Back to the Motherland: Living Like A Pauper

Audrey Sebatindira 4 September 2014

Almost a month after flying in to Abidjan, we’ve finally moved out of a hotel and into our new house. Actually, “moved in” is slightly misleading – it implies we have furniture, but in fact we have none. Virtually everything we own is currently on a ship somewhere in the Atlantic, so for now we’re essentially squatting in our own home. 

Luckily the presence of a market in the neighbourhood has more than made up for this. The Marché de Cocody is host to an eclectic variety of stores and stalls, selling everything from tropical fruit to yards of colourful fabrics. Despite now officially being a local, my inner tourist couldn't help but emerge as I wandered through the market, desperately wanting to buy everything and totally unable to haggle; partly because of the language barrier but mostly because haggling effectively is an acquired skill, and one I have yet to master.

What strikes me in particular is how cheap everything is. Cote d'Ivoire is proving to be a surprisingly expensive country; most of the common expenses such as grocery shopping and eating out actually cost more than they did back in Maryland – such is the consequence of trying to maintain a Western standard of living in a developing country. 

However, the market is used primarily by local Ivorians, meaning everything is reasonably priced. This includes the food, which is particularly important. I have sacrificed all possibility of a bikini body in favour of being able to fully appreciate the local cuisine. My particular favourite is alloco: an Ivorian snack made of fried plantain that's sweet and incredibly addictive. Attiéké, which is made with grated cassava, is another common food here, often served with fish – and since Abidjan is a port city, you'll find fish being grilled on sticks almost everywhere. When shopping in the market, there’s always the danger of unwittingly buying bush meat, which is commonly eaten by the poorer locals, so when it comes to proteins I tend to stay on the safe side and stick with supermarkets. 

Due to the large Lebanese population in Abidjan, there are also a number of shawarma joints and Middle Eastern restaurants to choose from. This, in addition to other foreign cafés and restaurants (like a Paul boulangerie I recently stumbled upon), are available for days when I'm feeling less adventurous.

So all things considered, despite the lack of furniture, I've really enjoyed these first few days in my new neighbourhood, and the contradiction of living like a pauper but eating like a king.