Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Being at Post for 2 weeks, My Garden and a Road Trip

After working with the new volunteers for a week in the south I decided to make my way back up north stopping in a town called Ouéssé; Lizzy a TEFL volunteers post. It always is nice to see what other people’s towns and houses are like. Ouéssé is nice and Lizzy’s house is very nice. They are replacing an old volunteer so we went to look at the new house and the CEG (High School) where Lizzy teaches. The classrooms are wood and thatch and at the beginning of each rainy season they fall down and have to be remade for the new school year. The paillote as they are called does not provide much in the way of protection from the elements. The teachers also have to use a propped up chalkboards, which some students can’t see because they are behind the wood poles. It goes without saying that there is no lighting in these paillote. So Lizzy has started a PCPP (yes, I know more Peace Corps acronyms. PCPP = Peace Corps Partnership Program) they are projects in which the funding comes from anyone that wants to donate. You could for example visit the Peace Corps website and find her project and donate some money for the construction of new classrooms.

READ MORE and DONATE HERE

I’ll wait till you are done donating to continue…

Ok. So after my visit I went back to post and spent a good two weeks there. The rains have started and this means not too much leaving the house. The Beninese don’t like being out in the rain and meetings are not a good enough reason to leave the house. I guess I don’t blame them and at least everyone knows that’s how it works so no one leaves the house. This is a good time for gardening. I had started a garden before I left for stage but upon my arrival found it to be a garden of weeds. I decided to give the garden another go. I planted basil, tomatoes, ruggetta salad, carrots, parsley, corn and both green and dark beans. So far the tomatoes, ruggetta, corn and beans have been showing some progress. I have some pictures posted of my garden and will continue do post them showing the progress.

Off topic I thought I would share a funny story. I was at home when a man and woman came to my door asking me if they knew what these were, handing me $6 dollars. (A $5 and a single) I said yes that they were American dollars. They asked me how much they were worth and I told them that about $1 = 500CFA. They asked me if I could exchange them, I decided that eventually I could use those dollars and these people could use the money. I asked them where they got them from, they said that they found the money in a pair of pants they bought at the market. Don’t you love it when you find money in your pants?

Later I realized that the rate is $1=480CFA and I had lost money on this deal. I had to laugh like hell.

The Moringa, Terminalia and Gmelina tree nursery is doing well; we even reseeded some of the sacks that didn’t grow, with the rains they should be able to grow in time for the planting.

I also took a day motorcycle trip with my friend Chabi (see Gallivant). We had been planning to visit his hometown of Birni and since he is on summer vacation we decided it would be a good time to do it. We took the moto from Kouandé to Birni on a more direct dirt road with not one but two broken bridges. The first was passable with getting a little wet, the second as my pictures show is passable by a 30cm strip. You pay someone 200CFA (40 cents) to walk the moto across the river. The ride was quite pleasant through millet, sorghum, corn and cotton fields. We also were lucky with the weather and didn’t get rained on. Just as we arrive at Chabi’s concession in Birni his sister starts screaming and crying hysterically and collapses into her family’s arms. Chabi pulls out two chairs for us and his aunt and other sister are talking to him he also explains that his sister has some kind of mental illness and will have these episodes from time to time. Before I can yell at him for not giving me some kind of warming beforehand he starts crying and says to me; look at my situation. I ask what situation and that just his sister is sick. He said that his cousin also has the same illness. It’s very sad because there really is no mental healthcare in Benin. They think that these things are caused by voodoo and that the treatment can be done by sending them to a traditional healer. Chabi was very quite and I got the feeling he wasn’t very happy to be home, maybe he was embarrassed. He did cheer up when he saw a high school friend and we chatted a while, including a heated soccer debate. (Will Benin make it in the Africa Cup in Ghana this wear, and will they win? Not to mention that the Dutch national teach is the best team not to have won a World Cup)

The next stop on our little trip was Perma to visit my host family. This is where Environmental Education sector had training for 9 weeks. It was really great to see my family, they all happen to be there because the kids come home during summer vacation. (Three of them go to school in Natitingou) I got to see Tara’s family as well. Everyone was doing well and they were genuinely happy to see me. I brought them wagashi. (Fulani cheese) Also my little brother doesn’t want to be a bandit anymore he wants to be an actor. So hopefully there will be more than just one famous Beninese Actor

Then we make the trip back to Kouandé. As I am typing this I am in Cotonou for my Mid-service (can you believe I have been here a year, because I can’t) medical check-up.

Stay tuned for my next adventure – Stool samples and getting a physical. What a cliffhanger that is…

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Michael,
Sorry I haven't responded in awhile, but please know that I read every entry and so enjoy your adventures. I loved the recent pictures and all the rest.
Take care and look forward to further entries.
Mama Reynolds

JL said...

Gallivant stealer.

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