Sunday, 9 June 2013

Dancing and bananas

I reached the capital city of Ivory Coast, Abidjan, the day before my 24th birthday.  Coincidentally, the sister Amy of my Couchsurfing host was to celebrate her toddlers 3rd birthday that night at a club
downtown.  Celebrating a kids birthday in a nightclub?  Yes.  I didn’t ask questions, except “what am I supposed to wear?”  After being dressed by the women in tight leggings and a one-shoulder sparkly shirt, I came to the conclusion that only black women can wear these clothes and look good.  I resembled something similar to a gypsy traveller from the British TV show ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, except I didn’t have the fancy attitude to match.

The night was full of entertainment, provided mainly from the young women shaking their booties and the occasional man with the confidence to show off his body popping skills.  Young boys less than ten years old gathered outside the open aired club, their one chance to listen to a variety of loud, fast-paced music, and competed to find the best dancer between them.  They saw me watching and reverted back to their daytime shyness of giggling and waving at the sight of a white person.

Manitu, the man who owned the house I was staying in, was a professional singer widely known through Ivory Coast.  Although his English was very limited, he still managed to make the list of the funniest people I’ve ever known.  Cracking the top off a beer bottle top with his teeth and slyly pushing it back on, he then handed it to a woman asking her to open it.  On her attempt it opened too easily and spilled all over her front. She scowled angrily at him as he rolled around in fits of laughter.

Just after midnight, the group around me attempted to sing ‘happy birthday’ in English, but failed miserably, singing something like “happy baaaahaaa la laa, happy baaaahaa la daa...” at least the happy part was right!

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My impressions of Ivory Coast were mainly that it was much richer than the past few countries I had been in.  Compared to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, all of the roads I encountered were fully paved and one massively noticeable difference was the variety of food in the markets.  These may not sound like reasons a country is more prosperous, but they are in fact huge factors which affect the level of poverty people live with.  Roads ensure that business and jobs are accessible to everybody, a big benefit to those who live in rural areas, and therefore reducing the concentration of wealth in the cities and the difference across the country.  The variety of food reduces the probability of children or even adults of becoming sick from malnutrition.

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My time in Abidjan revolved around the four visits I made to the embassy of Ghana, all comprising of lies from the workers about visa laws changing and resulting in my stubborn arguments, the last one being hassle-free only because this was the time I collected my passport with the visa fixed firmly inside.  With not much time left to spend, I headed straight to Ghana the following day, a mix up in the transport meant I was sent straight to the capital Accra more than half way across the country.





Fati and her brother Mubarik hosted me, showing me around the city and entertaining me every day.  Our favourite spot was LA beach, were it seemed Fati had endless energy enough to jump up and down in the waves literally all day long!  We took a short trip one day to the Volta region and found some monkeys in the forest, then enticed them with fruit to come closer but kept ended up in a struggle of who could grip each banana the tightest.  Stubborn me always won, forcing the monkeys to squash the banana and lick it from my hand.





Fati even accompanied me to a town in the north of Ghana, Tamale, where her boyfriend invited us both to stay in his apartment.  A short stay there included a trip to the local market, where I was shouted at for taking photos of the produce and got stuck in a human traffic jam with a basket of dried fish shoved in my face for ten minutes.  From that moment on I can no longer eat fish.






I was now a few days away from using up the very last of my money.  What was eating me alive was the fact that I had come to Africa but still hadn’t seen any large mammals living in the wild.  The devastating civil wars in West Africa had caused poaching for financial gain; therefore where wildlife was once abundant it is now almost non-existent.  For that reason I decided my next destination would be Mole National Park, the largest national park in Ghana, where, despite my lack of money, I was determined to tick off one last objective for my trip in Africa.