Abidjan Ivory Coast
Hello from Abidjan in smelly French Ivory Coast
None of the five days I spent in this dirty, smelly city in French Cote d'Ivoire could be described as vaguely enjoyable. Everything seemed to require a struggle, mostly because no one wanted or could communicate with me in English and ridiculed my feeble attempts to use the little French I could remember from high school. Even the television offered French channels exclusively, not even ubiquitous CNN! None of the English language newspapers found in other foreign capitals were anywhere available in this forgotten French outpost.
While there were plenty of cafes, few looked up to my now somewhat more accommodating standards of hygiene. Of course there were no American fast food places like Mac Donald's or Burger King in this Anglo-phobic part of the world either. People on the street, while not always hostile, certainly were not outgoing and friendly to my eye. One exception occurred in the elevator at my hotel. One evening a well dressed man riding up with me turned and solemnly asked: "American?" When I indicated agreement his sad expression followed by softly spoken French words I could not understand made it perfectly clear the depth of his sympathy for the suffering Americans. As he spoke his eyes glistened with emotion and his right hand touched his heart; gesture which needed no interpretation. I am sure he must have been looking for some American with whom to share his compassion for all these days since the 9/11 disaster. I am grateful he chose me to be that person.
The infrastructure in the center of the city is more or less First World, but once you get ten blocks or so from the center the quality of sanitation deteriorates noticeably. The stench of rotting fruits and vegetables piled in every other alley from the day's street markets, occasionally whiffs of human urine from the very common public peeing by males (I can now easily differentiate between the human and animal varieties!), frequent waves of raw sewage odors from open drainage channels overwhelm your senses unexpectedly.
Smokers in public places are arrogant, smoking with impunity in front of ¨No Fumar¨ signs. My requests for compliance were twice rebuked with one guy giving me a good tongue lashing in French. I still see quite a bit of unselfconscious male crotch grabbing on public streets, sometimes escalating into an orgy of vigorous fondling! No one pays any attention to such antics at all.
Want a pedicure? Sit right down here on the curb for the works. You're next! No waiting. Coconut sellers prepare their product by deftly removing the hard shell from half the nut leaving the white meat exposed and looking like a snow cone. Oranges offered for immediate consumption have had the outer bitter portion of the rind carefully shaved off leaving the fruit now enclosed in the light yellow pulpy inner portion of the rind.
I spent five nights in Abidjan getting visas for Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ghana. The Hotel Ibis is far from elegant, but at $48 per night it is among the cheapest in the capital city. Internet access runs $4 to $6 per hour and is troublesome. Again a little kid of about three yelled ¨Hello Daddy. ¨ You've got to wonder who taught him to do such a thing upon seeing a white male.
The bus station is like most I've had to use throughout Africa; dirty, hectic, crowded with touts wanting to ¨help,¨ waiting passengers with their piles of personal belongings and cargo enclosed in huge cloth bundles, surly bus company employees who cannot speak even a few words of English and refuse to take the time to decode my encrypted French... you get the idea. The 11:00 bus to Accura Ghana didn't leave until 13:00 meaning we would not arrive in Accra until after dark. As the reality became clear I made plans to abandon the bus as soon as possible once inside Ghana. That turned out to be in Takoradi our first stop after crossing the border. (cont.)
Abidjan Ivory Coast: The Catholic Church near the center of town... interesting ultra modern design.