The Kids of Ivory Coast West Africa

The Kids of Ivory Coast West Africa
This is amazing, suddenly my life is full of small children, they are everywhere, and they invade my world in wonderful ways.

My Hotel "Las Palmas" is managed by Marie, and she has a three-year-old daughter by the name of Kelly. Daily as I slowly stroll into the Hotel Kelly lets out a screams and runs at me, she does not stop until she has plowed into my legs with her small hands and arms she hugs as if she was lucky to know me.
I know it is my "bonne chance."

I am sitting here writing this post wondering to myself, why don’t I have a photo of Kelly to put here? I believe the answer is this, when she runs at me it is one of them small family moments, like when my Mother and Father meet me at the Greyhound Bus Station, it just is not the time to stop and take a photo, plus that little girl is fast.

This is a very special photo, it says so very much about West Africa. First, this is simplicity, while the USA and Europe are up to their ears in complicated crap, we have this small child playing without a care in the world here in Africa. This reminds me of my childhood, when I was about the same age, maybe 1960, we ran around and played, whenever, wherever in my small town of 400 people.

I know your question, who is watching this child? It is the same as in my childhood, everyone is watching this child, and the whole community takes responsibility for her safety and welfare.

Now, take a close looks at the photo, her hair is braided, they call it "Tresse" or maybe "Tissage" here in Cote d"Ivoire. I would guess maybe her real hair is about 1-2 inches long in reality, and they have put hair extensions on this small child. The must work 2-4 hours to do the hair in this manner, and it could cost a day’s wages. The cost or the time is inconsequential, the mother wanted to make the small child beautiful and has succeeded. The people of Africa are often incredibly wealth in comparison to the developed world, or maybe they have their priorities in line.

Grand Bassam, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa --- Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Look at the beads or the string around the waist of this girl, I have lived about one year of my life in West Africa and it is still a mystery to me. Small or large, many girls here will have this string thing around their waist. It can be as simple as a piece of yarn, or as complicated at what you are looking at, normally I believe just one string of very small colored beads is most common.

I have asked about these beads in many ways, rephrasing the question, trying to translate the French, and in the end, it is my problem. If for example I am asking a 23 year old girl about the beads, she will just look at me as if to say, what a silly question, and say,
"Do you like them?"
"C’est Bon?"
Yes, I say, but why, and they continue to want to know, why I need to ask why --- I am learning this way of thinking, to not make simple into something complicated.

Beaches and Simplicity
Yesterday, I went to the Beach, it is a little crazy, I just spent a month at the beach of Tela, Honduras. The Honduras beach there was so ugly, I never once in 30 days laid on the beach and read my book. I have been here a week and have started going daily to the beach, the beach at Tela was just too complicated and dirty feeling. There was nothing warm and friendly about it, like watching a car accident, your stop and look, not sure what to do, so you decide to leave.

The beach here at the Grand Bassam has trash, fishermen with nets, boats, children, and girls that like to roll around in the sand. Nothing complicated, and this is what a beach should be, nothing complicated, nature providing a nice place to visit.

Tela, Honduras had a resort, and often resorts are crazy, saying we will make and incredibly complicated situation, you make a reservation, we have swimming pool, we will play annoying music so loud nobody can think, your brain can explode from sensory stimulation. The modern world keeps the mind churning so fast they can avoid all introspection, and then want to say life is good, I think they are insane.

Grand Bassam Beach is Simple
I spread out my hammock on the sandy beach, I use it for a blanket on the beach, then took off my shoes, opened my book, and hoped to fall asleep. Slowly, slowly, "un peu, un peu" the children of the beach work their way closer. One lies down five feet from me, facing me, looking at me, and says,
"Bon Fole" or white man in "Apolo."
(Do not expect me to spell this correct.)

I say, Je m’appelle Andre"
My name is Andrew.
I do not say "Andy" they like the sound and repeat it until I go crazy.

Simple and more simple, the kids of the beach start to stack up; soon there are 15 of these little black bodies piled up talking two feet from me. How am I to read? This could be a win or no win situation; instead, after years of travel, I accept that is it is what it is, no more, no less. I have no reason to pass judgment; a person should just roll with the situation and accept life.

Happy and Content
I think the goal of life is to be happy and content; it is strange world when people who have 100 times more money than Ivory Coast people are not happy. Moreover, I become angry when Rich people without a clue from developed countries want to come fix something that is far from being broken.

One of you will read this story, and find things to pick apart, another person will enjoy. The modern world often is a hassle, wanting to spoil simplicity by overcomplicating the world. I could write for weeks, show 1000’s of photos and nothing would change.

