Friday, May 23, 2008

mission (pretty much) accomplished

i just had a taste of benin right here in the good ole us of a.

last night i took the train down to dc to catch up with some peeps in our nation's capitol. it was a great cast of characters... melissa (friend from benin) and her boyfriend pedro, lily (old roommate), laurel (one of the previously inseparable b'more foursome... till we all left b'more), skye (college buddy), rhett (friend from benin), brian (old work buddy) and various innocent bystanders.

we met up at ghana cafe, which serves up some okay fufu (starchy mush) and a mean peanut sauce, among other things. they also have a good west africa music selection... all on the computer so you can pick your own songs... and i hear it's quite the place to be for live african music on weekends.

while people, food, and conversation were definitely the point of the trip and worth every moment... the kicker came later in the evening.

first off, rhett and i dusted off our salsa shoes (flip-flops in my case) and made our debut on the latino scene. i will say that the salsa here is quite different from africa, and i, for one, was a bit intimidated. but we danced, and i think we held our own. i actually danced with a couple latino men as well, and one of them (a kind old man) told me i danced well, and that he hoped to dance with me again... THEN he turned to rhett and gave him the thumbs up. ooooh, just like old times. why do peeps always assume two whities in a salsa club must be together?

next, we flagged a cab. and as soon as we started moving, the cab driver began to speak on the phone in what sounded like a familiar african language. i smiled at rhett as he asked, "is that yoruba or igbo?" "yoruba!" said the cabby. an excited conversation ensued about benin and nigeria. the cabby then asked, "are you two married?" he didn't seem to understand when rhett laughed and said, "no... but we would be if i loved Jesus." he gave us his congratulations, though neither of us is sure why.

so, yeah. good friends, starchy mush, salsa and yoruba all in one night. benin's not so far away.

Monday, May 19, 2008

sooo not what i expected

i felt kinda down friday night, which was ridiculous considering the very full day i'd spent catching up with friends. breakfast with lorraine, coffee with carolyn, lunch with laurel, dress shopping with christina and kim, going to the movies... not what you'd call a slow day. but still, i was feeling blue, and i was surprised when i figured out why.

i miss being the center of attention.

if you know me well, you're probably like, "what? that's sounds totally lauren-esque! what's the surprise?" for sure, i've always loved the spotlight. but i did get sick of the kind of attention one receives for being the only white person around. i was tired of being a spectacle in my own neighborhood in benin. and i used to think that the US was pretty well integrated in terms of racial diversity... but now i just look around and see white people everywhere! and i seem to blend in with them all. bummer.

so i know it's unreasonable, but i'm just being honest... i miss being the "ethnic" one in the room. now i'm just melba.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

i look just like buddy holly

a storm blew through lubbock right as mom and i were about to fly back to charm city... so we're stranded till tomorrow. lucky for us, the illustrious buddy holly memorial statue is situated right next to our hotel. score. in case you were wondering what's so special about lubbock, now you know... buddy holly.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

where's lau?

in texas...

visiting family...

too busy to blog.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

first impressions

i've been back in the US about a week now. i don't really feel like i've moved back, since i've done nothing but visit old stomping grounds. i won't actually move anywhere for a few more weeks, which allows me to suspend reality just a bit longer. right now the weirdest things i notice are the fact that my clothes are in the dryer instead of hanging on a line... that i can heat up my tea water in the microwave... that i can plug my computer into any electrical socket without worrying about sizzles and pops. and i really like to drive.

the two biggest changes concerning my closest friends are these: erin and brian have a son named keegan, and christina and andy are engaged to be married. both very exciting things.

this is my first real face-to-face time with keegan, my first sort-of nephew. we'd skyped a few times while i was in africa, but nothing makes up for the smell and feel of holding a baby. we're going to be best friends. though i'll admit, since i missed most of erin's pregnancy, it seems more like keegan just showed up... not like he was birthed by one of my best friends. the stork brought him.

then there's christina and andy... who have been dating since i introduced them about 4 years ago. i cried when she told the story of how andy asked her to be his wife. she cries every time she tells it. the three of us spent the weekend in lex for our college reunion.

before heading to lex, christina took me to her stylist in b'more... seeing as i hadn't cut my hair in over a year. wearing dresses and letting my hair down... that's culture shock.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

i woke up with a tic

not the facial-twitch kind... but the blood sucking kind. maybe i should have brought my mosquito net to the US after all!

this little guy did not want to let go... even after my dad tried to fry him off my face. stubborn little bugger.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

flying dogs

flying back to the US from cotonou, i had a little extra baggage... her name was josie. her papers said she was a lab, but i'd never seen a lab look like josie before. she was born and raised in cotonou and belonged to a missionary family there. because dogs can't travel (with certain airlines) between may 15 and september 15, the price family (who departs benin after may 15) asked me to bring josie along. this is the story of our adventure together.

