Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rain, Lady Snakes & Accidents

I was laughing when I heard that most of Europe was under the white stuff. My neighbour sent me pictures of my car under a ton of the stuff, the guys in the office were amazed by it but I wasn't looking forward to returning to that!!! However we had had strange weather patterns in Cote d'Ivoire also, there was a fair bit more rain than there should be during this season!!!

I wasn't looking forward to returning because to be quite honest I didn't feel like I'd been on holiday. I'd not even travelled but that might be due to a) waking up thinking of the accident in Burkina daily and b) having too many friends here who demand that I spend a day or so with them!!!

As for the accident, Francis the gendarme from Bobo was in touch with me a lot. He was great the night of the accident and is now following the incident up. The three Togolais are in prison sadly we also saw the news that the Togo football team were ambushed in Cabinda, northern Angola where the coach was killed on the way to the CAN, African football Cup. Francis is head of the child protection unit for the gendarmerie in Bobo and wants me to set up something in Bobo to help the street kids there (there's only one of me I can't manage every project - but he seems to think I can!).

So, I was in Abidjan for 10days now except for a weekend back at my US/Ivorian friends in Bassam. I went to see the children at the centre and we set up a world map I had bought them with all their friends and sponsors names on it! Saturday night I went out with the same crowd and the centre manager joined us chatting about the children. Suddenly a girl started running and screaming; just behind my chair in the sand was a long thin snake!!! The guys jumped around with sticks killing it whilst others were saying not to kill it; its a lady snake and only comes out when there are a lot of ladies around - yeah right, pull the other one!!! Anyway I sat tight in my chair not too worried about it laughing at them all!!!

On the Sunday I left Bassam to return to Abidjan via Marcelline's new 'home'; she's the girl that was found on the beach 5 january 2009 after 3 years there aged 12/13 when she was found; we have a really close relationship now. She had forgotten her towel and sponge so I offered to go via Koumassi where some 'sisters' are looking after her and quite a few other girls who had been found on the street. It was very impressive, large modern buildings and the children are all schooled on site. I was also keen to go as the centre manager wanted me to talk to her about her behaviour last week when she threatened one of the sisters with a machete!!! We had a long chat about it whilst it poured with rain, she understood I wasn't happy with her behaviour and seemed to take it all on board. She escorted me to the gate with an umbrella, when I asked what she had to do for the future she said 'Pray for you Maman' which was funny but not the answer I was hoping to hear!

I came out of the 'village' where she's studying to find a woro-woro (shared taxi), it was now down to a drizzle. I found that the ladies coming out of church at the village had managed to get any available woro-woro's and I was looking up and down the road as the heavens opened again with lots of lightning! 'Suddenly a taxi came and I decided to splash out and pay the 2.70euro for the 45min ride back to my 'home from home' rather than get 2 woro-woro's for 75c! Initially the driver wasnt happy with my price so as usual I told him to go and I'd find another. The rain got harder and the taxi reversed back up the street and I was told to hop in for the price I had given!

We met several accidents in the streets of Koumassi and managed to get onto the autoroute that would take me across Abidjan. Once on the other side of the lagoon the rain got harder again and how my driver managed to see anything I dont know, we went through one large puddle after another then finally we hit a big one at speed. The driver lost control and we went sideways into a 4x4 as the engine packed up. So I found myself in lane 3 of a 4 lane autoroute in knee deep water with a vehicle that wasnt going anywhere, luckily neither the driver or I had a scratch! Suddenly I heard someone calling to me and a guy in another 4x4 was offering me a lift, typical Ivorians always hospitable, he was going in completely the opposite direction but was prepared to take me home sopping wet in his lovely clean car!!!

I'd made friends with my neighbour in the compound, the Libyan diplomat I was invited round one afternoon to meet his friend, another diplomat from the Embassy!!! Spent an interesting 30m chatting to the pair of them, neighbour in his underpants telling me how much he loves Abidjan & vodka whilst the maid was cleaning and looking for a mouse - all quite bizarre!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Two New Years!

I left Ayame for Assouinde beaches again much to everyone's disgust in Ayame! They wanted me to spend New Years with them but I'd promised the gang in Assouinde that I'd return, plus I spent New Years in Ayame last year!

So New Years was a fairly quiet affair till the early hours. Stupidly Mino a Lebanese/Spanish friend and I got put to work by Arsene to sell tickets to his party on the beach in front of his hotel .. So the two of us celebrated on our own at a little table prior to the entrance until 3am getting the staff to bring us drinks whilst we sold tickets to juvenile Lebanese kids. These kids were completely drunk and tearing up and down through the coconut trees on quads and their parents vehicles, one Mercedes and a 4x4 met with coconut trees on separate incidents that night and were written off!!!

Mino was sharing a room at Jardin D'Eden, Arsene's hotel, with another couple and the DJ who didn't turn up till after midnight. I was heading back to my pailotte (beach shack) to sleep to then discover that a whole family had managed to get in and were squatting in it! I ended up on a beach lounger on the shore watching the remains of the fires along the shore that light up the coast of the Cote d'Ivoire from Ghana to Liberia. We had three such bonfires in front of the hotel & my beach shack - I watched the sun come up over the Atlantic, a lovely start to the New Year. Then went for a dip before claiming my beach shack again for an hours sleep only to be disturbed by the guardian waking me wanting to do some work on it!!!

I headed back to Ayame on 2nd January for the second party, the Mayor's wife is from a village 8km away and has a successful maquis (bar) there. Originally I didnt know exactly which village it was in and Marcel was offering me a lift there on the back of a scooter at 10pm. From my past experience of night time driving being on the back of a scooter without a helmet didnt exactly go down well with me ... So I scoured Ayame (population of 14,000- 60% unemployment) for a vehicle, I eventually discovered Marcel's older brother had returned from his taxi duties with a minibus so begged him to drive me there.

On arrival I discovered that I'd been put next to the mayor as the token 'blanche' on his table next to a few others who I'd met at the Christmas reception and a few had come from Abidjan!. The mayor made me dance which of course went down too well and I had trouble getting back to my table being held hostage on the dance floor for 15mins or so!!! I fell asleep very shortly afterwards in a comfortable white plastic chair till Philippe drove me back to Ayame with his wife!

I left the next day with Philippe and his wife for Abidjan and got back to my friends house where the maids aunt, who works next door, tutted about my arrival as the house hadn't been cleaned since I'd left. She soon had her niece show up who I gave a ton of dirty laundry to do as well!!! Debra had malaria over Xmas/new year apparently - Im not so sure, after lots of exchanges about her lovely new hair do!!!

So I spent some time working, using my friends office in Angre, being looked after by the guys there and his business partner's wife who is their administrator. Interestingly I found that my neighbour in the compound is a Libyan diplomat and having postponed twice I went for dinner with him, I was shocked by the with all the wine & beer he'd bought!

Two days later I was invited by my BBC friend and his wife to eat at her wonderful new restaurant in Abobo. We were joined by the new Reuters guy who had only been here a fortnight having just spent the last two years in Baghdad thinks its complete paradise in comparison! We had a long interesting discussion on W.African politics and the role France plays here ... or stirs might be more to the point!

Essentially my days in Abidjan were spent working and catching up with friends in the evenings. I was very fortunate to have a base there this time and got to know Abijdan a little better.