Category Archives: Casual

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

What The World Eats

Part I

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1626519,00.html

Part II

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1645016,00.html

Ivory Coast: Fears of a civil war intensify

Gallery

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/03/ivory_coast_continued_unrest.html

Last week was foolish (new pics)

Curfew!

Trek in Cameroon

Snow

Guess what folks? I’m still in Switzerland, waiting to come back to Abidjan…

Back in Switzerland – Lausanne

Home Sweet-Safe (‘n Cold) Home

December 2010, foreigners evacuate Ivory Coast

as tension rises and violence erupts after elections results…

Tension rises over Ivory Coast poll

December 3rd 2010, Côte d’Ivoire locked down, 3rd round on the streets?

Ivory Coast was in lockdown Friday with all borders sealed and foreign broadcasts jammed (no more CNN, France24, TF1, Euronews, TV5 Monde…) as President Laurent Gbagbo’s allies rejected election results that showed him beaten by his rival. World powers sharpened their warnings to Ivorian leaders to settle the dispute peacefully, but the chaos in the West African state deepened after days of bloodshed and fraud allegations that have disrupted the landmark vote. On Thursday the electoral commission (CEI) announced that provisional results showed opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had beaten Gbagbo in the disputed polls by 54 percent to 46. But top Gbagbo ally Paul Yao N’Dre, the head of the country’s Constitutional Council which has the final say on elections, said the results were invalid since the commission had over-run the legal deadline for releasing its results. The United Nations mission in the country has judged the polls sound overall. Supporters of Ouattara, known to them by his initials “ADO”, celebrated Thursday after the announcement and some headlines Friday hailed the result while others led with the sheer chaos of the electoral standoff. Ouattara has accused Gbagbo of trying to cling to power by blocking the results of the election, which has been marred by bloodshed. The council was expected to make an announcement later in the day. It could choose to annul the results under pressure from Gbagbo’s camp and proclaim the president the winner, which would risk igniting tensions. In the pro-Ouattara district of Abobo, scene of deadly pre-poll violence, Ouattara supporters wearing shirts with his face on came into the streets warily on Friday morning, watched over tensely by armed securityforces. “They do just what they like. They have seized power,” said one, referring to Gbagbo’s camp.

The main city Abidjan was coming slowly back to life Friday morning, with shops opening again and traffic picking up after several days of tense quiet waiting for an outcome. But amid fears of unrest, the government sealed the country off from the outside world. “The land, air and sea borders are closed to all movement of people and goods from this Thursday at 8:00 pm (2000 GMT) until further notice,” the army said in a declaration on state television. Shortly afterwards foreign television news channels including France 24 and CNN as well as Radio France International went off the air in Ivory Coast. An official statement said this was to “keep the peace.” Witnesses accused security forces of shooting dead eight Ouattara supporters at a local office of his RDR party in a largely pro-Gbagbo district of Abidjan on Wednesday night. The army confirmed the incident but said it had come under fire first and that it had retaliated, killing four. Gbagbo supporters said one of its offices nearby was also attacked and two people injured. Ouattara called on his “brother” Gbagbo to accept the result, promising to form a unity government and “bring together the nation in the values of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and union.”

Today Pony will stay at home… again..

Sunday November 28th, 2nd-round runoff of presidential vote

A curfew is in place in Ivory Coast ahead of Sunday’s presidential runoff election, forecast as a close race between President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara. The night-time curfew remains in effect until Wednesday. 22PM until 6AM on Saturday and Sunday, 9PM until 6AM from Monday to Wednesday. Streets are oddly deserted and quiet at night… as in Switzerland! Hope nothing will happen in the coming days, especially after communication of the results.

Visit in Ghana, Accra and Tema

Fishing game

HHH 20th November Botanical Garden of Bingerville

3 days in the bush

La Tabaski, Tuesday November 16th

Eid al-Adha (Aïd el-Kebir in French) or  “La Tabaski” in West Africa (“Festival of Sacrifice”) is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead.

After the ritual slaughter, the meat is divided into three parts to be distributed to others. The family retains one third of the share, another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors, and the other third is given to the poor and needy.

I attended the slaughter at my Lebanese neighbors’. Helped by servants and guards, the butcher cut the throat of the sheep, lying on the left side and the head turned towards Mecque then I was given a piece of meat.

HHH Adiopodoume (Dabou Road) Saturday November 13th 2010

Following last week rainy Hash (2 hours under a tropical rain, it was pouring cats and dogs..), this one was sweet. Meeting at Ivorian Catholic boy scouts house “Maison Carrée”, warm weather, nice trail, all OK.

On the way home, 10mn from the Hash on Dabou road, a big truck with its container had fallen flat perpendicular to the road, leaving only room for a single car to drive through (on its side). As Dabou road is the coast main drive to San Pedro, it is usually pretty crowded, so we waited about 40mn to get away from the traffic jam.. Yes, we are in Africa.

Monday is off in IVC (National Peace Day) following by Muslim feast Tabaski / Aîd-El- Kébir (Feast of Sacrifice) on Tuesday, off as well!

