On being a bad blogger and holding on in Bissau
I started this blog with the real intention of keeping it up. And then life got in the way. But I'm back!!! Hopefully this time for good...
When I told my colleagues I was moving to Guinea Bissau, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Then someone piped up and said at least my Spanish would get good –wrong Guinea. Then I looked for info on the internet and came up empty.
Ten months in, things have gone remarkably well. Way beyond my wildest expectations. I’ve moved, made friends and have watched the array of available goods increase steadily. I went on little side trips to Gambia, Senegal, and am prepping for an upcoming to trip to Cape Verde. Within the country, I made it to the Bijagos islands, Bafata and Gabu. It’s been a good year.
Within the country itself, life got better and better. Electricity started running almost 24/7 and power cuts were limited to short breaks that never lasted more than 15 minutes — which given the electricity situation in Ghana or Nigeria, for example, is nothing short of miraculous. Our little grocery stores started importing more and more foreign goods: I got smoked salmon and stopped importing shower gel every time I traveled. In short, life was on the up and up.
To the naive and uninformed observer of Bissau-Guinean politics that I am, everything was going gang busters. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely clueless: it was pretty obvious that the political situation was far from ideal. But I never thought that things could break down as spectacularly as they did. Within the major ruling party, the president and prime minister were reported to be at odds with each other over a whole host of issues I see no point getting into. I spent six months studiously avoiding, until I started noticing everyone in Bissau listening to the radio stations. Turns out, it was Guinea Bissau’s parliament responding to the president’s ongoing threats to dismiss the prime minister.
To make a long story short, the country is now on its third prime minister in a year and has no ministers. And unlike Belgium, which has a robust civil service and series of non political appointees who are able to carry on despite political gridlock, Guinea Bissau's capacity challenges mean the situation here isn't quite as rosy. Public schools, for example, still aren't in session. That said, it isn't all gloom and doom, the people of Guinea Bissau are so lovely that at the end of the day, government or not, life has carried on, almost without a hitch. The streets are calm, there are no protests, or any signs of increased instability. To be quite honest, it sort of feels like a bunch of out of touch corrupt politicians fighting over the pie while the people watch helplessly. In the end, I remain ever hopeful: A luta continua, vitória é certa (the struggle continues, victory is certain)