I Still Go To School

on teaching, learning, travelling


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What matters in the end?

I have enjoyed an eventful last week in Abidjan: going to the local Zoo, visiting a Reggea Club, celebrating July 4th at the US Embassy, go-karting, and visiting many friends.

Unfortunately my mobile phone got kidnapped by a friendly taxi driver. I realised it was not with me immediately after I left the taxi and it drove off, but when we called with a different mobile a minute later, he had already switched it off. Had to happen 4 days before I leave 😦 I got a cheap replacement and Orange replaced my SIM with the same number. The guy who gave me the SIM was happy to speak English to me, so he didn’t charge me anything, so I had got that going for me, which was nice.

 

So anyways, I lost my pictures from the art market “CAVA” (Centre Artisanal de la ville d’Abidjan), which is a completely underrated artisan village close to the shopping center “CAP SUD”. It’s literally a village, where the artists are in wooden huts or outside of them, creating all kinds of art: painting, many carvings, jewellery, decorational weapons, traditional masks and much more. It’s the best place to get ripped off and spend lots of money as a tourist! Not everyone overcharges you, but I just tell you: beware the Senegalese 😉 So best visit the place with a local friend, whose mere presence already makes the artist/merchant nervous and lower the price. Anyways there is also the arts market in cocody, which is much smaller though, and less authentic. I recommend going to CAVA to anyone interested in traditional African art, or who wants to get a souvenir.

Another must is spending an evening at Parker Place, Abidjan’s best Reggea club. It’s not too overpriced, plus the live bands on the weekends are rather amazing. They play classics as Bob Marley, national music as Tiken Jah Fakoly or Alpha Blondy, as well as their own songs. Rastafaraay feeling all inclusive (excluding the drugs, no smoking in the place!)

Abidjan’s Zoo is bit of a sad place. Not only because there are animals in captivity (for preservational reasons), but because during the civil war, many animals died, as there was no caretaker for them. So the lions are gone, and there is only one elephant left, and one python. Else, they got lots of monkeys, crocodiles, chimps, a leopard, some birds and one of the few remaining pygmy hippos. Because of policies (greediness), visitors have to pay to take pictures. Didn’t want to reward that silly policy, so we only took a picture in front of the gate.

Friday, on the evening of my departure, Lorette was invited to the Independence Day party at the embassy, as she’s been working there a long time as a French/English teacher.  The US Embassy has wide grounds in Abidjan, and the building is rather humungous! But – no pictures allowed. You find something on google, though. The Independence Day celebration was quite nice, with the Embassador giving a speech, the Stephane Wrembel Band playing their jazzy tunes, and snacks for the attendees.

After the celebration we arrived back home just in time for the World Cup game Brazil – Colombia. It was fast-paced, and a bit too foul, but many great moves and nice goals. The better team won in the end 🙂

But then it was time to say goodbye! So many people took care of me during the 10 months I spent here. I got to know new faces and have made many new friends.  This is what matters most in the end!

Now that I’m back in Austria, I will take some time to settle back in. I’m on a holiday until September, when I will start teaching physics/chemistry at a school in Vienna. So I will continue writing the blog, as surely there are many more things to be experienced and written about. And who knows where else I may end up teaching for a while…

 

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Real fake wares of unknown origin

To really experience Africa, one is bound to visit the places where people mingle. There is especially one place – loud and chaotic, yet colourful and entertaining – the markets of Adjamé.

Adjamé, infamous for pickpockets, brawls, drugs and faulty wares, is a system of hundreds of market-stands, lined up on each side of the streets in its district. It is Abidjan’s biggest market, and there is nothing you could not find there: beautiful African clothes and tasty fruit, mobile phones, jewellery, watches, HiFi systems, iPads, sunglasses, food, and so on. The owners shout out their prices and best bargains to attract as many customers as possible. Next to the young boy shouting “Shoes, 2000 francs!”, there was guy pushing 60, waving with a bag filled with little sachets of Marihuana, all neatly labelled. He, too, was exclaiming his prices without holding back. Adjamé is also said to be Abidjan’s biggest “black-market” (no pun intended). Nonetheless, in the roughly three hours that I spent there, I haven’t seen a single policeman. Neither was there any white person, no Asians, not even Arabs, who are elsewise so common in other markets. “Feeling unique” does not quite express the mental state when I went there.

