Thursday, January 4.
It was a treat to stay at our lovely and high standard accommodation of La Rose Blanche Hotel, where we enjoyed our first internet connectivity since we departed on the 19th of December. Having been offline for that long, I was nervous to check my email, messages, bank accounts – by this point, I don’t want to be reminded about anything that has to do with home.
I am here, being present, and not futurizing/worrying.
Luckily, upon checking, everything seemed to be in order and I happily uploaded some blog posts!
The hotel even boasted air conditioning where you could actually SET the temperature you wanted to achieve in the room, as opposed to the a/c simply progressively making the room colder and colder and colder until you wake up with ice on your nipples and get up grumbling to turn the damn thing off. Yay! Plus, there were hot showers, separate beds, BBC World news, a good restaurant, AND Wifi!!! It was too good to be true and I was super grateful!
The shopping day actually turned out much better than I expected it to. We first saw demonstration from an artist who painted woven cloth with symbols and characters from Cote D’Ivoire’s folklore – and these pieces, somewhat like Batik, are designed to be hung up as artwork. I bought a few tiny, colorful designs with the intent to frame them for my house.
We then went to a mask making/wood carving center where more Ivorian Coast MEN were making art (women cannot make art in this particular tribe and I couldn’t get an intelligible let alone compelling explanation as to why the vagina quells all artistic endeavors) out of various soft woods (ha! Get it?) and then drove further out of the city to a village where the men make beads out of clay and then hand paint them with naturally produced dyes. I did buy several necklace/earring sets here as they were vibrant and unique.
After our shopping cardio, we thankfully found a lovely pizza joint and indulged our cheese-deprived bellies with some deliciousness before heading back to the hotel for personal time. I spent the evening blogging and then ordered a chocolate crepe with Jackie as we were still so full from lunch that ordering a full meal just didn’t make any sense.
Friday the 5th was going to be taking us to Yamassoukro or “Yakro” as its affectionately called – the official capital of Cote D’Ivoire. This was also a very long, hot day on the truck but it was enormously helped by the fact that Sinead had agreed to let some of us “rebels” who wanted music play a selection of road trip songs from Spotify in the back of the bus. It was a lot of fun and many passengers joined in and sang along to some great covers that spanned a few decades. Gotta love Spotify.
We stopped for lunch in Boukare and enjoyed our first red meat of the trip in the form of a Schwarma – a pita wrapped around steak and veggies. It was delicious! Food was definitely a highlight in Cote D’Ivoire. We even got ice cream to go for the truck as we pressed on, only stopping briefly to watch a set of rural workers weaving cloth in the forest. It is fascinating to watch as these men (yep, again) spun and ran their weaving machines manually at such a pace that it was hard to actually discern the precise nature of what made it work. It was intoxicating and confounding to watch.
We arrived at our accommodation in Yakro relatively late and after a quick meal of salad, I happily chilled with another passenger watching half of the movie “Blood Diamond” in the lovely air conditioning. It was quite an experience re-watching that film, 12 years after it was first released, and AFTER having been to Freetown now in person. Disturbing scenes capturing the civil conflict of Sierra Leone in 1998 reminded me of the horrific stories Charlie told me about the RUF chopping off people’s hands when they took over the city, occupying it for 3 terrifying months.
Even though I don’t believe the movie was made in Sierra Leone, they did a great job capturing its essence and vibe I think.
In the morning, we would be visiting the Basilica – the largest church in the whole world which was estimated to have cost a whopping 3-700 Million Dollars to build.
The Rose Blanche Hotel sounds amazing after all the bad hotels you’ve experienced. Wow, you even had BBC News! Amazing.
I am curious, as you were, as to why only men were allowed to do wood carvings and artwork. How strange!
Can you listen to Spotify without a wi-fi connection? anyway glad you were able to listen to some music while travelling on the bus.
I remember well the brutal scenes in Blood Diamond — I must have forgotten it was set in Sierra Leone. thank god the war is over.
The photo of the bikes with the sewing machines is so unusual and amazing.
There are countless examples of communities in West Africa where the women are the artists and not the men. I think the bigger takeaway here is merely that most tribes/communities still have very specific social norms around what tasks/chores are for women and what are for men. It will take some time before the idea of equality and that what one does is based on personal choice rather than gender, to emerge.
I did have WiFi for Spotify – I just let the playlist download overnight.
Thanks for reading!