Visit to Galébo

Trip Start Jan 13, 2013
Trip End Feb 04, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hotel Aho

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Today our departure was scheduled for 07:00 so I was up, had had breakfast and was ready on time, though I was pretty sure that was over-zealous. As it turned out Paul arrived with the driver at 08:00 – African time again. I checked out of my room and we loaded our affairs into the trunk and started out for the filling station where we met the manager of the car rental service. But he didn't arrive for 20 minutes, so we lost more time. I told the driver not to fill the car yet, since I had something to negotiate. When the manager arrived, as I expected, he had a contract prepared which required pre-payment for the entire 8 days. I said I’d pay half before leaving and half on returning. He didn't like that and asked why. I told him 8 days is a long time and cars sometimes have problems. I have on a few occasions had to just abandon a car that couldn't continue a trip and make alternative arrangements, and in this part of the world it’s always hard to get money back. He finally acquiesced, I paid half; we filled the tank for close to $90, and started north.

I was a little frustrated with all the time we’d wasted so far, and as we left Abidjan, another delay occurred. We were stopped at a police roadblock and the policeman went through all the car’s papers, then we told the driver to open the trunk. Then he came to me and said he wanted to search my suitcase. I asked him not to hassle us and just let us pass. He insisted and said he was only watching over my security. I asked him how it made me more secure for him to rifle through my suitcase. He didn’t have an answer but I had to get out and open the case so he could search my clothes. He could probably tell I was not happy about this needless hassle, and he let us go without needling for a bribe.

The road north was pretty good for the first 80 miles (130 km) or so much of it divided highway and few potholes. Then it started getting worse, more and more large potholes on the two lane road and we started seeing the effects of bad roads and poor driving habits. We saw several large trucks off the road on their sides, the driving having either hit a pothole and lost control or swerved to avoid one and lost control. We came to a group of people sitting with piles of luggage by the side of the road and then saw their bus off the road, it’s rear wheels in the air. I hoped no one was hurt. In the one day we saw three busses in such circumstances with passengers sitting and waiting for replacement transportation. We saw two large trucks in the same situation, and one private car that had run off as well. Some vehicles were in such bad shape I knew there must have been injuries. This is all a sobering case for better road maintenance.

It was slow going at times because we would bottle up behind overloaded cocoa trucks carrying harvested cocoa to Yamoussoukro for processing. Most of the world’s cocoa comes from Côte d’Ivoire and much of next year’s supply is on these highways now.

We hit another checkpoint, and the soldier had his spiel all ready to go. He demanded the car's papers, and immediately asked if this was a rental car. He claimed that all rental cars needed a franchise tax sticker, which we didn't have. He ordered us to park in the sun to warm us up and disappeared with the papers to let us think it over. The driver went over to him and explained quite reasonably that there was no such thing as this franchise tax sticker. He still ended up having to pay bribe before we were allowed to leave.

We finally arrived in Yamoussoukro at 12:30 and drover straight to a little hotel, with simple but air-conditioned rooms for about $30/night. We paid for the rooms and then left immediately for our visit which was to be in the village of Galébo, which we had been told was about 55km/33 miles away. It was supposed to be 40 kms on blacktopped road then 15 km on dirt road. The blacktopped road had many potholes; we saw one of the day's bus accidents here. We finally came to the dirt road and turned off; it was quite bad too. And the distances had been misjudged and misrepresented. Instead of 15-30 minutes on the dirt road, it took us 90 minutes of driving, plus a half hour stop when a plastic engine guard under the car fell partially off after a jarring jolt from a crevice in the road. The driver, Kony, got out to look and first tried pulling it off altogether; that wouldn't work. One side had broken, but he couldn't manage to break or unhook the other side.

A group of boys, about 8-10 years of age instantly gathered to watch the excitement, and stare at the pale stranger. Several of them were pulling toy cars made from empty wine boxes with limes stuck on sticks as the wheels.  Kony finally managed to string the piece back up under the car, and while he was doing so, the boys all ran off toward the nearby school building yelling excitedly. I saw them throwing rocks and jumping around and then I saw a long snake moving quickly this way and that trying to get away. The yelling crowd moved out of sight around the building. Two minutes later the boys came back triumphantly carrying the snake draped over a stick. They posed proudly for a photo. Paul told me it is called a yellow snake, it is poisonous and very fast.

We finally arrived in Galébo after 3:30, after more than three hours on the road from Yamoussoukro. At the entry to the village we stopped a boy of 12 and ask where our contact man – who works at the local school - lived, he pointed up the road. Paul told him to get in the car and showed us, and the boy did without question. We couldn't allow our children to do such things in the States any more.

We met the contact man at his house and he introduced his wife. I had hoped to be able to leave the village by 4:00 so we could try to arrive back in Yamoussoukro before dark, but we were too late for that now, so we said we shoot to leave by five and hopefully have at least the dirt-road portion over before dark. It took half an hour to introduce ourselves and eat some food they offered us, as local custom required. During that time the little group gathered. The men were colleagues from the school who worked and studied the Bible together. They came in contact with us through a colleague who has since been transferred to Man for his work, we’ll see him later.

