During my 2 weeks in Ghana, something that I really appreciated is the diversity in craftsmanship I witnessed: in markets, in villages, in schools. Everyone seems to have a talent for making things with their hands. There are five particular hand crafts that stood out for me during my time in Ghana, and though they aren’t all unique to the country, they are certainly prominent trades that need to be experienced (and they make great souvenirs!).
Whilst living in Ivory Coast, my friend suggested that I get my hair braided. My initial reaction was “no..” but the next day I thought “why not” give it a go whilst I’m here, “I can always take it out if I don’t like it”. My friend soon called her hairdresser to arrange my appointment, and the following week I was sat in a salon chair in the corner of a busy marketplace, as potential hairstyles were being discussed and synthetic hair was being matched against mine. I soon realised: I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT HAIR BRAIDS. Fortunately my friend was there to help me understand some of the hair terminology, and I was pleased with the end result. Now that I am a bit wiser I thought I would share some of this knowledge and experience with other clueless soles contemplating getting their hair styled in Africa.
My Christmas in Abidjan is sure to be one I will never forget. For starters it never really felt like Christmas: yes it was warm, but I’ve celebrated xmas under the sun before. I think it was the absence of Christmas songs chiming incessantly on the radio and in every supermarket, the absence of the Christmas shopping rush, and the first time I haven’t been surrounded by family, that made me forget it was December.
Before travelling to the Ivory Coast (and many other countries in Africa), you will probably frequent your local travel clinic to get a variety of vaccinations against diseases such as Yellow Fever, Meningitis, Typhoid and Cholera. You will also be prescribed malaria tablets to take regularly during your trip in order to avoid the country’s most pervasive illness.
On arrival in a new city, I am the kind of person who will turn straight to guide books or TripAdvisor to find the best things to see and do. This is easily done in say, Rome, which has numerous tourist attractions awaiting visitors. Abidjan however, is a city far less oriented towards tourism, and though there are a few “attractions” to visit, you will see that even these aren’t always prepared for keen visitors. Nevertheless I have given it my best shot, and here are some of my experiences whilst attempting to be a tourist in Abidjan.
Food is such an important part of travelling and discovering a new culture, and this is no different in the Ivory Coast. During my time here I have had an on-off relationship with food. I’ve been eating almost entirely local food, which is yummy, but which has also landed me in hospital (!) due to an infection.
Last night the world stopped to watch the US election results unfold. In addition to the mere possibility of President Trump, I was faced with additional cockroaches. Yes, yesterday I came home to a cockroach infestation in our tiny flat in Abidjan, and typically, it was the one time I was home alone.
Welcome back! In part 1 I described a few of my encounters with Abidjan’s single men. This is attention that I have (to some extent) become used to and learnt to dismiss to the best of my ability. What still surprises me though is when men “on duty” act in a way that, in the UK at least, would be deemed unprofessional. Mike the policeman for one, but I’ve also had hotel porters, receptionists and shop assistants try to chat me up whilst in uniform. Oh and mothers have asked for my number too.
There is no doubt that I stick out like a sore thumb in the Ivory Coast. A country pretty much devoid of tourism isn’t going to contain many Europeans, Americans, Asians, apart from the odd expat who has moved here for work. Considering I’m living with a local lady, I don’t live anywhere near the big hotels or the areas in which you’d be likely to find expats, thus increasing my (already high) chances of being noticed in the street.