Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Year in West Africa

The sun has set on New Year's Day 1987, but the weather is still uncomfortably warm. In the distance a radio blares a popular Alpha Blondy song. I pick the scab of an old mosquito bite on my arm, scuffing my thongs in the dry dirt as I reluctantly follow my sisters around our shabby block of flats in Cocody.

We spy a group of party-goers dressed in their brand new boubous and neatly pressed Western clothes.

"What about them?" my sisters hiss at me. "It's your turn to do it this time".

I whine and resist until Carla and Lauren link arms with me, dragging me forward. We reach the crest of the hill where our washing had been drying on the grass that morning. Then, gathering speed we race down the other side to the group of strangers. Before my  nerves get the better of me, I blurt out "Bonne Annee!" and my sisters chime in enthusiastically beside me.

"Bonne Annee, les jeunes blanches", the Africans respond good-naturedly, making rapid comments in French which we barely respond to because our eyes are fixed on one man's hands emerging from his pocket with three coins which he drops into each of our hands.

Shouting "Merci! Merci!" we bolt away to count our meagre stash in the dim light of a doorway where a neighbour is smoking his Gaulois.

I cringe at the thought of having to repeat the performance, but my childish greed and excitement in procuring easy money begins to triumph. Imagining the tiny pots of nailpolish in garish rainbow splendour that await at the market, I turn to my sisters. "Come on!" I say, "Let's find someone else!"


  1. you are a naturally gifted writer/storyteller!
    I so enjoy reading whatever you have to share with us :)

  2. I agree Renee, you should write a book! Lovely pic too.