Sunday, June 1, 2014

Abidjan Observations - Ultimate frisbee, soda pop and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Sheila left Abidjan a few days ago, so I should have a bit more time for blogging these last several weeks in Abidjan.  Some initial observations from the past few months: 

Ultimate Frisbee – This has become my favorite activity in Abidjan.  I still feel pretty blah about the sport of frisbee, but the weekly habit of it here is great.  It’s organized by Diego, an Italian who works for an international NGO here, and there are a few other westerners who attend, but the most religious attendees are the Ivorians.  There is a core group of about 10 regulars, mostly guys between 20 and 30 years old, although there is one young woman and one kid.  In recent weeks, they’ve discussed creating a national Ivorian frisbee federation, and I’ve been having fantasies about making a Cool Runnings type movie or book about them. 

I only see most of them once a week, but these are probably the most meaningful relationships that I’ve formed with Ivoirians.  It’s a good group of people, and it’s been fun to get to know them through the medium of sports.  Sports are such a great leveling force where differences of class and culture can be mostly wiped away for a couple of hours of running and throwing and yelling at each other and celebrating touchdowns. 

There is a gulf in culture and social class that can’t be entirely overcome of course, and the frisbee gang are definitely a different social class.  They seem mostly lower-middle class for Cote d’Ivoire (which would qualify as very poor in the U.S.).  I’m not even sure what many of them do in life, but that’s mainly because most of them don’t have formal jobs or stable incomes.  One is a grad student, another a bouncer, but most seem to be drifting, surviving in that fuzzy grey area of a society with few formal jobs or opportunities for a stable, sufficient income. 

In any case, I’m happy to have passed through their lives for a few months.  It’s already my favorite memory from Cote d’Ivoire – Sunday afternoons, laying in the grass after frisbee, drenched from running around in the African heat, laughing and passing around water bottles while the sun sets on another week. 

Soda pop – I don’t normally drink soda in the U.S., but it is glorious in West Africa.  I drink a few per week now, especially after soccer, frisbee or tennis, but sometimes just because it’s hot and humid and I’ve been sweating all day, and soda is cold and sweet and hydrating.  Also, if you get it from a maquis, they serve it in glass bottles, like out of 1950s America.  I highly recommend the Fanta Cocktail. 

French lesson – The word for "stoplight" in Ivorian French is "tri-colored fire."

Global Problems, American Solutions – A couple of nights before Sheila left, we were at dinner with some friends, and we got to discussing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  A couple of people hadn’t heard of it, so those who had were explaining what they knew about it (it’s twice the size of the continental U.S.!).  Then we started discussing what could be done about it, and one woman, an American Foreign Service Officer, suggested that we should just bomb it.  Such a fantastically American response.  Is it a problem?  Yes.  Okay, let’s bomb it.