Hey everyone. This is my blog from Benin, Africa. I'll try to write as much about my experience as I can. Hope you all enjoy and feel free to write me as well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 20

So I have come to the conclusion that I think I am becoming mean over here in Africa. Not something you would have thought huh. Well as I said before I used to love children and now I am starting to hate them. I can not stand to here the Yovo song one more time and I here it at least a million times a day. So therefore I have started to be mean. To the children who sing the Yovo song I give them mean looks and ignore them, and then when a child says my name, I smile and praise them and am very nice to them. So I suppose I am in turn teaching these children through some sort of positive deviance not to sing the Yovo song. I feel bad being so mean but it is like nails on a chalk board to me now.
On a more fun note coming up soon is my big regional meeting for Peace Corps. I am super siked for many reasons. First it is on Halloween so I will some form be able to celebrate my favorite holiday with friends. Also the meeting was originally going to be in Bohicon, the town that I go to all the time, but now they have moved it to Parakou, a bigger city up north that I haven’t been to yet so that will be super cool. And lastly our regional meeting is at the same time as the people that live in the Parakou region which means I will get to hang out with twice as many of my friends and my good friends Nora and John Mark will be there. This could definitely not have come sooner. I can’t wait. After that I also have only 1 more month of “grounding” here in Djidja and then I can travel and do what I want. YAY
I also wanted to inform everyone that I have finally conformed to the African dress code. When I first got to Benin I was told I could not wear speghetti straps and that I most definitely had to have straps. Well that is really only for business purposes and ridiculous considering how freaking hot it is over here. So I have branched out and I now wear spaghetti straps with my Pagnes or I just wrap a pagne around my chest like a towel and just wear that. I am pretty proud of myself if I do say so and it is soooo much cooler. It is what all of the African women wear who have lived here for centuries so why should I fight it. I do still wear the occasional American clothes and I definitely still indulge myself and wear jeans because as we all now I am a fashion loving, girly girl at heart. Oh and did I mention I still haven’t given up mascara and I don’t think that I ever will. I look deranged without it. Oh and I almost forgot, I will NEVER not shave my legs.
As all of you can see (if I was able to upload the photos, I am writing these blogs from my laptop) I put up some photos. All of the people in the pictures are my neighbors who have really been great to me and helped me out a lot. The young boy eating is the one who is teaching how to cook Beninese food. I bought a ecraser the other day. This is a stone slab, that is probably 8 by 12 inches, that comes with a stone where you grind things down. Usually you will use it too make pepper sauce, tomatoes sauce, and making you garlic very fine. I now have the hang of it and I can now make many more Beninese dishes because of it. The other people are just more of the neighbors that I have.
So that’s pretty much all I have for now, oh I can’t believe MU has lost the past two football games, but I will say it does kind of make me happy because I know I was there for the best and exciting year of football we have had in years. Au revoir

October 15

Hello all, hope everyone is good I am doing pretty well over here. I just got over a cold and am feeling much better now. Things are going well, even though my boss has been gone all week, she is “sick”, I haven’t done heardly anything new at work just the same old nothing lol.
Today was rather interesting though. I asked my neighbor if she would teach me how to make “pate” and sauce legumes. And she said she would, and told me what to by at the marche. Well it tuned into the biggest ordeal ever. Me and the young boy who helps me, went to the marche and bought lots of stuff. When we got back he probably made 5 more trips to get things that we needed again, which needless to say got very expensive. Well the girl asked another girl to help to me, her, the other girl and the young boy were all in my living room cooking ( I didn’t end up doing very much). They used tons of crap in my kitchen and we also had probably 10 children at any given time running in and out of my house. In the end it took about 3 hours to do all together, I spent quite a bit of money, and I ended up feeding half my neighbors. But that’s all ok I guessm it was really good food and I have plenty left over for dinner. So today was pretty fulfilling I guess.
I haven’t been getting much sleep over here recently because for some reason at around 2:00 in the morning, the neighbor hood dogs have decided to get together for choir practice. I sounds to me like 20 dogs are all howling and growling together for about an hour. I never new dogs could be soooo freaking loud. It is also quite scary as well because I have never heard of this before except in some creepy horror film.
On a more interesting note I have been noticeing that guns are a lot more prevelant here in Africa than in America. In America I could probably count the number of times I have see guns, and they were usually before my father went hunting or on an officer of the law. Over any old Joe could be walking by and half a machine gun straped to his back. Needless to say a lot of the time it is the Gendarms (police) who have these giant rifles or machine guns, however the other day I was sitting on my stop and two guys walked by with probably the biggest guns I have ever seen. I think they might be called elephant guns. It is just crazy the stuff you can see over here any old day of the week.
Also as I was sitting on my stoop the other day I started to feel very bad for the dogs that live around me. The reason is that the flys over here are always swarming all over there heads and the dogs have to continueally shake there heads to keep them off. I probably sat and watched this one dog for over 15 minutes and realized that that is probably the most annoying thing in the whole world. I mean the dog couldn’t even take a nap.

