Several years ago after finishing three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal, West Africa, my best friend and I purchased two used Peace Corps motorcycles and spent the next three months traveling through West Africa. Beginning in Senegal, we passed through Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Cost, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali. Needless to say, it was a challenging and memorable event. In future posts, I plan on recounting some of the more memorable stories, however more than what I saw and did, it people that we saw and met on the way that made the most lasting impression.
One of the experiences that sticks with me was my trip to Kindia, Guinea. I had split for a few days from my traveling companion to visit a large, national agricultural research facility. Upon on arriving, I somehow managed to convince the director to have someone take me on a tour . It was an impressive facility and my guide and I rode around for the better part of several hours on our motorcycles around the fields and orchards. At the end of my tour, we returned to the headquarter building , I thanked my guide and said goodbye. As I walked outside to my motorcycle, I realized I really did not have much of a plan at this point and had nowhere to stay. Flexibility was the name of the game on our trip and the only map that we had was of West Africa and there was nothing on the local scale that would have been of some use. Neither did I have any books to suggest where I go could go or stay.
To be honest, at that very moment, I was more than a little discouraged. I was tired and had been battling some stomach illness for a week or so. It was getting late and I just did not have the energy to start looking for someone to stay. If I had been near a village, I would not have hesitated to ask to stay with one of the local villagers, but this was a town and the same rules of hospitality were probably not going to help me here – at least so I thought.
At that very moment, one of the researchers that worked at the facility came out of the building on his way home for the evening. Seeing me there, he engaged me in conversation and, before you knew it, I was following him home. I ended up spending the next two nights at is house. But his hospitality went beyond that. He showed me around the area and his wife cooked up some fabulous Guinean meals. All of this for a stranger, and, perhaps more surprisingly, a foreigner. It is a debt that I can never really repay but will certainly never forget.