Kouyanet Reader: John James
I’m not sure when I first signed up to Kouyanet, but I suspect it was probably just a few days after meeting Eddie in Congo in 2007. He was parachuting into Brazzaville’s SIL compound for a staff training visit (and handily bringing me some audio equipment), while I was living on and off in the compound as a BBC freelance reporter. I think we were the only Brits around at that time and one evening we walked into the city centre and had a bite to eat at the water-front Mama Wata restaurant. I remember that as we left Eddie saw a man selling video-CDs from an impromptu booth in the car park, and quickly came to realise that the man was not Congolese, but (if I remember correctly) from Mali. Eddie managed to bring out his Bambara, much to the man’s surprise.
Eddie told me about a place called Ivory Coast – and there’s a good chance he’s the first person I’d ever met who had spent time there. Towards the end of 2007 I was posted there by the BBC, and reported from the country for a memorable five years, marrying an Ivorian woman, taking up nationality, and now thinking of the place as home (as well as my native England). I left Abidjan in 2012 for a regional reporter job in the Middle East with a UN news agency, and then two years later moved from Dubai to Sierra Leone to head up communications at a different UN agency.
At a basic level I read Kouyanet because I follow the blog of everyone I know personally who has a blog. Eddie and I are in different lines of work, on different continents, and at different stages in life. But we also share a fair bit in common: British evangelical Christians, with a love for West Africa (inc. years in Ivory Coast), an interest in jogging, and eclectic reading habits. The blog has pushed me to read a few books I wouldn’t have otherwise come across (though I’m yet to read anything by Eddie’s beloved Tom Wright), and through the blog I feel I tap into wider debates about the British church, world mission, the church in the Global South, and a few other things besides. For Brits like me living overseas, it’s important to obtain at least some regular information from people like Eddie on the currents at work back home. It would probably horrify him to hear this but Eddie is probably my most important source for this.
Eddie asks if I have any suggestions for improving things. I wouldn’t be so bold – every blog is unique and an expression of the author’s character. On Facebook and through mutual friends, I hear more about his talents in the kitchen, as well as jogging, that don’t make it that regularly on to the pages of the blog. Eddie is also quite the contrarian, which is probably the right sort of character to have in the blogosphere.
The title itself isn’t ideal – it took me a very long time to work out who or what the Kouya were. We don’t hear much about them on the blog, and perhaps surprisingly I never heard anyone talk about the Kouya or self-identify as a Kouya in Abidjan. The only Kouya I’ve ever knowingly spoken with is footballer Salomon Kalou and his brother Bonaventure. Fortunately, Eddie once pointed us to a book by a fellow translator (No Ordinary Book) in which I learned more about the Kouya people and Eddie’s experiences there than I ever did through Kouyanet! A minor point though.
I run a couple of blogs, the main one has an Ivory Coast focus www.drogbascountry.com. I still blog reasonably regularly, though now I’m not present in country, it’s certainly more limited in its insights. I’m also on Twitter with a few accounts, again with the main one @ourmaninafrica keeping an Ivory Coast focus.
I’m very grateful to John for these kind words. I’ve very much enjoyed following John around Africa through social media and to see him setting down roots in Ivory Coast in a way which puts most missionaries to shame. I’m intrigued by his suggestion that the name Kouya.net isn’t a very good one for this blog. It made sense 15 years ago. I’m not sure whether I could change the URL without a crazy amount of work, but perhaps the title could be changed next time I do an upgrade. Does anyone else have any views, ideas, advice?