Visits around Abidjan
Trip Start Sep 15, 2011
26Trip End Oct 21, 2011
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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.
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.
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.
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.