Abidjan: The Un-Instagrammable_ Aissa's part 3
Like every city in the world, Abidjan has it's very own set of norms, values, culture and lifestyle that make it a unique environment.
My appreciation of living in Abidjan might be very romanticized as I am writing this from Montreal, where the everlasting winter is making me question many of my life choices. Beyond that, It's also important to remember that Abidjan is my home. Like any proud Abidjan-er, I hold an unreasonable amount of love for my city, hence,I tend to focus on the positive aspects. So I urge you to take the rest of this article with a tiny grain of salt.
The best perk of my little life there was having the opportunity to be near my family. For the past 7 years, a considerable time difference and a few thousand miles have separated me from my home & family. As grateful as I am to have had the opportunity to discover the world, living abroad can sometimes feel lonely. For that reason, coming back and being able to abundantly receive my family's unconditional love was pure bliss. Just being able to spend my lunch breaks with my dad, have dinner with my aunt and spend Sunday afternoons with my grandma was an absolute delight. With time, I have learned to live very independently without relying too much on people. I had forgotten what it felt like to be cared for outside of special occasions and without expectations in return. From the little things to the greater acts of service, my heart was full. Even though I lived alone, I would get all my meals prepared at my aunt's. If I needed anything, whether it was advice, someone's contact, an info, or if I simply needed to vent, my people were there for me. What more can a girl ask for!
Furthermore, I had everything I needed to sustain a lifestyle that fulfilled my various interests . From material goods to activities and experiences, the selection was wide. Restaurants, cool bars, conferences, movie theatres, fashion shows, beaches, pilates classes, you name it, and there is a high chance that it exists somewhere in the city, which can be considered a luxury in many developing countries. With a decent budget (I like to say that money almost evaporates in that city!), there are enough options to avoid being bored and to diversify your network. Indeed, as Abidjan is a regional business hub, the city is getting filled with people from all over the world, with various backgrounds and walks of life. In all honesty, I would sometimes find myself complaining about always going to the same places and seeing the same familiar faces. But isn't that what we all do as forever ungrateful human beings?
What I love and miss the most about Abidjan : the people. Simple things like being greeted by everyone everywhere you go (waiting rooms, the elevators, residential streets, everywhere!) humanizes the day to day and makes it slightly less lonely than life in the West. Furthermore, the Ivorian humor is unparalleled. From the taxi drivers, to the security guards or the street merchants, there will always be a comment, a joke, or a scene that will make you smile, even on the hardest days.
But let me keep it real with you. As much as I Iove my city, it has some less pleasant aspects, which can even be deal breakers for some people considering living there. A lot of those aspects are linked to people's attitudes and ways of thinking.
The most obvious is certainly the lack of logic and common sense in many aspects, which results in a lack of order and discipline. The best way to illustrate this phenomenon is to simply look at the road traffic and accidents in Abidjan...
Additionally, given my age and gender, I have faced my share of distasteful situations. I have had inappropriate comments, business partners mistaking me for my older male co worker's assistant and others requesting to talk to my bosses to confirm everything I said. The best was certainly the man who said in the middle of a meeting: "As you are a woman, you need advice on how to do business".
The hardest part about coming back after having lived in the west for so long, is accepting the local realities of our countries. Many of us come back, intending to be saviours. We plan on speaking up about any unacceptable (based on our standards) situations and will be real actors of change. After all, Africa needs all of its diaspora to return home and save it from misery, right? The truth is, mentalities do not change overnight, and they certainly don't change because a repat or member of the diaspora has decided to express their dislike for the way things function. Those changes will require time as well as sustainable and culture adapted solutions.
Therefore, to avoid living in a state of constant frustration, we need to find a healthy balance between letting certain things go, and denouncing the malfunctions of our societies. I will be the first to admit that Abidjan has transformed me into a complainer. I have become that person who would ask for the manager or refuseto pay in certain situations. But I have also learned to just laugh it off sometimes. For my own mental stability, I have decided to choose my battles. But then again, given that I was only there for a few months, the temporary aspect of my stay might have increased my level of patience and acceptance.
No regrets at all! Despite my struggles, frustrations and moments of stress, I have made priceless and timeless memories. Having only spent 4 months in Abidjan, my experience might have not given me a complete view of things. However, this small preview confirms my wishes to eventually return home. I'm very conscious of the fact that it won't always be roses and rainbows, but life is hard everywhere. So if I can navigate the hardships of life with a plate of fried plantains, a good ginger juice and the appeasing sound of waves in the background… Sign me up!
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