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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.


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.


The neighbourhood.


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.


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

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