A Travellerspoint blog

THE MAKING OF SHEA BUTTER

A NEW WAY TO LOOK AT GARBAGE

sunny 39 °C
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Almost every day on this trip, my emotions go on a roller coaster ride. I find myself lying in bed every night with my mind racing. I think about what I have seen, how it made me feel, trying to understand why almost everything we do evokes so many conflicting emotions. Today, our last day touring in Côte D’Ivoire was no different.

We began the day visiting a women’s cooperative where they create shea butter right from the seeds. A completely manual process. My first response was that I was witnessing horrible working conditions as I watched women trying to work with children hanging off them or nursing. We went in one room where the volume of the machine was so loud yet no one was wearing ear protection. Even with my ears plugged, I had to leave. The work is hard, and the kids are hanging around the smoke from the fires and I am staring in disbelief. Then Alix questions me, asking if compared to what we have seen, is this really horrible? The women are employed, the labour is not overly challenging and they are able to take care of their children. If it isn’t so bad, it is reflective of what can be consider good in this country.

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From Korhogo, we catch a flight back to Abidjan for our final night on this magnificent trip. Our guide, Nader, tells us he would like to take us somewhere. One last stop that he thinks will interest us. So, after picking us his car we drive into the unknown. When we arrive, he tells us not to be alarmed when people yell at us because these people would never have seen a tourist in their neighbourhood before. He continues to tell us not to worry because we will be with the boss of the neighbourhood. After parking, we met his friend, the boss, and Nader questions him on the safety of his vehicle and all of our belongings. With reassurance, we head off into what he describes as the “chaos” but what I would describe as a working garbage city. We gasp at the first sights, piles of garbage everywhere and people, mostly men and boys, working. As we keep walking, we see what looks like mini store fronts where people are breaking down the garbage for parts, melting metals, or creating something new from something old. We feel no fear. We are in good hands. It is obvious, the boss, although light hearted and handsome, is well respected and people quickly settle after he speaks to them and we are able to take pictures. It smells, we have to watch every step and are constantly in the way, but I feel lucky to being seeing this and I am having a good time. Nader asks me what I think….and I say it is fantastic to see part of the real life of Côte D’Ivoire. Alix immediately challenges that and says this isn’t real life. But it certainly is part of it. There are so many people making a living this way. I have respect, more than pity, for this lifestyle.

The boss (on the right) and his right ( on the left) hand man.

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The neighbourhood.

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On the way home, before saying goodbye to Nader we chat. I begin to wonder if I am sexist. I felt sorry for the women working at the cooperative this morning, yet, I didn’t feel sad here. As we do every day, we analysis the experience and Alix shares that she feels very sad that people have to work like this, in garbage, where they could be cut easily, with no protection or education on what precautions should be taken. She is right. I wonder if I have desensitized or if I think it is ok because it is men. Probably not, as I am still thinking about this, and the people who shared their lives with us and respect how hard they are willing to work for a better life for themselves and for many, families depending on their support.

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This is a large part of what has made this trip so magnificent. We have constantly been shown the many realities of these West African countries. We have seen them through the eyes of two individuals who love their countries and are desperate to make a difference and influence change and we are mesmerized trying to make sense of our feelings and our realities. All this amongst incredible colours, beauty, and strength of character from the warmest people. I am changed.

The talented videographer and our host in Côte D'Ivoire, Nader Fakhry.

Click here to see his work and videos on the beauty and challenges in this region

Posted by curlygirl 05:44 Archived in Cote d'Ivoire Tagged abidjan korhogo Comments (0)

CHILD LABOUR REALITIES AND HORRORS

LE BOLOYE OR DANCE OF THE PANTHER

sunny 34 °C
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This morning we are joined by our guide for a very full day visiting the area, the artisans and the trades that thrive here.

The weather is amazing. A welcome break from the intense humidity we experienced in Abidjan and there is blue sky. We pull up to this empty field which is quite unusual with its large rock formation. Around the open area are cashew trees. Cashews are one of the major exports of Cote D’ivore. They are lovely.

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This is a very sacred area and people come here often to make wishes and to sacrifice animals when the wishes come true. They are considered Animalists and we are told there is no voodoo but the similarities are many. It is pretty but as we approach there are chicken feathers and dried blood everywhere. We walk around and we see three people sitting below a rock performing some sort of ritual. Thankfully, no animals are involved. We find this all bizarre, this intense belief in the mystical and that the sacrificing of animals can solve problems is very difficult to understand especially when you see the way people live.

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Understanding this faith becomes the most difficult part of our trip especially as we walk further into this area.

