05 March 2006

ICA Reflections

by Braden Mugg, ICA Grad 2001

I must say that it was odd to come back and visit Cote d’Ivoire and ICA after having been gone for almost five years. Although the places that I knew as a child have remained very much the same, almost all of the people that I knew in those days are gone. Surprisingly, even with all of the changes, I was particularly struck by how much my visit reminded me of the time I spent here and the people I knew.
I was particularly struck by the changes in the country itself. In the rebel controlled North traffic has slowed to a trickle under the pressure of the rebels whose main source of income seems to be extorting money from travelers. The people here speak of a hard life where jobs are in short supply and the future is unpredictable. The overall climate, however, remains surprisingly hopeful and peaceful as people go about making the best of a bad situation.
It is interesting to note the many ways that ICA has changed in its current incarnation as a military base. Although the infrastructure remains very much the same, the campus now prominently displays barbed wire, spotlights, and fortified defensive positions. Basketball courts where children once played have become parking lots for armored vehicles. Perhaps the change is most visible at meal times when the voices of grown men fill the cafeteria that once resonated with the joyful cries of children.
The strongest tie to the past is the workforce many of whom speak fondly of the days when there was peace in Côte d'Ivoire and ICA was a school. It was especially interesting for me to see that Joseph and Thomas both of whom worked in Beth Eden when I lived there are still here. It was fun to bring them and others news of students they had known years ago.
Coming back to Côte d'Ivoire and ICA brought back a flood of memories from a childhood that I had more or less lost. Therein lies the importance of my trip for me. Although the people I had known long ago are gone and the places have changed, during my stay here I felt more strongly connected to them then I have in years. In spite of the fact that these memories and connections will probably slip away as quickly as they returned, it was nice to have one last chance to say goodbye to the world of my childhood.