September 6, 2007
Yesterday we wrapped up the leadership training for our volunteers in Cotonou. The kids are fired up about getting clubs started in the coming school year. It really is amazing how mature they are at a young age, but then they are older than high school students back home, so maybe that’s part of it. Now the training starts for the volunteers in Porto Novo. I’m going to go there with Yves tomorrow, so that will be my first trip to that city. It’s the political capital of Benin, though Cotonou is where everything happens.
I had dinner last night at Rob and Lois’ place, along with their 3 kids and Joanna. Rob and Lois are from England, Joanna is from Scotland. They’re all missionaries with SIL. I can’t tell you how cool it was to have dinner with them last night. We had shepherds pie and corn for dinner, which was a welcome change from African food. I mean, African food is yummy, but it’s nice to have a break from the all too common starch, meat, and tomato-onion-palm oil sauce that accompanies everything. We had tapioca for dessert, which I didn’t realize is made from manioc, or cassava, as it’s called here. Cassava goes with everything… as flour that you add to your beans, or just with water and sugar, or cooked into a paste. It’s the Beninoise favorite ingredient, which is odd because it really has no nutritional value and no taste. Anyway, I’ve had Beninoise tapioca, which is just cassava and water with some water and milk added. You don’t even cook it, and it’s cool and refreshing. Last night’s tapioca was the real thing, though. Warm and sweet. Both delicious in their own right.
It was so lovely to spend time with a family that felt a bit more familiar and comfortable. The anti-culture shock. At the same time, it was very surreal to return home. Almost like I had left the country for 4 hours or I had dreamed the whole thing up. As I continue to meet more international folks, though, I’m sure the switch in and out of cultures will get easier. It was interesting to see where most of the internationals live. The air is cleaner as you leave the city’s center and the sky seems bigger. But I think I prefer living in Akpaka and I think it will make my work easier to be a bit more integrated.