Friday, January 2, 2009

Another Christmas & New Year in West Africa

Christmas was great; started on 23rd for me with a great party at the centre with Noel celebrations. The kids were super excited as Pere Noel (in the form of Etienne, one of the guys in the Abidjan office) was coming and I had promised to spend the night at the centre with the kids. I was presented to all and sundry; sat between the Mayor of Bassam and the King of Old Bassam whilst trying to butter up the representatives of the 43eme regiment from France to bring out more stuff to the orphanage for me!!!

Decided to head down to Assouinde on 24th to see Ivorian & Burkinabe friends there. The journey started well; got a taxi to Samo from the Grand Bassam gare routiere. However as I got out and held the door open with my leg (as you do with old bangers!) and got a rusty nail in the side of my leg! Blood streaming out I sat on the side of the road with my bits of a first aid and sewing kits putting myself back together! Lots of expats and Lebanese drove past in flash cars and when I finally stood up I had an offer of a lift from two Ivorian guys - wish I hadnt turned it down - it took another hour to get the taxi filled before we were on the move!

The guys in Assouinde were disappointed Dani wasnt with me, even little Ama now known as 'Princesse' Ama asked where she was! But they were all as kind as ever, spent 4 great days at the beach, listening to an endless collection of reggae, drinking too many Flags, getting meals from strange men who were eating at the maquis and lots of attention from Ama who I met last year who's now 5 and grown!! Spent just about every night at Dani's favourite nightclub, Blue Marin!!!

I headed off rather sadly for Ayame, a town that sits on the edge of a lake which has the second largest dam in CI and produces a lot of electricity. Got a taxi in Samo from Assouinde where a lady told me I have feet like Mme Gbago (Presidents wife) - it was meant as a compliment but Im dying to find a photo of her feet!!! I had a good laugh over that one!

In Ayame I got out of the taxi + pounced on by the deputy mayor who took me to an auberge for 4000CFA and completely under his wing with a group of friends of his. Lovely spot but it was soo hot, everyone was complaining and Ayame was no exception!!! They would not let me leave before New Years Eve, even rang the Mayor in Abidjan to tell him of my arrival. The deputy Mayor's wife who became a good friend; cooked meals daily for me and refused payment - another prime example of Ivorian attitude!

On New Years Eve, he and I went to Aboisso for me to use the internet and send an email and for him to do some banking! We were driven there by a mad elderly Italian nun, Sister Ana who was 80-odd apparently, lived in CI for 35yrs and would rival any Formula 1 rally driver, overtaking on blind bends with the horn pressed hard! I said my prayers that morning for the first time in a very long time!

New Years started around lunchtime New Years Eve and finished sometime around 10pm New Years day, I did manage to get some sleep; non-stop music, food, dancing ... it was all a bit mad.

New Years Day I was invited to the Mayors house for a champagne breakfast ... had an interesting chat with him about people I know in Cote d'Ivoire!!! He took me off to meet the village elders as on 31st the village chief had died, weird being sat next to the mayor on the best chairs the elders could provide us, discussing the arrangements for the chief's burial; very sad time ... women were crying endlessly ...

I finally left Ayame in a minibus to go the 66km up to Binouan, the first 15km was tarred then it turned into piste, lots of snakes around ... then horror of horrors, a truck just like the one I got in
Guinea had just overturned in front of us .. held us up a bit whilst they arranged a winch around a tree to pull it upright again, luckily the driver wasn't hurt! Made my heart pound a little!!!

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