Saturday, September 30, 2023

Election Observation and Travel

September started off with Cote d'Ivoire's regional and local elections. I got to travel to Bongouanou as an election observer, which was great. Bongouanou is a medium-sized city in eastern Cote d'Ivoire, and I traveled with some of our great locally engaged staff so I even got to tag along for some other work-related events while we were there. National media generally agreed that the elections were pretty peaceful with no widespread allegations of mismanagement, and it was really interesting to get to learn how election observation works.

Breakfast on Election Day, at a place that was (to me) charmingly reminiscent of the kinds of roadside stands I ate at in the Peace Corps.

Later in the month, I went on vacation to Italy, Slovenia, and Serbia! I was in my own on Italy, in Venice, and had a great time. Although it was touristy, it was still enjoyable and I was able to pack in a lot of interesting activities. Highlights were getting to the Abbey of Saint George first thing in the morning so that I got to enjoy the view from the clocktower with no one else around (a rare moment of solitude in a packed city!), a Spanish-language tour of Murano and Burano, and enjoying a performance of the Four Seasons at a chapel where Vivaldi worked and composed.

A selfie at the top of the clock tower at the Abbey of Saint George.

Mural in Burano.
In Slovenia, I met up with my friend L and her mom, M. We enjoyed Ljubljana and also got out to Lake Bled and a pass through the Alps. It was a really charming city and it was great to see L. I particularly enjoyed the wine tasting we did--the sommelier was really knowledgeable and personable, and the wines were all great!

Lake Bled

Then L and I went to Serbia. We were supposed to meet up with another friend there, but unfortunately she ended up getting sick and wasn't able to travel. Serbia was still very fun and very interesting--we did a walking tour which let us explore the more distant history of the city going back to Rome, and then went to the Museum of Yugoslavia and some of the preserved NATO bombing sites to learn about the more recent history of the Balkans.

Some gifts Tito received from African leaders/delegations.

I've really been enjoying my time in Cote d'Ivoire, but it was good to get out of Abidjan for a bit and completely forget about work. I realized that this was my first trip to a country where I don't speak the language since 2019, and those were just very brief trips to Mexico (before I got to learn Spanish for work) for a few days--I haven't spent a full week in a country where I don't speak the language since 2017. It really made me appreciate my French ability, imperfect though it is!

Now we're fully in Autumn and I don't have any leave scheduled this entire season. I'm going to try to get away on some weekend trips, but the next time I leave the country will be for Christmas--and I'll be acting Consular Chief for some meaningful chunks of time in October and November, as well as having some other additional responsibilities, so I'm going to be more work focused for the next few months, and then I'll have a nice long break in winter and some good opportunities to see friends and family.

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