Ivory Coast Living in the Danger Zone
These are my notes written while inside Ivory Coast. I feel like I am writing for the world that does not care, here is what I wrote down about Cote d’Ivoire, a.k.a. Ivory Coast before I left. When I wrote this down, it was too dangerous to report from inside the country.
Sunday, February 29, 2011 Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast
I am Afraid here in Ivory Coast and will leave soon.
Bah, my Ivory Coast girlfriend returned to the Hotel room yesterday after a visit with her sister,
"You must leave the country."
I was lying in bed, typing away on my computer; I was feeling good, content, even smug, because my work writing a book was making great progress, being creative is warm feeling.
Bah is Africa, she is everything good about Africa, and everything bad and I never know if I am talking to good or bad Africa. However, the last thing I expected to hear her say was I need to leave the country. The reasons are numerous, however, in the end simple why she would not want me to leave.
"Bah has no money, and no good place to live when I leave."
(Three days ago in the Alassane Islamic Rebels took Bah’s Mother home, they were in gun battles with Gbagbo troops and the home was the spoils of war. Everything, all of Bash’s personal possessions are gone, and here Mother and two Brothers walked 40 miles to safety. This was in defiance of the rebels who wished all civilians to stay in the middle of the battle.)
I took an emotional high dive, however remained steady, stopped working, sat up and asked,
"Why should I leave?"
"You must, it is dangerous."
"OK, why is it dangerous today?"
"It is dangerous?"
"Bah! Why today, what is different between today and yesterday?"
The bad Africa was at its peak, the secretive, evasive, petty and incredibly stupid Africa. Well, with prodding, pushing, rotating my emotional status between strict anger and empathy for her fear she says,
"A man came and talked with my sister’s husband."
"The alcoholic husband?"
"Yes, a man came to talk with him, wanting to know about you."
"He thinks you are spy."
I think in this moment I was relieved, and grateful to her gossipy sister, her alcoholic brother in law, and a soap opera situation that is normal Africa. I have been for days, trying to explain the long-term implications of being with me to Bah, a White Man here in Grand Bassam.
I have been saying to Bah,
"The locals will use some small thing as an excuse to come steal everything, maybe kill me. Then because you are with me, they will probably rape you as punishment."
I have been talking about the protest a few days ago in Grand Bassam Imperial, the central village across the lagoon from Grand Bassam, Quartier France where I stay. They started a protest, blocked off all the streets, and set up blockades; lit some tires on fire and all the taxis went into hiding. Then because the taxis stopped running, the police stopped working, because their way of earning money stopped, with no taxis, there are no control fees.
During the protest, the locals started to loot the local business owners, and the rumor was that the military, maybe police, there was someone who shot live bullets above the heads of the protesters and they stopped.
Sunday, I Purchased a Plane Ticket to Senegal
I had two choices; try to get a visa to Ghana, which could take two days, one day to apply and another day to retrieve. This means would have to travel right into the middle of Abidjan, to Deux Plateau and the Cocody area where the United Nations has Alassane under protection so Gbagbo cannot kill him.
I do not trust Ghana, I went to the embassy in Togo, and they refused, they changed the rules, they said, I must be a resident of Togo, whatever that means. Who knows, the Ghana embassy could be closed, in normal African tradition, the leaders could all leave when they are needed. I just do not trust Ghana. It is a culture that would say,
"We closed the Embassy for your protection."
Credit Card Not Accepted Online inside Ivory Coast
I go the Internet Café, this is now my third time today, and I am becoming increasing mad at Verizon, which shut, off my BlackBerry Internet Connection,
"Saying, we do not want to put you in a lurch, so they gave me one day notice."
Being a journalist in Ivory Coast is dangerous, the politicians want any information or atrocities they commit kept quiet from the world. Now, because my BlackBerry is shut off, I need to walk do the Internet Café, with a computer bag, open the compute in front of everyone and publish my Blog posts. It does not matter what I write, it looks like I am a reporter.
I have an expensive camera, I take photos and I use the Internet, Bah asked me many days ago, stop carrying your camera bag, she knows it is dangerous.
I sit online in the Internet Cafe, Travelocity.com my favorite airline ticket site, gives me a big zero, nothing works, no tickets to buy. I type in Kayak.com and it shows one ticket to Senegal for tomorrow. I discuss it with Bah, decide to buy, and when I return, the ticket it gone. The next ticket is for Thursday, this is four days away, and I ask the question,
"Am I safe for four days?"
As normal, she says,
"I do not know."
Africa culture is often like talking to rock, they cannot speculate, they cannot weigh the pros and cons, it is either yes or no, and if an important question like am I going to be killed, the answer is,
"I do not know."