Next week, I will be in the bush again, following the cocoa loop up in the country until San Pedro, the week after will be a visit in Ghana. See you guys!

Insecurity

A couple of years ago, security was a real issue, thefts, hold-ups, burglaries, violence, pickpocketing, loots, hijacking, skulduggery. Now the situation is more stable, but business of « fear » remains. UN says that there is “no easy correlation” between poverty, development levels and crime.

Sometimes it is very wild out there. For instance, I saw 4 crooks, lying dead on the street in Marcory. The police killed them by a bullet in the head, without a fair trial… since justice doesn’t truly exist here. Routine things!

Sunday October 31, Election day

To close the crisis some 5.7 million people from Ivory Coast are called today for this poll and must decide between 14 candidates, including three tenors of the politics of the Ivory Coast, for the first time opposite: Laurent Gbagbo outgoing president, 65 years, IVC president since 2000 despite of the end of its mandate in 2005, ex-chief of State Henri Konan Bédié, 76 years, and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, 68 years. The election is supposed to close the open crisis by the coup d’état of 1999 and worsened by the missed putsch of 2002, which involved a war and the partition of this French ex-colony a long time given in example for its stability and its “miracle” economy. Independent electoral commission (CEI) legally has till Wednesday 5PM (72 hours after) to proclaim the provisional results but it wishes to give them on Monday. A possible second round would be held theoretically in two weeks (November 28th).

Before the opening of the poll at 7AM, in Abidjan and in Bouaké (center), electors flowed and queued in front of the polling stations, which must close at 5PM today. At Port-Bouët district (South Abidjan) a long queue was formed from 5AM in front of the office.

8.000 Blue Berets for some 20.000 polling stations, this Sunday for the so much awaited presidential election. The equation is simple. There will not be a soldier of UNO in each polling station. And essentially, the security of the vote will be guaranteed by the forces of the Ivory Coast themselves

I’m staying 2 days at home.

HHH October 30th Airport international Félix Houphouët-Boigny

In this presidential national election eve polls, we were a relatively small group of regular hashers.

Now you know what they do with their rubbish, simply leave on piles aside roads and paths (see picture 14) sometime burnt in giant fires. Even in the hearth of the city. They really should develop an ecological conscience.

 

Assinie Friday October 29th, non-working public holiday (distribution of voter cards)

Before the elections, we enjoy a relaxing stay at African Queen Lodge at Assinie (80 KM East from Abidjan). View across the lagoon is beautiful and there is a shuttle motorboat to take you across to the beach. I wanna come back!

Saw the old Club Med where French movie « Les Bronzés » (1978) was shot. Not really my kind of films, “French Fried Vacation” is the English title…

Read in a past “The Economist” of June:

“Overall, the number without homes is staggering. The number of homeless veterans of the Vietnam war is greater than the number who died in it.”

“MAN is born free but is everywhere in debt. In the rich world, getting hold of your first credit card is a rite of passage far more important for your daily life than casting your first vote. Buying your first home normally requires taking on a debt several times the size of your annual income. And even if you shun the temptation of borrowing to indulge yourself, you are still saddled with your portion of the national debt.”

 

October 23rd Hash at Rubber trees plantation CCP Alépé

Shopping in the morning, to stock food and water to be self sufficient for a safe week at home during the elections (that’s the procedure). I brought back home staple stuff (rice, pasta, gallons of water, peanut butter and bread, sauces, canned beef and fish, wine and beers).

Saturday Hash in the afternoon at Plantation Compagnie de Caoutchouc du Pakidié Alépé (North East Abidjan, next to lagune Aguien). The plantation is pretty enormous, since rubber trees growing is a good cash cow for land owners; regular rent (no main crop as cocoa farming), growing demand for automobile/planes tires, competitive vs high petroleum prices, don’t require high technical skills and is low labor intensive.

Dinner of poulet braise atiéké at a maquis, one of my favorite Abidjan’s dishes. Marie Colette, native from Cameroun, always warmly welcome us as loyal clients. There, you can find several “exotic” African and Cameroun’s specialties: snake, viper, hippopotamus, big snails, deer, hedgehog, agouti, more seldom rats (wild from the bush), dogs, cats… Eaten with fingers of course!

Movies

Film I watched:

TiMER (2009), brilliant 1st comedy (with actress Michelle Borth..)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1179794/

Tetro (2009), last Francis Ford Coppola! (still there..)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0964185/

Mr. Nobody (2009)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0485947/

Zombieland (2009), cult!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1156398/

New house (next door..)

I move to the adjacent house, slightly larger with a better-furnished kitchen (I like cooking). Private security agency team passed by to install emergency buttons and I was given pieces of advice about security. Flash manager is half Greek half… Swiss! From Lausanne! Where is was born, could you picture that!? Rather seldom to meet Swiss folks here. Security is no picnic in this country, principally during the elections. Apart within so-called precarious districts, I never feel unsecured but one should be cautious. As long as I remember, I really felt in danger in LA or in other locations in the US where you can buy guns in supermarkets and methamphetamine is the breakfast of champions…

It has been a month I am in IVC, time passes too fast! I begin to “tropicalyse myself”, that’s the funny expression I heard about expats that finally get used to the circumstances (constant heat and humidity, insects, poverty, dirtiness, cops, riots, traffic jams, diseases and various infections). Hope fun will last. I will write about Ivorian expressions on a next post, promise, they are so hilarious.