They were very eager to learn but very new. They understood the Sabbath, but not our other fundamental beliefs. So I took twenty minutes to explain an overview, then I left them time to ask their questions.

Some of the questions included:

-         You say your church observes the 10 Commandments, don’t all Christian churches believe in the 10 Commandments? ( in response, we discussed the 4th one)
·         Don’t we have to accommodate ourselves to the times? Most people keep Sunday…
·         What’s the difference between Passover and Easter? In French the words are very close (la Pâque and les Pâques); Passover is singular, Easter is plural?
·         Will human people still exist after the return of Christ? What will happen to Christians?
·         How is your church organized in Côte d’Ivoire? 
·         Aren’t you going to ask us for an offering? No. They were surprised.

They thanked me profusely for traveling all the way out to visit and talk with them. I said I would send them some printed material to guide them in their studies and that that needed to prove for themselves in the Bible what they believed.  They asked me to pray for them, which I did.

As 5:00 approached we stood to leave and the group presented me with a basket of yams as a thank you gift. It was very generous of them.

We said goodbye and drove off. As we were leaving Galébo, I asked Kony to read me the kilometrage on the car so I could know the distance we had come. I shouldn't have done that. As he was fiddling with the gauge to read it, he took his eyes off the road completely, We hit some bad crevasses head on and bounced back and forth slaloming around and nearly running off the road. When we came to a stop, the plastic piece had come undone once again, and we had no more string to tie it up. Finally I thought of a lanyard I keep on a USB drive I have. With that piece and some ingenuity, Kony got things patched up as the sun sank toward the horizon. We made most of the drive back to Yamoussoukro in the dark, driving slowly so as not to out-drive our headlights.

The African night was full of pungent smells. The air cooled quickly, we’re at altitude now. We passed a group of passengers from a wrecked bus that we had seen on the way out. They were still sitting forlornly on their piles of goods, waiting for I didn't know what.

We arrived back at the hotel at 8:00 pm, and had dinner. I asked the driver to try to have the car properly prepared; it shouldn't take long with the proper nuts and bolts, and be ready to go by 10:00 in the morning.

I probably won't have Internet access for the next week, so don't be alarmed if there are no entries for a while.
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Karen Meeker on

Hello Joel. I'll admit my heart reacted to your latest ventures. How were you put in contact with these particular people in such a remote (it sounds remote) area? Prayers for your safety, encouragement and a positive outcome in the lives of those whom you visit.

mary hendren on

Hi Joel,

Such an interesting commentary. What a number of frustrating, time-wasting incidents just to get to the visit in Galebo. The people asked good questions, and it must have been satisfying to share the truth with them. Thanks for the interesting pictures--the wine box truck, poisonous snake, cute little boys and the gift of yams. It is good to see what you see. But the potholes and disabled vehicles...we'll keep praying for your safety and guidance.


Margaret Villaescusa on

Thanks for keeping us updated on your travels. Though the world is unaware of what God is doing, He is working a work that one day will cause people to marvel. May God protect you and continue to send you daily comfort and strength.
With best wishes and prayers

Bernard on

Thanks for the updates. Always fascinating and sobering. You are a real trooper. We keep praying for you and the people you meet. God is at work !

Paulette Duncan on

Thank you, Mr.Meeker, for your labor of love which comes from God, in serving His people and those He is calling.
It is wonderful to follow along on your journey through your writtings and photos.
Prayers continuing for you and all the brethren there!

Elisa Botta on

Mr. Meeker,

You may not be the Man of Steel but you certainly do have nerves of steel! And, what became of the yams? All jocularity aside, I do pray for the success and safety of your most serious mission.

Lenna Slaughter on

Thank you Mr. Meeker for the sacrifices you have made for so many years to travel to remote places to serve those God is stirring. Thanks also to your family for their willingness to fill in for you in your absence at home. So many have benefited by your work and labor of love. I'm sure at times you could do with a little less excitement in your travels!

Tess Washington on

Wow! What an adventure for a day! It is good that you know how to deal with such situations on this part of the world! It is good to know the culture and how things are being done in Cote D'Ivoire! So good to know that God is showing His light on the people you visited through you! We will pray for their further enlightenment! Thank you Mr. Meeker!

Ted Franek on

Wow ,what a rough ride your having while serving the brethren and those God is working with. Glad the car didn't quit on the trip. Thanks for the update, will be praying for your safe and profitable journey for all concerned.

Judy Dane on

Our prayers are with you for your safety and for those whom you are meeting. We take so much for granted, thank you for letting us know how others live.

jpvernaud on

Nous vous souhaitons à tous un très bon Sabbat

J.S.Giauque on

Bonjour M. Meeker,
Juste deux mots pour vous souhaiter bonne continuation
dans vos visites en Afrique.
Nous pensons à vous.
A bientôt.

alzoo on

Okay, a week's up, hope all is good, look forward to your next post. take card & God speed :)

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