It's been a while since my first post on getting to Abidjan - (Abidjan debout) . People always ask me - "so why did you move to Abidjan alone for 2 months?" It is a short story actually. I took a 6 month sabbatical from work to recentre myself. My life had been out of balance for a while, and I needed a break to remind myself what made me happy. Of those 6 months, I spent 2 months backpacking in South America, 2 months learning French in Nairobi and 2 months living in Abidjan, learning French, making friends, dancing to coupe decale, writing....It was much needed. I came back with a new lease on life and reminded myself that at any point in life, we should have an internal barometer that lets you know what is building up inside you and that if need be one should be able to withdraw themselves from everyday life to really reflect on all the factors leading one to feel unhappy. Living an examined life so to say.....
The 2 months in Abidjan were a perfect conclusion to the 6 months sabbatical. On the day after Abidjan debout, I woke up close to 10am. My lovely couchsurfing host had made breakfast - I had an egg in a baguette. I spent a bit of time looking online for Alliance Francaise in Abidjan only to realize that for some unknown reason Abidjan has none. My host's friend showed up at her place a few hours later and he played the guitar for us. We listened to him for a few hours. These are the little joys of being on sabbatical - days when you follow the flow - no itinerary to stick to, no place to be, nothing due....just living life....and listening to the guitar. We had a yummy meal of fish and rice in the early afternoon.
Later on we went to the market to look for chargers (given I had left all my chargers on my bed in Nairobi). My host - Esther and her friend Raissa got mani-pedis at the open air market. At the market I started noticing some very distinct differences in daily life between Anglophone and Francophone countries (actually might be more of differences between East and West Africa.) The women working at the market were all very well dressed, most had weaves, false eyelashes, acrylic nails etc. I could not think of a single instance in Nairobi when I had gone to the market and bought onions from a woman with lipstick, daring cleavage showing, fitting skirts, nails done, fresh weave etc. I could not help but stare. This attention to detail when grooming was something I came to notice everywhere in my time in Abijdan. Everyone - despite their income group - was always really well dressed by my Kenyan standards. Everyone....I later learnt that getting an acrylic manicure at the market cost around USD 1, a pedicure USD 2 and on average my friends got their nails done weekly and their weaves changed every 2 weeks.
I began to notice it too with my new found friends. Even when leaving the house to go to the dusty market, everyone tried on a few outfits. I thought of how I usually dressed in Nairobi when going to run errands in town - jeans, loose shirt, sneakers or flats....never anything to draw unnecessary attention to you - especially if I am javing into town. I wondered "If people dress this well to go to the market, what do they wear to weddings?"
After the town errands we went to Raissa's place and napped for 2 hours. I was quickly becoming very comfortable with my new friends - to the point of taking random naps at their places:-) Ivorians are really warm though - I was a complete stranger, but I was constantly being absorbed into people's plans. I loved that aspect.
After our naps, Raissa made some delicious chicken and rice. We left her place, went to our place and I was fast asleep by midnight - smiling to myself - thinking of all the possibilities of what my time in Abidjan would be like.