Impressions of Guinea Bissau.
The experience in itself contained a very wide range of feelings. Spanning nine months of travelling and meeting new people. This was amidst varying cultures and the experience wholly translated to me as: intense. I slow-travelled, staying forty days. Another forty days in two countries, and then stayed six months at the project in a third country. The benefit of this was that I really got to get to know the people living in these places. I got invited to four weddings. Families and diverse and interesting people shared meals with me. I valued getting to know neighbours, work colleagues, shopkeepers. Building regular business relationships, and being able to see the on-goings, behind the scenes, when the magic of the fleeting tourist, passing through, was gone.
Meeting the Guinea Bissau locals
Sitting long hours with locals in the heat of the dry season at the sides of roads watching life go by has given me the chance to deepen my understanding of what, how, and why they think what they do; what objectives and goals they have regarding education; why religion plays such an important role in their daily lives; customs, traditions, humour, and or nutrition revealed aspects that I would have never contemplated otherwise.
My preconception of what Africa might have been and how developed it has become. It has materialised in the form of people trying to breach a big time gap. People blending technology into their lives, accessing information about the contemporary world. They create a peculiar contrast with endemic, rooted customs and traditions.
Poverty is a term that needs periodical revisions. The poor people in Africa, specifically: Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, and Morocco, today, are at a very different stage than that of twenty years ago. Their problems and needs are very different. It used to be access to water, now it is the maintenance of water pumps.
How Africa has changed
Previously it was about food, now it is a matter of proper nutritional variety. It used to be mortal diseases, now it is a question of how to keep specific more controlled diseases at bay. This aside, it was worthwhile noting that education has stepped up its game. From the basic conception of the educational institution to a more industrial, sometimes, sadly, still lambasting model. The industrial model has the benefit of grouping big numbers of students. Impersonal focus is making it less effective in my opinion. Its method of learning by memory and repetition, but, at least, it gives a “temporary” educational solution to these current healthier growing populations.
But these impressions just scratch at the surface of the situation. There are many more aspects to consider in these developing countries. Such as short life expectancy, the social psychology, violence, basic needs, shortage of food. How social backgrounds influence youth and economic settings and projection. The need of work force in the fields as opposed to getting an education. But, in spite of not going into further depths here it paints the big picture of Africa’s present state.
There is hope for the future
The mesh of technology and customs, traditions, and beliefs influence the population and its socio-political dynamics. This includes the military, and media; without forgetting, of course, the impact of dogmatic creeds that, ideally, will shift State Power inherited from the typically previous more authoritative Military Power over to a Diffused Power. That power, in turn, would result to form the seemingly more western, spontaneous, unconscious, and Ideological Power.
However, one of the key elements that keeps my hopes up is that Guinea Bissau, in particular, is in a sweet spot, at the initial stages of development. Like an, almost, blank page, it is a very young country, forty years old, that has everything yet to be done, but, with the advantageous situation of being able to hook onto a brimming technological phase in history. A clear vantage point where communication and affordable access to information might provide enough insight to design a future in a more syncretic, synergistic, environmentally friendly manner than ever before. Even if it resonates as too Utopian, African developing countries do stand at the gates of starting properly from anew.
I have returned to the surplussed western economy with hopes up for developing countries. The possibilities for growth are waiting to be harnessed by creative people with visions of better tomorrows where many of our befallen wrongs can and must be corrected for us today and the ones to come tomorrow.
Read how another one of our volunteers fell in love with Africa.