Travel day to Abidjan

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

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This morning I tied up loose ends before heading to the airport. After breakfast I walked the dry cleaner to pick up my laundry. Along the way, in the street where the hotel it located, I laughed when I saw what appeared to be rather ineffective notice on a wall prohibiting men from urinating on it. That prohibition is painted on many walls all over the city; whether they have any effect appears doubtful.

My laundry had been washed, though some of it wasn't entirely dry. That would have to do. I handed the attendant the form she had filled out the day before, containing the number of each item of clothing to be washed. I paid my bill, a little less than 10 dollars, and asked for a receipt. "No we keep the form" said the attendant.

“That’s fine” I replied, just give me a receipt of some sort.”

“No we keep this form.”

“I understand you need to keep that form, please just write me a small receipt for the amount I paid; I have to account for this expense.”
To which she replied simply “we don’t do that.”


Back at the hotel I reordered my suitcase and carry-on bag, paid the hotel bill, and was ready when Pierre arrived to take me to the airport at 10:45. It only took 15 minutes to get to the airport, so I was there two hours early, as required, to check in. I thanked Pierre and wished him and his family a fine festival season, and we shook hands and parted.

To enter the Lomé airport one must first show ID and an air ticket to an officer at the door. When I arrived, the officer asked “which airline?” to which I replied: ASky. “They are not open yet, go back out there and wait.” “They will open any time now; may I wait inside in the air conditioning?” I asked. “That is not allowed, go back out and wait” came the reply. So back out into the sun I went to wait until it was allowed. It only took long enough for me to soak through my shirt, and then the line of us began moving forward and inside to check in.

At the counter, the agent weighed my suitcase, then my carry-on bag. “Your hand luggage is too heavy by 6 pounds” she told me “you must move things into your suitcase.” I attempted to protest that the weight in the plane would be the same whether in my carry-on or in my suitcase. “Yes, but this is a very full flight, your hand luggage will have to go under your seat” she explained. I explained that removing anything from my carry-on bag would not make it smaller, and that it would fit just fine, as it did on my arriving flight and on a host of previous flights, either under the seat or in the overhead bin.

“You must move things from your hand luggage to your suitcase” she said with finality.

There was nothing for it, so I opened my suitcase on the floor in front of the check-in counter and began moving things over, books, small toiletry bag, battery recharger for video camera, etc. I weighed my carryon from time to time to gauge progress as I got it close to her allowed weight. She kept an eye on the scale as I weighed the bag and she finally nodded, accepting the redistribution. For some reason this kind of illogical petty hassle thrives in Lomé. I’ve had similar things happen before, here more than in other regional airports.

I passed through immigration and security without a problem and waited in the departure lounge for an hour before we loaded into the bus that drove us out to the plane. The flight took off late due to late arriving passengers. We had a half hour flight to Accra, then after a 45 minute turn-around took off for Abidjan, a flight of 45 minutes. During that time the crew managed to serve a meal to a very full 737. They really had to hurry to get the food out and drinks served, but they did so, just barely, in the time we had.

Arrival in Abidjan went pretty smoothly. Immigration now has biometric equipment; they took an electronic finger print of both right and left index fingers, and took a digital photo of every arriving passenger. As usual luggage has to go through an x-ray machine before passengers can leave the arrival area and enter the public area. I walked to the Ibis desk, and waited until the attendant came who checked my name against a reservation list, and had me fill out a registration card which I would give to the hotel check-in staff on arrival.

A few minutes later we were escorted out to the shuttle bus that drove me and one other client to the Ibis Plateau. I was curious to see if anything would look different in Abidjan after the recent armed conflict in the city. Everything looked quite clean, as such cities go, and I could see no signs of any destruction. Things actually looked a little better than I remembered them.

The Ibis has been remodeled since I last stayed here over a year ago. After settling in my room I tried to call Paul Tia, but received no answer. I tried Felix Tia, and again had no answer. I called Michel Tia, and was able to get through. He told me Paul’s phone had been stolen, but that he would get him a message. And within the hour Paul phoned from the lobby to let me know he had arrived.

I was very happy to see Paul safe and sound. We passed along greetings to each other, caught up on our news and went over plans for the next few days. Then we agreed to meet tomorrow morning and he prepared to leave. It’s still best not to be out after dark if it’s possible to avoid it.

From my hotel window I watched the sun set, so quickly as it does in the tropics. Broad daylight gives way to total darkness in about half an hour. As the sun set, I watched clouds of huge bats take to the sky over Abidjan, out on their evening feed.

Tomorrow we will head out to La Mé to spend the day with the members there.
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