Monday, November 9, 2009

My Morning Commute

Every morning I drive along a section of the Boulevard de France that we call Plant Road. There are a lot of plant vendors on this section of the road. They don't have a right to the land - they're squatters - and their wares are right up against the walls surrounding people's homes.Check out the shed. The roof is plastic tarps and clothes hanging out to dry.
Here's a guy watering his plants. I can take pictures because I'm usually stuck in traffic.
And here is a lettuce lady. I call them lettuce ladies because they bundle up the lettuce in beautiful columns, wrap them up, and stick them on their heads. When the little bus comes, they toss the lettuce up on the roof, and ride off.
That's the lagoon in the background. This area has been cleared to be developed with homes. There are a lot of fields along the lagoon. They water the plants with water from the lagoon, and the lagoon is horribly polluted. It's still pretty.

The other day there was an accident. You can see the car standing practically straight up (nose in the ground) surrounded by rubber-neckers. I thought there was a back-up, but people had simply pulled over, parked, and then walked over to take a look.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Habitat for Humanity

Yes, he's wearing a lady's one-piece swimsuit over his clothes.
Why? Well, I guess this young man thought it was an appropriately colorful outfit for celebration. And it was a good day to celebrate. The Americans, as part of the Interfaith Day of Community Service, were arriving with Habitat for Humanity to help build houses in their village.
Here are the Priest and Iman working together to build a wall. How interfaith is that? Turns out the Iman is quite the mason.
Here is swimsuit guy helping out at the brick-making area. Along with the Americans, the local embassy staff, and our invited interfaith guests, the villagers helped out too.
The rear view.
Here I am carrying a brick. I had to get up at 5:45, to get to the embassy at 6:30. We left at 7:00 and the drive to the village took almost three hours. That's a long way of saying I couldn't get my contacts in. So, I had to wear glasses. So, I had to wear a hat.
I have yet to meet a camera-shy child in Cote d'Ivoire.
They'll just hop right into the picture with you. The man on the right in the red hard hat runs Habitat for Humanity in Cote d'Ivoire. He learned about it on a trip to the United States, then came back and started the chapter here. It's been highly successful.
Afterwards, we had lunch at the Chief's. He has a very, very nice house. We brought some food and the villagers brought some, and everyone had a good time. I made 150 snickerdoodles. They were a big hit.

This was one of my best days in Cote d'Ivoire. I worked really hard on this outing (I was volun-told onto the committee) and it was a blast to get out of Abidjan and into the more typical Ivorian atmosphere. This was my first time in a village, I shook hands with all the important people (I have no idea who they were), applauded the speeches, did some physical labor, and used my sunscreen so I didn't get burned. It was also really fun to hang out with the Ivoirian embassy staff.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Last night I went out on a boat for a sunset cruise of the Abidjan Lagoon. It was beautiful and I had a great time.

No thoughtful comments, observations or commentary. Riding on a boat through the lagoon is really fun. You see the city lights (and it looks pretty at night), pass under the bridges...

... and pass through the port of Abidjan.

But you also see some of beautiful green areas. Here is one of the fancier houses located on the islands in the Lagoon.

Sure, it's toxic, and I'll probably develop some horrible rash from the occasional splash of spray, but it was pretty, and fun, and definitely worth it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

No there, there.

"Yamoussoukro has no embassies, ministries or significant commercial life, even though it has been [Cote d'Ivoire's] capital since 1983. Originally a village called Ngokro with no more than 500 inhabitants, it has grown because of the whim of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who happened to be borne hearabouts and who wantd to glorify himself, his family and ancestors. With its six-lane highways (bordered by more than 10,000 streetlights) leading nowhere, and its grandiose monuments set just far enough apart to be incovenient for walking, it's a lasting testament to Africa's greatest curse - the Big Boss, who can get away with anything."
- Lonely Planet

I usually use my own words, but this selection from Lonley Planet really does sum up the insanity that is Yamoussoukro. First, let's take a look at it's main tourist attraction, The Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix.
Yes, it's a replica of St. Peter's in Rome. Except it's bigger. Oh, and the country only has about one million Catholics. Very few of whom live in Yamoussoukro. John Paul II was not amused.

John Paul II agreed to come to the dedication of Notre Dame so as not to tick off the less than one million Catholics in Cote d'Ivoire. He extracted a promise from Houphouet-Boigny that a hospital would be built close by.

A shot of the some of the exterior plaza (which is larger than St. Peter's). Note, there is absolutely nothing around it. No hospital.

The major artistic triumph of Notre Dame are the stained glass windows. Here you see Jesus with Houphouet-Boigny - the only African depicted in the entire church.

I went to Yamoussoukro with Richard Roberts who works with me.
We stayed at the Hotel President (guess which president it refers to).
We had a sub-par meal at the top of the tower. There are several restaurants, bars, and a night club - all of which closed by 10 or 10:30 pm.

The pool is still quite nice, and it wasn't crowded. I doubt the hotel is every really crowded.
The lower building (behind the pool) is where we stayed.

My room. Very modern/Austin Powers. Richard's room was done in shades of purple.

They are not trying to be retro. It's just a time capsul of what was in style.
The radio didn't work.

This is the parking lot of the Foundation Houphouet-Boigny. From here you can see the "city" spread out before you. It was supposed to be the headquarters of a grant-bestowing association.

It has an auditorium that can seat several thousand, an office for the president, VIP lounges, meeting rooms, you name it. It doesn't seem to get used very much, though there had been some event the night before (they were sweeping up trash while we took the tour - the tour consisted of Richard and me). There are signs of neglect everywhere.The women's rooms were smelly. None of the men's rooms had toilet paper.
It was a very weird weekend.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I went with a bunch of co-workers to Ghana for the Presidents' Day long weekend. We stayed at Axim Beach resort. On Sunday, we took a walk through the fishing village to the Axim fort. I started taking pictures of boats, and I have to say, this was my favorite.

