Yamoussoukro to Man
Trip Start Jan 13, 2013
23Trip End Feb 04, 2013
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Where I stayed
Hotel du Guety
The Muslim call to prayer is reverberating in the evening air as the day dies, not slowly as in temperate climes but abruptly in the manner of the tropics. The electrical power suddenly stops and only my laptop lights the room. I dim the screen in case the power outage lasts and mentally locate my flashlight, cell phone, and other possible light sources. I sit in the dark and listen and let my senses extend. It is pleasant, but I’m still relieved when the power comes back on and the air conditioner starts; without it mosquitos would make sleep difficult.
It’s time to leave for dinner, so I’ll write more later….
Back from dinner: This morning, we were tired from yesterday’s travels and travails, and we didn’t have so far to travel today, so I suggested a 09:00 breakfast and a 10:00 departure.
For breakfast we had what the menu called a café complet ("a complete coffee"): a packet of Nescafé, a packet of powdered milk, boiled water, sugar, an omelet (I ordered mine Spanish style), two long lengths of very chewy baguette, a pad of butter, and a small packet of jam. Cost: 3 dollars. The coffee was very welcome in spite of the form in which it arrived.
At 10:00 we headed to a bank so I could change the money we would need for this trip, the amount was more than I could change at a hotel lobby.
We stopped at a first bank and I went in and walked to the desk marked “change.” I told the lady that I wanted to change some money. “We haven’t started changing again yet” she said. I asked for clarification. “We stopped changing money for the end of the year, and we haven’t started again yet” she explained cheerfully as if that was perfectly clear and logical. Right. She suggests another bank down the main street, so we drive there next.
I arrived in the lobby about 10:10 and explained to the pistol-packing security, cum receptionist, that I wanted to change some money. He told me to take a seat. Along the wall to my left as I walked it was a line of 12 chairs; the guard pointed to the empty 12th chair for me. This seemed like a very comfortable way to wait in line. There were an unknown number of cashiers behind a partial wall to our left. Each time a client come from behind the wall having concluded his business, the person at the front of the line walking behind the wall and we all got up and moved one seat. Sort of like musical chairs without the music. I thought to myself, 12 clients, two or three cashiers, this shouldn’t take too long. However it didn’t take me long to notice that it took a very long time between clients. Time dragged. Should I go someplace else and take my chances? Should I stick it out here? It was a Hamlet moment. Finally inertia or more likely the fear of having to repeat this process and start at the end of the line again in another bank caused me to stay. It took me an hour and 20 minutes to get to the front of the line and change my money. Almost an an hour and a half for two tellers to treat 12 transactions….
I had decided to take Paul to see the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Paix (Our Lady of Peace) which was finished just before the civil war broke out. In many ways it rivals Saint Peter’s in Rome, on which it was obviously patterned.
It costs the equivalent of a dollar for locals to enter, two dollars for foreigners (it’s an included camera charge, the ticket agent reassured me). We left Kony, who is Muslim, with the car, and walked to the front door where we were assigned a guide, whether we wanted one or not. It is an impressive building, all columns and stained glass. Pope John Paul came to do the consecration in 1990, and accept the keys, so to speak on behalf of the Church.
Paul was very impressed; he’d never seen anything like it, nor would he probably ever pay to visit such a thing. I saw many comparisons with St Peters.
We drove to the usual Lebanese restaurant for lunch. I ordered hummus and shwarma. Paul had never tasted either hummus or olive oil before. He was delighted. We didn’t finish all the hummus so I ask for a box; they brought us a plastic bag, the usual method of transporting food here.
I ordered chicken, the other three chose fish; they only had cassava to accompany. Once the order is placed it takes right at an hour to be served. People here are in no hurry, they live at a slower pace, and really like to take their time when they eat since eating is not to be taken for granted.
As we waited we discussed plans for the next days. And I watched the animated street: hawkers, beggars, UN employees in their big white 4WDs, bush taxis careening past, overloaded semi-trucks roaring into town, there is rarely a dull moment. The temperature drops after sundown and becomes very pleasant – to me, that is. Paul shivered from time to time, and Kony got so cold he finally had to wait for us in the car
We drove back to the hotel at 9:00 pm. We’ll see how we sleep tonight.