josie weighs about 23 kilos. she's really very sweet, though i've only been around her while drugged on sleeping pills (not me, the dog). when traveling internationally with a dog, there are all sorts of hoops to jump through. lucky for me, the prices did most of the hoop jumping. josies shots, papers, and even the little computer chip embedded in her shoulder... everything was meticulously cared for. all i had to do was get her from point A to point B. easy enough, right? eh... no.

it started with check in. the peeps in cotonou insisted that my luggage could only be checked to paris... not to dc. i said, "are you sure?" knowing they were wrong, but they thought they were right, so i let it slide. i was going to have to go through customs in paris anyway to take the dog out for a walk, what's a little luggage to keep me company?

i arrived in paris. i waited half an hour for josie to appear. in the mean time, i talked to the luggage peeps... three men eager to help. they said to leave my luggage with them while i walked the dog. "you sure?" "mais, oui! of course." ok.

josie and i got through customs and i took her out for a walk. she was very happy, though not as jumpy as i expected, feeling a bit groggy i suppose. we met a homeless man. there was no grass. she sniffed around for half a hour and was content to go back in her kennel. she even took two more sleeping pills without arguing. easy peasey.

we went back into the aiport, at which point i realized i was screwed. there was no way of getting back to those oh-so-helpful luggage men. i went to the airfrance counter to explain the situation and ask for help. they immediately said it was crazy that my luggage hadn't been checked all the way to dc. duh. no changing that detail though... so onto the next solution. airfrance lady told me to go to the next terminal, with josie, to check in again. and my luggage? she promised it would make it. ok.

i made it to the next terminal, that was easy enough, and found my place in the longest line ever. at this point i accepted the fact that i was likely not making my flight. oh well.

(side note: in my effort to make this experience less painful, i left one of my carry-on bags with my friend rhett, who happened to be flying with me from cotonou to dc. unfortunately for rhett, he was spot checked twice in my absence, both times insisting that the third bag belonged to his "wife" who just stepped out to walk the dog. rhett and i are not married, nor will we ever be (unless he finds jesus), but half of cotonou thinks we are, so he just ran with it.)

back to me. after half an hour of not moving in the longest line ever, i realized i was in the wrong line... so i found the right line and waited another 15 minutes before someone yelled, "passengers for dc?!" yes! that's me! i scooted to the front of check-in where i explained the entire situation to the lady behind the counter. thank God i speak french now. the lady said that the previous lady was crazy to send me on without my luggage. she also said cotonou peeps were crazy not to check my luggage all the way through. after establishing these truths (once again), she said she could get josie and me on the plane, but made no guarantees about my bags. good enough. i know people think the french are snobs, but this lady was a gem. 15 minutes later, i was racing through customs.

i ran to my gate and arrived just as they were shutting the door. i was the last person to board. i passed rhett while walking to my seat, at which point he said, "thank God!" (though he probably didn't really say that since he doesn't believe in God) and he filled me in on getting searched while carrying my luggage with "girlie" things inside.

i collapsed into my seat.

the funny thing is, josie didn't even pee in paris. she just wasn't feelin' it. maybe she was too sleepy.

Monday, May 05, 2008

i got mugged... i forgot

i celebrated my 5 year reunion this weekend at the world's finest learning institution... washington and lee university. you can say your school was better, and for you it probably was, but for me wlu was the best. is the best. in any case, i was catching up with friends, discussing world travels, when suddenly i remembered i was mugged last week! here's the story...

saturday a week ago i celebrated my students' graduation and then went to a dinner party for rhett, an american friend of mine who is returning to the US after 9 years of working in africa. i was sporting an african outfit (as pictured 2 blogs previous) and wanted to run home to change before late night activities ensued. so i jumped on the back of a zemi (moped taxi) and at the last minute asked my friend romeo to jump on behind me. this means there were three people on one moto-bike. this may or may not be illegal... technically, no more than two are supposed to be on a bike at once, but i'm convinced no one in cotonou is aware of this detail. so off we go, the three of us on a moto, at maybe 10pm... not even late.

the zemi driver stopped at a light... because it was red... this is normal. out of nowhere, like a flash of lightening, a man runs up to the moto, grabs my bag and runs off. only... he loses his grip. my bag was wedged so tightly between me and the moto driver--mugging man didn't have a chance. plus, romeo grabbed me and my bag from behind for protection. it's a darn good thing i opted to travel with the illegal third person!

so i'm okay. no harm done. maybe that's why i forgot to write about it.