Friday, September 27, 2013

Nigeria vs. Guinea-Bissau…. No its not a soccer game

 I think the nature of the rain in Guinea Bissau explains very well the political/social nature of the country. Everything is fine (sunny) and normal until suddenly, out of nowhere something crazy happens (rain).
            I though my excitement for the day was going to be the car accident I almost got into while riding in a Taxi. I was coming back from the Governer’s Palace and the car on our right started to cut us of, so much so that the taxi driver had to veer off the road on to the side walk where he almost hit an elderly man and his grandson.  Passerbys came running to the car yelling at the taxi driver for what he had done. He got out of the car and spent 10 minutes apologizing and explaining that he got cut off. A crowd had formed and it became quite a spectacle, but eventually they pardoned him and we were on our way.
            Later down the road I hopped out of the taxi and stopped by the office of the Environmental Agency that was writing the environmental study for the solar project my company is doing.  One of them had offered to give us a ride into downtown so we could make some copies.  The traffic was horrible and I was anxiously shaking my foot as we sat in traffic.
             I was on a time crunch. My Boss was heading to Dubai and I needed to give him 3 copies of the environmental study and have the writers of the study stamp all 180 pages of each copy. His flight was scheduled at 2pm, he needed to be at the airport at noon, and it was already 11am.
            The road we were on in is a 4 lane road with a big metal divider down the middle. The two lanes on the left go to the airport and the 2 on the right, which we were on, headed to downtown Bissau.
            As we were sitting in traffic, we came to an intersection where I told  the driver, Augusto, to make a right because the road ahead was blocked with more traffic. Our driver usually goes this way if traffic is really bad. He decided against it and followed traffic straight ahead.
            As we continued down the road we notice crowds of people running around, most of them running away from the direction we were going, others just seemed to be running with out direction, but doing so just because every one else was running.
            We looked up ahead noticed that the cars in front of us were all turning around, going the wrong way in traffic. My first response was an insult the “stupid drivers”. What the heck were they doing?? Then we realized there was some kind of problem up ahead.  The entire road up ahead was deserted and we could hear gunshots going off in the background. We followed suit and turned around and that’s when people began throwing rocks and bottles in the air. You could hear them crashing into peoples cars.  It suddenly got really chaotic.
            People started getting out of their cars, which is the worst thing they could have done, because then everyone else was stuck. People were still running around, some running for safely, others running with goods they had stolen from the market during the commotion.
            I called my boss to let him know what was going on.  I tried to sound cool and collected, but I know there was a trace of panic in my voice.  We slowing inched through traffic, keeping our heads down and watching what was going on around us. Military vehicles flew by on our side towards the scene of action.  I felt like I was in a movie!!
            We finally got out of traffic and turned down an alternative road to get to downtown. When we arrived it was as if nothing was going on. It was the normal hustle and bustle of downtown.  
            When I got to my office I felt like I was coming back from war! My boss had called the assistant to the prime minister and asked what was going on.

So what happened??

            First you have to understand that there is no boarder control here.  So if the scum of the earth walks up to the boarder, they can walk right in to the country, no questions asked.
            So several Nigerians have been kidnapping and killing young children and selling their organs.  The Guinean government finally caught hold of the trend and tightened security on the roads. Some military officials pulled over a car which happened to have children in it! A fight broke out with led to a shoot out of sorts.

My boss ended the  explanation with,” Im sure it was crazy, but its not too serious. We thought it was going to be a Military vs Politician battle, which is way worse for the country. This will pass over in a couple of days. ” Then I received several txts from friends saying to stay away from Bandim Market because its not safe. HA! I was just in the middle of it!!
              Bandim market is the cities largest market in Bissau, so alot of people I know happened to be in that place at that time as well.  That night when I stopped by my neighbor’s house to say hi, everyone was laughing and sharing the stories of where they were at the time it all went down:

- My step dad ran into an office building and hid under a desk.

- Tia M’boby who unfortunately had diarrhea at the time, talked her way onto an ambulance and got a   
   ride all the way home from them.

- Another neighbor was running in the crowd, but was explaining her confusion because people were 
   running in all different directions, so she didn’t know which way was away from danger.

It was hilarious! But at the time it was far from it. I kept saying how crazy it was and everyone just shrugged it off. They told me, “ You get used to it!” You can get used to waking up early, you can even get used to spicy food, but this?! Impossible. 

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