Correspondence with the Ivory Coast

ic-woman-childHello everybody, I’m Chris, a first time writer for this site. When Ryan asked me to write a piece for his site, the words witty and entertaining came to mind. However I’ve decided to take a 180º turn and tell everybody about a beautiful experience that has opened my eyes and certainly touched me. It goes a little something like this, and please bear with me while I draw you a picture…

When I was in the 6th grade at Harold Napper elementary school, my French class corresponded with another French class, this one in the Ivory Coast, on the western coast of Africa. This correspondence had each student paired up with another student from the other respective class. In my case, I was paired up with a certain Patrice Yéboua-Kouamé. We exchanged a few letters, not more than 3 I think and that was that. Though we were not in contact anymore, his name never left my mind. Every so often I would just reminisce and think of him and our correspondence, never ever forgetting his name, even though it isn’t exactly the easiest to remember like the john smiths and allen bakers that seem to be everyone’s next door neighbour!

Anyway, enter last Tuesday, a normal day at school, a normal bus ride home. I get home and believe you me that I rarely ever get mail, unless it’s a credit card bill, or an “extend your credit today!” form. But on this particular Tuesday, there was a white envelope with my name hand scribed on it. I glanced over at the issued stamp: Ivory Coast… It couldn’t be… I opened the letter and glanced the page up and down for a possible clue and there it was: “God Bless You, Your Friend, Patrice Yéboua Kouamé”. There it was folks! My African penpal from a decade ago had stepped out of the darkness and back into my life! I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel now, or the extreme high I felt receiving that letter.

In his letter Patrice talks about his education, his religion, and the atrocities that his native land have gone through under the current repressive regime led by Laurent Gbagbo. He even apologizes for not typing, saying that the poor in the Ivory Coast have no access or no knowledge of computers. The whole purpose of this segment was to point out how really fortunate we are to be in school, be able to travel, to be able to “seize the day.” Patrice kept my address for a decade, I think that speaks worlds about somebody. I was very happy to hear from him and I can only imagine how much joy a letter from the outside world of which his country has very little contact with because of the severity of the regime will bring him.

I encourage everybody to check out the Lonely Planet website and check out the “other readings” section. Patrice sent me the name of an “ami-frère” that would like a correspondence, which I will happily correspond with, but I have the feeling that there are others that would love to correspond with other Montrealers, so if anybody’s interested, contact Ryan or simply e-mail me at send_chris_stuff AT yahoo DOT ca

Chris Ascroft

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