Well, so much for blogging from Guinea, everyone... Between the dance workshop, energy classes, solar panel install work, Bentouryah site assessment, and general research, we here at Nimba definitely had our hands full! But handling the curve balls Guinea throws us - like three weeks with zero grid power, generator outages at the molasses-slow cyber cafes - is just another part of our information-gathering efforts, and learning the ropes of getting things done in Guinea. As with many other previously unknown aspects of our work there, now we know what to expect when it comes to internet, and how to handle it (laptops outfitted with the West African version of Aircards - perfect!)
Anyway, now that we're back stateside, we want to fill everyone in on our first Guinea-based endeavors in a series of post-trip blog posts, replete with beautiful photos and the (somewhat) succinct thoroughness of hindsight. We look forward to your comments and hope you enjoy the read!
bagatai is beautiful
Welcome to Bagatai, home to Youssouf Koumbassa's Annual Dance & Drum Workshop, a year-round artist-in-residence compound, and our headquarters in Conakry. Situated in Nongo, a quiet fishing area on the outskirts of Conakry, the compound consists of two houses connected by a concrete-tiled courtyard/common space used for dance classes decorated with colorful painted murals depicting Youssouf, the Baga fertility goddess Nimba, Che Guevara, and Mama Africa; an apple tree above the cool clear well; three breezy balconies, two rooftops; an outdoor kitchen from which all our fresh, delicious, communally-eaten meals come; a couple dozen drums, one television, thirteen ceiling fans, five children, two monkeys, and one dog, Kobi.
Just like the scores of dancers, drummers, local elders, water-sharers, visitors, family and friends who frequent Bagatai - we love it there.
Communal living shapes life at Bagatai, which makes many of those who stay there feel something like family to the predominantly Koumbassa clan, who live there year-round and take wonderfully good care of their guests. Between the workshop last May 2011 and again this December, it was great to see the toddlers get taller and smarter, squeeze the babies who had been inside big round bellies back in the spring, help friends with the washing, be trusted to haul water from the well, and catch up on all the stories of anyone collectively known. One morning early on in the trip, in excited whispers as we took the first sips of our coffee, we were beckoned across the courtyard to a quiet room at the back of the family abode where Mamata, the lady of the house, lay with her brand-new baby boy, born a few hours earlier at the hospital. (Mamata, we might add, had last been seen just the day before, carrying buckets of water atop her head, gliding as gracefully as can be for someone 9 months pregnant to and fro across the compound - business as usual.) Annie had the pleasure of holding the little guy even before his eyes opened, and we would all attend his naming ceremony a few weeks later, when, with all the proper formalities of declarations, gifts of money, a small doundounba, and juice and cookies, he became Ousmane Koumbassa. Mazel Tov!
a bright idea
Before we got started on anything else, Fronsy with the help of Ibrahim, switched 25 of Bagatai's light bulbs to CFLs, thereby reducing the total electrical load by 1,000 watts and providing an energy and cost-effective alternative to regular light bulbs. The CFLs were purchased locally and each bulb has a lifespan of approximately 15,000 hours, which is 15 times longer than a regular incandescent bulb.
The energy savings of the CFLs had immediate benefits for the solar panels, and their cost effectiveness will have long term savings. The super-bright light of the CFLs is perfect for illuminating once-dark stairwells and common areas for both safety and security. For this and more bright ideas from Bagatai, stay tuned!