October 8

October 8,2008
Hello everyone, hope all is well. Things are going pretty well over here in Africa. I have been in my village for over a month now and things are going pretty well. I have started working, even though it is not very much. I have furniture in my house as you can see from my pictures and my house is slowly starting to feel like home and not just some place I come to, to sleep.
For work so far I have been working with sole hanidcaped childredn trying to help rehabilitate them. We these strange chairs at our office, one is for sitting the other is for standing, that help children learn how to sit and stand correctly. Most of the children that we use the chairs on either can’t sit up my themselves or can’t stand/walk. I play games with them while they sit in these chiars, such as put the shape in the right place and memory games. I have also started looking into this ONG called Mercyship. It is like a cruise ship that has been converted into a traveling hospital. The docotrs who volunteer with the ONG travel around to different countries giving free surgeries and things to that nature. I have a lot of children in my area that are in need of surgery and I am really hopeing, they ship is coming here in February, that I can get some of kids the surgeries that they need. I can’t do much yet because I don’t know much but once I do if I can at least get one child a surgery it would be amazing. My friend Aaron who told me about it said something like that could make your whole Peace Corps experience worth it and mean something. He is completely right and I really want to help these kids. That would just be amazing if it could work out. I am not going to get my hopes up though because many of the things that we try to do here just don’t work a lot of the time do to many factors, which is ok, but you have to learn not to get to excited about stuff because you don’t want to get let down.
On that note I was let down pretty bad today by some of my neighbors. I had been missing some money here and there lately, nothing substantial, but it had always been after I had, had people in my house and I was starting to get suspiscious. I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions and I really wanted to believe in the best in people so I decided that I probably just lost the money. Well today I had two of the neighbor girls in my house, who were my friends until today, and I went back into my room to grab something and when I came back that were kind of hovering in the area of my backpack. Well I told them I wanted to take a nap and they left and as soon as they did I went over to by backpack, found it open and my coin purse was open and empty. It really upset me. I said something to them to the effect of “ I know one of you took my money and I am very upset about it” however there really isn’t much you can do about so I let it go from there. It just means that now I really can’t let people into my house anymore. I talked to one of my friends here about it and she told me when she was living with ther host family one of her sisters was taking money from. We talked about how it really does hurt your feelins and you feel used because for all the good stuff you do for these people, such as giving them food and candy which I did almost on a daily basis, it feels like that didn’t even matter to them and they went and stabed you in the back. You also have to think about like this though, they want nice things and see you with nice things and think that the money they take really won’t be a big deal to you and that you probably won’t even notice. Well I did notice but I am going to try and be understanding about it, I am however not going to be very nice to the two girls as I was but I will still try to keep decent relations with them.
So that was my day today. And tomorrow will be another day, and I will start again fresh with a new day and hopefully things will be good tomorrow. That is usually how I take things here because some days can be just shit, excuse my French lol, and other days can be the best days ever so you really just have to take in one day at a time. I am at the moment really looking forward to my regional meeting that we are having at the end of October. I get to go stay in Bohicon with some of my friends for a night and hang out so that will be a lot of fun. I also got to talk to a couple of my friend who are up north last weekend and that was really nice. One of them I hadn’t heard from at all because he deosn’t have service in his area so if was nice to here that he was alive and kicking.
I was reading somewhere the other day about race in Africa, actually I think it was mentioned a couple of places, and they all kind of consistently said the same thing and that is that there really isn’t a concept about skin color, the concept that we have in America, over here. I think that when many Africans leave Africa and go to America they are very lost because for some reason people group all people with black skin in the same category in America. ( I know this statement is obvious but it needed to be said). And over here your are categorized by you ethinicity, such as Fulani or Yaruba. It also made me think about other things over here that I find interesting. Such as the fact that there are so many different religions in Benin and everyone is so tolerant of one another. People don’t make it an issue over here. To them is as simple as this, you believe what you believe and why would I care that it is different from me. I like that thought process over here, I also think that it has to do with the fact that there are a lot bigger things to worry about over here, such as food. Americans and many other countries are too sheltered. We have to much time on our hands to think about stuff. And I am not saying this is a bad thing, it is just a fact, we have too much time to think. I definitely have a lot of time to think over here and that is probably why I am I rambling on and on right now haha.
So I think Ill end this blog with a good quote from the song I am listening to write now,
“How many years must some people exist before there allowed to be free
and how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind , the answer is blowing in the wind.”
Joan Beaz

