Actually, school’s been out for a while. I finished up my work, got my grades in, made it to the end of year soccer championship, and then skipped town (village) for a week or so
… for the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire! At the beginning of June, I took a train with several other Volunteers to the big city of Abidjan, which lies beside the ocean! Cote d’Ivoire is not Burkina: there’s power everywhere; even “villages” that we were able to see from the train tracks had buildings with AC units. Several people told us that about 90% of CI has electricity. Abidjan has roads and highways with clover intersections and exits that remind me of the US interstates.
CI is further south than Burkina, and much further south than where I live, so they don’t really have a dry season, which results in good food and green EVERYWHERE in the country.
- A lot of the time there I felt we were dressed “too village”. “Complets”, matching tops and bottoms usually made from fabric with bold designs (i.e. pajamas) are really nice in Burkina, but would have probably been super provincial in Abidjan. Instead, aside from a few bubus, everyone could have been in the States if their clothing had been an indicator. School uniforms were closer to American private school, with above the knee skirts and ties in blues, greens, and plaids, than the Burkina public tans. Also, I should have brought a sweater.
- We were going home (to Bel Air!) one day from a different part of the city, when our taxi driver stops in the middle of the highway immediately after an on-ramp, puts on his blinker, takes a right (perpendicular to the road) up a hill onto a worn area, throws 50 CFA out the window towards someone standing on our left as someone on the right lifts out of the way a piece of lumber he’s holding. We drive ~100ft over what would be a bad village road and then turn onto another paved road. (Our hotel really was in the neighborhood known as Bel Air.)
- Earlier this day we’d bought train tickets to go back home and then managed to wander to a supposedly very nice hotel. It looked very nice on the outside at least. We were going to have lunch there but found that the cost of a meal would be about a third of our monthly stipend, so we awkwardly excused ourselves from the table that the staff had put together and sat outside for a drink… before going to a GERMAN restaurant for lunch! The staff was Ivoirian, but the food wasn’t! I had sausages, sauerkraut, and potatoes.
- When we arrived at our hotel, the reception told us that they didn’t have our rooms available, but that they’d booked us rooms at a hotel down the street for the night. That was a little disappointing. (Google Hotel Detente. It’s pretty) But, the new hotel had a courtyard with royal antelope, mini capybaras?, and peacocks! (Everywhere we stayed had AC.)
- At the artisan market in Grand Bassam (beach town), I yelled at a vendor who was yelling at me, apologized, told him I’d come back, ate, did come back, shot the breeze with him for a few hours, and ate a big bowl of foutou (kind of doughy, mashed, cooked, almost bananas) with a hot fish sauce with him. Foutou is not a light food. I took a cab back home where a hotel guy we’d made friends with was looking for the other Volunteers because we’d told him we wanted to try some local foutou; his mother had made some for us. The other Volunteers had all left to eat large meals as well, but we’d managed to finish the foutou he’d brought for us. After living in Burkina for a while, we’re pros at not refusing food, no matter what the conditions.
- The train trip took about 34 hours going, 40 hours coming home.