Posts Tagged 'Ivory Coast'

Sixty-ish

The last afternoon in Abidjan I checked out a new ‘residence,’ because all the previous places we stayed were not good value for money. But this one was. I had a ‘studio americain’  which was more than good value for money. The place is near the office. There is an American dinner (the O’burger) and a patisserie around the corner. It also has things I never use such as a swimming pool, workout room. The best feature is the terrace on the 7th floor from where one can observe traffic jams in all directions, while sipping a dark rum or a ‘sex on the beach’ cocktail, underneath an artificial cherry tree which has blossoms that light up once the sun goes down (it does require electricity).

I finished my reports and packed up for our return trip to Paris first. The driver had called an hour before our agreed upon departure time that he was already waiting for us below. What he did not say is that he was waiting for us at the Ibis hotel that is on the other side of town. This we discovered when we were ready to go and he was not there. The mix up had us arrive at the airport a little later than we had planned, just about exactly the same time that all the other 1000 passengers arrived to fly to points north and east.

The plane was full again with babies; maybe they were the same babies as on the way out. Some slept, some cried and some did a bit of both. We left late which made for a mad dash to catch my flight to Amsterdam, requiring endless long walkways, a shuttle, check points and other obstacles.

I did not want to miss the flight since I had paid 140 Euro for a B-class upgrade, seduced by the words “offre spécial.” I thought it was special indeed; imagine that, an upgrade from Abidjan to Amsterdam for only 140 Euro! It was early in the morning, my brain not fully awake and my ignoring my intuition saying “too good to be true!”

It was of course. The upgrade I had just purchased was only for the 50 minute flight to Amsterdam. I got to the gate just when it was closing, the last person on board. I collapsed in my chair, a regular economy seat but with a guaranteed empty seat between me and the person at the window. The economy row in back of me also had only two people with one empty seat between them. And so there was nothing else to do then to enjoy my 140 Euro breakfast: a sliver of salmon, two pieces of (nice) cheese, a croissant with “fresh Brittany butter” and raspberry jam in its own little jar, a few spoonful’s of something in between yogurt and crème fraiche and a cup of coffee. I enjoyed every little bite and licked my fingers to not miss anything of my most expensive breakfast ever (the Meridien hotel in Dubai comes in second with a 75 dollar breakfast but it had a lot more going for it).

And then I was in Holland again. I took the train to my brother’s house, just in time to see him spent his last two days as someone who can still say he is in his sixties.

Le kilo

The 500-page French-language instruction manual for our leadership program is called ‘le kilo’ here in Cote d’Ivoire. It was a comment I believe I made three years ago when we started and I apologized for the hefty tome that we handed out to the would-be facilitators. We laughed about it. Now it has become simply a reference to the instruction guide; people use it with a straight face, no longer a joke, just a word for a thing. I had to laugh when, during the practicum, someone said, they didn’t use their ‘kilo.’ An outsider would not  understand what this referred  to.  One of the slogans in my current coaching course is ‘Words mean worlds.’ Indeed.

We had a full day of practicum sessions yesterday. Because the group is so large we have split in two. I am observing one region in one room and my counterpart is observing the other region in the room with the race track table.

The two regions are represented by, respectively, 8 and 6 district teams. The plan is that these district representatives, who are themselves participants in regional leadership training that is far advanced, take the program one level down. After this training each district team will conduct the leadership development program in their districts, much like the ones we observed last week in western Cote d’Ivoire.

The practice sessions I observed took place in a small room with four air conditioners that did not work very well. It was hot and humid, and in the afternoon, when the hot sun tried to get through the curtains and everyone was busy digesting a heavy lunch, the teams struggled. But this is the reality they will be operating in when they go back: seeing the participants in the program they will lead after lunch in rooms that won’t be as fancy as this one, which by the way is not all that fancy.

Ride and rest

After another long day of riding in a car we arrived at Abidjan at the end of Saturday afternoon. I finished one book and two electronic jigsaw puzzle which helped pass the time. The landscape consist mostly of green foliage, a 1000 shades of green and the grey ribbon of the road, interrupted here and there by dusty villages and people carrying stuff or waiting for something. It’s kind of boring if you have seen it before. What killed the boredom was a stop in a cocoa plantation, where the farmer hid from us for a bit before he dared come out. Two white women are not a common appearance between the leafy cocoa trees.

