Student rising

Our new hotel has no restaurant yet. That part of the complex is still under construction. One can have breakfast in a temporary arrangement that consists of a canvas canopy in the middle of the construction site. The table is set with plastic plates and cups for the 5 of us and a few other guests. Right now the finished part of the hotel is where we sleep. There is no reception, only rooms.

We prefered eating elsewhere and went to a local patisserie where we spotted the little Nespresso machine, for which there was electricity and capsules, we were in luck. An espresso cost the same as a stick with powdered Nescafe: 1 dollar each. For two dollars I had an espresso, a half baguette, straight from the oven and a tasty omelet.

Everything in this new town has been better than in the previous one: no centipedes, warm water (that is if you take a shower at 5:30 AM), and electricity (after a while). I now have a cold beer waiting in my private refrigerator for when I get back to the hotel tonight.

Today we are sitting in a tiny room with two rows of chairs facing each other, it looked a bit like contestants facing each other.  Later it turned out the cleaner had arranged the room like that and my colleagues the facilitators, for reasons unknown, did not change the set up.

Outside the conference room, cleaning supplies piled up high give the impression that hygiene is important – a good thing in a hospital. However, our colleagues tell us these supplies have been sitting there for a while, which makes me wonder whether hygiene is a theoretical rather than a practical issue.

A loud boom outside shakes me, activating reflexes from our Lebanon and Afghanistan days. My Ivorian colleagues tell me this is the sound of teargas. I have never been close to teargas and so I don’t recognize the sound. For me a boom is an explosion. We learned earlier that the students are holding a demonstration; we saw them streaming to a central point along the wide sandy paths that serve as secondary roads. Our driver turned into another sandy path strewn with the ubiquitous blue plastic bags to avoid the area where the conflagration seemed to be concentrated.

I learned later that the students are protesting the cancellation of their February vacation. A strike earlier this year of the teachers set them back by 3 weeks. The school administration decided it should cancel the vacation to catch up. Two students were arrested. Today’s demonstration is calling for the release of those two. This is how demonstrations can be self-generating and the administrative forces better pay attention to this, otherwise it will continue to disrupt the lives of many people, including the regional director whose office is right in the center of the demonstration, so that we could not make our courtesy visit.  That part of the town is now off limits and the police is in full riot gear.

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