Konch Magazine - Abidjan Here I Come 08-09 Part II

Abidjan Here I Come! 8/9


After a whirlwind tour of Morocco, I am back in the states to pack up all my belongings and head off to Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire.  (I need to program my computer to use accents!)

I need to buy that magical language learning program – so I am not unprepared to speak French, pack my house, say good bye to my friends, find a tenant to rent my house, pack up my classroom, find a home for my cats.  Also, the weirdest thing is that now- suddenly the universe seems to be telling me to write again, as I am co-hosting a poetry series called Poetry Unbound with Richard Loranger and Clive Matson.  Also am involved with co-creation of poetry and art installation with Sara Beil called InSitu. Plus I just started dancing with SambaFunk.  It feels weird to leave everything behind, new friends, dancing and even the poetry, but at the same time, if I don’t make this change, I fear I may get ill. I don’t even want to think of leaving the track team, my advisory, and mostly my family – daughter, sister and her family.  O wow! I am paying a huge price for this adventure. I hope it is the right decision in the end.


8/10 Arrival


I am here. I arrived with my 10 (oops 9) suitcases. Where is the 10th! Oh My- irony of ironies- one suitcase is lost. What’s in it?  The printer of course.  This is the one thing that Asha kept telling me not to bring… I wonder if I will ever get it. 




School Welcome 8/11

Never have I felt so welcome to a new place, but never have I worked so hard in the first 2 weeks before school starts.  Upon arrival, I was met at the airport by the head of school and high school principal, Daphne Muse.  She was also with a man named Isaac- head of facilities and the school driver. They took me to my apartment- it is beautiful. I live on the 3rd floor of a new building. I have tile floors, 2 bathrooms, new furniture, and a formal dining table with 6 chairs.  Daphne had already bought a phone for me and she gave me money to keep me going for the first month.  I receive a travel allowance and all my utilities are paid for. We have air condition and a pool. There are curtains on the window.

By the way, they found my printer. I go to pick it up tonight.  I will help the other arriving families with their bags since they have children.



School meetings started today at 8 am.  I met all the new and returning teachers.  I was not able to see my classroom.



Today I saw my classroom. It needs a lot of work. Later, we had dinner at Daphne’s house- after the meetings. Daphne is the school director as well as the High School Principal. She is my double boss.   Anyway, she invited all the new teachers and the teachers on the welcoming committee for a dinner at her house. It was a group of about 20 of us.  One of the new families has 2 children a 6th grader and a pre-K student. Another new teacher has 3 children all under the age of 4.  So there were lots of kids, adults and a mix of nationalities, ethnicities, races, and languages being spoken at all times.  Food was delicious.



Ishmael Reed In Abidjan?  8/14


In my classroom for the first time!  Boxes everywhere! There is no desk, no chalkboard, there are no shelves, but everything is coming soon, in the container. There are, however boxes of dusty books.  Open textbook, first two names are Ishmael Reed and Al Young!  I will be using this textbook after all! 


New friends 8/15

I have made a new friend. Janine. She lives downstairs.  She is American and Liberian.  She lived in Liberia until the coup in 1980 when her family fled to the US.  She is an amazing woman with an amazing story.  She teaches kindergarten. She is a real go-getter. We do almost everything together including shop, usually eat, and share a cab to school.  We laugh a lot. She wants to buy a car.   Just yesterday we walked home from work and went into every shop on our way home. We found a tailor, a baker, the hair salon, a place for a mani-pedi, a modern shop with Parisian fashion and heels, and of course a place to get a massage.  We are going to take French and give ourselves a new phrase each week.


8/16 Lost only 1 block from home

We are back in the classrooms today. Immediately I began to barter for pieces of furniture with Janelle- a new friend and she teaches the other half of the ELS classes. Later that night I had dinner at her house.  ON our way home we got lost!  Yes, guess what there are no addresses here.  Literally no addresses.  When I catch a cab, I say I live near the French School- J’habit a cote l’ecole francais. Then I just go right, a droit, right, straight, du droit, left a gauche. And we are there!  La bas or ici (here!). That’s it.

