so i haven't been to the cyber cafe in a week... these log entries should keep you busy for a while, though!
i'm trying to upload new pics, but it's just not working. i'll try again later. peace out!
September 4, 2007
Today is Pierce’s 21st birthday, so I called him this morning and sang on his voice mail, but then called him again this afternoon to catch up a bit. He sounds good, and it was so nice to hear his voice. Mom called me tonight and then handed the phone over to Dad. It was the first time we’d talked since I left the US, exactly 4 weeks ago today! I think I’m pretty well acclimated at 4 weeks.
The carpenter came by this morning (the one with a “shop” (hut) down the road that I pass every day) to take my furniture order. Josue haggled on the price of a bed for me. 45,000 CFA, or just less than $100. The design I chose is pretty simple. Full size. It’s funny because this is actually the first bed I’ve ever bought. My dad wanted to get me one for graduation, but I was content with just mattresses at the time. Here, though, you have to have a bed because you have to have something to hang the mosquito netting from, and something to tuck the net into. My bed should be ready a week from Friday. I hope I have a place to put it by then!
I skipped the trainings today to do laundry and work from home. This was my first load of laundry (I was getting desperate) and it took me about 2 hours. I think I did pretty well, actually. It does use muscles that I’m not used to using (my hands especially), but it’s extremely cathartic. I listened to my iPod the whole time (the acoustics in the bathroom/laundry room are great) and laughed when certain songs came on. One of Josh Harvey’s piano pieces, a song from my cousin Beverly’s boyfriend Zac’s band, Katie Baldwin and me singing “Dreams” with JubiLee. Each song seemed just a bit more meaningful in the context of my textile cleansing.
September 3, 2007
Not a lot to report today. I’m learning what skirts I can and can’t wear on zemi’s. Really, I feel like I shouldn’t be wearing skirts on them at all, but I do anyway. It’s too hot for pants, and women don’t wear pants here anyway (though I can since I’m yovo). We’re doing leadership trainings this week, so today we started the volunteers in Cotonou. Augustin sat by me to translate, but I told him not to, that I wanted to give my French a go today. Since we were talking about the history, mission and vision of YFC, it was easier for me to follow along with a topic I already know. Anyway, I started taking notes in French just to practice writing and spelling.
For lunch I thought I was eating fried yams and hush puppies, but it turns out the hush puppy things were actually fried bean cakes. They take beans, beat them into a powder, and deep fry them. Does this mean something that tastes like a cross between funnel cake, donut hole, hush puppy and sopapilla could actually have protein in it? Could I justify that as healthy? The peeps at MEA would be thrilled to know I found a donut with some nutritional merit.
September 2, 2007
This morning I went to church with Yves, which was an adventure since he speaks less English than I do French. He goes to a more traditional church, though not a denomination we have in the US, and not as traditional as my home church. Still, I was glad to go, and we even had communion since it was the first Sunday of the month. I’d like to find a church where I can have communion every week. Even if I don’t understand all that’s being said, at least I understand the sacraments.
This evening I went to a potluck supper at the home of an American missionary family who are here with the Mennonite church. There were 13 adults present and lots of kids haling from the US, Canada, England, Scotland and France. Apparently the whole group together is 50 people strong, but people tend to travel a lot, so it’s usually closer to 30. They get together every Sunday for a bit of English fellowship. I got to have a real cup of coffee, chocolate cake, apple strudel, and ginger snaps. I ate dinner too, but dessert was my favorite part. I learned from them that the expat softball gatherings would have begun yesterday, but will start next Saturday instead on account of the rain. Apparently there’s an American named Seth living right here in Akpakpa! I hope to make it to the game next week, despite my meager softball skills (less than meager, really) to explore this expat community a little more. I’m also hoping to find a woman in the fellowship group to be a kind of mentor/sounding board while I’m here.
