Travel Stories / Wanderlust

Journey to the motherland: Photo essay of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

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A couple of months after I officially launched my website. AFAR Magazine  Reached out to me for an interview. I talked about some of my adventures around the world, why travel is important to me and how traveling can be different for a person with a disability. Then I was asked “Where do you want to go next” frankly I always hated that question because my travels destinations are never calculated or thoroughly planned. Whatever deal through secret flying is my next destination.  Any country from the New York Times “ places to travel” could me my next destination -However this time, something had changed. At that moment, I looked back at my life, all those places I had visited and the things I learned from those places then I knew I was ready to finally answer that question:

AFAR: Where do you want to go next?

Càx: I would love to go to West Africa. Africa is the only continent that I have not visited. My ancestors came from West Africa and I think it would be such an emotional journey. I would probably spend my days eating and shopping for colorful fabrics.

I grew up in Haiti and learned that my ancestors were enslaved by Europeans and transported to the Americas. They were believed to have originated from West Africa, specifically Benin. For the longest I was waiting for the opportunity to visit my mother land. In the Fall of 2015 that opportunity presented itself. My college friend M. is from Ivory Coast and in 2002 after migrating to the U.S fleeing and ongoing civil war. In 2009 she went back home to visit & most recently in December 2015 she decided to make the journey with her American husband. She extended an invitation to me and I could not have been happier.

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Getting ready for this trip was exciting. It was going to be my first time in Africa and first time on vacation with a group of people. I left NYC on  a warm Christmas evening. From New York City to Brussels to Ouagadougou and finally to Abidjan.  After a journey of 20 hours I was in Africa.

See some of the best pictures captured during my trip.

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My friend M. who arrived a couple of days earlier greeted me at the airport with her husband and 2 of her friends from Paris.

-Are you tired?

-Not really

-Great we’re going clubbing tonight

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My very first Ivorian meal. The famous poulet braisé with Attiéké.
Attiéké is made from shredded cassava and commonly served with grilled meat onions & tomatoes. 
It was 5am when 10 of us gathered at a neighborhood food joint. While waiting for the food I listened to my stomach growl, a noise smothered by afro beat accompanied by the smell of grease and the sight of the sunrise. Abidjan was welcoming all my senses.

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Foggy morning drive in Abidjan. Dec 2015

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St. Paul’s Cathedral designed by Italian architect Aldo Spirito. It is the second largest church in Africa and in 2010 the church served as a  refuge to close to 2010 people during the Ivorian Political crisis

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Central Mosque in Abidjan.

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Vietnamese food and the diversity in Abidjan: There are several Asian restaurants in Abidjan.This was our second time at Nem Saigon (Rue des Jardins, à coté de la Station Oilibya – Cocody Abidjan – Côte d’Ivoire). A very casual restaurant with outdoor sitting and bags of rice near the counter.

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Vibrant Colors of fruits and vegetable at the street market

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 Ocean Life

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1st beach day/ It’s been foggy since I set foot in Abidjan; I was told it’s normal for this time of the year however even this was foggier than normal. Watching the sun go down reminded me of my favorite quote from the movie Nymphomaniac “Perhaps the only difference between me and other people was that I’ve always demanded more from the sunset; more spectacular colors when the sun hits the horizon. That’s perhaps my only sin.”

 

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Our second beach day in Assinie was more pleasant than the first. Assinie is a resort town about 80 Km from Abidjan. We soaked in the pool while waiting for diner to be ready.

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Grilled fish for dinner served with Alloco (fried sweet plantain)- Food is always the number one thing that lures me to a destination.

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5 minute boat ride  from the restaurant to the beach area. Assinie, Cote D’ivoire. Dec 2015

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The sun fornicated with our skin bringing a glow out of wedlock.

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Man standing on pristine white sand cutting  a coconut. After he saw me flirt with the coconut  he offered me one.

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Neon dream || One more minute of humidity and I would have gone crazy. I stumbled upon this outdoor wooden shower at the right time.
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 Transportation

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Abidjan’s mode of transportation ||  There are two types of taxis. the most common ones are the orange cars. These are legally able to operate anywhere in the city. They are also more expensive then other taxis. The other types of taxi are color-coded to operate in a specific neighborhoods, 
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Beauty in every corner. Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Dec 2015
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The art of marinating || rows of meat on a grill. Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Dec 2015
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FABRICS OF A NATION

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A trip to the Tailor ||  We entered  a small and narrow shop. while my friends bargained for their custom made outfit I admired  the beautiful fabric. Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire 2016
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My friend J. after trying on his custom-made shirt.
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Young stylish woman with colorful mermaid cut skirt. Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire Jan 2016.
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Mother and son. Abidjan, Ivory Coast
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 My friend M. and her childhood friend chatting in front of a bakery. Abidjan, Ivory Coast
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Back bones of nations || Woman seen carrying an over sized bag of coal.
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 2016

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My Friend M. visiting a hair dresser near our hotel.

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A trip to the Barber. Getting a hair cut on New year’s eve at Chez Mouda for less than $2.
The sign reads
“Men-Women-Children
African & European Hairstyles”
Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire Dec 31st, 2015

Identity || Before and after my haircut. In the U.S people often ask me “where in Africa are you from?”  with the assumption that I’m definitely from “somewhere” in Africa. West Africans in New York often ask if Im from Senegal and for this reason I’ve always wanted to go to Dakar, Senegal to see the people I look so much alike. In abidjan several people asked if I was Kenyan pointing to my noise ring asking if I was a Masaai woman.

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00:00:00 || First fireworks of 2016 in Abidjan.January 1st 2016

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Welcoming the New Year in L’autre Rive, a hotel in Dabou: a costal town one hour from Abidjan.

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the first day of 2016 was spent relaxing at L’autre Rive Hotel.

 

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Dear M.

Thanks for taking me on this journey. I often shy away from traveling with groups of people. I prefer traveling alone at it leaves me the freedom to change my schedule last minute and go at my own pace. Spending almost two weeks with a group of people was not without its challenges. In the future I will either stick to solo travel or a much smaller group. I can’t wait for us to share more adventures this year.

Best

-Cax

So this brings me to the most asked question:

AFAR: Why is travel important to you?

Càx: As a child, my favorite subjects were art history and geography. Through these subjects, I daydreamed, hoping that one day I would see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, walk through a market in Lagos, or trek to Machu Picchu.

At 15, I was diagnosed with a severe form of bone cancer that metastasized to my lungs. I fought this disease for two years and promised myself that if I survived, I would go see all the places I dreamt of visiting.

As soon as I turned 18, I started exploring the world and realized that while I loved that it gave me the opportunity to explore new cultures, it was also a way to explore myself. Traveling is my road to happiness. It’s vital.

-Mama Cax

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3 thoughts on “Journey to the motherland: Photo essay of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Pingback: Brooklyn Winter Staycation |

  2. Pingback: Iceland : 8 Things That Made my trip |

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