More than a thousand feet

On Monday morning there was a further split among the three of us; two heading west to Guiglo, an all-day ride, and the other staying for a few more days before heading out to Niger, on another assignment.

I do dread the long drives, but with someone to talk with in the back it wasn’t that bad. The roads are good except for a long stretch with holes in the asphalt that require a slalom approach. This is fine as long as there are no cars coming from the opposite direction. I avoid looking ahead. I look sideways to my companion or down and read.

We had lunch in a ‘maquis’ (small semi-open air restaurants with limited menus). I had a piece of boiled oily fish in a bitter eggplant sauce, not so great but tying me over until the evening meal.

At hotel Tam-Tam in Guiglo we settled into our rooms, having to step over centipedes that were crawling all over the place. I learned that when they sense danger they roll up in a tight coil that feel and look like a button. I know this because I stepped on one such coil with my bare feet and thought I had lost a button. I had not paid attention to where I put my feet.

The omnipresence of these centipedes explained why the sides of the bedcover were flipped over onto the bed, preventing my bed from crawling with these 2 inch long creatures the size and shape of garden variety worms.

Other than that the room was comfortable, with an airco that worked as long as there was electricity, which was there about half the time, and a comfortable centipede-free bed.

We had a brief meeting with the team of facilitators of the leadership program – some people I had accompanied as they embarked on their new roles, nervous, and confused at times 15 months ago, and others that they themselves had trained or who had been coached by my Ivoirian colleagues. My terms of reference included a ‘refresher’ and then observing the trainings at various hospitals, given feedback, advice and suggestions where needed.

I asked for the men’s input (there is not much of a gender balance here) and realized that I had made some wrong assumptions about the timing and modalities of this training. I revamped the agenda accordingly that night, taking advantage of the electricity being on, and carefully stepping between the bathroom and my bed to avoid the centipedes that came in in droves from the hallway.

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