We follow a trail and break out into the huge opening and we are immediately wowed by the beautiful white granite banks. Our joy quickly turns to shock and then intense sorrow as we get closer. This is a granite quarry. A quarry that has a fully manual operation. For as far as the eye can see, there are people working to break the stone, while other carry it on their head to form large piles. Although there are men working, it is the number of women that stand out initially. This is hard work under the full sun. It is 9:30 am and already 26 degrees. I no longer find the temperature so pleasant. As we get closer, we stop cold and we are quiet. Working alongside the adults are children, many no more than 7 or 8 years old, helping one another to hoist the buckets on rocks on their heads.

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I have seen a lot of sadness. I have seen children working too young instead of going to school but I am more horrified than I have ever been. This is slave labour and I cannot believe that in this day and age, it could be so bad. Côte D’Ivoire is a resource rich country but it has a long way to go. We walk here silently for an hour. I try to capture it in photographs but it is impossible to show the magnitude of this. I am wondering how, in 2020, in our world, this can be happening and I am racking my brain because I want to help. I don’t know how.

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The drive to our next location was very quiet and when we came upon a family of smiling kids, we were lifted, a little.

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We stop by the local weavers and to the bead makers. This was neat, in minutes, they use a chicken feather and natural dyes to paint they clay beads.
We also seem to pop into local markets.

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markets. Always interesting characters

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This guys is one of the civilian protectors of the highway. I wonder if they are like vigilantes. Apparently they are more respected than the police.

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In the evening we got to see another dance. This was one of my favourites and had the best music which was both rhythmic and loud. This was the dance of the Bolpye or the dance of the panther done by the sénoufo people. It is a dance that is a right of passage for young men to become adults. A process that takes 7 years. So much energy.

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By the way, there a larger than average occurrence of albinoism here. We have seen several individuals.

Posted by curlygirl 05:54 Archived in Cote d'Ivoire Tagged child labour Comments (1)

KORHUGO

FULANI AND FIRE DANCE

sunny 35 °C
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We set out early on the long drive to Korhogo. It was so much better than we thought because the roads are better than any we have seen. I even managed a good nap.

We stopped briefly after 4 hours for water and again at 5 hours to watch a fire dance which was amazing and nuts! The female dancers were the village’s virgins.

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The main guy, was nuts, he literally stood on the fire for several minutes and then went on the sit and roll in the fire several times. It was really quite fascinating.

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Just before arriving in Korhogo we made a surprise stop at a Fulani village. We always love these opportunities but it is evident that this village has at least seen tourists before. The kids were wild and surrounding us, holding our hands and begging for photos. Still it was a lot of fun. Writing this after two days in Korhogo, we have remarked that the people are dirty. Even in Togo where there was a lot of garbage, people were not filthy and of course, in Benin, everything and everyone was clean. Perhaps it is not that hard to understand because the dust and air quality is horrendous and we are truly filthy at the end of each day. Korhogo, as it turns out, is the worst we have seen in this regard. ( Note the lipstick on a couple of kids...no explanation for this)

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Once again, we are shocked at what we thought was a tourist town. I guess it is all relative because there really are no tourists. There is no infrastructure, no bathrooms, just lots of dust and smoke.

Posted by curlygirl 13:31 Archived in Cote d'Ivoire Comments (1)

BREAKDOWNS, DANCES AND RIDING WITH LOCALS

HAVING THE MOST FUN IN THE MOST UNUSUAL PLACES

sunny 35 °C
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It is a two-hour drive from Man to the Selakuru village where we will watch the famous stilt dance performed by the Kongnaka people. We are a little apprehensive when we see the sign to the village stating “touristique village”. I had really wanted to see this ( dance de Echassier) but we are so spoiled from our Benin experiences that the thought that it is done mostly for tourists disappoints us. You could sense that. The kids all came running but unlike in Benin, they beg for money and candy. We had some fun for sure and the dance was cool. The large black mask is for the man who protects from evil while the stilt dancer is just having fun.

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One of the nicest moments, was at the end when they thought we had left and the village all began to follow the masks and sing and laugh.

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Perhaps the highlight of the day was our return trip where we broke down. First, I will explain, that we have yet to be in any vehicle that does not have at least one check engine warning illuminated. Today was no different. While the roads seem better here, there are still huge holes everywhere. Well, we hit one and that was the end of the car. 35 degrees, full sun, and we are standing on the side of the road hoping a local transit van will come by. We see one, charming, painted with Bonne Chance ( good luck) and we think we are lucky but he continues. After about 30 minutes, I remember my voodoo fetish for good luck with travel. I perform the ritual and immediately, our ride pulls up. We both love the experience of local transportation. So, with two huge smiles, these two white chicks, and our guide crawl into the back of a decrepit, filthy, dusty, van, packed with people, and everything else. A video screen plays up front blasting Afrobeats. We greet everyone with a “bonsoir” (anytime after noon) and settle in for the 70-minute ride that stops frequently along the way. We stop for bananas and pile a large bunch in the back with us. Loved it.

