Monday, 7 May 2012

ACI 2000 and the Hotel Princesse

The Oxfam office is in a suburb called ACI 2000, and the guesthouse is about 5 minutes away around the corner. According to the Lonely Planet, it's the up and coming area where embassies and NGOs are basing themselves, and it's true that both the American and Ghanaian embassies are in the area, but other than that I'm not fully convinced. It's very quiet and out of the way, not at all developed, and not at all expatty.

But because of those things, I like it a lot - it feels real, not like the manicured expat suburbs where people like me normally live. The streets are dusty, and everyone else living on them is Malian. And when I say living on them, I really do mean living on them - people don't seem to spend any time inside, they're always out on the street, selling mangos, talking under trees, or watching the little TV outside the tiny general food store owned by a guy whose fortunes have been transformed by the Oxfam guesthouse opening next door.

I like it because it feels like a real place, and like a community. People live on the street, and they say hello. I recognise the same people smiling and laughing and greeting one another, and the same hordes of children saying hello in the morning. At night, when it's cool, I walk around the neighbourhood - and again I feel safe. Last night we got back early from a bar, and I heard music, so I went to investigate and found a party. I never worked out what it was, but I leaned against a wall and listened and watched for a bit before wandering off home.

The disadvantage is that this being a muslim country, living in a very Malian area means beer isn't easily available. We've found two exceptions. The closest is the Hotel Princesse. Advantages as follows: very close, sells beer, will sell takeout, has outside tables which are light-ish if you bring your own candles and aren't in smokefilled rooms. Disadvantages: is mainly a collection of rooms to rent for the hour with a small bar attached, so it feels kind skeezy, very dark and dingy (so the patrons can hide in the shadows), and is really close to the house so all our neighbours will see us going into the prostitute bar = sub optimal.

Option 2 is a bit further away, so it's main advantage is that it isn't a prostitute bar right next to the house. Also we ate there the other night and none of us got food poisoning. And although there are rooms and prostitutes, it feels more like a bar with a few rooms attached than the other way round, like the Hotel Princesse. On the other hand, you can't sit outside and it's horribly dark inside.

What we mainly do is get takeouts from the Hotel Princesse (there are quite a few people in Team Guesthouse, so we get through it...), but as all the more legit options are across town in expatland and we're not meant to be driving around at night at the moment, it might be the destination for a birthday excursion next week. And on the plus side it's good for the local economy.

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