We asked a local city leader, by the name of Armon if the city is planning a strike for Monday, if the roads are open, if he anticipates problems in the next few days. I ask all these questions; actually, Bah is just sitting there at best asking anything but intuitively correct questions.
He more or less says,
"Kenya Airways is good."
I did not ask that question, and a snowballs chance in hell he has every used the airlines, they are always ready to give advice on something they know nothing about.
I decided, I have no choice, I click on purchase. Kayak.com says, I must go to the Kenya Airline site direct, so I get on Kenya Airline. The ticket price is about the same, 389 U.S. Dollars and it is available for Thursday, I fill out all the information, the site says something like
"The Card Information is not connected please contact the site administer."
T.I.A. - This is Africa.
I try to buy the ticket in a many ways, it is obvious, the IP address of anyone inside Cote d’Ivoire a.k.a. Ivory Coast is blocked. I cannot purchase a ticket online inside this country, this is normal in Africa. There are so many scams being ran out of Africa, the Airlines refuse to even offer the chance of having a credit card problem, they shut Africa off.
Long and Longer Story
I go back to my Hotel room, call my friend Mark inside the USA, he will access the Internet later for me, I send him al my credit information, passport number, etc and then he tries to purchase the ticket on Kenya Airways. All along while here in Cote d’Ivoire, I new Travelocity and Kayak refuse to do business in Cote d’Ivoire, I thought Kenya Airways was the same blocking the country also? This is not true; the Kenya site is just broken.
T.I.A. - This is Africa
Longer and longer, Mark inside the USA has a heroic level of patience with me, I finally provide him with enough information. He gets on Kayak.com, which then sends him to Vayama to purchase the ticket. Go figure, the actual airline site does not work, but the one of their affiliates does, it is supposed to be the other way around, the Airline needs to be more professional than an agent.
Ok, I receive the e-mail, but it is not a confirmation, it is the promise of a ticket, if there are no problems, then maybe you have a confirmation.
It is Monday morning, if the BlackBerry was functioning, I do not trust Verizon. I could check my e-mail and see if the I have a confirmed airline ticket? Which it is, or who knows, I am not supposed to be in a lurch… go figure, I am in a country that is commencing to start a civil war and Verizon shuts me off, no problem, Verizon are you nuts. They gave me the phone to review, it is free, there is no way to be shut off for none payment, there is no payment.
Frustration, anger, I feel like I am banging my head against the wall. I feel like I called 911 and they put me on hold.
Frustration Defined: dissatisfaction: a feeling of disappointment, exasperation, or weariness caused by goals being thwarted or desires unsatisfied.
I Declared No Joy
I imagine the commander hollering at Maverick in the movie Top Gun,
"Maverick, stop the fight, you are below the hard line, Ice Man has declared No Joy."
I am more than willing to fight the good fight, to hang out and observe tribal cultures, to enter into dangerous situations. What is an Africa War?
"It is looking into the eyes of soulless boy, with a gun in his hand pointed right at your face."
However, you know the boy is actually a grown man, 25 years old, but has the emotional and mental aptitude of my 10 years old neighbor. There is a commander hiding somewhere, there are no rules of engagement, this is just boy, an amateur, thrown into an ugly situation, and he has a gun. He joined the military to carry a gun and collect bribes; this is the moral character of soldiers.
If a man who acts like a man points a gun at your face, when will he pull the trigger? This is tribal gossip at work, this is superstitious cultures, and it is as if three old women are deciding the fate of a country. It is 100 percent random, my intuition tells me, I could live forever here, or I could die tomorrow. I could get shot at on the way to the super market, and live to tell about it, but die because the a rich guy in a car decided at the last moment to park his car on the sidewalk where I was standing and ran me over.
My adventure is trying to predict and anticipate dangerous situations, knowing when to leave, judging how close I can go before the danger is unacceptable. Out of site, out of mind is the only way to live in Ivory Coast, see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil.
My intuition tells me, Andy you are trying to predict when lighting is going to strike, time to declare no joy and find a place a little more intelligent.
Sunday Gbagbo Television Station Off the Air
There are many rumors, the only thing certain is that channel 2, the Gbagbo propaganda station went off the air on Sunday. The one rumor says the Caste Blue shot the line to the station. When the locals describe the Caste Blue; they mean the United Nations because they have blue helmets. The other was that Alasanne troops attacked the station and killed many people. I have yet to meet a person in Cote d’Ivoire that liked the Caste Blue; the locals do not have any respect for the United Nations soldiers.
The rumors on why the televisions station started to deteriorates later in the day and people said they would repair the line.
