Saturday, December 18, 2010

On the move

Waking up having heard shooting from the maquis I was in the night before, I decided that it wasnt worth hanging around.  At 8.45 I got a  call from a friend further east who asked what I was up to; I said I was heading that way later on in the day.  My friend and I went to a maquis at 11.40am, as the previous night it was all too calm in town, walking 500m we passed very few people in the street, heard no music but continued on.  By 12pm her husband called asking where we had gone, unhappy we’d not stayed in the house.  It wasn’t till later we found out 2 had been killed in town, her husband was annoyed we’d left and gone out but we didn’t realise the situation, naive maybe!

I rang another friend, a muslim, from the maquis to tell him I was back, he wanted to come over but was surrounded by military in his compound.  A little later he turned up telling us people had thrown stones at the mosque.  We discussed a few things and I decided my idea from earlier on was the best decision to make.  I asked my friend if she wanted to come with me, white and female, we were both in the same boat.  I also offered to take her step-daughter to relative safety but we were concerned if we’d be able to get through the military blockades with a child without papers.

I left, my friend following me.  Her husband wasn’t happy as we left demanding to know how we’d get transport.  We were on the side of the international road leading out of Cote d’Ivoire flagging any traffic that passed that was rare, probably 3 vehicles per minute probably 10% of the normal traffic.  After a few minutes my friend said she had to return to get a swimsuit ... 10 minutes later their maid arrived asking to return with her bag, they’d been arguments at home, she was staying.  Her husband accused her of abandoning the family & that I was a part of this abandonment.  I was also made aware that I was alone and I couldn’t return to the house.  I’d been put out on the street, I’m afraid it’s something I’ll never forgive in this situation as he knew the situation he was putting me & his wife in.

For over an hour I was flagging down vehicles with a young boy from the house who shortly went inside when he saw the military coming past towing large guns behind their wagons.  No one would stop, maybe they thought I was heading for the border, maybe they thought it was too much of a risk to take a white woman.  I really don’t know.  However I ended up calling a friend who has a taxi to come and get me as an hour and a half in the blazing sun was too much to take.  My friend had returned to my spot prior to the taxi arriving as her husband had stormed out, we discussed things and promised to keep in touch despite her problems at home.

Finally I was inside a car, we crossed the bridge without the problems of the previous day and after a kilometre or so found a taxi going further east.  I swapped taxis and continued my journey for an hour or so calling a friend in the town I was heading for who promised to meet me at my destination of Aboisso.  I got there and went straight to the maquis and got a big welcome from old acquaintances amazed I was back and told to sit & join them for a drink.  It felt good to be with more friends who were stunned by what had just happened to me, unhappy at an Ivoirian's behaviour.  Almost an hour later my friend pulled in and then I found he was with another friend I’d met 2 years previously, big welcomes, hugs & kisses all round.  I was glad to be back with people I had confidence in, I felt safe again, I knew where I stood.

They continued drinking for a while and finally we got into the car, only to move 200m to a nightclub at 5pm!!  More beer was served and I was told it had to be finished.  Around 7pm we rolled into town, stopped to order some grilled chicken to eat later and as we got into town there was a welcome party waiting for me. 

The Mayor, his wife, various friends and children all wanted to say hello to me.  I sat with the mayor for an hour or so whilst more & more people came up to greet me, I was near tears with the greeting I recieved from them all with the situation the country’s in, it was incredible that I had such a reception.  The Mayor invited me for lunch the following day (Sunday).    I was told that I was part of town now, that this is my home in CI ...

The difference in atmosphere between here and where I’d come from was amazing, people wandered around the streets, music was playing, it was all very normal.  I went out with my friend having said hello to his wife & children, saw my room we then reclaimed our chicken and partied the night away until the curfew at midnight when the sole gendarme of the town drove us home.

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