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This is the market in the early morning, and not the most crowded place, where I couldn’t even find space to take pictures. Ladies are walking carrying around with water, one bag for 100 CFA. (0.15€)

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Of course I did not go to the market on my own. I may be open to adventures, my curiosity still drives me a lot… but I value my health and belongings a bit too much, still 😉 I was shown around by Il-Shim and two of his friends/acquaintances, with whom he does business. They mainly trade with lady-shoes, which they buy for 1000-2500 CFA here in Adjamé. They then clean and repair the shoes, and sell them again in their own districts, at an eight-to-ten-fold price. They advised me to best go to the markets early in the morning, meaning 6 a.m., to get the optimum prices and the best wares.

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As you can see, they just pile up the shoes, and customers even walk on them. Everything is second hand, but not broken or torn. Very much like the shoes you’d rather be giving to the clothes collection for the poor than throwing them away. Probably that is also where these shoes came from…

Yes! Lacoste and Diesel slippers, 2000 francs (3€) a pair! These are not even fake, as the good quality indicates.

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The market has sections for each kind of product. Now we enter the tech-street. You’ll still find shoes everywhere in between.

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Here we go! The newest mobile phones for unbelievable prices. Of course, haggling is unavoidable, but once you got the hang of it, it’s quite fun actually. It sort of builds a connection with the merchant. If you’re white, though, expect to be ripped off by at least 10% / 20%. Bring along a black friend for business and let him do the talking, which, by the way, is mostly done in Djoula, spoken by the Maleké people. They originally came to Cote d’Ivoire as merchants, and their position maintained unchanged since then.

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Especially with electronics and watches, be careful. Most of the wares are fake and don’t actually work. Try out everything before your final purchase, even before asking the price. With watches, for example, most of the apparatus’ functions like the barometer or the calendar are simply printed onto the face of the watch. Africans love heavy and shiny stuff on their arms, which they can show off to their friends! Mostly you find “Tag-Heuer” and sports-brands like Puma/Adidas.

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As I wanted to get some cultural items, we continued our shopping tour at the Cocody culture market. This place is the most empty and peaceful area I’ve been to so far, haha! The three of us were the only customers in the entire street.

I don’t know in how far everything here is genuine, but it looked good anyways! In Cocody market you can find amazing African bracelets and necklaces, hair-pins, statuettes of people and animals, masks, crocodile-skin wallets and bags, pictures and instruments.

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Such beautiful masks! The ones with bronze or aluminium [a-lu-‘min-nium]  metal fittings are from Mali. Their origin is also distinguishable by the hairstyle of the person- every tribe wears their hair in a different fashion.

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The orange-yellowish mask with the “God”-symbol on the forehead is from the Ghanaian Ashanti tribe.

A rather extensive collection of necklaces.

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So, those are the items I got at Cocody: a statuette of ebony for 8000 CFA (might be fake, but it looks good, no?), a letter-opener with a lions-head for 2000 CFA, and a game of “Awale” for 3000 CFA [Ah-wah-‘leh], of which I yet have to find out how it works. It is pretty popular all over West-Africa.

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At Adjamé I bought a new watch and shades. The shades were 1000 CFA. I decided not to get the Giorgio Armani ones, as they were bare ugly goggles, and, of course, fake.

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The watch has cost me, after a tough haggle, 6000 CFA. It’s one of the few without the fake stuff on them. It has a nice leather band with it and is the most humble watch I could find. I am still not sure if it’s a “Pramado”, as engraved on the side and the back, or if it’s a “Promodo”, as it says on the face.

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But anyways, it’s of the “Premium Collection”, and also the “ROYAL COLEECTION”. 😉

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The blue-and-yellow bracelet is a gift from one of my students, yay!

I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to check for clothes this time, but it’s still on my list to get myself some “Lacoste” shirts, hehe.