I will enter Ivory Coast soon; I need to carry the equivalent of 1000 Dollars in West African CFA with me into Ivory Coast to be safely funded for travel inside the country. The small war between two politicians in Ivory Coast is causing banks to close, import / export problems, there is a siege in process by the outside world. Well, that is according to the press, my job as an Adventure Traveler is to learn the truth, the world news organizations lie more than a used car salesman.
Bah called me from a different telephone number inside Cote d’Ivoire, she says she has lost her cell phone. When an African woman talks about cell phones, I think about money, it is a triggered a response in my brain. The call was right before Valentines Day, therefore buying her a new cell phone would be an easy gift solution.
"--- hmm what is the money situation in Cote d’Ivoire?"
Note, that hardly a day of my life goes by here in West Africa without a women asking me to buy them a cell phone, this is not Bah, she does not ask for money, she really lost her phone.
Western Union Sign in Ivory Coast (Everywhere Visa is NOT)
I started to tell her,
"I can Western Union money to you."
I stopped, because I remembered Western Union charged me 25 dollars to send 100 dollars last time. This is a 25 percent cost of money fee, this is the type of leak in my budget I avoid, a type of cost overrun that causes a Travel Budget to explode. It is not the big expenses that get me in trouble, it the continuous little extra fees on top of the normal fees, the not-included-in-price costs.
Ghana West Africa --- Thursday, February 17, 2011
I need to escape from CNN brainwashed news.
On and on and on it goes, and my mind suddenly realized, I need to read the World New about Cote d’Ivoire. I Goggled Cote d’Ivoire then clicked on the news button.
There is almost no correlation between what is said on CNN and reality. I am being mean to CNN, this is the whole world of News, I read many news sources, and while reading I search for hints and clues to possible real problems, Presently, I am making a checklist of problems that I need to have anticipated solutions ready, I do not want be surprised.
Ivory Coast’s financial system is grinding to a halt, with bank closing and the stock market halting trade as the West African nation’s political crisis drags into its 11th week.
ATM Machine in Ivory Coast in French (Caisse Automatique)
I called up Bah again, are the ATM closed? She speak French, I try to remember how to say Bank Machine in French, my mind finally stumbles out,
My mind is churning, it is burning, I am still learning about Bah, but I do not know Bah well enough to know her banking situation. The majority of people in West Africa are on a cash only basis, they do not use banks, and where Bah stands on this issue is a question mark for me.
Asking Bah whether the ATM machines are working is tricky, West Africans seldom admit that something is broken; they do not want to admit there are problems. She is proud of Ivory Coast, this is a good thing, but pride can taint an opinion. She tells me the banks are opened, but is she sure or just guessing? Maybe the banks are open, but money is not being transferred internationally.
What is reality and what is false is not as important as how I deal with the situation. I need to have backup solutions, money is an essential need, not a maybe-I-need-thing, if you have no money, then you cannot travel, and that is an unpleasant fact. All perpetual travelers continuously talk about money, this is a number one conversation, how to have money and continue to travel.
Cash, I need Cash
I realized this yesterday, I started counting my money. Maybe I have 700 Dollars in USA cash with me; therefore, I went to the ATM here in Ghana yesterday and withdrew the maximum, about 200 USD. The USA banks cycle the ATM machine at midnight, so I did another mathematical thought, when will the banks roll over and allow me to take out another 200-300 Dollars in Ghana Cedis? It is at 5:00 in the morning, after five in the morning, I should be able to withdraw more money after that time. The Eastern Time Zone
I am in a Visa Trap here in Ghana
I have a year visa to Cote d’Ivoire, maybe six months remaining on that visa. I have fewer than eight days before I must leave Ghana. I have no choice, I either enter Cote d’Ivoire, or I enter Togo, I cannot stay in Ghana, at least now without out multiplying the complications in life.
The Ghana Embassy in Togo will not give me another Visa to Ghana, while I believe the Embassy of Ghana in Cote d’Ivoire will give me another visa, nothing makes common sense in Africa. The Accra airport is a pivotal entry point to West Africa, if you can fly into or out of Accra, you can save from 500-1000 thousand dollars in plane fare.
I called up Briggs Visa a visa processing company in Washington DC yesterday,
"Can I FedEx, DHL, somehow send my passport to you for a Visa?"
They said yes, but they do not recommend, because it has to go through customs. This option is off the table, I do not trust West African customs agents.
There are three directions to go, East towards Ivory Coast, West towards the truly big problem for Visa country of Nigeria. (They want me to return to USA for a visa.) Alternatively, I can go north to Burkina Faso, Mali etc. I have zero desire to ever return to Burkina Faso or Mali, two of my least favorite countries on the planet.
Cote d’Ivoire is a Modern Country
The city of Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire is a modern city, Ghana has many problems. When I have a business type problem in Cote d’Ivoire, they come closer to handling it in a business like way, while in Ghana it is lottery. The decisions are randomly made, the policy is set by the person I am talking with, and can change from day to day. Sometimes all you need to do is return the next day, talk to a different person and you will be granted permission.
Incredible Self-Realization about Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire
Writing down ideas, thoughts and feeling is a great way to have subconscious beliefs come to the surface and show their face. I was typing away, I realized one of the major reasons I am going to Cote d’Ivoire, and it at prima facie level is almost crazy.
"I would feel safer in Cote d’Ivoire than in Ghana."
Many people make a decision on the English language, they only go to countries where they can speak English, this is not the best travel strategy.
I believe the opportunities for long-term solutions to Visas, and further travels in Africa are better in Cote d’Ivoire than in Ghana. I was explaining my Visa problems with the Visa processing woman in the Ghana Embassy, what she said was,
"Go home. Go back to the USA."
The Ghana culture does not give me solutions to problems, they give me dead end streets, and they set up blockades and say, give me money. I do not feel safe in Ghana; they are continuously trying to put me between a rock and hard place. While when I requested a three month Visa to Cote d’Ivoire and they gave me a year. Ghana in many ways is a little Nigeria, a never ending list of Catch 22 situations, at first you think you are in heaven, the speak English, but slowly the devil is in the small things, and an I start to have an ugly feeling in my gut.
A funny story, I was in Cambodia talking with an incredible smart friend of mine from Japan. I asked,
"Why do you think there are so many Nigerians in Vietnam?"
"I am not sure, but they are not up to good."
He made a judgment without actual facts, he was brave, he did not wimp out on answers.
Slowly with time, long-term travelers learn to use their instinctual abilities and stop relying on facts or actual data they read. I trust what I feel intuitively more than I trust any reports, guidebooks or news sources. I do not dismiss ugly feelings, I am gravitating towards Cote d’Ivoire for many instinctual reasons, I believe in a way I am moving towards safe harbor. I am fully aware that to some of my extremely well read Blog readers, this seems delusional. However, I am the one putting myself in these somewhat dangerous situations, I am the one with my head on the chopping block, I am the one with the heightened sense of awareness, and my situational awareness is peaking. We are in different planes of reality, one is intellectual the other is on the street.
I believe there are more solutions offered to me inside Cote d’Ivoire than in Ghana. Adventure travel of this sort requires many back up systems, there is a need to have many exit strategies. There is always the airport solution, I just go the closest airport and sleep until I can buy a plane ticket to anywhere but here.