- My house: For starters, it’s a HOUSE, and not a tiny studio apartment. It’s a lot of space for just me and the Jabberwock but it still feels cozy. My solarium is the envy of the neighborhood and I have a library. I’ve always wanted one, and it makes me so happy. The granite countertops are nice too.
- My job: Conakry is a great place to be a first-tour reporting officer because you get to do all kinds of things you’d never do in a bigger post. The econ portfolio is my baby and I can pretty much decide how I spend my time and where to focus my energy. Autonomy is awesome.
- The embassy community: Living in Conakry has its challenges, but the people here are all about rolling with the punches, helping each other through the rough patches, and facing each day as an adventure. TDYers say they’ve never felt so welcome anywhere as they are in Conakry, because it’s a small post and every new face is noted and appreciated.
- Household help: I don’t wash dishes. I don’t do laundry. I don’t clean or iron or deal with my dry cleaning or empty the litter box. This is deeply satisfying.
- $$$$: 30 percent hardship pay goes a long way. I make more money than I ever imagined I would at this point in my career and I have almost no expenses. I’m maxing out my 401(k), burning through my student debt, piling up savings, and still have cash left over for fun trips and fancy electronics.
- The weather: It gets a little muggy sometimes, I must admit, and two 6-month seasons can get a bit monotonous. But it never gets blazing hot and never gets cold, and even in the rainy season you can usually find some sunshine for pool time. The thunderstorms are fun too.
- The fruit: Mangoes. Pineapples. Coconuts. Papayas. Soursops. Avocados. All amazing.
- The people: Guineans are relaxed, friendly, low-key people who love America and Americans.
- The people-watching: I’ve been here a year and I can’t stop looking at Conakry. It’s so bustling and colorful and full of things I’ve never seen before, like women carrying antique sewing machines on their heads and peacocks for sale on the side of the road. I should take more pictures.
- DPO: The shopping here is not so great, but I can have almost anything I want shipped to me from the States for little to nothing, so who cares?
- Terrible, terrible internet: It is SO FRUSTRATING to try to live a 2010s life on a 1990s internet connection.You can’t even imagine it until you’ve tried.
- Driving: I can drive here just fine, but I don’t like it. I’ve had a couple of close calls and I’m still terrified of accidentally killing a small Guinean child every time I drive at night. And the traffic can be such a pain it hardly seems worth going places sometimes.
- Lousy travel options: Even a quick flight to a neighboring country is ridiculously expensive, available only in limited schedules, and inconvenient to book. The only land option for a weekend trip is Freetown. Traveling around within Guinea wears you down fast, and there’s not that much to see anyway.
- The food: I’m not a huge fan of the local cuisine – a lot of it is oily and either bland or mouth-on-fire, nothing in between. There are a couple of okay restaurants in town but nothing that makes my heart sing. My desire to cook is taking a hit with the limited availability of some of my favorite ingredients.
- Getting fat: I drive to work and sit at the office all day, 10 feet away from the snacks the DCM brings in every day. With few palatable workout options it’s easy to pick up a few extra pounds and tough to get rid of them once you do.
- Boredom: Conakry has no movie theaters, no bowling alleys, no parks, a few kind of okay bars and clubs, very few concerts or performances or exhibitions. There’s just not a lot to DO.
- Inconvenience: All kinds of normal everyday tasks seem so much harder here – booking a plane ticket, getting your car fixed, going shopping. The lack of street signs and the cash-only economy have a lot to do with this.
- Guilt: The poverty in Conakry is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and while people mostly seem to go about their lives pretty cheerfully I see plenty of heartbreaking things, things I cannot change. So I just feel guilty instead.
- Power cuts: Mostly these are not that big a deal thanks to our handy dandy backup generators, but even short ones can be exasperating if poorly timed.
- Socializing in French: Neither my French nor my cocktail chatter is very good, so trying to combine the two is frustrating and exhausting, and definitely not a recipe for a fun relaxing evening.
If you haven’t noticed, I really had to dig deep to find 10 bad things, which is saying a lot considering the reputation Conakry has within the FS. New suggested tourism slogan – “Conakry: Not Nearly as Bad as You’ve Probably Heard.” Catchy, right?