In Ivoirian culture, and what I am seeing in the office culture specifically, is the importance of greeting people. Every morning, I go around the 5th and 6th floors to greet the Director of the DPFC and his various Deputy Directors. I then also greet my colleagues working on EDHC. What’s most interesting about the greeting process is that it’s in fact not at all rude to interrupt a meeting (unless it’s a very important one) to greet someone. This took me aback at first, when people would just come into my office during a meeting to just say hello.
Every visit we make to a school involves a formal meet and greet with the director of the school. We sit in their overly air conditioned office, and the director, after offering us some water, asks for the news (les nouvelles). Depending on whether the director is a man or a woman, they will ask for the youngest person of the same sex to give the news. They will then ask one of their colleagues to summarize the news to them. In other words, everyone has a mouthpiece that speaks for them. Once the news is summarized, the director of the school welcomes everyone and we can proceed with the purpose of our visit.
Every meeting and conference has an opening ceremony, where some high-up person will give a little speech thanking everyone (and then they sometimes leave right after, not actually participating in the conference). Then a MC is selected that runs the meeting and who is charged with taking down names during the question-answer section. Then there is a closing ceremony where the high-up person returns or sends a representative to give a closing speech. Titles, as I can gather, are very important. And making sure you thank all the right people in your speech is equally so.
More often than not the time allocated to the people of importance and their long speeches exceeds the purpose of the actual ceremony: case in point, I went to the MENET’s day of Excellence awards ceremony where the five speakers took over two hours to do their speeches, whereas the award giving process (to the best school, best teacher, best administrator, best student, etc) took about an hour.
This past month saw two fun ceremonies: the MENET’s Excellence awards and the MENET’s National Women’s Day celebration. Both had comedians, singers, actors that broke up the long speeches. They honored various personnel within the ministry as well as students and teachers. The Excellence awards took place in the fancy Hotel Ivoire and the Women’s day was in the grand Palais de la Culture. Here are some pictures to enjoy.
|Madame le ministre giving her welcoming speech|
|Some of the awardees|
|Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan|
|Palais de la culture|
|Madame le Ministre and the Prime Minister's wife releasing doves|
|Palais de la culture|