Marvel

Monday morning we had a brief meeting with the project director who just returned from his vacation, about our adventures in western Cote d’Ivoire. I produced a slide show with the main observations, mostly good. I congratulated him and his team on what they have created in that part of Cote d’Ivoire that is often peripheral to where the action is.

My colleague R. treated us to a wonderful lunch: grilled fish, a paste made from plantains and Atieke, two local starches. The paste looks a bit like playdoh but tastes better. The sauce was made from the peanuts we bought on Sunday. It is a little spicy, like the Indonesian satay sauce, and very filling. Because of that it is usually eaten at home,  at lunch or breakfast time but not at night.

And then we took to the road again, this time closer by, to a town called Adzope, just 100 km north of Abidjan. It took us a small two hours. We arrived at the ‘luxe’ hotel where we launched the very first workshop of the leadership development program in May 2014. This is why am I am here: to observe our leadership development program that has been cascaded down. Now third and fourth generations of trainers are preparing the next generation to take the lessons even closer to the base. I kind of lost track of the many generations and branches that emerged from that first leadership development program all those years ago.

Once again, probably because of my white hair, I got the royal suite. It is called the ‘Suite Merveille’ (wonder or marvel suite), where I stayed last time as well. It has a bath with the same faucet arrangement I marveled (indeed) about when I was here last: the faucet doesn’t extend all the way inside the edge of the tub and thus, when the water is turned on, it splashes in all directions except into the tub. No one seems to have bothered to change the arrangement. This is Africa, improvisation in the face of adversity to the Nth degree, even when this adversity seems to me such an easy thing to change. “Ahh, c’est la vie!”

We are in the same heavily draped room with an enormous, un-moveable boardroom table that looks like a race track – an elongated oval with a space in the middle. It occupies a good part of the room. It sits about 35 to 40 people around. But we are 50. Away from the table is a second row, consisting of well-worn auditorium chairs with small writing tablets hidden in the arm rests.

I remember the panic when I saw this room three years ago. It is so completely contrary to what I then thought we needed (and could not do without). Now, 3 years later I don’t panic anymore. I know the process carries itself even if the space is unsuitable. It is no longer my problem (ah the joys of ageing!) and the facilitators can draw on their own experience to make the space work, as we did last time. They remembered, placing extra chairs on the inside of the oval, making small group work possible.

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