Sunday, August 2, 2009

Renita in Cote d'Ivoire

From Danane', with Love

As our little map indicates, on Wednesday Renita left Monrovia, Liberia by car to travel to Danane', Cote D'Ivoire. The rainy season has turned the roads to thick, dangerously sticky mud, but she had places to go and people to see. After 10 grinding, bone jarring hours she traveled the 125 miles to the muddy river that represents the border between the two West African countries. At the border, she said goodbye to her visaless driver, and walked with a Ganta LEAD staff member across a sagging wood bridge at dusk, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, 5000 miles from family, to place herself in the hands of customs officials and eventually Dea Lieu, a man she has never met. Dea is the director of ACLCP, an affiliate organization of Partners Worldwide, and thus is one of Renita's co-laborers. Together, they bumped and jostled their way in the dark the remaining 25 miles to Danane'. The trip took two hours. The internet, phone service and electricity are neall spotty in Danane', so after she arrived, we kinda lost touch with her. But Saturday, she came through with an email to us all, giving us a picture of what the trip has been like thus far. On Sunday, she was able to email a few images as well. Here is her letter to us, a view of Dea Lieu's world.

Dearest family,

It was so good to hear your voices today. I'm very glad that the three of you are together again. I can't wait to see you in Ghana.

Here are some pictures from Cote d'Ivoire. It was interesting after we crossed the border and drove to Danane’. I knew that it was rebel held territory, but I didn't really think about it in the active sense. There were young, tough looking men walking around with AK-47s and rifles; the first checkpoint we stopped at had a rebel in some sort of fatigues come up to the car smelling very strongly of opium (according to Dea). Apparently drug use is quite a problem among the rebels. They hold the territory in this portion of Cote d'Ivoire, and there is an awareness of their presence around and an air of anticipation to see if they will actually make a deal with the government or if it will remain as a rebel held territory. There is definitely a sense of being victimized – the citizen’s live here with this around them. Aid and development assistance will not come in until the conflict is resolved, so the organization here (ACLCP) is in some ways not able to progress at a rate they would like. They are doing such a great job despite this and have some real success stories.

The people here have been great - very friendly and welcoming; laughing at my mistakes (I told them Hannah was 60 years old:-); trying to speak English. The Board meeting was in some ways hard - I had two tough issues that to bring to them we needed to address. But we had a very lively discussion and the Ivoirians held their ground on the one issue but came around on the other. After the meeting, however, I heard discussion about rethinking the second issue as well. I was pleased that they held their ground, had researched the issue and were able to support their stand with a good argument.

The other thing about Danane is that there are no white people here; no NGOs to speak of; and yet being white here has not been a big deal, nor has it garnered any attention that I'm aware of. They are so disappointed that we are not moving here and are insisting that there are good schools in Abidjan. They keep talking about it amongst themselves.

That's all for now. My battery is getting low.

I love you all.

The best view of these guys-- going away.

Renita with Dea and his daughter Armande walking the streets of Danane'.

Click on small pictures for a larger image.