Elbow greetings

We met at the MSH office yesterday, meeting new and old colleagues. We reviewed our program and then were on our way in northeastern direction to about 30 kilometers from the Ghanaian border. The trip took us nearly 5 hours over increasingly poor roads; at the very end the asphalt was in such poor shape that we drove mostly on the sides, skirting the biggest holes.

It is rainy season and the rain comes on suddenly and hard but doesn’t last long. We were driving a fairly new SUV and were comfortable inside. I managed to do a lot of knitting so that Faro’s cotton hoodie is hopeful done in time before the weather requires wool sweaters.

We met up with the rest of the team at our Abengourou hotel where we will hold the workshop. We are no longer greeting each other with the usual ‘bisous’ (kisses) three or four times, alternating cheeks. Now the greeting is a touching of elbows, where all skin is covered. Short-sleeved people need to put on something to cover the naked skin, something not quite respected by all; it is after all short sleeve weather here. At the entrances to hotles and offices you will now find large pails with soap and water. The simple act of hand washing may finally take root as a regular habit, something that has eluded health professionals for decades and is responsible, partially, for the rapid progression of Ebola across the region.salut-coude

Some miscommunication about dinner landed us in a ‘maquis’ the kind of small local restaurant you find all over this part of West Africa, where you eat outdoors and there is no elaborate menu, just local dishes. Our Ivorian colleagues insisted on us eating fried yams (ignames) as it is the season. This was, surprisingly, not on the menu and required that someone go out and get the yams. As a result we had to wait more than an hour for our meals to arrive – but it was worth the wait.

The mattresses in our hotel are hard like a plank, and so is the pillow – you cannot fold it. I can do my early morning yoga and exercises right on the mattress without making a dent. I was considering this morning to send someone to the market to get me a piece of softer foam but then again, I slept very well for 9 hours thanks to my nightly thimble of NyQuill.

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