Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bread ! As photographed at Chez Paku

At Chez Patu (Ivoire Pastisserie Beaumais), I found in addition to lots of gooey pastries, a wonderful assortment of fresh bread. Here are a few photos of the breads they sell. Don't these bricohe make the perfect complete to a bowl of cafe au lait ?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gasoline Prices in Cote d'Ivoire

I think it is worth sharing with you news I received about gasoline prices in Cote d'Ivoire. If we think we have it hard here in the United States, we should put ourselves in the shoes of the average worker (those lucky enough to have a job !) in Cote d'Ivoire. In the United States, if we earn $30,000 or $40,000 and have to pay $60 to fill our car's gas tank, we still have a lot of slack and wiggle room to absorb recent price increases. (Cut out the Starbuck's frappocinos each afternoon !)
For the average worker in Abidjan, the nation's largest city and main commercial center, the situation is very different. Until a few days ago, gasoline prices in Cote d'Ivoire had been frozen since 2005. A week or so ago, the government raised gas prices 29% and diesel prices 44%. This was because there is a limit to how much a relatively impoverished government can subsidize fuel costs. With the increase in gasoline and diesel prices, public transportation fares have had to be increased.
Now put yourself in the shoes of the worker who lives in a distant part of the city and who works at the port. He or she has to take a bus. Just to go to work and return home each day now costs about US $80/month. The worker probably earns between US $120 and US $200/month. Would you want pay twice as much for transportation as this leaves you for your family ?
We here in the United States are not the only people having to deal with the consequences of Bush's failed policies. His blunder in taking us to Iraq is hitting the poor of the world even harder than it hits us.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gooey Cakes, Tarts and French Pastries

One of the great pleasures of visiting any foreign country is that of sampling the food. Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire), having been a French colony, still has a great deal of French influence about it. Never mind the fact that the one language that appears to unify everyone is French, there is also an educational system modeled on France's, too. I got the impression from speaking with friends that if you drop out of school before or during university, it becomes exceptionally difficult to get back into the system.

One of the delightful French influences isthat of French cuisine. At the Ivoire Patisserie Beaumais (Il Plateaux or, a pleasant place to have an omelet and coffee for breakfast that was handy to the hotel where I was staying, there was also a wonderful selection of French pastries. The prices were certainly less than one would have paid in the United States -- perhaps half -- and the quality was excellent. Here are a few photos of the gooey goodies that I took during visits there.
Incidentally, the locals refer to this patisserie as "Chez Pako," so that may be what you'd want to ask for if you're trying to track it down.

Friday, July 11, 2008

More Cakes and Pastries

Here are just a few more of the gooey, delicious offerings you can find at Ivoire Patisserie Beaumais. You won't gain weight just by looking at photos !

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Here aree just a few of the portraits I took during both trips to Cote d'Ivoire. The last two are of Benjamin, one of the local bodybuilders. Along with Said, who won the Mr. Ivory Coast a few days after my arrival, Benjamin took great care of me.
(For that matter, the portrait of the fellow wearing all the gold at thew beginning of this blog is Benjamin, too.I wanted a photo that would reflect royalty and something very special, so we rented the gold -- yes, you can do that in Cote d'Ivoire - and spent a morning trying to get two or three really great photos. I think we succeeded, but you be the judge.)
Both Ben and Said were very solicitous of my welfare. Since Benjamin and Said are quite a bit larger than the average fellow in Cote d'Ivoire, when I walked along with them the crowds parted.

When traveling in a foreign (to me) culture, I have always made it a point to have a local guide who could keep me out of trouble. If you're ever to travel to Cote d'Ivoire, I strongly suggest that you get in touch with me and I'll put you in touch with Benjamin or Said. They're honest, careful and trustworthy folks who can show you the sights and keep you away from problems.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nice Long Telephone Chat with Benjamin

I had a nice long chat yesterday with Benjamin, whose photos you can find elsewhere in this blog, and briefly with his wife, too. It was 1 a.m. (a day later than here in California) Ivory Coast time, even though it was late afternoon or early evening here. Benjamin works for a taxi company as a driver. He commented to me that gasoline is becoming VERY expensive in Cote d'Ivoire. He did not give me details. However, I subscribe to a Google service that lists news items about Ivory Coast, and when I received my daily notice with the list of todays URLs I saw an item about how the cost of gasoline was just raised by the Government by 44%, effective yesterday.

Looking at this with a more global perspective, how are the world's poor going to be able to survive, much less prosper, when the price of oil keeps going up and up and up, and with it the price of food ?

I saw a while ago in the Google feed some news items about people rioting about the increase in the cost of rice. This was in many countries, not just Ivory Coast. Another Ivory Coast friend told me that many people there switch to other forms of starch, so it doesn't affect the people we know as much as it might. I recall that whenever we ate at a restaurant in Ivory Coast, the Ivoirians (is that the word ?) would always accompany their main dish with a HUGE serving of rice or cassava or some other local starch. Benjamin told me yesterday that the people we both know are not having problems getting enough to eat, and that their present situation is okay.

Monday, July 7, 2008

On the Beach in Cote d'Ivoire

We drove several hours from Abidjan to a coastal area that a while ago had been a thriving resort. Iwas told that before the start of the rebellion, frequent charters from Italy used to bring hundreds of tourists here. Now, of course, there are no tourists. One passes empty resort after empty resort. A few people come out from Abidjan to spend the weekends here, but certainly noit enough to sustain many of these accommodations.

How long it will take for the tourist business to regenerate is anybody's guess. In a recent phone conversation I asked a friend how the tourist business was shaping up and he replied,. "The last one departed this past November for California." He was referring to me.

The U.S. and British embassies still issue these dire warnings about how unstable the country is, and tell travelers not to visit Cote d'Ivoire unless it is absolutely necessary. In large measure, these embassies are responsible for the present hibernation of Cote d'Ivoire's tourist industry.

This is a shame. The country has warm friendly people, fascinating cultures, fine French food, and lots of things to see -- wildlife preserves, the largest Catholic cathedral in the world, a cocoa industry, a growing rubber industry. I'm on my way back this there this October.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Largest Catholic Cathedral in the World

Early November, 2007

Would you believe that the largest catholic cathedral in the world is in Yamosoukro, the capital of Cote d'Ivoire ? It is bigger than St. Peters. I was told by a guide that it has been full only two times, once for the Basilique's consecration by the Pope and another time for the funeral of Cote d'Ivoire's first president, Houphouet Boigny.

All the photos here date from early November, 2007. I am not posting these accounts and photos each day as events actually happen. I am writing and posting almost a year later. The official Google dates of the blog poasts have been changed because that is the only way I have been able to order my posts in some kind of coherent narrative about what I found in this West African nation.