The client and I woke up today with plans to head to the capital of Ivory Coast – Yamoussoukro. They have some buildings there we wanted to tour and inspect, including the Basilica for the Catholic Church. But we had a change of plans…
The client and I were traveling with an interpreter to see the capital here which is 2.5 hours away. The interpreter had a hired driver for us… A young guy in his early 20’s that didn’t speak English. As we were on the freeway about an hour outside of the city of Abidjan, we heard the horn of a car and as I turned to look on my left (from the backseat) I saw a bus full of people being run off the road by our driver! This is not the streamlined Greyhound bus as we think of in the US, but one that looks like it is out of the 70’s; tall, boxy and loaded with items on the top because the inside is packed with people.
We couldn’t tell if the driver had changed lanes and didn’t see them, or if the bus was trying to sneak around him… which they do here. Well, we were going 50-60 mph and the bus was too and as the bus went into the grassy, overgrown median it was being rocked and bounced; leaning to the left; leaning to the right; narrowly avoiding tipping at least 2 times! Finally it got back on the road and then over corrected and almost tipped again. I watched this happen from the back window in great angst as our driver sped off. The unimaginable happened next. Just as we got 15 minutes down the road and my nerves were settling, the freeway traffic came to a halt. As I watched to see what was happening, we saw people walking though the cars and as one man got to us he pointed us to the side of the road. Our driver and our interpreter got out of the vehicle and began talking. As they spoke in front of the car, more and more people came through the cars on the freeway and walked right towards us, and circled the front of the car?!?! I quickly put away my phone and laptop so they wouldn’t see it (we had been told that these can be stolen this way). As we struggled to find out what was happening, our interpreter finally told us that the bus driver–the one we had driven off the road–had called this man (a fellow bus driver) and they stopped traffic on the freeway so that they could search all the cars until they found us. We waited in silent prayer as our interpreter smoothed things over to the point that they let us go before the other bus showed up. This is what I had feared the most…two busloads of people circling our vehicle!
We breathed a calming breath as we got moving again, but we didn’t go far before our interpreter said he thought we should turn around and try this again another day…with a different driver. We said, OK! And we turned back. 2 hours wasted… Kind of. It was great to see outside the city and the client and I worked in the car a bit, but largely a waste. But SUPER glad we were safe.
As we got back to Abidjan proper, we drove around trying to find vendors and manufacturers for different needs on the project. We would like to specify local sources and product… Product like tile, hardware, plumbing fixtures, sources like mill workers (“shop fitters” is what they call them here) and other installers that the contractor can contract locally with. We are finding that a lot of the product is being sourced from Italy and Spain, which is what we expected. We found a really great wood worker/designer, that also does glass and concrete work. He has a local factory and confirmed that he can get the wood species that we want here locally. They are called FIMA design. They were one of our best finds.
Below are some pictures from the day…not all glamorous, but shows the truth of the trip!