Candlelight Showers And The Kankan House

Candlelight Showers And The Kankan House

Back in the early “aughts ,” Buds and I went to visit his youngest brother Tony, who was living in Gbérédou-Baranama in Guinea, West Africa. Tony was heading to medical school after this stint in the Peace Corp, so he would bicycle around, vaccinating folks, working in the medical clinic nearby, and spending time with his friends in the village.

It was such a life-changing opportunity for him we felt it was important to go to try and understand what he was experiencing. Buddie’s parents spent time in the Peace Corp back before they had children, consequently having a better understanding of Tony’s adventures, but they were excited to see their youngest son in this new setting, so we all went together.

It was the toughest trip I’ve ever been on from an “easy life-lived” perspective, and the one I am most grateful for. It altered my world view in so many ways, on so many things.

This post isn’t really about that trip, but you do need some background to understand where I’m headed with my point and these memories.

We flew into Conakry and during the trip had a couple days in Gbérédou-Baranama. (The timeline of our travels is lost in the memory of my mind, so specifics not included.)

Tony did a fantastic job using the language skills he worked hard to earn in the months he’d been in Guinea. It was like he was leading 4 children around, albeit very supportive, mostly compliant children.

We did stay in a couple hotels on the trip. Buds and I had our own room in at least one of the hotels.

In the hotel pictured below, we all stayed in one room together, and Buds and I slept in a twin bed tucked in an alcove under the window in our room. I’m sitting on our bed to take the picture. That gives you an idea of the size of the space.

We (and the Peace Corp volunteers in the area) were able to stay at the Peace Corp house in Kankan for part of the trip as well. The house was beautiful and simple and clean. For sleeping there was a bunkroom.

Buds and I slept in that top bunk. You can see our twin sheet we must have carted along with us under Buds, and I rolled up a towel to stick inside our pillow case because there weren’t any pillows.

I have no idea what Buds did for a pillow.

I was a little cranky on parts of this trip, (Understatement!) so I expect I figured he could solve his own dang pillow problem.

In contrast to the Kankan house and its relative luxury with running water and a flush toilet, staying in Tony’s village of Gbérédou-Baranama was an adventure and amazing and exhausting, all rolled into one.

Sleeping without mosquito netting was not an option, and sleeping on the ground wasn’t really an option. (Tony had a snake in his hut at least once.) So though Buds and I had brought an air mattress with us, we put that on top of Tony’s double bed in his hut and that’s where the three of us slept, safely tucked under the mosquito netting, falling asleep to thoughts of snakes.

That memory always makes me laugh because when we talked about that particular memory with some friends many years later, the wife was aghast that we had done that, and the husband reassured her by saying, “Honey, it’s fine. I’m sure Buds slept in the middle.”

It was so funny to me that out of everything we shared about this trip, that was the part they got wrapped around.

The picture is us having a meal in Tony’s hut.

His friends in the village took such loving care of us. They provided food (when there wasn’t really enough for them.) They heated water for our bucket bathing. They were kind and friendly, and even hosted a party for us on the last night.

This is an example of the type of home Tony lived in. It was a main building and a small “bathroom” pit toilet in a round building out back.

After spending a few days there, we headed back to the Kankan house for some more adventures, and my joy and gratitude at being able to take a shower was heartfelt.

The electricity was off in the house and there was no hot water.

It mattered not at all.

The bathroom was a small room off the bunk room pictured above with a shower head in the ceiling which ran into a drain in the floor. The toilet and sink were right next to you, no shower curtain or divider.

There was a candle on the back of the toilet, and the showers needed to be quick to be mindful of water usage, but it was the best shower I have ever had in my life.

The relief of having a moment alone after hours and days of being close together and tired and hungry.

The peace and quiet of the darkness broken only by the light of a candle.

The gratitude for the water falling from overhead.

It was profound.

There were so many amazing, difficult, valuable experiences on the Guinea trip.

That Buds put up with me and stayed married to me is a testament to his good nature and pure soul.

Here’s Buds trying out blacksmithing from Tony’s best friend in the village, Karinkan, a master blacksmith.

This is Tony with Karinkan.

Those are the “lifts” that the car was driven up on when we had car trouble on the drive to Bamako, Mali. (Our flight home was out of Mali.)

This was me sitting in the car either right after, or shortly before, having a melt-down.

This was the same car ride where we paid extra to buy all the seats in the car (You paid by the seat for the long car ride.), and when the driver’s brother tried to climb in with us to ride along, we said, “nope.” So the driver jerked a thumb at the luggage rack on the top of the car and told his brother, “Climb up.”

The brother decided he wasn’t making the drive that day.

The motley crew.

Notice Buds’ t-shirt, Gina? Must have been a Todd cast-off.

Ever since that trip, when Buds and I have built a shower, we always put in a candle shelf.

This was the shower being built in the big yellow house in Iowa. This shower had two candle shelves, one on each end.

You can see the other candle shelf behind Buds and Baby #3.

We have a candle shelf in our shower now, but sometimes I set the candle on the sink to remind me of the precious peace and soul-soothing comfort of that Kankan shower from long ago.

I hope you have some touchstone in your life that makes you deeply grateful. I wouldn’t trade this one for anything.