Monday, August 18, 2008

Leaving Post

My last week in Kouandé was spent packing making sure that my main project (working with the women’s gardening groups) would be taken care of after my departure. My NGO and the Mayor’s office threw me a going away party. My contribution was two goats. Since I knew how the typical Beninese fetes go, I took at a nap at 7pm had a light dinner at 9pm, read till about 11pm and then took a shower at it was about time they picked me up to go. Upon arriving I counted 2 cars and 12 motorcycles. I was seated with ‘les importants’ and we were served various types of hard alcohol and cookies. Once more or less everyone was there, the speeches started with the local radio personality as the MC. The interim Director of the NGO spoke first followed by the old director who was interrupted by the MC to give the following words to the Mayor, who are the same person. At this point I was glad that I had already written a speech anticipating them asking me to say something. This was the speech I gave:

Je voudrai remercie tout le monde chi a acceptée d’être ici pour la manifestation de mon départ. Sur tout les agents de PELCA et la marie d’avoir l’organise. Pendent mon séjour de deux ans ici au Bénin, particulerment dans la ville historique de Kouandé. J’ai fiat beaucoup de connesence et j’ai aussi appris beaucoup de chose. J’ai appris comment vivre sans curent et réseau, mais plus important j’ai pouvais regarde et l’apricie la tradition traditionnel Batonou. Je suis très content de mon séjour que nous avons passe ensemble. La population de Kouandé m’a réserve une très bonne hospitalité. Quand je serai aux Payée Bas et je commencerai a réfléchi de mon séjour ici, je serai un peu triste, mai je sait que la population de Kouandé vont continue a develope et si Dieu veut je retournerai a voir cette transformation.

Na be siara, becca kiru. Becca tonu. Giussunu son gbinna sia. Tonbakka ton werra.

After my speech the mayor presented me with traditional Bariba clothing and everyone was served beers and Akassa with goat. When the importants had finished their meal they were informed that it was time for the presentation of the prizes at the ‘Podium Vacances’ or talent show. They invited me to come along and present some myself. We were driven to the Maison des Jeunes which was absolutely packed, with mainly children. It should also be noted that this was around 2am. Once the prizes were distributed we continued back to the party to dance and drink. I made it home just about the time the Muezzin started the call to prayer (5:30am).

A couple days later I invited the pétanque club to my house for some tan pica (local hard alcohol a.k.a. sodabe) fish and Akassa.

On my last day I had just about finished packing and started finding myself thinking that this was the last time that I would do many of the things that had become routine in my life in Kouandé. It really hit home when my best friend Chabi was at my house and asked me if he could get me some dinner, and I replied ‘yes, for the last time’ and we both became sad and choked up. In the morning my taxi came and I said goodbye to my neighbors, Chabi, Kabirou and Mora the people that I would really miss the most… Of course the taxi broke down in the short leg to Natitingou and it was my leatherman that saved the say with a Philips head screwdriver. I did however learn a lot watching the driver take apart the car engine.

I spent two days in Natitingou from where I was able to go to Perma to visit my host family one last time. It was really nice to see them and just spent some time sitting in the place where I adjusted to Benin.

I rented a taxi on Sunday to take me down to Cotonou with my bags and the Peace Corps items (gas bottles, mattress, bicycle, lockbox, and books)

As of right now I am about a third way though the COS checkout procedure. I have seen the doctors a last time, returned my books and Peace Corps equipment, and closed my bank account (half of today was spend waiting in line at two different banks). The biggest things that are left are to have exit interviews with my APCD and CD… The next 3 days will be spent running around getting ready for my departure from Benin.