Thursday, October 10, 2013

Things I learned this week in Abidjan

Observations from last week in Abidjan:
  • Taxi drivers have been much more honest than I had been led to believe.  One negotiates their cab fare here, and to hear some tell it, they will skin you alive if you let them.  My experience has been that they usually start a dollar or two above the market rate, and negotiate down quite easily. 
  • On Wednesday night, my cab driver was listening to a country music CD.  The juxtaposition between Dan Williams' music and the drive across Abidjan at rush hour (we drove on the sidewalk for several blocks -- I know this must seem like an exaggeration but it isn't) was one of the cooler moments I've had here.  It would have made a great scene for a film.   
  • The climate is waaaay better than I had been expecting.  There hasn't been an oppressively hot day since my arrival and most days it's actually pretty pleasant.  Apparently, the dry season is much hotter, but I had expected every day to be unreasonably hot, and that is certainly not the case.   
  • I moved into my new house last weekend with the three other Fulbrighters.  It’s a spacious four-bedroom house, with a small yard on a pleasant residential street.  We’re in Deux Plateaux, a couple of blocks from Rue des Jardins, one of the more fun streets in Abidjan. 
  • Rue des Jardins is fun because it has restaurants (particularly Vietnamese and Lebanese), as well as cafes, an ice cream shop, a supermarket and a very decent French pastry shop. 
  • Rent is less than half of what one would pay for a similar place in DC, but still supposedly quite expensive by developing country standards.  
  • Moving in was complicated by the lack of social capital and the lack of trust in the legal system.  We didn’t want to pay anything until basically the moment we moved in and I felt stressed that perhaps it was all a scam and our money would be stolen.   For their part, they made us pay nine months of rent up-front -- six months of rent, along with three months of security deposit. 
  • Lots of lizards here, some with brilliant orange stripes along their backs. 
  • The ravens have white breasts. There are an extraordinary number of them here, particularly at sunset when they all take to the sky and downtown Abidjan looks like it’s in the middle of an apocalyptic bird uprising. 
  • Most streets here don’t have names, just numbers that nobody knows or bothers with. To get somewhere, you have to know a landmark nearby and direct your driver from there.  
  • The local furniture makers here don’t have stores or warehouses; they occupy patches of land in throughout the city where they display their wares.  We bought all our furniture for our house from one of these carpenters.  It was a mostly painless and effective process.  They built several beds, desks, chairs and desks for us, according to our specifications and delivered them; however, the one problem – and it is a significant problem – is that my bed smells like mold.  Trying to figure out how to get this fixed.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm getting a very vivid picture in my mind from your awesome posts! Loving them...keep them coming!