"People believe what they want to believe, and disregard the rest."
- Simon and Garfunkel in the song "The Boxer."

I was sitting under the palm stand where they sell prepaid mobile phone time and talk, when a tall man placed this child in my arms. He then walks down the sandy road towards a place to eat. I think he thought I needed something to do, and wanted his baby watched for a few minutes. I held the baby for a few minutes, than passed it along to the next person in line.

"The next person in line."

"Life is Good" or "La Vie est Belle."

You are all invited outside to play; I suspect you are too busy…

The Kids of Ivory Coast West Africa


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I've never been to Africa, but I have been to a few places in the Caribbean/Central America, so your comparisons of the beach you were just at in the Honduras and this new one are very interesting.

Great photos again.

Cheers, Tim

A very enjoyable post -
About the beads around the waist - a friend from Sierra Leone showed me the single string of red beads she has around her waist and said that she has had them since she was young and that they are supposed to help a woman keep a good figure. (Maybe that's why the girls didn't want to tell you what they're for!)
Sun is shining through the clouds here, so I'm off out for a walk... to "go outside and play"!
Best wishes to wonderful west africa.

Beautifull story, Beautifull healthy children. Somehow this seems so important to me. They seem well cared for and loved. A question in my mind though. Gotta remember I am 76 years old and these are old lady questions. Do these children have cloth diapers and what we called rubber pants in our days or do they have the fancy throw alway diapers such as the little ones in the USA wear?? That baby looked like he had rubber pants to keep him dry to me. Anyway, great article.

Great post. May your travels continue forever!

Great to see you back to a more interesting country and people

Hi Andy,

Great pics and commentary on West Africa. I've been to East Africa but my trip was too short.

I also enjoy your travel tips keep them comming :)


Where are all the kids with bloated bellies ? Were are all the stick-thin aids carriers ?

Where are all the glassy eyed matchette welding thugs and child soilders ?

Where are all the flies nesting on new born faces ?

This can't possible be the same Africa in the news from Ivory Coast

NGO = No Good Organizations

Hi Andy.

That baby you hold will be a healthy adult, being hold with lots of people, playing later with lots of kids, sharing their adventures, feeling free. Money is just a tool. That's why you have lots of money on U.S. and Europe (I'm Portuguese), but the people are depressed, trying to fill their lack of social interaction and time with their own kids with objects.

People earn their money in order to be happier. But, I would bet that you Andy, can see happiness on the faces of many Ivory Coast people.



Hello Andy! Hope all is well in your travels. I think I may be able to solve your question about the string of beads worn around the waists of girls and women in Africa. I spent a summeer in Ghana a couple of years ago and, according to my host sister, the strings are put on girls at a very young age for two reasons. 1. They are beautiful and one is more appealing to men if she wears them. 2. They help to form the stomach. The tight beads help shape the muscles so there isn't a bulge of fat along the bottom of the stomach (what we in America refer to as "love handles")....
As the women grow older, the beads are replaced for ones that continue to fit and form their stomach as they like it to look.
Hope that helps!! Safe travels!!

Ok, what I believe is this is an ancient custom so old that in typical African manners the girls make up answers.

But the reason in my belief it is the remaining part of how women managed menstration. They would tie strips of cloth to a string around their waist. This is a beautified remnant of an old tradition.

Many many many fat women in Africam

I have been following your blog for several years. It has been a pleasure to read about the other parts of the world - especially the people.

I lived a life less simple for three years but only began to realize and take advantage of the low cost opportunities abroad when my time and funds were about gone.

I intend to one day resume the Journey I started when the time and funds allow.

As for now, I have resigned myself to live vicarously through Andy the Hobo.

I am truly envious.

David the Wanna Be Again Traveler

Hola Andy , que hermoso poder disfrutar de un lugar en donde todo camina más lento, sin las angustias que hay en las grandes ciudades... sigue disfrutando de todo aquello que te está dando paz, tranquilidad y despertando lo mejor de tí...
Un abrazo

You inspire me! I am ready to sell my underwater house and join you:-)

Wonderful post and pictures! I just went to a beach romanticized and described by the LP author as white sand and was disappointed to find brownish river sand and the witer neer mentioned there's no electricity with generator power at budget hotels only 4 to 5 hours daily so in a tropical country withOUT a fan made it a bit uncomfortable. I made the most of my 2 night stay there handwashing my laundry, ate well, walked away from the resort covered beach where I read a book and enjoyed the non developed atmosphere, took alot of photos and once again realized how lucky I am to live much of my life on Boracay Island.

Your NGO reference is FUNNY and i will remember and use it often!

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