Sushi!

Sushi!

So now I’d like to sit down and write a real post. Not just a quick update on my life. This ‘blog’ thing has been really hard to figure out and I’ve been sitting in the Natitingou workstation with our high speed internet (woot woot) trying to figure out how to post pictures…because a blog is just too boring without them.

I just came back from Ghana. Which was, for sure, one of the most amazing trips I’ve been on. I’ve been planning this trip for a couple of months now. Reading my Lonely Planet West Africa book in my free time at post. I decided we’d do a ‘beach tour’ starting up from Accra and going along the coast to Cape Coast and of course doing the obligatory canopy walk in Kakum National Park.
Leaving Cotonou was amazingly easy. We took one taxi from Benin to the border of Togo/Ghana. We being; Carlan, Nora, Lucy, Stew, Sarah E, Michelle and Naima. Going through all the borders was simple although a little lengthy. We arrived in Accra and immediately got started being tourists. Being a tourist as a West African peace corps volunteer is  interesting. We are not used to seeing highway lanes, supermarkets, malls, restaurants, etc. When you take us from our villages and drop us off in a prosperous, developed city like Acrra we, well, freak out. The van coming into Accra was basically filled with hyper, over-excited, shrieking girls. A mall?! A MOVIE THEATRE?! SUSHI!!!!!!???
The first night we got dressed in our nicest ensembles and we still looked like scrubs. We had nachos, hot wings, etc. (nothing we’ve had in over a year)- much more shrieking took place. It was amazing.
The next day we just travelled around Accra…going to the mall (where I got a cute dress that I can never wear in Benin….sleeveless/short) That night we went out to SUSHI (picture, above) . Which I have been looking forward to for a whole year. Then we went out clubbin’ at AFROdisiac.
The following days we rented a beach house at Big Milly’s Backyard in Krokrobite where we just chilled on the beach for a couple days. There were tons of rastafarians, live music and cheap beer.
Big Milly's Backyard
After Krokrobite we went to Cape Coast to visit the Castle/ old slave port. It was a beautiful place right on the beach but incredibly haunting. In the rooms where the slaves were held, or chambers where rebelious slaves were left to starve to death.

Cape Coast Castle
Cape Coast Castle

Here’s a picture. It was really beautiful. To the left of this is a really lively fishing market. Fisherman sell directly from the boat to people.

Next step was to Kakum National Park. Which was probably the coolest part! In this park there’s a canopy walk high high high up in the rain forest trees. We walked across the rope bridges which were very wobbly and didn’t seem at all safe (but it was- at least they said so). We camped out in the woods, which sucked for various reasons (rat infested beds, sharing a bed with 4 girls, etc) but it  was an adventure. The next morning we took a walking tour through the park. Didn’t see any animals but saw some interesting trees( haha, meh). Overall an awesome adventure. That went off with relatively no hitches. I would recomment Ghana to anyone even if you’ve never been to Africa before.

Canopy Walk
Canopy Walk

Well I’m really tired. I think this was long enough? I’m going to be in Nati for a few days and then heading back to post till I work staging.

Just finishing up some work and taking money out from the bank before heading back to post. I’ll only be there for a couple of days though and then I’m headed to Cotonou before going to Ghana! So excited. A little bit worried about money. Peace Corps provides us with more than enough to live and travel around Benin but Accra will be a whole ‘nother story (umm…they have sushi and malls there). I have a little saved up and I really don’t want to dip in personal savings.

In other news, my baby brother joined the MARINES! I can’t believe it. Right now he’s in boot camp. I’m really proud of him and miss him like crazy now! I wasn’t planning on going home but I’m actually going to try to make it to Chuck’s commencement ceremony later this summer. Tickets are sooo expensive…but hopefully I’ll be able to scrap together some cash. So that means I’m coming home! Part of me is hesitant to go…I’m afraid I’ll walk into a Taco Bell and never want to leave. (Haha. Or something similiar to that). I’m afraid of the dramatic differences between the two cultures…what will you think of me when I forget, eat with my hands, throw chicken bones over my shoulder and wash my hands in the water pitcher? Still, I’m really excited and can’t wait to bore you all with my Benin stories!

Till then…. love.

Alright in three more weeks I’ll have been in Benin for a whole year! I can’t believe it! I’m in Parakou doing some work at the workstation. Girls club is next week! eicks! Hopefully it goes well! (Knock on wood)

In other news…school’s been out. Last week I just worked with students on grades. It was such a relief to be done with school. However this past week I realized how bored I will be during the summer. Sometimes you just can’t read ANOTHER book or watch an old episode of Intervention on your Ipod AGAIN. I spend a lot of time staring at things…walls, goats, cute kids (kinda creepy, i know), clouds (at first people thought I was crazy staring up at the sky predicting rainstorms…but I’m always right so now they ask me if it’ll rain that day or not), motos passing by, an occasional bush taxi….. 

The rainy season is great. I’ve actually become obsessed with the rain here. I love how you can see it coming from miles off. I love sitting in my house listening to it fall on my tin roof or watching it outside during the day. I love how the thunder shakes the ground or how there’s so much lightning at night the sky is continuously lit. I do not like how my house fills with bugs or how sometimes it rains so hard I’m afraid that my roof will just fly off. That is actually something I think about a lot. What if that happened at night? What would I do? I’d probably just have to sleep in the rain for the night. My friend said he brought some sort of collapsible tarp in his luggage to Benin. I laughed thinking that was ridiculous. Why bring a tarp when you can bring extra underwear? But if my roof ever does fly off, he’ll get the last laugh. A tarp would come in handy.

