Saturday in and around Abidjan

Trip Start Jan 15, 2009
Trip End Feb 15, 2009

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

This morning I was up at 7:30 and feeling pretty rested. I wanted to print my sermon notes, and also a letter of comfort and condolence that I had sent to Mrs. Tia on the death of her 16 year-old son. I sent it to her in November, but I learned last night that it never arrived.
I went to the "business center," which is an hotel room with desks, two computers and a printer. The computer connected to the printer had crashed, so I rebooted it. It crashed again, twice. I tried connecting the printer to the other computer. It wouldn't configure to add the printer. So I went to my room to get my laptop and connected it to the printer: it worked! The computer configured the printer, the drivers loaded; finally after half an hour of messing around, everything looked good. Then with a feeling of triumph as I sent my notes, the printer spat out blank sheets of paper: the ink cartridges were empty. Some days.... I'll have to look for a cyber-café on the way out of town.
Breakfast this morning at the Ibis was a typical scene of culinary chaos. Breakfast in this hotel is buffet only, à la française, but by the time I got there at 8:30 there was practically no food left on the buffet, no eggs, no potatoes, no fruit, just ham, croissants and a chocolate filled pastry called pain au chocolat (which is not as painful as it might look in English). There were no coffee cups out, and no bottled water which is perhaps the most important thing to have for breakfast. Hotel guests from Australia, Canada, India, Italy (those were accents or languages I heard) and several African countries: Gabon and Ghana to be sure, were milling around looking for food or dishes, and trying to figure out where to find each. Good morning Africa! 
Paul Tia was hoping to come to the hotel at 9:00 but he didn't make it until 10:30. He had a driver named Fulgence in a VW Golf, not common here but a good car. We drove to PK (point kilometrique) 17 in the town of Adiopodooumé on the outskirts of Abidjan. Driving a short way off the blacktop road, we reached a house rented by Paul, where he can stay when he's working in Abidjan. There were several people there I hadn't met, newly interested in the Church.  I shook hands and greeted everyone, and then we settled down for a Bible Study. I spoke about the nature of the Gospel message, and took questions for half an hour afterwards. Before leaving we had a light meal: spaghetti in a spicy African sauce with some pieces of beef, and French baguette. It was quite tasty.
Taking our leave, we drove a short way to drop off Michel Tia and another interested member who lives nearby and to visit Paul's papeterie boutique where he hopes to earn enough to feed his family. He works there during the week and goes back to La Mé for the weekend.  
From PK 17 we headed out to La Mé for the second service of the day. On the way out it started to rain, which made the trip less comfortable and less safe.  It became less comfortable because we had to roll up the windows more and more as the rain got heavier. The wiper blades were old, as they almost always are here, and not very effective. Fulgence had to turn the defroster on to clear the haze that spread on the glass and made visibility difficult. That meant driving in tropical heat, windows up, heat coming from the defroster, and of course no air conditioning. It became very warm pretty quickly. The choice was getting wet from the driving rain or from perspiration. I was thinking this situation over, when we discovered the sun roof did not have a water-tight seal. Rivulets started running down directly on my head. I had to laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of the situation and I maneuvered around and dealt with the situation as best I could.
But then things got less funny. With the haze on the windscreen, Fulgence, a very cautious fellow I had noted, didn't see a man pulling a hand cart with a full water barrel in it, until it was too late to stop. He locked up the brakes but on the wet pavement, we slid forward and hit the corner of the cart. We didn't hit too hard, but it was hard enough to knock the cart forward, out from under the barrel full of water. The barrel landed upright. The cart, projected forward rather forcefully, had a wooden support piece broken, the car a broken corner light, and the cart man had a very belligerent attitude. Fulgence got out and the cart-man began yelling and then shoving him around hotly. Passersby intervened to separate them, until tempers cooled. Paul got out and to help. It was best for me, as the outsider, to stay out of the whole thing. So under the still-heavy rain, there was yelling and pushing and shoving and some threatening. A crowd gathered. I sat in the steamy car trying to think if there was anything I could do.
After several minutes, Paul came and said the cart-man was going to press charges, unless he was given some money. I cringed a little mentally since I was the deep pockets. I asked how much. When he told me 2000 Francs, I breathed a sigh of relief. That's a little over four dollars. I handed the bills over, hoping that would truly be the end of the situation.  Three soldiers showed up with AK 47s, and started taking charge. I got out of the car and walked over to a closed shop with an porch awning under which several people were waiting out the rain.  I stepped under and ask if they minded if I waited with them. They motioned me to a spot on the bench they were sharing. This place, I was told, is called Belleville. There is no running water in this area and so water carriers bring it in handcarts by the barrelful to sell to residents. As I watched, other carts went by also carrying barrels.
I would love to have taken a photo of the scene, but I didn't dare with tempers still hot and Abidjan soldiers notoriously skittish about having their photo taken. A few years back one overconfident French photo journalist was peremptorily shot dead for a lack of sensitivity in that domain. So I just watched. The soldiers talked with different people, negotiations occurred, then the money changed hands. Paul came over to me to say with a smile that everything was fine, we could go.
As we drove on the rain slackened, so we could roll the windows down more and more. It felt positively cool outside. The road was still impassible at one section, so we had to detour around it. I observed that the same section had been out in August when I came through last. They are not working quickly, I joked. Paul explained "it's because the contractor who was doing the work, disappeared with the money." How many times one hears such things in Africa: the endemic corruption is such an obstacle to development.
We finally arrived in La Mé about 3:00 pm, quite a bit later than planned. They had made progress on the hall. There was a wooden door and shutters on the windows, the concrete walls and floors had been sealed, and there was a suspended wooded ceiling in place.
We had our church service, hymns, a prayer, announcements, a vocal solo and the I spoke on the fundamental doctrines of Hebrews chapter six. Following services, I showed a video about the volunteer summer project in Jordan and Israel. They were fascinated to see the biblical sites we had visited and hear the explanations. Then I answered questions for half an hour or so from established members as well as some very new people: are some sins worse than others?, why don't we have prayer meetings during the week?, why don't we give offerings every week like other churches do?, why is the Church of God small compared to other groups?
Several people asked about baptism, I said I would try to come back Wednesday to meet with them and discuss the topic. Then we took our leave and right as the sun was setting started the drive back to Abidjan. I prefer not to travel at night if possible, but there was no avoiding it this time and we make it back to Abidjan without problem. 
Tomorrow we'll start out as early as we can for Man. I probably won't be able to make a blog post until Tuesday night at the earliest.
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danielandcindy on

