Diaries Magazine

My New Job

By Prodenbough

You may be wondering... what exactly is Phil doing in Abidjan for 5 weeks? Spending time with Norbert and his friends and family, of course, but 5 weeks is a long time to simply hang out. So I decided to get a part time job.
my new jobI sell ice cream bars, and I frickin' love it.
I'm quite a spectacle. No one here has ever seen a white boy selling ice cream in Abidjan. I stroll around the streets of Abidjan, pushing my insulated cart. I toot my little horn, and people laugh and buy ice cream. If they want a photo with me, no problem, as long as they buy some ice cream first.
My clients love chatting with me. They can't believe that me, an American, is working a job usually reserved for local high school boys looking to make a little extra money. I calmly explain that I came to Africa to work as a high school teacher, but my work contract is finished, and I spent all my money on my plane ticket home. White people need money too... we're not made out of it (contrary to the belief of most Africans).
Some of my best clients are the women in the hair salons getting their hair did. Sex appeal (er, visa appeal, perhaps more accurately) has a lot to do with making sales. No, I don't have a wife! Yes, I'm young, white, American, and I work hard! What's that you say? You have a daughter in Paris!? Yes, I would love to marry her! Here's my email! Jackpot!
When I say spectacle, I really do mean spectacle. A journalist came and spoke with me, and the next day, my picture was on the front page of the newspaper here in Abidjan. My photo, right next to a photo of the president of Cote d'Ivoire and the prime minister of France.
my new jobmy new jobmy new jobThis is creating more of a stir than anything I ever did as a Peace Corps volunteer.
There's definitely a sense in which this is in bad taste. I don't need to sell ice cream. Some people really do need the work. But I'm not taking work away from anyone... there's always plenty of carts available at the ice cream depot for whoever is willing to work.
But most people see it as a sign that lazy people should get up and work. And I think that's a good message.
My boss gives me 200 bars to sell, and I usually sell all of them, starting at 10am and ending around 4pm. I sell bars for 100 FCFA each, and I get to keep 20 FCFA per bar. That works out to 4,000 FCFA per day in my pocket (about 8 USD per day... not too terribly far from what I got paid per diem as a PCV in Burkina).
An honest day's work, for an honest day's pay. And there's no shame in that.

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