For lunch we stopped again in Yamoussoukro. Our Ivorian colleagues tried hard to get us the peanut dish that B, my co-traveler from the office in Medford, likes so much. Apparently it is a dish that is eaten at home and not commonly in a restaurant.

We had transferred our reservation from the guesthouse of our first night here to a hotel, preferring a place with a restaurant and, in particular, a salad bar. The fancy hotels here aren’t actually all that fancy, but it would be for two nights. We ended up in the Ibis which is getting a one star review from me on trip advisor as does certainly not provide the value one would expect of a 130-dollars-a-night lodging.

  1. went out for dinner and karaoke and dancing with a colleague who hails from the country where she was, only very recently, a Peace Corps Volunteer. I had dinner at the hotel and went to bed. Sometimes the age differences are a little too obvious.

On Sunday we each went off in different directions. B. accompanied a colleague to church while I slept in and worked. She then went off to buy clothes for a tailoring project while I went off with my ‘sister’ R. to shop for beer and wine for our next hotel stay. We have stayed there before and we know the restaurant is pretty useless there. We would eat juicy ripe mangoes and drink local beer for dinner each night as the restaurant was pretty useless with a waitress not all that interested in serving anyone.

We both had home-made lunched and napped at the hotel before meeting up to review the progress of my report to the project director. He has just returned from vacation and we will see him only briefly before heading out to a small town (Adzope) not too far from Abidjan. When the week is over we will go straight to the airport to catch our flight to Paris, unless the AF strike that is being prepared reaches into Africa.

Poolside

We arrived late in the evening at our hotel. The transit through the fairly modern airport in Abidjan was swift for those of us in the front rows of economy, and very slow for our one colleague sitting at the very back of the plane. The suitcases came in slowly and in the end we were all ready to go at the same time.

We arrived in the pouring rain – a good omen for people who depend on rain for their survival, annoying for those of us who do not. We are lodged at a small guesthouse, for our one night in Abidjan. I was given a room that required going down multiple steps, slippery from the rain. These things are now a source of worry for me.

My room was a duplex poolside. Duplex meant that I had to take some very steep stairs to my bed. I heavy iron pull-out gate like in old-fashioned elevators. It is supposed to protect me from intruders. I used it but then noticed the large bathroom window right next to it had, as only protection a mosquito screen. There was also a placard with instruction for what to do in case of a terrorist attack, with several options: (1) escape, (2) hide under the couch (there was no couch in the tiny apartment), (3) turn off the sound on your cellphone, (4) go to the roof and (5) hope for the best.

I didn’t think our small guesthouse would be a target. The placards are probably required now, after a tourist hotel in Grand-Bassam, was attacked a while ago.

I could look down at the pool or straight ahead, over the wall, at a car cemetery which looked festive because of the bright colors of the car wrecks.

History

There were five of us (from MSH) on the Air France flight to Paris. With two colleagues I went on to Cote d’Ivoire, another veered off to Burundi and the fifth one to Liberia.

All flights were full. The one to Cote d’Ivoire, a day flight, was full of young toddlers who did not want to go to sleep and fought the restraints imposed on them. As a result no one was happy, except my neighbor who watched a French movie (Dîner des cons) that made him laugh out loud a lot.

I tried to block the sounds of whining and crying by reading or listening to an audiobook. As a parallel reader I am switching back and forth between a dozen or more books, but the ones that have most of my attention lately are Elena Ferrante’s books (audio) on growing up poor in Naples.

The other book is a recently released historical novel called ‘The House on Lobster Cove,’ by Jane Goodrich. It is about the man and the house he built (no longer there) across our cove. It is the place where Axel’s grandparents (he the gardener, she a servant) met.  The book traces the life of George Nixon Black […] whose life spans a period of time in the US where nearly everything changed: from before the Civil War until well into the 20th century. The book is about the pre-Civil war area in Maine, where the bigotry we see now under our new Trump regime is a repeat of similar sentiments, then focused on the new immigrants and their religion. Moslems now, Catholics then; people from Central America now, Italians and Irish then. The Catholic church in Elsworth Maine was burned and the priest tarred and featured and driven out of town. As they say, history has a tendency to repeat itself. But history it seems is not something our new regime is familiar with. So we repeat.


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