Saturday, October 21, 2006


Natitingou, Benin
10/21/2006 2:39 AM

New important news is that I have finally moved into the new house! I wouldn’t even begin to explain the complications of the move to the new house even if I could myself understand them. The important part is that I am moved in. It is part of a two-house concession with a salon (large room) and two bedrooms with an outside shower area. It has electricity from 7pm to midnight and a faucet for water not very far away. This is common for most Peace Corps volunteers, with plus or minus some comforts. I.e. running water, 24-hour electricity, a real toilet, tilled bathrooms.

I was able to escape my post of Kouandé and take a bush taxi the hour and fifteen minutes on a mostly tere rouge dirt road to the workstation of Natitingou.
The workstation is a house where usually a third year volunteer lives and is somewhere that volunteers can stay while in transit or just need to stay the night to take care of business in the big city of Natitingou. Big city is pretty relative. Here you can buy (for a price) the luxury items that I’m sure you all take for granted; this would include such things like apples, canned goods, yogurt, cheese, cookies (even spekulaas), bread (yes bread is a luxury), toothpaste, or any electronic devices. In Kouandé the marché is every 4 days, why they picked this system I will never know since it makes figuring out when the market is difficult if you missed the last one. My marché is not a very good one and the produce is pretty limited to the basics. I have been cooking a little with the help of Chabi and Kabirou, this consist of spaghetti, Wache (beans and rice), Abobo (Gari and beans) or some sort of Ignams (they are called Yams but are a starchy tuber and can be fried, boiled or pilléed) The food along the road is mostly the same and has given me food poisoning at least once. The “restaurants” have a little more selections and beverages for sale but both are fairly expensive to frequent regularly. So what exactly do I do all day I hear you asking yourself? I usually will wake up sometime around 8am, if not earlier due to the call to prayer. I will walk or ride my Peace Corps issued bicycle to the gare (taxi area) and buy a bowl of Bou-ee for 25CFA and head back home. I will read and wait for visitors to stop by the house, saluating is a very big part of the culture and can take several minutes. As seen in the bellow:

ME: akpunando
Bariba: oo
ME: a bwado?
Bariba: oo a bwado
ME: anna yenu?
Bariba: alafia
ME: anna wasi?
Bariba: alafia
ME: anna bibu?
Bariba: alafia
ME: tarré

I will try to hide from the sun during the hot times, which happens to be most of it either under a mango tree or in my house. I will try to find reasons to leave my house and talk to people however they usually are able to find me, especially the young kids. I shower during the hottest part of the day to cool off. As far as real work goes, besides the fact that Peace Corps wants us not to start real work till after 3 months at post AND the ONG that I’m working with has not very much work at the moment it looks like I will be somewhat on my own in finding work. This is the curse of the Environmental volunteer and it will take time to suss out projects that are worthwhile to start.

So upon arrival at the workstation I was greeted with a message from Peace Corps administration telling us that Timbuktu is off limits for all Peace Corps volunteers because of security reasons and if we had travel plans to go there to change them and that there are plenty of other great travel destinations. If you don’t know where Timbuktu is, I wont tell you.

On a side note this keyboard is American and I have started to get accustomed to the French keyboards that they use in all the Internet cafes here (I’m sure you could tell from the weird characters in my past emails)

Michael Portegies-Zwart

1 comment:

mama reynolds said...

It is wonderful hearing from you. I enjoyed your update. So pleased to hear that you are in your new home. With all the frustration I guess it makes it all the sweeter. Gene and I also enjoyed the pictures. Keep them coming when you can. As usual, be safe and happy.