We just found your blog.. Glad to see you made it safely to Cote d'Ivoire despite the challenges. It is so good to see your picture of the La Me congregation. We so enjoyed our visit and miss the brethren there. The hall looks really good! You're in our thoughts and prayers and we look forward to seeing you in Belgium. Take care!

hervedubois on

Oui c'est vraiment passionnant de vous voir travailler avec les frères et soeurs ivoiriens. J'ai lu avec intérêt les questions posées. On peut voir à quel point l'influence catholique est forte sur place. Mais ce qui est le plus encourageant, c'est précisément le fait que les gens posent ces questions. Dieu travaille avec eux. Comme Daniel et Cindy, j'aime beaucoup votre photo de l'assemblée à La Mé, c'est étonnant, un artiste peintre pourrait s'en inspirer : les regards, la disposition des sujets et le jeu de lumière. Superbe.
Je pense bien à vous dans mes prières, ainsi que pour les programmes BT, GN commentaries et je l'espère un jour prochain un ou deux 'commentaires BN' !
A bientôt sur le blog

rc45 on

Hello Joel,
It is nice to read your entries on your present trip to parts of Africa. Sandy and I will be praying that the rest of your trip goes smoothly and for your safety.
Reggie and Sandy Warren

joelmeeker on

Re: Wow!
Hi Daniel and Cindy,

They all remember you both fondly in La Mé and asked how you were doing. Your photo book just arrived for Paul, we was thrilled. That's such a great gift for them here, so memorable.

Take care.

joelmeeker on

Re: Passionnant
Bonjour Hervé,

Merci de vos commentaires et vos encouragements. en effet c'est très stimulant de répondre à ce genre de questions - de voir à quoi et comment ils pensent - concernant ces questions importantes.

Merci encore de votre soutien.

joelmeeker on

Re: Entries
Hi Reggie and Sandy,

Thanks for your comments and your prayers. They're much appreciated.

Take care,

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