Ivory, Unpaved Roads and Progress: A Journey to the Motherland #2

Photo credit:  Asta Diabaté

The second installment of Ivory, Unpaved Roads and Progress: A Journey to the Motherland chronicling my time in Côte d’Ivoire last December.

Check out the first installment if you haven’t read it.

The trials and tribulations of the journey

“There are no places on flights from Milan.” This is what the EasyJet customer service guy told us. I was fuming, and so was my mom. We would have made it if we did not stop before hand to get me assistance (I sprained my ankle a few years ago and walking long distances has been a pain since).

…So we each spent £80 to change flight to get to Venice, and £30 more because our luggages were too heavy and we can’t just leave the stuff there. We got to Milan around 5 pm, but we’d made it.

The next morning we said goodbye to my dad and flew from Milan to Brussels and from Brussels to Abidjan on a AirBrussels airline. We made friends with a woman and her toddler on the way.

A wave of humidity hit me like there’s no tomorrow as soon as I got off the plane.

“Abidjan, here I am!” I thought.

There were probably 28 to 30 degrees outside. I was not ready for it. I had been coming from the cold, wearing a winter jacket, wool socks, a hat and my gigantic scarf.

But the change in the temperature were one of the minor things I had to adapt to. What was to follow was much more shocking…

Like the fear when I saw people driving, my aunt completely calm and collected, if not for the occasional insults to the idiot not respecting traffic rules. But that’s the thing: almost no one was respecting traffic rules and was driving if they owned the whole damn city.

If I close my eyes and think about that day I can hear the concert of car horns and the bustling of activity on the side of the road. Loud music, stalls advertising calling services, people selling food, children asking people if they wanted to buy water.

Political ads of the recent presidential elections were still up on the way to the numerous long distance bus stations disseminated as my aunt and I, in one car, and my mom in a taxi behind us, were making our way to my aunt’s studio flat in Koumassi.

There we would eat kereketé (snails) and attiéké  for dinner. We would laugh about how long it had been since we had last seen each other and we would go to bed to wake up to a completely different world.

A few days later I was set to go on the longest bus journey I had ever experienced in my life, made of unpaved roads, stops because the mini bus was on the verge of dying and discussions about politics and juju that happened to be a true education for me.

As a first generation kid you go through your life so many times trying to understand how you fit it. You look at the mother land as a kind of familiar stranger, and you look at the country where you were born as family that sometimes feel like a stranger. But this trip allowed me to get closer to my heritage and understand things about myself and the Doula community in Côte D’Ivoire that I had never paid too much attention to in the past.

Stay tuned for the next installment which will talk about the village I stayed at for a week and what it taught me about superstitions.

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