Visits around Abidjan

Trip Start Sep 15, 2011
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Trip End Oct 21, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hotel Ibis Plateau

Flag of Cote D  , Lagunes,
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Today I had the morning to catch up on office work. At breakfast I asked the waiter about all the extra security at the hotel. Not only were there blue helmets outside, but there were gendarmes with AK-47s walking around the lobby and even going through the breakfast line with their rifles slung on their shoulders (so much for the stickers on the doors!). He said that ONUCI (UN mission in Ivory Coast) officers were staying in the hotel. That explains it.

For lunch I walked ten minutes into town and had a pizza at Pizzeria Bruno. The city center on plateau, the most developed part of the country is sadly run down. There are some modern glass and steel buildings that are in good repair, but there are also vacant, vandalized storefronts, and decrepit buildings that would be impressive if well maintained. Sidewalks are mangled; missing sections lie next to piles of paving stones and refuse.

As I walk briskly, a young man moves up next to me. He wants to strike up a conversation as the opening toward something else. "Bonjour" he says eagerly. “Bonjour” I reply without slackening my pace. “Welcome to Abidjan” he goes on in French “I would like to thank you on behalf of the people of Ivory Coast. Thanks to you we have peace again and hope for the future. What is your name?” This is the opening to something he has in mind for me. He wants to be my guide, or show me a great restaurant, or go into business with me. I'm polite but don’t engage, just keep heading purposefully for the restaurant. He finally gives up: “bonne journée – have a nice day” he says dropping back and taking up his previous position to wait for another expat to come by.

When I arrived at Pizzeria Bruno, the waiter wanted to move me inside, into the air conditioning. But I go there in part to be able to eat on the terrace, protected by ironwork and Plexiglas, so I can watch the city move by. I ordered a Napolitaine: mozzarella, anchovies and capers. They make pizzas the Italian way, thin crust, light toppings, one pizza per person.

Most people passing by exhibit the bustle of a big city. The women wear sharp dresses or business suits, their hair straightened and neatly styled. The men wear well-pressed slacks, long sleeve shirts, and polished leather shoes. There is energy, but I also sense uncertainty even foreboding. There is hope for the future now that the war, what is often called here “the events”, is finally over, but it is only hope at this point, not certainty. People don’t seem confident; as if they’re moving toward they don’t know what future. There seems to be an undercurrent of desperation. Of course that could be said for many people in many countries today, even the wealthiest and most stable.

After a quick lunch I walk back to the hotel. Paul Tia comes by shortly thereafter with a battered orange taxi. The driver is the husband of a woman who attends services in Abidjan. The car shudders alarmingly as we start up. The clutch is nearly gone. We drive out of the center of Abidjan toward Adiopodoumé on the outskirts where Paul lives and where Michel his brother lives with his family.  First we drive toward the CNRS main office by the lagoon. Michel wants to show me an inexpensive hotel. It fronts the lagoon, and looks reasonable for a locally-run hotel, but there is no Internet access. I ask the prices and find it isn’t really that much less expensive than the Ibis. I’ll tuck bit of information away for another time.

We then drive out to the house Paul is renting and which he has proposed for the festival site for this year. Paul sends the driver away and says we’ll call him when I’m ready to leave. The taxi shudders away.

The first thing I see is that they have built a shelter from the sun out of palm fronds. It looks very festive and seasonal.

The house is of bare cinder-block, as houses often are here. Paul shows me inside. The floors and walls are bare concrete, but it is better than the usual conditions of most people who will come here. Those traveling in from the north or La Mé will sleep dormitory style in the large rooms, one for men, one for women, one for children. Those in Abidjan can stay in their own homes and commute each day. Back outside, they show me the equipment they have purchased for the feast with funds we sent to them a month ago: they have purchased a gasoline generator to provide electricity; they have a CD player, a small TV, and a boombox as well as an old computer. They fire everything up to demonstrate how they will be able to listen to sermons recorded on CD's for their services. Everything seems to work well, and they are obviously very excited at this step forward. This will be a very memorable Feast of Tabernacles for them.

Some of the local members had gathered to welcome me. Michel made a formal statement of welcome, and I responded formally as well, part of the local protocol for such occasions. Then I gave a brief Bible Study on preparing for and enjoying the Feast of Tabernacles.

After I close, Paul signals the ladies to bring the meal. They serve me braised chicken and French fried potatoes. They have a fried rice mix with chicken and beef. We eat and fellowship for half an hour, and then I take questions. They have some questions about our new association, how things are going. One man asks about some details of what happened in our previous association that led to the parting of the ways. One new young man, asks about the Sabbath-Sunday question. We also discuss how the Internet can be used effectively in Côte d’Ivoire and the relative merits of the Internet as opposed to printed literature. They love to receive the printed literature and hope we will continue with it. When I explain to them in local currency what it costs to print and mail one magazine or booklet, I can see some shocked expressions.  They had no idea. When they think of it in CFA francs they realize how expensive it is to print literature and mail it. But some of them, and some of the people they serve, have no easy access to the Internet even yet. The literature we have published over the years has made all the difference in the world to them, and they don't want to see poorer people unable to access the truth of the Bible. So it’s a bit of a conundrum. I explain that my plan is to print small numbers of booklets for our members, and seriously interested people, but that most of our effort will be through the Internet.

As we were talking I signaled to Paul that he should call for the taxi. He seemed a little startled that I should call for it at that point, but I was pretty sure it would take him a long time to arrive; nothing happens quickly or promptly here, and I didn't want to out after dark. We continued talking until there were no more questions, and the discussion wound down on its own. And as I expected, though I was assured he was very nearby, the driver took nearly an hour to arrive!

It took half an hour to get back to the hotel through the evening traffic. The sun was setting over the lagoon as we drove back up to plateau and the hotel for what should be my last night in Africa on this trip.
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Comments

maryhendren
maryhendren on

Hi Joel,

Thanks for the commentary and including the pictures of the Feast site there. It looks like things are ready for a wonderful festival season.

Mary

Judy Dane on

I am almost sad when your trips are over. I enjoy your blog so much, but I know that you are joyful to be home.

alzoo
alzoo on

Very happy to hear you made it through this trip unscathed. Thanks for the info. Have a safe trip back & see you soon

Guy on

Bonjour Pasteur, et félicitation pour vos prouesses. C'est fascinant ce que Dieu fait pour conduireà la gloire beaucoupde fils. C'est palpitant de vivre avec vous en image,votre séjour ivoirien. Mercià Celui qui a rendu tout cela possible. Salutation fratrnelle aux frèresetsoeurs ivoiriens. Bonne continuation.

Guy

Guy

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