Tuesday, April 10, 2007

All Vol

This week was the all volunteer conference in Cotonou. This meant that all 96 volunteers were to meet in a nice hotel in the capital for meetings. Overall it was a great success. For most of us just having running water, electricity is enough to justify the up to 12 hour trip. Having a pool, AC and hot running water with Peace Corps pick up the tab is something no volunteer can pass up, it also was mandatory. We had sessions for two days with topics varying from post office announcements to specific projects that were regarded as successful. For example one volunteer had a contest for her town, where it was divided into sections and after 3 months each section would be judged and prizes awarded. She said that people spent a lot of time cleaning up and the results were evident. Here there is no waste collection (for the most part) so everyone throws their garbage everywhere and anywhere. The American ambassador spoke as well. There also was a male date action to raise money for GAD (Gender and Development) since the male to female ratio is such most of the guys were bought up. Something about decreasing the supply to increase the demand…I don’t know. I did feel like a piece of meat but it was for a good cause. My date included a bottle of Italian red wine and NPR. The bidding got pretty ridiculous the more alcohol was consumed. Following the auction there was the first annual peace corps Benin talent show. For only being announced a day earlier I was impressed with the 10 or so acts. The highlights would have to be Gina’s interpretive dance with James Fisher on guitar. Paul Oxbows version of “Take me home sweet goudron.” The acapella theme song of Fresh Prince. The synchronized diving. A dance inspired by a Lairum dream and MIF kits. And the Operetta about being a Peace Corps Benin Volunteer. If I had more time I would have tried a spoken word jazz thing but alas, there is always next year. The next night was the catered GAD dinner. This gave everyone a chance to dress up a little and enjoy a fabulous meal where a silent auction was taking place to again raise money for GAD. Some of the items for auction were digital cameras, a thermarest mat, a jar of peanut butter (I bid on and lost), local artwork, razors, gift certificates to restaurants, a box of tampons (that a guy almost won), a basket of cereal and milk and so on. It was a very nice evening. At this point I am trying to leave Cotonou but it is hard to leave, the one factor that does make it easier is that you start to run out of money fairly quickly.

I was asked to write and add pictures of what food I eat here. If you have any suggestions on other topics you want to know about let me know.

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