Friday, December 6, 2013

Yamoussoukro Observations

Observations from Yamoussoukro - December 4-6, 2013 
  • On Wednesday morning, I took a bus from Abidjan from Yamoussoukro, the bizarre nominal capital.  It was the first time I’ve taken a bus in Cote d’Ivoire and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it all was.  The ticketing office was quite professional, with standard prices and official printed tickets.  There was a terminal with benches, a television set and no panhandlers.  The bus itself was mainly middle class.  Several people in my vicinity pulled out books during the trip.  It was a bit crowded (there were about 80 people squeezed into a normal sized travel bus), but clean and secure.  Out of 80 travelers, I was one of two Westerners and there was an Indian as well. 
  • The bus had a couple of television sets that played an Ivorian sitcom throughout the trip.  The volume was a bit low and I had trouble understanding the dialogue, but it seemed like most of the plot centered around older men checking out or flirting with attractive younger women and then getting yelled at by their wives.  This is apparently a very relatable concept, as the passengers particularly enjoyed these scenes. 
  • I’m now in Yamoussoukro for a workshop to produce the national strategy paper for implementing “Performance-Based Financing.” 
  • We’re staying in the Hotel President, the nicest hotel in Cote d’Ivoire.  It’s lovely, the rival of any hotel I’ve stayed in.  I’d make snarky comments about the cost, but I know that we’re actually paying a very reasonable price for room, board and conference space.  And in fact it’s the World Bank paying.  And I’m quite confident that the cost is significantly less than the State Department paid for our Fulbright Pre-Departure Orientation.  Fair is fair, I guess. 
  • Once again, most documents are produced via group sessions.  Every afternoon, we divide into groups to produce some sort of document or presentation which we then present to the entire conference at the end of the day. 
  • A fun realization about group workshops: counter-intuitively, the period after lunch is often the most productive.  Post-coffee break, the pedantic among us will spend hours debating thrilling semantic issues such as whether the “government” or the “government budget” is a “source of revenue.”  Post-lunch, lethargy takes over, and the obstinate become subdued enough that the group can actually get work done. 
  • We had a moment of silence at the beginning of today's session in honor of Nelson Mandela.  
  • Google Glass with face recognition would be incredibly useful in government conferences.