I can’t prevent myself from thinking about “Voyage au bout de la nuit”, especially the part where Ferdinand Bardamu travels in colonial Africa (for those who have an inclination for Céline).

HHH October 9th at Achokoi

Hopefully we headed meeting point with the 4WD (hilly and muddy path as in bush). We brought stuff (booklets, pencils, books) as donation for the beginning of the new school year. Nice walk, warm and… hazing folks! Right after the walk… see the pictures.. it’s all about inclusion…

3rd day in the bush

Alépé, East Abidjan, visit of a cooperative that is beginning to produces UTZ certified cocoa. They expect to get certified for the crop year 2010/2011. We were invited to a ceremony and after that to share a lunch/dinner (4PM) with the local vice governor! In his colonial house! Uphill in the middle of his locality. We ate a range of typical Ivorian dishes; Foutou with eggplant dressing (sauce aubergines) and braised chicken (poulet braisé) with atiéké (grated cassava/manioc). Last visit of a co-op at Bonoua (near Grand Bassam) late in the afternoon before driving back to Abidjan.

That was 3 awesome days 🙂

“A better price for a better product”. The UTZ code of conduct includes: no child labor, access to education, responsible use of agrochemicals, no deforestation, producer training on good agricultural practices and post-harvest handling, internal control system, inspections and traceability.

Policy on pricing: farmers get a price “premium” on UTZ certified cocoa beans. Premium that reflects the extra price paid for certified cocoa compared to non-certified.

Responsible and sustainable cocoa production is, I believe, the future for IVC, farmers as well as consumers and I encourage you to have a look at the UTZ logo in supermarkets (chocolate Frey at Migros for instance!).

For more information please visit: http://www.utzcertified.org/cocoa

2nd day in the bush

Visit of a cooperative at Tiegonefla town in the morning and 2 schools for poor children financed by charity and NGOs. Last one is a brand new school in Yamassoucro (the capital city). It is a “Familial Agricultural School” that will open in a couple of month to educate young farmers in different agricultural areas (among them cocoa growing of course).

 

Tour in the bush Monday October 4th

This is my 1st visit in the bush, magical to meet cocoa farmers! We were with clients who wanted to see how UTZ certification works in IVC.

First, visit of a buying station in Oumé (Gagnoa region), and then meet the planters of Diegonefla in a “school field” where they learn how to produce quality cocoa compliant with the certification (quality + good practices).

First time for me to see cocoa trees and how cocoa is processed before drying. Memorable!

We spent the night at Gagnoa (president Laurent Gbagbo was born in the nearby village of Mama). Dinner at a maquis.

Car

OK, I feel guilty; I didn’t access properly the deepness of a big hole full of water on my way home from the office last Friday evening. This happens so so often on “so call” roads here. Because the WV Jetta is a low “rider” (compared to SUVs) it suffered a bit. The day after I was given a tough, noisy, rough car: a Mitsubishi Pajero 4WD that smells “the bush”: mud, plastic and oil lol.

Al right guys, it is not as comfy, jet set and sexy as the Jetta. Pardon my French ladies but in this city, I do prefer reliability and practical things + it is very funny to drive 🙂 I wish I could keep the Pajero.

Saturday 10.2.10 HHH at Adiapoto, southwest Abidjan

Saturday HHH at Adiapoto, small village southwest Abidjan ,by the Lagune. Thanks to the morning and early afternoon sun, it was pretty hot out there. By chance, my new neighbor from Marcory, in IVC from 30 years, is a Hash fan and gave me a lift and tricks about my new district (do and not do). I met our plant director and guys from competition (Barry Callebaut ADM, Cocoa is a small world). Hash is mostly frequented by high society and foreigners. The big campaign (cocoa main crop) had just begun the day before on October 1st.

Home Sweet Home

After 3 weeks at the hotel, I finally found a house, adjacent a colleague’s. It is pretty cozy and comfortable. I do feel at home now.  Here at Marcory-résidentiel, neighborhood is really safe and quiet. Villas of CEOs, expats, ministers and rich Lebanese families surround the house. It is also close to Zone 4 where you can find fancy bars, restaurants and supermarkets, not far away from the office too. I have a cook and boys; I will never do my bed in the morning, dishes or laundry… What Else!?

I got my prescription

Medical kit packing list

-Prescription antibiotics

-Anti-diarrheal medication

-Painkillers and anti-inflammatories

Anti-malaria pills

-Hydrocortisone cream

-Thermometer

-Insect repellent with DEET

Sun block

-Antiseptic hand liquid

-Sleeping pills

-Water disinfection pills

Mysterious Pony