Though I appreciated the straight to the point style of this one.

And this one as well.
There were several boats with American Flags.

And there were businesses with the American Flag. I'm not sure what Blood of Jesus Can Set Your Free is selling, as it was Sunday, and it was closed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shopping in Cote d'Ivoire

I have complained about the lack of cheap souvenirs in Cote d'Ivoire. And I stand by that. Souvenirs that should cost $1 run $6-$10. And they are usually pretty shabby. And completely unoriginal. One factor is Ivoirian money being tied to the Euro - a plastic butter dish that costs $2.50 in the US runs $10 here. Also, I'm sure the lack of tourists contributes to the lack of quality and origniality as well. You can get a very badly carved giraffe with no problem - but there are no giraffes in Cote d'Ivoire (could be why they are so badly carved). Meanwhile, this country is lousy with all types of geckos and lizzards. Yet, there are no gecko-themes souvenirs to be had.

But, if you want to spend a bit of money - minimum $15 to start - you can pick up some nice things.

I got this pot at an embassy-sponsored craft fair. All the vendors were high end.

I hadn't seen anything like it in the craft-vendors on the Road to Bassam.
I also got this ceramic turtle from the same vendor.

I use him to keep my bedroom door open. He's not particularly "native," but he is cute. I don't remember what these cost me.

Today we had another embassy-sponsored vendor in, and I loved all of his stuff! I walked in and saw this seat/traditional pillow and just had to have it.
Original asking price, $70.

I was told the animal is an antelope. Note, no horns.

But I was told his was an antelope too. Note, horns.

I think the vendor knows the word antelope.
Anyway, this one's original asking price was $30.
I got both for a little less. If I had walked away and come back in a half hour I probably would have done better. But I am a lousy bargainer.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Paging Mr. Bond

If, back when Sean Connery was playing Bond, the producers had decided to set some dastardly plan to hold the world hostage for $1,000,000 in exotic West Africa, they would have chose Abidjan. And Bond would have stayed at the Hotel Ivoire.

The 60's was Abidjan's heyday. And the architecture reflects that. But no place really gets the 60's sensibility of "modern" Africa better than the Hotel Ivoire. Bond would have walked by the ice-skating rink(!), worked out in the gym, dined in the rooftop restaurant and probably met CIA agent Felix Lieter at the bar in the bowling alley for a Vodka Martini.

The pictures do not do justice to the level of neglect the Hotel Ivoire has suffered. The pictures make the place look terrific. But if you could see it in real life - well it is in serious need of a major remodel. In fact, it has been bought and it's said the investors plan to bring Hotel Ivoire back to it's former glory. I hope, really hope, they keep the 60's motif. It would be a crime to just rip it all out.

The people over here on the right bowling are all embassy folks. We made up half of the patrons, and I assure you the place can easily handle 200. You can get really good burgers here - but they ran out so I got a club sandwich instead.

The bowling balls turned our hands black. So, we all went to wash our hands. Some people made the mistake of going to the restrooms in the rear and down the stairs. The lights don't work, the rooms are "sweaty," and because they originally served the ice rink, they have rubber matting. It really makes you feel you stand a good chance of being axed by a psycho killer while using them.

Here's the scoring board from a league game from a few years back. One of the staff told us that they haven't had a league in 4 years. I think this board pre-dates that.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Ram of the American People

Meet Boule (pronounced Bow-Lay) the Ram of the American People. He was given by the people of Boule, Cote d'Ivoire to a visiting high-up American official. He was supposed to be lunch, but somehow ended up at the home of two of our embassy's officers. The first thing they did was give him a bath. Then a hair cut. He is one snazzy looking ram.

Note Boule's horns. If you get butted head-on (which happened to me) it doesn't really hurt since you're getting mostly forehead. If you get a side-butt (which happened to me) you get a nice bruise on your leg from the horns. So, his caretaker jokingly requested I knit Boule some cozies for his horns.
Honestly, I don't think they will really help protect anyone from those horns. In fact, the pointy ends kept poking out of the cozies. Several people have suggested stuffing bubble wrap in the cozies.

And the cozies were too long, despite the fact that I had measured very carefully.
Still I like the pom-poms.

I was originally going to do buttons to keep the cozies on, but I couldn't master button holes. So, I used ribbons instead. I had originally thought that ribbons would be too humiliating for the ram, but let's face it. He's wearing cozies. What could be worse? In the end, he didn't seem to mind. He got some popcorn, and that's all that really matters to a goat/ram.

Meine Geburtstag

No, I'm not dating! This is the owner of Le Bavarois (the Bavarian) or Wa Wi as it is commonly called. He was so delighted when 22 people showed up for what would have otherwise been a very slow Saturday after Christmas that he went home, changed into his lederhosen and returned.

Saturday, December 27 was my 43rd birthday. And yes, I spent it in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire in a German Restaurant where the whole staff speaks French. Such the international evening!
The sausages are fantastic, the hollandaise sauce could use some work. Though they have a tap, there is no keg attached. The staff stand behind the tap, crack open the cans, and fill up your big glass. But it is real German beer and it is nice and cold. One of the marine's commented that the sauerkraut was not as good as his mom's - but how can you compete with mom?
For the record, I received pot holders, a Vienna t-shirt (where I'll be for birthday 2009), and icicle-style Christmas lights. Some of the young people then went out dancing. I went home and made some phone calls. It was a good birthday.