Wednesday, October 17, 2012

« On dit quoi ? On’ê calé» in Abidjan!

After celebrating my one-monthiversary here, I thought it was high time to introduce you all to Abidjan and all its loveliness. The title is in Nouchi, the slang here (a mix of French and African languages) in Abidjan, and is a popular greeting and response.


Zone 4 – decidedly the most “hoppin” part of Abidjan, this neighborhood is the host of tons of restaurants of all different cuisines, bars, and clubs. During the crisis, many ex-pats opted to move to this area, to be closer to the airport, and one can certainly see their influence: sushi shops, pizza restaurants, all you can eat Chinese. But don’t think it’s only us “Westerners” hanging out here; you will find lots of Ivoirians in the ice cream parlors, on dates and chillin with friends. There’s something for everyone here. The downside to a Friday night in Zone 4: the route from our side of the lagoon has got more than a few police blockades. If you go in a taxi, expect to be stopped several times and asked for your identification. The number of road blocks increases as the night progresses. Solution? Ride with someone with either embassy plates or a UN vehicule, as they don’t get stopped.

                Cocody – this is where we live (Riviera 3). The Embassy is located in Riviera Golf. We have quickly come to pride our little neighborhood, making friends with our neighboring chicken chef extraordinaire (Moussa) and his alloco making colleague. 

We have a few grocery stores within walking distance, including the newly opened shopping center, Cap Nord, with a Casino grocery store and a MediaStore books and electronics shop. Riviera Palmeraie, just next door, has a few good restaurants, and a little shop that sells ice cream and has a bouncy ball area for kids. Apparently there’s a good Italian restaurant here too. The newly refurbished university is right down the road along with the Gendarme and Police schools, and construction for the third bridge is under way to connect our neighborhoods to the south side of Abidjan. Who knows when that’ll be finished, and it has made some interestingly frustrating traffic detours which taxi drivers try to use to their advantage to get higher prices from us.

                Deux Plateau – Is the next best thing after Zone 4, and is a lot closer and more convenient for us to reach. There are clothing shops, electronics shops, and plenty of restaurants to keep us happy. There is also the big shopping center, Sococe, with a movie theater and several shops. We also have a membership at the pool, which, when it’s not filled with kids learning to swim or adults being yelled at to learn how to swim, is relaxing and nice to visit. We also went to a lovely wedding reception, right across the street from the pool. This area is rather classy, though it does have a slum right round the corner.

                Plateau – this is where I work. It’s where most of the business magic happens, with the administrative buildings, major banks, airline offices, and other businesses located here.  It’s more or less dead after work hours, though there are restaurants (conveniently located near hotels, and rather expensive).

The entrance to the market
Adjame – The largest market in Abidjan is here, with its sprawling lanes and hectic movement. If you need anything you can probably find it here. Within walking distance from my job, but I try not to venture in without an Ivoirian guide.

Treichville, Marcory, Koumassi  – If you recall from my posts in March, this was my old stomping ground. Now I haven’t ventured over there as often, as it’s a bit far. However, Treichville has a large market that includes little Senegal.

Abobo, Youpogon – According to a police officer, these parts of the city are like the Bronx. We have been highly discouraged to visit them as Americans, and the same police officer said that everyone there has guns. I think this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is important to note that these neighborhoods were Ouattara (Abobo) and Gbagbo (Youpogon) strongholds during the election crisis, and that arms did proliferate in this area during that time. On top of that, there have been several recent armed attacks here (against police/military, not civilians). But we also can’t forget that regular, law-abiding people reside here, and they are the majority, including several of my colleagues. What’s worse, Youpogon used to be the “hoppin” part of Abidjan’s nightlife, with several clubs/maquis representing the infamous “Coupé Décalé” music scene. If you are interested in learning more about Youpogon and its glory years and learning a little bit of Noochi while you’re at it, check out the Aya de Youpogon graphic novel series. I have just finished book 2, and am quite enjoying them.

Taxi – metered taxis, though the price is always negotiable. These are orange, and will take you wherever you want to go, though they will complain if your route puts them in traffic (which, is just about every route, this city has a serious traffic management problem). Prices tend to not go below 500 fcfa and don’t exceed 3 000 fcfa, unless you are coming home from the airport at 5am and get a little (a lot) jipped (15,000 CFA – grrrr)
                Wora Wora – these are shared taxis. Each neighborhood has its own color. The upside is the price (never exceeding 500 cfa). The downsides are that they don’t take you directly where you want to go, but instead to a common stop or drop you along the way to the stop. Also, you share the taxi with other people, so that if there are not 4 people already in the car, the driver is honking constantly at pedestrians to get more clients to fill it up.

 Gbaka  – the Ivoirian equivalent to Ghana’s tro-tros. 100-200 fcfa in the city. Once again, these only go to designated stops, but instead of honking at pedestrians to get in, the guy hanging out the side is shouting, sometimes appearing to coerce people to get in his gbaka (trying to cross the street from the grocery store to our house, the guys working for the gbakas all assume that we need transport and won’t cease to yell at you where they are going and get you onto their gbaka, even though you’re actually not going anywhere). You can fit a lot of people into a Gbaka.
 Buses  – old buses from India and Paris, these are always packed in the mornings. I haven’t ever taken one, because I don’t actually know where they go and drop off/pick-up. Perhaps this requires some exploration.

And finally, the weather
When we first arrived, we expected a lot more rain (check the weather channel and it will tell you it is constantly raining here, which is not). However, it has rained, and at first it was mostly in the early morning. As of late, however, it has been torrential downfall around the exact moment I get out of a taxi to go to work, oh joy. The Ivoirians call this “la petite saison de pluie." it’s rather unpredictable, but it keeps the temperatures low (in the 80s, and breezy!) I am certainly not complaining about the temperature, though it’s supposed to just keep slowly increasing to extreme heat in March/April. We’ll see.

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