can’t believe you are doing this.”  She continued.

I wondered to my self why they were freaking out. When I walk to work I see on average 3 men stop and pee, sometimes less then 2 or 3 feet away from me.  Sometimes the guy in front of me will suddenly veer 2 steps the right and pee.   Just because I’m a girl they are going to freak out?! I finished peeing and pulled up my pants ready to rebuttal whatever their reason was for disapproving.

Gravity gas pumps
“ What is wrong with you? This is so disrespectful! You think you can just come here and pee where ever you want? This is a church! “

“Oooooooh shit,” I thought, but said instead,” This isn’t a church.”  She told me to come around to the front of the building and low and behold “ House of God” written in Portuguese was written across the top.  I apologized and repeated that I didn’t know, but she kept insisting that I had done it on purpose, as if I purposely wanted to pee on gods house, and as if it was obvious it was a church.  
            There was nothing I could do at this point, the deed was done. But she kept yelling as if to make a scene. I didn’t understand why she was making such a show out of this.  I again apologized and said God is merciful and would forgive me and walked away. She didn’t like that and went to find my dad.  She said she was obligated to tell whom I had come with what I had done.
            This ground my gears. I felt like a child and she was running to tell my dad on me.  She approached him and not even 30 seconds in to her grievances he handed her a dollars worth of change. She stopped, looked at the change, and almost as if to show she wasn’t going to stop just because he gave her money, she finished her sentence before walking away.
            I got in the car and when my sister asked what happen. As I told the story her eyes widened as she realized the mistake we made, then quickly transformed to a grimace for how the women was making a scene to make a dollar. Her only verbal response was , “If its god’s house why is it so ugly? It’s not our fault we confused. Look at it! “

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