Monday, 1:53 pm, there is no channel two, the station is off.
Monday February 28, 2011
Another manifestation, today, there is a protest, no taxis, nobody doing much of anything. I woke and walked to the Internet café, I received my confirmation from Vayama that I have a Kenya Airways e-ticket for Thursday.
If I would have been one day earlier, I would have been trying to go the airport on today Monday, with no way to go, I was lucky I purchased a ticket for Thursday.
Today is Monday, I discussed transport to the airport with Bah, and we will try to arrange a private car to leave a 6:00 am, just after the over-night curfew is opened. There is countrywide curfew from 9:00 pm until 6:00 am. I have one taxi friend from Burkina that I hope will take us, if for some reason he does not arrive by 6:30 tomorrow morning, I am hoping public transport is available. The value of a private car in this situation is we can drive to 1-3 hotels and make sure we have the best strategic hotel to walk to the airport if needed. Maria the manager of the Las Palmas Hotel here in Grand Bassam listed out the Reve and the Baron as possible Hotels. Bah will go with me and we will stay a couple of nights, this will be a good change for the last couple nights together until we see each other again.
Tuesday, February 29, 2011
We arrange with Tu the taxi driver to come at 6:05 to go to a Hotel close to the Abidjan, Airport. The driver never showed. There was no cell phone signal, therefore we could not call to check if he was coming so we walked out to the corner near the Hotel Las Palmas in Grand Bassam, Quartier France flagged down a normal taxi for 200 Franc to the Centreville. Upon having a small discussion on where we were going, the driver offered to take us to the Airport Hotel.
We went to the "Round" and there were small roadblocks, but passable, as we went towards Abidjan, we passed a burned out car sitting upside down in the middle of the road. We the approached another block in the road, but this one was complete. It was burned out bus, truck or something long. We turned around, went towards the city, turned left and fortunately worked our way around all the other road obstructions.
The distance from Grand Bassam to the Airport is less than 20 miles, upon nearing the airport there is first what a government stop is. This cost the driver a 1000 CFA bribe, then we come to a group of boys with clubs, I am not sure, I think he slipped the one 1000 again.
Bah tells me the Baron Hotel is good, and the Le Reve is far, as we pass the road leading to the airport I instantly see Le Reve, Bah just gave me a reason.
We enter Le Reve, I am excited, there is WIFI, we sign in pay 15,000 for a room that has two advantages on our room in La Palmas of Quartier France of Grand Bassam, and it has air conditioning that works very well and pornography on the television. I am not saying that porn is an advantage for me, but it could be a selling point for this Hotel, it is strictly a come to have sex hotel, I would assume their per hour rate jacks up the nightly rate. If you can rent a room 10 times for 2500, this is 25,000, and renting a room for 15,000, they lose money.
Jacque, the manager was nice, gave me the password the WIFI, and I go to use, I log in do all the normal, it connects and there is no Internet. I find Jacque again and realized after he talked with his brother, there has not been internet for days.
He just came and said it was nationwide, I know that is a lie, any plausible lie is good, the same a Bah telling me about Le Reve Hotel.
I am tired, truly tired of dumb, dumber and dumbest. If there is one thing I learn by listening to stories of people dying in Iraq, it is always stupid. They set up a roadblock, they give boys guns, somebody gets in a fight, accidentally something falls, slaps, maybe a gun goes off, they group opens up firing and many people die.
Wednesday 3:28 PM
Bah received a call from her father, her uncle Kofi has been killed. He worked in insurance in Abidjan, but as also a chief of (I not know the village name).
If Bah know I was writing this, she would stop me.
I stopped taking note here
I am in Senegal now, the people here are less friendly than Cote d’Ivoire, there is really no major difference between the cultures. The only difference is the bullies of Cote d’Ivoire have decided to play and the good people are in hiding.
I debated about trying to write this in some more organized of formal way. I am going to stop, it is not enjoyable, there is no satisfaction about chronicling the real world. I care, but readers seldom care. I do not like readers, they are incredible dense and slow, they can only obey a label. If for example, I was 22 years old, working for the New York Time and labeled a war journalist, they would read what I write.
This is discouraging to know, readers do not make independent decision, they will trust CNN, because CNN says we should trust CNN.
I am increasingly unhappy writing information for the Internet, the writing on the Internet is not taken serious.
I am finished, I could clean up the information above, there is no reason too, I wrote down what happened, that was my goal. In the end, I know I journalize what happens for me, it is my way to making sense of my world, I talk to myself, I write for myself, and the world has more meaning for me.
I left a country I loved, I am in some anal country now called Senegal with even less of a soul.
Ivory Coast Living in the Danger Zone