My first night here my hotel reservation was not booked as planned and I spent the first night in a hotel Gant travel, my corporate travel agency, had never heard of and couldn’t recommend. I pushed a chair against the door and barely slept. I was afraid of the unknown. Now, I can’t wait to come back to this incredible country of Côte d’Ivoire!
It’s interesting that people living in America and Europe refer to countries like Côte d’Ivoire as “developing.” It seems to be that in the process of “development” we’ve lost many of the things that are free in life. The ability to smile easily, take the time to always greet people genuinely and to give first, before you seek to receive. I think the essence of life is somewhere in between….
This incredible country has so much to offer. From the miles of sandy nearly deserted sandy beaches to the incredible French cuisine. But most of all, a people with an incredible spirit.
Côte d’Ivoire means Ivory Coast, a literal translation based on the ivory trade that was once so rich here. Now the elephants are all but gone. The forest is disappearing here and malaria is a constant threat. I truly hope, as the country develops, the things that have touched my heart this week don’t vanish with the elephants.
I have had this opportunity because two amazing organizations, UTZ Certified and Mars Chocolate North America believe in making a difference in the lives of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and around the world. In addition to the millions of dollars these organizations have already invested over the last decade, they have also made a significant investment in me. Words cannot describe my gratitude.
The hole in my soul caused by the boy in Soubre has been healed by the gracious warmth of the people and customs. I have many people to thank for this incredible opportunity. First I have to thank my host, Siriki Diakite. I couldn’t imagine it is possible to grow so close to someone in three weeks. He is like a brother to me. I have to thank my team that was here with me: Herma, Nabil, Ousmann and Mounzer – a gentleman that leaves a lasting impression on everyone he meets. The Mars ambassador program is amazing! Thank you Annette! Thanks to Mike Tolkowsky, Randall Rodriguez, Beth Beasley, Paul Myler and many other Mars associates that increased their workload to allow me to fully immerse in the experience. Thanks to Sandra and Mira-Bai at UTZ for coordinating everything and preparing me for the trip. Thanks to Joost for a wonderful blog platform!
Finally, I have to thank my wife, Sarah Beth, and my sons, Lewis and Grayson for supporting me in this journey.
I will publish more pictures soon. The network here is too slow to upload.