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On arrival back in Man, we jump in another dilapidated vehicle, a taxi, and head to a small village called the zélé with the Gbâ people. This was very cool and although Voodoo is not practiced in Cote D’Ivoire, there were similarities. First the men with sticks danced and chanted through the village before going off into the woods to search for the “masque”, he arrives and we walk through the village following his antics. Everyone gathers to follow and watch.

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We end our day by spending a couple of hours walking through the Man market. We both agreed that this was very interesting. Really too busy and crowded in small spaces for photos but so great. I loved the alley with the traditional medicine. Really beautiful. I will say, there is way too much garbage around and the air quality is brutal. When we get home, we are exhausted, completely filthy, we, and our cameras, are completely covered in dust. Our lungs hurt and our noses are filled with soot. And as we scramble to see who gets the shower first I win) we remark on what a great day we had….and that we are probably a little weird.

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For the first time this trip, we had the opportunity to have the hotel do laundry. Everything needs to be washed daily but we do it in our sink and it is hard work. Hard to believe, people do this every day here but I have noticed how much better they are at it than me. All this to say, we were delighted to drop some pants and shirts to be washed. That was until we went to get them tonight and we learned because we are VIP guests (hmm), they decided to lock them in a locker and they only guy with the key had gone home for the night. But Inshallah, he will return tomorrow before we leave.

We finish the evening in typical style waiting 1 ½ hours for dinner but in the end, it is amazing. A fresh avocado salad and the local speciality, chicken in peanut sauce. Spicy and full of flavour. Mmmmm

Posted by curlygirl 14:46 Archived in Cote d'Ivoire Comments (1)

WALKING INTO CHAOS

ONWARD TO MAN

sunny 35 °C
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We continue to enjoy our modern hotel this morning with a hot shower and a great breakfast, even cheese. It is a nice change from bread, jam and an omelet.

Our driver from last night arrived promptly at 9:30 am and took us to a local market. Not just any market but the largest local market in Cote D’ivoire. There are NO tourist here. He explained that in the past it might have been dangerous to come here but now, with the police presence, and an African by our side, we need not worry. We trust him and we descend into the increasing chaos. It is massive and endless. For as far as the eye can see in every direction, there is more. You can buy absolutely anything here. It is difficult to photograph but occasionally we try. The sun is too strong and there are people, carts and produce everywhere. Nothing and no one stand still. People are apprehensive initially, trying to understand why we want pictures but our lovely African tells them we are not French and we want to show the world that the Cote D’Ivoire is changing and it is beautiful. When we take a picture, we generate much interest and are often swarmed by people. We don’t linger. We move on, while people laugh with delight at the images on the backs of our cameras. This morning I feel like a florescent light in a sea of black, orange, green, yellow and blue.

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Our Air Ivoire flight departs from the tiny domestic part of the airport. Our new guide, a photographer and videographer promoting the region, meets us here. In one hour, we are in Man. After a lengthy wait for our bags, we go directly to our first village and first tribal dance of Cote D’Ivoire. This is the Wê (pronounced whey) It does not disappoint. It is referred to as the dance of the youth and it is 6 young girls who dance with one of the older men. Their costumes and make up are incredible. They tell us the girls volunteer for this dance in attempt to preserve the culture. Traditionally, it is a celebration dance but today, it is for us. Still, the whole village comes out. The sun is bright so photography seems impossible but we don’t care because it is fascinating. The girls must not smile, must be in motion always, so if the feet are not moving or they are high in the air, their heads shake like a bobble on a bobble head doll. We shriek and cover our eyes when we see him swing one girl’s head inches from a stack of clay blocks and another, inches from a metal pole. But it is part of the dance. It is beautiful and we love it.

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As we often do, we reflect a little after on the experience. Particularly when we smell alcohol on the male dancer. We understand that we had to offer alcohol to get the dance but didn’t understand until later that it is the alcohol that “inspires him to dance”. I mean, I get the concept, having felt the inspiration from booze myself at times, but I am disappointed. We question the power and inequities. But this is how it is.

Once again, Man is known to be a tourist area and once again, this comes as a shock.
We stay in the best hotel in the area but we think we may have reached a low. While there is hot water, the rooms are dark, dingy and the floors quite dirty. There are plenty of other toubabou (white people), perhaps 20, at the hotel but that is the extent of what convinces us it is a tourist town. At least so far.

Our new guide launching his drone.

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Posted by curlygirl 11:40 Archived in Cote d'Ivoire Tagged man adbijan Comments (1)

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