My next post will probably be in a couple weeks. I planned a whole trip to Ghana. I really need a vacation. Accra is supposed to be the nicest city in West Africa…we’ll see. There’s supposedly a sushi place. If I could get sushi….i’d be pumped and ready to go for another year.

Quick what’s up!

Everything’s is going well. My postmates and I are working really hard to make the Pehunco girls camp awesome. It’s a lot of work. It’s all my first time working with womens’ groups. It’s fun but a little frustrating.

I’m going back to post tomorrow and I will be there for a little over a month. I’m really going to try and hunker (sp?) down and learn Bariba. My neighbor said he would tutor me.

So school’s out for Spring break, which I’m really excited about. I came to the big city in the Atakora region, Natitingou where the  workstation is. Unfortunately this is not a ‘pleasure’ trip. I’m filling out grant proposals and trying to grade exams (among other things).  The Pehunco volunteers and I are really trying to get this Camp GLOW Pehunco thing set up, even though we’re late in the school year and had tons of set-backs. We’ll make it! That’s why I’m in the city getting my sh#$ together for girls’ empowerment! woot woot. Hopefully it all works out, I’m really excited to hang out with the girls in a non-school atmosphere.

In other news, I’ve been talking with a lot of the community leaders a lot lately about more projects in Tobre. They really opened up to me in the past few weeks. My first day back from the memorial the C.A. (mayor), the principal of my school, the priest, the imam, and a bunch of other leaders (Head of the fishing department, Tobre- didnt know that existed) came to my house. The C.A. started off by expressing his condolences for what happened then told me that I had no reason to ever be afraid in Tobre and that they will always look out for me. It meant so much that they all came together to do this for me. I tried to respond and thank them but I couldn’t get the words out and I didn’t want to cry (happy tears) in front of all those men. So I was mostly silent, tried to tell a joke, then told them that I have never felt unsafe in Tobre.

I love Tobre. The people, the school, the kids, everything.

Tobre. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…..

1. Was interested to start a project to build latrines at the school. (Right now kids go in the corn field) Mentioned this to my director, within a couple of months they were built. Didn’t have to look for outside sources, totally community funded (which is very exciting!)

2. Also looking into getting a library at the school. Done and done. Again by the PTA and my director. They looked to Pehunco (nearest town) for NGOs and outside sources to help them start off.  So really….didnt do anything there either. These are all good because it shows how motivated the community is and my opinions are taken into account.

3. Quesnelle. She was voted “weirdest” homologue in our in service training. We’re kindred spirits.

4. The lady that yells at me in Bariba in the marche, well, this one in particular (there’s a lot). She always keeps me in check to make sure that I’m keeping up in my Bariba lessons. And she yells in a very nice, fun way. It’s nice to know someones looking out for you.

5. Bisap. We now have bisap, everyday all day.

the last post I actually wrote a couple of weeks ago, but I forgot to post it. I will add more but right now I don’t have my journal.

This past week has been really hard. A fellow PCV and friend was found murdered in her house. It’s so shocking and horrible. I’m still trying to process it. I’ve been in the city all week, just to be around other volunteers, for the memorial and to talk about it.

I know that a lot of you are worried about my safety. But I promise, I am safe. I would never go back to post if I didn’t feel completely safe. Kate’s murder was horrible but it is in no way charachteristic of the Beninese. It was a random act of violence perpetrated by a disgusting human being. My village has been really supportive, worried that I’ll leave, promising to do everything they can to insure my safety. I live in a large concession, with tons of people around at all times of night (trust me I hear them). I’m good. So don’t worry about me. I love you.

Ok, so I decided to take some time to write down what’s been happening at post. I knew once I sat down at a computer my mind would draw a blank so I decided to bring my journal along to help out. It’s edited of course, not because I have scandalous secrets to conceal but because you probably don’t want to hear about my bowel movements…. Ok first posts last. (I will post more when I have time)

 

9/10/08- I had a funny thing happen to me today. I needed garlic, the word in my translation book for garlic in Bariba is sokoro. So I asked him if he could find some. He sent out a kid to go get it, the kid comes back with a giant snail. Here…. sokoro. Translation book no bueno.

9/9/08- It’s pouring rain right now which is harboring any attempt to salué. It’s about 12 o’clock and I’ve already unpacked, cooked breakfast and started the horchata. Theo is supposed to come back at 2 so we can go to the marché. I feel fine right now but I’m anxious to make friends already and to be able to communicate. I got scared for a second when I thought about how I’ll be here for two years! Life moves so slowly here! Hmm.. Ok, just think about getting through today… then a week. Then just the first three months… then time flies, right?

NIGHT- Ok I saluéd a lot. You can find a lot at the Tobré market but not a lot of veggies. People speak Bariba to me all the time. I really need to learn a little. I will. I also sat outside for a while while my neighbors cooked. I think it was a pretty eventful day. They gave me a name: Bekegui. I hope it doesn’t mean anything like poop or something.

I have a constant layer of sweat on me that never goes away. Ok, well first day not so bad. It’s hard to fill a day when you have nothing to do.

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