So this was the first time going home a night and all the gates were shut. We had to call Daphne at 10 pm to get directions home. Two lessons learned. I will never forget how to get home!  And she is wonderful.



The cheapest beer here is Budweiser! LOL


8/18- Another Irony

So, you wont believe it. Janelle asked me to CATSIT her cat, Jacobi! I have a cat for a month.  So it is back to emptying kitty litter and being woken up in the middle of the night for me. Jacobi is spoiled. Only drinks milk and eats human food! Oh la la!



Did I tell you I brought about an entire suitcase full of Underwear- which I now realize is my largest investment- except you know college, house and of course the cats! So I have a drawer full of underwear and no books!



Did I mention that on the first day at school, Isaac showed me my room? It overlooks the track, he said, hint hint. Now they are really working it.  Will I be coaching track after all?


8/21 Internet Issues

I bought an Internet hotspot. SO it works on every computer in the entire school except mine- its too new.  I sold it to Rhonda downstairs who also has a MAC.



So glad I brought my toolbox – I can put up hooks to hang my bathrobe. So hooks are 2 US Dollars each!  My small saucepan with a lid is $40.  Hmmm… Let’s see other crazy items… My can opener $15USD.  So was the garlic press.  I should not have left those utensils for the people in my house to use. I miss my knives and my wooden spoon, my pots and my blankets. 


The Party!  8/23


Last night Janine (new name here) and I were invited to a party in Abidjan. We were invited by Isaac (new name here) in celebration of Fatou’s birthday and their Anniversary.  The night started off at a restaurant called Adoumin in Cocodi Centre. In a village called Mti in the middle of Abidjan. The story is that the village used to be next to the city- a cote – but now it is in – dans l centre de la citie. 


The restaurant was located on the Lagoon-, which is sort of like the bay in the SF Bay area or the Hudson, and the Ocean in NYC and Long Island. We are always surrounded by water and crossing bridges.  The lagoon comes from the Atlantic and connects different parts of the city.  So the lagoon is brackish water and there are crocodiles. The restaurant was an outdoor pavilion on a pier- we could see the city lights.  At the table were Isaac and Fatou who was looking surprised and bewildered.  WE gave her a kiss and greeted. “bon soir bon soir”  then we sat down, I in between Isaac and Janine.  Isaac had arranged for us to be picked up by a man he felt would be a good husband for me. He came in a Lexus SUV and spoke English quite well.  The table had placings for about 20 people.


First came the guests, Isaac introduced each guest in English and French. Each time a new guest arrived, Isaac would start the introductions again. With each introduction he gave an anecdote. Janine and I were les professors a l’ecole Americain.  Who had arrived just two weeks prior.  Also in attendance were, the man who renovated our school and did a bad job- (the school looks really beautiful) his wife who teaches Arabic, a couple from Morocco, a doctor and board chair of ICSA, and a number of cousins and close friends whom Isaac and Fatou had known for a number of years. Also there was a group of party boys who showed up with an older man who wearing a red plaid dinner jacket, a puffy scarf tie (called a satin puff tie) and red pants as well as red patent leather shoes.  He wore these large round glasses and had a very round head. He resembled a combination of Elton John and Liberarchi and Claremont. He became the griot of the night, telling stories about everything and everyone, telling jokes and dancing. He invited us all to his club in the middle of the city. He also had a flock of young men who admired him. After the introductions there were three prayers.  Each man tried to out pray the other. We had a Catholic Prayer, A griot, and Christian/Buddhist prayer… there was no Muslim prayer even though two women at the table were wearing headscarfs.  The praying finally ended with a round of applause in which some people had already sat down to eat as the food was getting cold. 


We ate rice, alloco (plantain), poisson, poulet, couscous and lots of hot sauces.  There was lots of alcohol, bottles of rum, gin, beer and wine.  I only had one beer, but it was a joke between me and Isaac because he had said he was going to put a beer in my fridge when I arrived and he forgot. 


The dance club was in the same building. WE finished our meal and strolled across the patio to the club. But we soon determined it was dead in there. So we decided to go to the JinJack Club which belonged to the Griot. They had a live band- with Karaoke. 


