I’m Megan, and I am volunteering as a Kiva Fellow with Afrique Emergence et Investissements, a microfinance institute in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. I arrived Monday night (1/21) and have been working in the main office since Tuesday. Already I am impressed with how well this organization is run, and the vision and enthusiasm of the team. To me, enabling the work of partners like this is what Kiva is all about.
I was greeted at the airport by Madame Coulibali and Rahambatou, two women from the office. Technically they are the HR team, but in reality they take on a wide variety of responsibilities. They are very much the office moms. Before I arrived they had rented an apartment on my behalf, and set me up with a bed and a fan. My apartment is in the Angre area (pronounced On-grey, not angry), a residential area within Abidjan. It’s about 30 minutes from downtown, au Plateau. Abidjan is an enormous city, with a population of about 4 million, and traffic worse than LA!
For a country the size of New Mexico, Cote d’Ivoire is extremely diverse. There are over 60 languages, different ethnic groups and religions, and many citizens come from neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Togo, Nigeria, Liberia (and the list goes on) but also from around the world. Within two blocks of my apartment is a Lebanese restaurant and a Chinese one.
Last night I met one of my neighbors, who is from the Congo. Her name is Colom (pronounced koh-lohm), and she is living here with her mother, younger brother, and her two children. Her daughter Deborah is eight years old, and charmed me immediately with her outgoing personality and sharp intelligence. We are meeting tomorrow night to make dinner together, and I am looking forward to it. The food here is amazing! Fresh fruits- papaya, pineapple, grapefruit, plantains… and grilled fish with couscous or rice. Yum!
I live less than half a mile from the office, and so it is an easy walk each day. It makes me happy to think that I’m going to be here for eight months, and see the same people on my walk each morning. As I pass each shop, I wonder where my work with Kiva will take me. I can’t wait to have an excuse to stop by different shops and meet people!/>