By Diana Setsofia Agbenyo
Cote D’ivoire is beautiful! End of story… Lol, I have seen and tasted, through my experiences in Abidjan, the beauty, warmth and cosmopolitan blend of all things vibrant and positive about Cote D’ivoire. The people in Abidjan, like the entire country, do not only work hard but also relish the enjoyments and fun things the city offers. Living in this place with its people and learning their language, their jokes, music and their laughter, is one thing I will always regard as a privilege. In this article, I would share some shockers, lessons and ‘survival’ tips that I learnt from my stay in Cote D’Ivoire. I hope it gives you enough permission to try travelling there sometime.
Why Cote D’Ivoire?
I travelled to Cote d’ivoire on an AIESEC volunteering program. I decided on going to Cote D’Ivoire in particular for two reasons. First, I needed to improve my French so badly and looking at the nearest options, it was Togo or Cote d’Ivoire. The problem with Togo was the fact that I also speak Ewe language (spoken predominantly by people from the Volta region of Ghana and in Togo), so I figured I wouldn’t be forced enough to speak French there. My best bet was now on Cote D’ivoire. My second reason for choosing Cote D’Ivoire was also because I felt that it was my goal of visiting another West African country; as someone whose aim is to visit all the countries in Africa in my lifetime.
How has it been so far?
Well, I spent three weeks there and it was amazing. I am not even exaggerating, I lived with a host family in Yopougon and I practically lived like a citizen. My host family was very fun and patient when they interacted with me. They were always looking out for me.
The people living there are welcoming in nature, despite the fact that instinctively, you may tend to feel security-conscious all around because you are not from there. The people are willing to share their food with you. In fact, when they invite you to come and eat, they literally mean it, unlike in Ghana where such invitations are mostly just by courtesy.
Food is quite inexpensive but that is subjective to how you like to eat, with great condiments and vice versa. With 50p you could get Attieke and buy some fish in addition which will cost you GHc5 in total.
So what shockers have I had?
Food hygiene here is quite alarming. I remember my first time buying Attieke with my host sister. I nearly shouted at the woman for using her bare hands to serve the Attieke. I mean the same hands with which she had previously collected money from the previous buyer. I had quite an uneasy time eating but I guess I got used to it like everyone else. Their notion for doing that is because they feel that once they washed their hands as the day begins, their hands are clean once and for all throughout the entire day; even if it involves selling of food. Quite an interesting thought if you ask me.
•The Writer, Miss Diana
No small change
Get ready to get used to the phrase ‘’il n y’a pas monnaie’’. That’s to say, there’s no small change. You will hear this phrase in the “Gbaka” (their public transport buses), at eateries, and even in the supermarkets. This can be very frustrating especially when you sometimes end up getting delayed as they look for change. Sometimes you have to buy extra things than you budgeted just to cover the change you would have taken. I didn’t like this experience. I therefore generated a system that saved me the hustle. Like I had being informed by an article I read prior to my trip, I tried to change all your home currency before I took the trip because even Forex Bureaus do not accept credits for conversion but dollars. So what was my system to solving my small change need? Well, I basically hoarded all the small change I got and constantly used my big denominations in transactions, that way, I always had small change and smaller denominations to help me go about.
This one is another shocker I had, so the thought here is that there’s no point cleaning your face with a handkerchief every time when at every cleaning it gets dirtier than it was prior. So instead, use a tissue. And tissue it was, everyone had one because it was so affordable. I never saw a handkerchief in the shops I looked in.
At night time, especially on weekends, the vibrant streets filled up with the young and old who were seeking to relax and savor the great night experiences of Abidjan. Streets in Yopougon especially, are filled with pubs, clubs and eateries, all whetting your cravings with fresh fish and chicken on hot grills, with loud Ivorian and other francophone music embracing the readiness of people to have a good time. It was a great time for me indeed. What are you waiting for? You should plan a trip to Cote D’Ivoire soon.