Guinea-Bissau part 2
Bissau Travel Blog› entry 23 of 86 › view all entries
Only few can afford to be in the center of Bissau and the emptiness and silence of the ruined buldings is strange. The wide streets are full of potholes and pink bushes climb over walls. It is very tidy and clean, a pleasant illusion of organisation but I notice machineguns and soldiers are part of daily life again.
We stay in pensao central. It is run by an 84 year old cap verdean woman. In 1948 she visited her sister, fell in love, took over the pension and has run it ever since. Over time her pension has housed tourists, soldiers and many aid workers. Apparently little has changed since 1948. It has stood through wars and political instability but mrs matrons content and smiling maner gives the pension an air of complete safety. It will -en shallah- stand through everything this countries unstable future has on offer.
Behind pensao central is a network of quite sidestreets. The buildings are like the old pension, colonial one or two storrey buildings with balconies. Appart from the armed soldiers theres only an elderly man. He's rooting through a pile of rubbish but doesn't seem to be looking for anything. He's muttering, kicking it about like a child in the autum leaves -lost in his own world. Pigs, crows and vultures try to ignore his spectacle in their lunch hour. Above us more vultures are waiting on a rooftop. The house is like all others blackened from dirt, falling appart, only its flapping shutters breaking the silence.
Outside the 'tourist' center the city is swollen with people. In the dry season Bissau becomes a hope of food and money for farmers who's harvest has failed them.
This city can't cope with it's population. Already there is no running water and electricity is sparse -only for the few. Then cholera came, on top of malaria and and out of control army. Since a recent attempted coup the streets are lined with soldiers carrying heavy machine guns. There always in sight, keeping a surpressing, watchfull eye. There is a president but the governing powers are drugs, corruption and weapons.
The aid workers we speak too wonder where all the money goes; It never seems to make it past the government - or the people that run the drugs trade. For this reason they tell me, the german government has stopped to donate money to this country. What do you do with a place like this? The woman i speak too feels the NGO work she has been doing for nearly 2 years has bareley helped; The villagers seemed to expect handouts of food and cash like the previous aid project did, not strategies for agricultural development.
'It's so easy to make things worse' she says. However the village in which she works has neither proper health care nor education and no strategies for managing failing harvests. This leaves povertystricken villagers in vulnerable positions. Desperate for money and work and with families to feed many leave for the cities. Cities like bissau that can't even guarantee them a clean well to drink from.
Others know of their desperation as well and the villages are a good place to gather people for various purposes: : Before the aid missions came to this village, 'priests ' visited from time to time. In exchange for listening to their preachings the villagers would recieve food and money. No one knows or wants to say were they came from or what they taught. Even in these villages corruption is rife and can by anything....Amongst other things a child: Organised groups originally from senegal, travel to villages like this one,promissing the mothers education in the cities. The children end up begging in the cities , tins tied around their necks. There very persistent. In the evening the money is handed over to their organiser. We don't know where they sleep or how they get feed. But they look shabby: Their heads covered in scabs and dressed in rags. However it is understandable why a mother from a small village would believe promises of schooling and a brighter future and let her child go.
Meanwhile, the woman i speak too is tired. So much money disappears through her hands and idealism is easily crushed in a country were the government does as it pleases, seemingly not carring for it's people.
Here we split from our friend Julian. Peanutbutter and sardines will not be the same again...Whilst he is going to continue into west afrika our Afrika journey is coming to an end were leaving the mainland for cap verde. In the days up to our depature i tried to gather my thoughts of this part of the world.... I still havn't managed to do that yet but i was devastated to leave. It's so chaotic, yet the chaos rarely effects the average traveller. The people of these countries are the most relaxed people i have ever meet. inspite of everything falling appart around them they appear more at ease with their lives than their prosaced western counterparts...