This was a wonderful part of the night.  First of all, the band was really good.  We sat down and soon all the men and their wives began to dance. My date told me he did not like to dance to any music besides European pop, which I found a bit odd.  So Janine and I did not dance that first dance, but the second dance, all the men switched partners, so I found myself dancing. It went that way the whole night with the men eventually dancing with their wives more than other women. But every one danced with everyone else. More alcohol appeared, by the end of the night everyone had danced with everyone. I danced with Jean- Liberachi Elton John the most. He was a wild dancer and we did Samba, Tango and lots of African dancing. He taught me many new steps and complimented me a lot. He was an amazing dancer, and he kept saying- “you dance right!” You dance right” then he said… I want to know you forever. He kept tapping the back of my thighs to make me dance harder. We had so much fun, except he stepped on my toe a few times with those crazy shoes.  


At the end of the night, Isaac decided he wanted to sing. He is the most handsome man with the worst voice. But that was great because then everyone wanted to help him out and take the mike. We wound up singing about 6 Bob Marley songs. He serenaded his wife about 4 times much to her chagrin.  Finally at around 3 am it was time to go.  But the party boys would not let us go. So we make a line and line danced out the door.


It felt good to get in that beautiful SUV and be driven back to my apartment. I have not laughed that hard since the last time hanging out with Joyce, Aimee and Pam.  It was so much fun.


Hooray 8/24

Today I got patio furniture!   As I write this I watch the Aljazeera news station.  IT shows a man whose daughters were both killed in Syria by chemical warfare. They are all laying in a line.  All these dying children. It is sickening.


Blow me up! 8/25


OK so when I moved in here, they were like; be sure to always turn off your gas every night. Well last night I did not turn off the gas. This morning when I went to boil my coffee, I pushed the pilot and BOOM!  The oven blew!  I was singed from top to bottom- like a cartoon! Thank God I had on my hug fluffy purple bathrobe from Asha.  Anyway, I am fine. Only my hand is burnt.  I don’t think I will forget to turn off my gas again.


8/26: First day of school

6:30 am- I could barely sleep. So nervous. Hope all goes well, especially with 7th graders but also 10th and 11th.  The ambassador is coming today. There is a special assembly. I have not been able to email the people I know from here yet. Wish me luck!


Did I tell you I have a cat?  How did this happen to me?  I am cat sitting Janelle’s cat for a month.  This cat is so spoiled. He only drinks milk and eats human food.  But I like him anyway. He does not destroy furniture or sleep on my face.  I miss Ziggy and Marley though. They are not doing so well without me back in the states. Well Marley is, but not Ziggy. Alas!


The first day of school went really well. I like the kids.




Taxi Strike


WE can only take orange taxis.  This morning we were trying to walk to school but there was no cab. It was like.. where are the cabs? SO we caught a yellow cab.  It was only 200CFA as opposed to our regular 500CFA or the previous 1000CFA that we were paying. But when we tried to get home, the guard would not let him in the gate.  No Yellow Cabs. He was adamant.


Women Carry Heavy Boxes


SO we finally get home with Janine’s new microwave. Mr. Yao says he is going to carry it upstairs for us, but it is too heavy for him. So he calls his wife, and she puts it on her head and carries it up the stairs.  Amazing day.



So yesterday was my first day of school. I was so tired I came home and went straight to bed.  Today I am going to swim in the pool.  I have 3 classes so far.  7th grade meets every day.  10th and 11th meet every other day.  My 10th grade has 13 students. The boys are rambunctious. The girls are shy, but there seem equally able.  The classes are so diverse. My students come from India, Vietnam, Japan, Cameroon, Nigeria France America (just a few) and more. I will add to the list. I am not sure how hard or easy the work is so far.  I am going to see. I know that they do a lot less writing than in the states.

I also have 13 7th graders. They are really cute. I like them. There is one young girl named Nuhad who wants to be my helper all the time. She has a reputation as being a handful. I think she is trying to change that, or else she is just trying to con me.  It’s working. I like her a lot.


I had a headache all day today. I think partially nerves, partially exhaustion and loneliness.  I did not think I would wind up single in Africa again!!!! SHIT.

And partially dehydration.