Cote d’Ivoire and other stuff I don’t know much about…

I’ve lived in London all my life. You can call it boring but London is a pretty good place to be and I love it, despite or perhaps because of the problems of city life. While I’m in a confessional mode, I might as well also admit that I’ve never been to university either (although unlike someone I know who has a first in PPE – I do know what DFID is!)

So, I’m not well travelled, I don’t speak any language other than English and I don’t have a degree. I do have fantastically intelligent and well travelled friends though. This led to me visiting my friend Jo (who works for the Foreign Office) in Cote d’Ivoire in 2009. I did know about Cote d’Ivoire already, because Didier Drogba is Ivorian (and a Chelsea player!!), but I didn’t know much about it except that Jo seemed to think that it was a safer posting than Congo but I didn’t see the logic..

I found Africa and this bit of Africa, strange, uncomfortable and beautiful (all at the same time!). I also completely understood why Jo wanted to be posted in Africa and wished that I’d been able to visit when she was posted in the Congo. I also (because of Jo) met people who worked for NGO’s, other embassies and the media…

This little person wouldn’t have happened if Jo hadn’t gone to Cote d’Ivoire

There are people I would not know, if I hadn’t been to visit Jo in Cote d’Ivoire.

At the moment with all the stuff happening in Cote d’Ivoire, I have to admit to thinking a lot about that trip and the people I met there. One of the strangest things about the past month or so is hearing John James (the BBC correspondent there) on the radio. I met him and his wife at a party, I don’t know them but Jo was at their wedding (it’s a weird thing, when friends of friends are on the radio and living in a potential war zone..)

On the plane going out there in 2009, I sat next to a guy who was Ivorian and lived in America. He’d left Cote d’Ivoire during ‘the Crisis’ and had left a daughter behind. That trip was the first time he’d been home in five years and his family hadn’t told his Mum that he’d be coming home. When we landed in Abidjan, Jo was late picking me up and he saw me and asked what was happening and stayed with me until Jo arrived. As he said, I couldn’t be more white, didn’t speak French and it was my first time in Africa, so he wanted to make sure I was safe…

I keep thinking about him, and about the guys that worked with Jo, and about the guy I watched make the most amazing pastry as a test run for the party Jo was hosting for the Queen’s birthday party. He was from Ghana but had lived in Europe and told me that the difference between Europe and Africa was mostly that life in Africa was hard…

I keep wondering what’s happening to the people I met when I was there. I worry for all of them, hope that they are safe, that they’re not taking part in the violence or affected by it. I’m ashamed that the situation there has only been on my radar because I’ve been there on holiday and if I have a wish for 2011, it’s that this situation gets resolved soon and peacefully. Life in Cote d’Ivoire is hard enough…and these children, who I don’t know, deserve better….

About nicdempsey

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1 Response to Cote d’Ivoire and other stuff I don’t know much about…

  1. Pingback: Remembrance | Nic Dempsey

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