Two cocks, yams and peanuts!

After our trip to the school, the first rooster doing what roosters do... "roosting"

After our trip to the school, the first rooster doing what roosters do… “roosting”

I packed everything I could think of for my trip.... I thought I was prepared for any situation.  However, a chicken coop was not on my checklist!
I packed everything I could think of for my trip…. I thought I was prepared for any situation. However, a chicken coop was not on my checklist!
Somehow the roosters escaped from the cardboard box on our four hour ride from San Pedro to Abidjan.
Bad Roosters!!!! Somehow the roosters escaped from the cardboard box on our four hour ride from San Pedro to Abidjan.
I was honored to have KOUASSI Kouame, President of COOPAGA (a cooperative near San Pedro) present me with a rooster after our meeting. COOPAGA is the first UTZ Certified cocoa cooperative in Cote d’Ivoire. They have used their premium to build a school, health center and to purchase an ambulance.
Rooster for dinner
They say “all good things must come to an end,” as was the case for the two roosters. They lived a good free range lifestyle. Tasty!!!

You might think this is a partial menu for dinner. Not exactly, not yet anyway. These were the gifts presented to me by cocoa farmers and local village leaders.

The first cock… The first cock was presented to me at the village where I donated the school supplies and chocolate. First, let me tell you about the incredible welcome I received at the village.

After the considerable effort of getting the truck back on the bridge (see previous post), the final stretch of road was up a steep hill. As we came over the hill, the road was lined on both sides by over 200 school children dressed in their uniforms – the boys in khaki shorts and short-sleeved shirts and the girls in nave blue and white polk-a-dotted dresses. They were shouting something, loudly, and clapping rapid clap, completely in unison, with each clap falling neatly together. I asked my friend Siriki to interpret. They were saying, “White man, white man, white man,” over and over.

I was overcome with emotion. I felt like a rock star! They remained neatly in line on both sides of the road as I approached, hands out-stretched wanting to touch me. I graciously touched every hand. Wow!

Next, as is always the custom, we met with the village elders and shared the news. After the news and a drink of water, we presented the school supplies. All 200+ of the children, the village elders squeezed into a class room intended for 50 children. This school had been built for the village by Cargill. Without it, the children would have had to walk 10 miles each way to school.  Thank you Cargill!

The custom here is that I presented the supplies to the President of the cocoa cooperative, who then presented them to the Director of the school. Next the candy… The children lined up outside the school, in 7 or eight lines. I brought several bags of small chocolates to give them. They were of course, completely melted after being stuck on the bridge for so long. None the less, the children were still very excited! The organized lines did not last long and a chaos broke out when we threw the candy up in the air. Everyone got to taste chocolate, many for the first time, which still amazes me given that almost all of them are involved in cocoa farming.

After that, I was asked to join the village elders under the shade of a large tree.  As is the custom  when they are very happy, the presented me with a live rooster! Siriki and I had discussed how to handle these situations beforehand. First of all, it is very rude to refuse any offering from the elders, so one must carefully navigate these matters. So, I accepted the rooster and thanked them. Then I suggested that they might keep the rooster in the village so it could reproduce and there would be many more chickens to enjoy together on the next visit. This got a good laugh from the elders!!! They thanked me for the offer, but insisted that I keep the rooster.

Almost the exact same scenario would happen out our next meeting where I was presented a second rooster after meeting with a cocoa cooperative in the next village.

A similar presentation was made by a local farmer, where he presented me with yams and peanuts. This gift was touched me the most. He had two wives (which is pretty common here) and seven children. If I think about what he gave me compared to his total wealth, it would be like me giving a guest a car and my refrigerator full of food. What an amazingly gracious man.

So, here I am at the hotel, with two live roosters 5kg of yams, a grocery bag  full of peanuts. I guess my next task will be finding someone to prepare it!

Update on my final night… My friend and colleague, Siriki Diakite, has come through again!!!! I will be having chicken, yams and peanuts tonight at his house….

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