User:Christa Sinz/letters/...every day

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Abidjan, March 24, 1999

Another update from Abidjan


My electricity goes out every time the wind blows or it rains. It gets quite frustrating when we have a period of a lot of rain. Last night, it went out 3 times. At least once a week my power goes out for at least 15 minutes. Usually it is not out for more than an hour or two hours. However, occasionally it has gone out for several days. It is a good thing that I don’t eat meat ... I would constantly be worried about the "warm" meat in my refrigerator and freezer.


I have had problems with my water recently. In the beginning of the school year, my water was out several times. Apparently, they were doing something at the main city waterworks. Each time they were working on the water supply meant that we didn’t have water for a day or two. It also meant that for 2-3 days afterwards, the water was syrup-like brown coming out of the faucets. In general, they say that the city water is potable. Many people drink it. I also drank it in the beginning. However, after the third time my water was this thick yucky brown gunk, I decided to boil my water before drinking it. Even local Ivorians advised me NOT to drink the water for a few days after the city was working on the water lines. That was enough to convince me. I am now boiling all of my drinking water and I wash all of my fruits and vegetables in bleach water.

When I don’t have any water in my apartment, Rexford hauls up 2 buckets of pool water for me to use to flush my toilets. When we don’t have water at school, it is a NIGHTMARE. We have not had water on campus on 12 different occasions. Twice it lasted for several days ... usually it only lasts for a day.

If you can imagine 500 students and 150 staff all using only 21 toilets (that can not flush) for several days ... it is not a pretty sight. Also ... no drinking fountain ... no faucets. If we find out ahead of time that the water will be shut off, they fill trash barrels with water and set them by the sinks for washing hands. Of course, these barrels of water also quickly get gross.


I have a gas stove and oven. I buy the gas in heavy 2 feet tall metal barrels and have to attach a hose to the barrel and the stove. About once every month or two, I have to change the barrels of gas.

5 Senses of Abidjan

It STINKS here! Some days the smell is sooooo bad that you literally gag and almost throw-up. I can’t close my kitchen windows. So, when the smell is real bad, I just close my kitchen door and close up the rest of the house and I do NOT enter that kitchen for anything. Not for a drink of water, not for something to eat, not for ANYTHING! It is really disgusting. Then you combine the smell with the suffocating heat ... it is a real mess. Our car doesn’t have air conditioning ... so ... during the drive to and from school, we cover our mouths with some perfumed cloth ... anything to avoid smelling that smell. I think it is a combination of garbage laying around, burning garbage (which is how they get rid of their garbage here), urine, and feces that fills the air. Everyday you can smell and see the smoke from burning garbage. Some days it is just unbearable. I can’t wait to smell the fresh (by comparison) air of Berlin and Detroit.

SIGHT -- you see garbage laying everywhere!!!!!!! Literally everywhere! There are NO such things as public garbage cans ... ANYWHERE. You can’t find a garbage can in stores or restaurants or public places like the airport either!! None of the locals think twice about just dropping or throwing something on the ground where ever they are .... be it inside or outside ... in a bus or in a taxi. Really!! It is gross! In fact, these habits surrounding garbage permeates everything the locals do. At any street corner, you see people standing around and sitting around in garbage ... barefoot and all. You see children digging through garbage and you see children just picking up the lone pieces of garbage laying around and they use them for toys or to just chew on. On every public bus I have ever been on, people just throw their garbage on the floor at their feet. I don’t mean just a little bit of garbage ... I mean a LOT of garbage. There are some fruits and vegies that you suck suck on and then spit the rest out .... well ... that just gets spit out onto the bus floor. Moms with babies and toddlers hold their child between the seats or in the aisle to go to the bathroom ... REALLY. The small children are encouraged to just go to the bathroom right where they are ... no matter where they are ... even on the bus. I have often seen a mother hold an infant between her legs (between the seats of the bus) and encourage her infant to go to the bathroom by making the running water sound ... the infant goes and you have to quickly lift up your feet up and any bags that you may have on the floor in order to save them from the urine and the poop. One little girl (about 5 years old) had to go pottie, so the dad at least brought her to the stairs of the bus and had her pee on the bottom stair. Of course, this fits their overall behavior surrounding urine and poop. The children just go wherever they are ... even inside of homes on the floor. Definitely a cultural difference and one which I would say accounts for some of the diseases found among the general population here.

Taste-- the fruits taste yummy ... exept when they have absorbed that YUCKY smell and then taste and smell like that!!

FEEL ? it feels hot and sticky all of the time.


It is HOT and HUMID here! I mean, VERY hot and VERY sticky! It is often described as "Africa Hot." You eventually resign yourself to being constantly covered in a layer of sweat. You are NEVER completely dry ? sweat-free. There is no such thing around here. There is always at least a 90% humidity and it is always about 29 degrees celcius or higher. If wouldn’t feel so hot … in fact, it would be rather cool, if it wasn’t so darn humid.


Well … I guess I will do the other topics a different day.

Take care, Christa

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