Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Abidjan: the Paris of Africa (17 Nov 2009)

And so today we are off. We are scheduled to fly back to Accra later this afternoon via the amazingly luxe Emirates airline. Emirates is based out of Dubai, and their whole image/set-up/customer service thing is beyond compare, at least from my experience. I remember when Delta used to give out little bags of peanuts on short flights from Tallahassee to Atlanta. Emirates, on the other hand, whips out an entire snack/meal in the course of 45 minutes which includes a hot towel, TWO sandwiches, a cup of "fresh" fruit, and a juice box.

Abidjan has been an incredible experience, both professionally and personally. Professionally, I have survived my first circuit ride without any major screw-ups or melt-downs. I've met some strong, determined refugees who I feel are deserving of some sort of a break for Pete's sake, as well as some who could use a crash course in honesty. The refugees I've interviewed have been from Liberia, Rwanda, and Congo. OPE is scheduled to make another circuit ride in early December to Dakar, Senegal. As most of my co-workers will be off on holiday at that time, I've been told that I am most definitely slated to go on that ride, so we'll see how time in the office in Accra improves my interviewing and processing skills, and my overall understanding of how OPE operates.

Personally, I feel I've taken as much advantage of the sights, foods and culture Abidjan has to offer as possible. Our heavy work loads and long hours--and my bad French--prevented me from doing a whole heck of a bunch, but again, I think I did okay in getting to know the place. I've eaten plenty of attieke, which is the typical Ivorian fare. It's basically grated cassava that has a texture and consistency like cous cous, served with chicken, fish or beef (goat? I don't know. I just had the fish and chicken). It also comes with a heaping of pimon, or pepe, or pepper, which is flipping delicious and can clear out the most oppressive of sinus stop-ups.

(shout-out to Seester: I hear you are suffering from sinus problems! Come visit!)

I've been to the artisan and local markets, as well as the beach. The beach was super nice, although the vendors were a bit annoying. Alexis (a co-worker) and I managed to find a local spot where all the Ivorians were hanging out, and we settled ourselves there for a few good hours and enjoyed a few good Flag--a West African beer. The more Flag we had, the bolder we were in practicing our awful French. It amused some people there, and they bought us more Flag in appreciation for the entertainment.

I'll have to close here because I need to pack up my stuff. Before we leave today, some co-workers and I are going to take the water taxi around the lagoon that pushes in and around downtown Abidjan. We're also going to hopefully get a peek at the Cathedral St. Paul, designed by some Italian dude and boasting a huge, strange, blocky stylized figure of "St. Paul" in the front of the place. I always thought the figure looked like an abstract elephant, but whatever.

More later! LOVE YOU!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Voyager C'est Vivre (16 Nov 2009)

Bienvenue a Cote d'Ivoire!

Whew, what a week this has been for me. Having never spent a day in a French-speaking country, I've spent a significant amount of time over the course of my 9-day stint here in Abidjan trying to learn some useful phrases. So you have an idea what I'm talking about, here are some choice jems from my self-created course of study:
  • As-tu des bon-bons (do you have any candy)?
  • J'ai le fou rire (I have the giggles).
  • Je suis ananas (I am a pineapple).
  • Amusons-nous comme des fous (Let's have fun like idiots).

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to squeeze any of them into ANY conversation I've had. Not with taxi drivers, street food vendors, beachgoers, etc. Perhaps I should have taken better care to learn how to say stuff like:

  • Extra pepper, please.
  • No, I would really only like half of that half of a chicken.
  • What on earth gives you the idea I'm American?