One of the guys I met tonight, Rob, is here with his family from England. He’s doing “music ethnocology” here (among other things) which sounds totally cool. As I understand it, he goes to different villages in and around Benin and uses Bible passages in the local language to help the locals write music in their own indigenous style, records it, and then gives them the tapes. That way, they’re not stuck singing someone else’s music, it’s meaningful to them, and man, he must learn so much about the music styles! I’d like to follow him around sometime. He has a blog too, which I’ll link to so you can learn see another perspective of Cotonou and beyond.
Still no house. I’m really starting to feel like an imposition, and I know this is difficult for Josue and Prisca, which Prisca even acknowledged today, but she did so in such a way that actually put me at ease. She said that whatever decisions we make on faith, we have to follow through with, trusting for God to provide at the right time. She meant that I came here on faith and needed to wait for God to provide me a home, and that she and Josue invited me into their home on faith, and they too needed to be patient for God to provide me a home. I was relieved to know she feels that way. I mean, living here does have it’s bonuses. Lots for me, fewer for them. But we’re all learning, so that at least is a mutual benefit.
September 1, 2007
September really is the rainy season. And it’s only the first day of the month! It didn’t stop the funeral this morning, though. The service was held at a Catholic church, which, though I’m not Catholic, was welcomingly familiar. The rhythm, the prayers, even some of the songs, though all in French, felt a bit more like home than any church service I’ve shared in since coming here. One thing less familiar to me, though, was a girl that stood up during most of the service and just peered around half paranoid and half aloof. Josue told me she was possessed. Africa really is different. We then went to the burial and stood in the rain for half an hour, unable to hear anyone or even be near the family (which I think frustrated Prisca since it was her cousin that died). Josue and I went back to the car early and waited for Prisca there. I was relieved when he said he wanted to get out of the rain. I didn’t feel like I was serving much purpose with my cold wet feet perched on somebody’s grave.
I had paella for lunch, and it was excellent. I’ve found I’m almost ravenous here at meal times. I think it’s the lack of protein, a deficiency that will teach you very quickly the benefits of sucking every last morsel of meat (or cartilage or fat or whatever) off bones.
August 31, 2007
Farhan really would have been proud of me last night. I was eating what Josue said was beef, but everything I cut seemed to be clear and not meat-like at all. I was all in between bones, so I gave up on my knife and fork and started using my hands instead. Sucking the meat and stuff off the bones. I later figured out that all the clear stuff I’d been eating was cartilage. I don’t know if it’s good for you, but it did taste good, and I remember Farhan saying it’s his favorite part of eating back home.
We eat a lot of oranges here, but we don’t so much eat them as we suck them. You typically buy a small bag of oranges from the market, which are partially peeled. I mean, the zest (the colored part of the skin) is peeled off, but the pulp (white part) of the skin is left on. Then you bite off the top, spit it out, and suck out all the juice. It’s kinda ironic to me that in a place where you eat everything but bones when it comes to meat, you only suck oranges, leaving the rest behind. But man, are they delicious.
Today I’m reading a lot about HIV/AIDS. I’m actually going through the “train the trainer” manual. It’s amazing how I knew enough to be educated about HIV/AIDS in the US, but you have to know so much more here. I’m learning a lot. The AIDS rate in Benin is relatively low, around 4% (which is still high when you think about it), but it’s estimated that only 1 in 10 people with HIV/AIDS knows they have it, so that 4% could actually be a whole lot higher. Testing is so important.
August 30, 2007
Last night I took a zemi all by myself. My first zemi-ride, Theresa did all the talking. My second ride, I talked while Augustin watched on to make sure I could get home. This time, though, I was all by myself. It was exhilarating, but it was also just a little scary because I had just left the cyber café (which is really one of the sketchiest places ever, full of men that want your money and your phone number) and it was dark. Josue was really relieved when I walked in the door. He was nervous about me traveling by myself for the first time. But I did, and I’m capable. I just think I’ll be sure to leave the cyber café before dark from now on. Especially when I’m carrying my own laptop. That’s a mugging waiting to happen. Lesson learned!