Glimpses of Ivory Coast from the Expat Dad, and the Uncle

When Baba announced that he had accepted an offer to work in Ivory Coast in West Africa, in the midst of the the Ebola Outbreak, I was truly horrified. I kept on checking online about the development and improvement on the diseases and kept praying that he will be moved to another project. When we explained to Teloy about his impending departure, he seriously said no.

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Slowly we began to accept it. I began reading more about the country which will be his home for a year and tried to understand more about. Of course I am interested in exploring that side of the world but, at the moment, I relish the spontaneity and misadventures of being a mom to the school kid plus it’s tooooo expensive to go there!

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When asked where Baba is, our friends and family were also horrified that he is going to Africa. I have to convince them that he is going to a safe place and so on, it was tiring but soon their worries faded.

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I have read about Ivory Coast on history books before and most of it were just about the illegal Ivory Trade. Baba would tell me stories about the locals, the places and the things he saw around the Abidjan – the country’s capital. Their building is located near Coco Beach and beside the office of the United Nations. Ivory Coast is still recovering from civil unrest so it is another factor that takes my worries into overdrive.

Baba said that he had always wondered why the UN is always set on having humanitarian missions to Africa and how that he can see the situation he understood. He always thought that the Philippines is so poor and that we also deserve aid from the UN, but nothing has prepared him on the things he saw.

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Slowly, he also become accustomed to the things around him. He and his companions were eager to feed the children whenever they can. They also asked some locals to do their laundry and cleaning, but most of them are hesitant about letting them prepare their food. The locals were more than willing to take on these simple jobs and will sometimes take their children with them while they work so Baba and his flatmates provides food for them.

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Eventually Baba also requested to have his brother hired through his agency, so Jason joined him there last February. Having a familiar face nearby lessens the homesickness that they felt. It was Jason who seemed to have explored much of the neighborhood than Baba.

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On several occasions, Baba was also able to visit the city which he said looked like Makati or Ortigas. His contract is almost over but he has yet to visit the Basilica he said because it’s too far from their place. Ivory Coast is a French Speaking country and he is worried that he might get lost and not communicate effectively on his own.

Food and commodities in Ivory Coast are also very expensive even for expats like him. He would compare prices of the same items here in the Ph and there and find them 2x or 3x more expensive, so no wonder many locals can hardly afford basic food and clothing.

Lately I’ve been urging him to explore Abidjan and maybe Yamoussoukro, but he declined. Talk about fellow working being robbed and mobbed by locals gangs made him weary. According to some of his Ivorian friends, hold-ups and even a scenario like the Pinoy “Hulidap” is common in the country.

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Africa brings up diverse images from safaris and wild jungle adventures, to scary diseases and malnutrition, to civil unrest and continuous need for humanitarian intervention. But Africa is a continent and it has many different countries -each with their own government, culture, climate and terrain. Like many other countries around the world, they have their own struggles and issues. My dream of exploring the continent does not diminish with the discoveries of Baba or the things I’ve read about it.