So this is it, my last day in Conakry. I’m all packed up, I’m ready to go. In a few short hours I’ll be leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again. I cannot truthfully say that I hate to go. I had some good times here in the last two years but there were hard times too, and I am looking forward to a nice long vacation and then starting my new life in Ireland. But still, even now with suitcases in hand, the reality of leaving Guinea for good still hasn’t quite sunk in. My house will no longer be my house; my office will no longer be my office; my boss will no longer be my boss. I know this, but it doesn’t feel real. I haven’t exactly fallen in love with this place, but it’s grown on me.
Despite the trash fires, the intermittent electricity, and the occasional weekend on lockdown – perhaps in part because of them – this has been a good tour for me. I got a lot of great experience and made some valuable mistakes without messing anything up too badly. I learned a lot about what it means to live the Foreign Service life, made some friendships that will last a lifetime, and saw up close a fascinating time in a part of the world most people never see or hear much about.
I arrived in the heady days following Guinea’s first successful presidential election. Spirits were high, investors were pouring in, and the country was preparing to take its fledgling democracy to the next step by holding legislative elections. Guineans were starting to imagine a new, brighter future. As I depart investors are pulling out, and the legislative elections – long promised and much debated – are still in the works. Many Guineans’ early optimism has acquired a tinge of bitterness and cynicism as this democracy project has turned out to be more challenging than originally expected. I very much hope that in the long run the time I had in Guinea will turn out to be just the awkward growing pains of what eventually turns into a vibrant, peaceful, profitable, democratic nation. After decades of repressive autocratic rule Guinea still has a chance to truly fulfill its promise. Even if I can’t be here to see it happen in person, I’ll be watching.
I have heard it said that Conakry is the kind of post where you cry when you get there and cry when you leave. I’m not usually the tearful type, but I will certainly bid Guinea a fond farewell. And now, on to the next adventure!