Friday, October 3, 2008

October 3

So everyone i finally got the blogs on here that I had written on my laptop a really long time ago. I finally found a cyber near me that would work fast enough for me to actually do some things one it. LOL

All in all I am doing really well I think. I really like my house, I have great neighbors, and I finally got some furniture in my house (look at the photos for sept. 18 that is my bedroom)

I have done lots since I have been at post. Last weekend I went to a huge party in another town for the re opening of a palace. It wad really fun and if i can ever get the pictures on here you will get to see some of the really cool voodoo rituals I got to watch.

I have also started doing some more work. My homologue came to town Monday and Teusday and a news crew came to shoot some stories on the womens cooking groups my NGO started. So if any of you are over in Africa you can look for me on ORTB.

Other than that I dont know too much else i have really just been hanging out with my neighbors and not much else. So I hope everyone is well and hopefully I can write more soon.

September 14 i know i put them on backwards

Well, it looks like I officially live in Djidja now. I guess it is still somewhat unofficial however since I still have not moved into my house yet, oh had I mentioned that I have been here over a week now. And yes to answer the question I know you all were already thinking my house was suppose to be finished way before I even got here. On the Brightside however a nice family, actually I would say a man since his wife and children live in a house near by, has allowed me to stay in a small apartment they have in their concession. I am pretty sure I kicked the older son out of the place he sleeps but what can I do.
On a lighter note I would say I am doing as well as can be expected. The first night was tough I was actually very upset to leave my family here and I was also missing my family and friends at home quite a lot. I got through it though and am still here. It has been quite a trip to move somewhere, where you know not one person, you are very unfamiliar with the culture, and yes I am going to say it, the only white person for 40 miles. It is not as hard as I thought though, people are genuinely a kind race and I have found that the people here are kind as well. I would say the hardest thing here is that I have absolutely, positively NOTHING to do.
I am not sure I have explained this yet but for the first three months of peace corps service you are suppose to just asses your community. That doesn’t mean that you can’t begin some projects, but you are really just suppose to get to know your community. Which is a good idea however in the long run it means I sit around a lot with nothing to do. Also my homologue is out of town for the next month and I can’t really start anything without her. I am in contact with some other NGO’s however that I am hoping I can start doing some things with. I am very excited to be here and I know that in the long run it is going to be good it is just hard to get through this slow, transitional period. I also don’t like always looking towards the future but I feel that is all I am really doing right now, just playing the waiting game. Waiting to know people and my community better, waiting for my homologue to come back, and waiting for the these three months to be over with so that I will have something to do and can start something.
So I guess I could some up my first week for you. The first couple of days I went to the CPS ( centre de promotion social) where I will be working and sat around while my bosses assistant did some things. He also took me to the mayor’s office several times to see people, most of who I had met on my post visit. We also went to the NGO Bonde Fondle which is an affiliate of Child Fund International, where people from other countries sponsor children here in Africa. I think I will be doing a lot of work with them actually. I was also taken to several tailors, mechanics, and hair tressors to see the AIDS orphans that are doing apprenticeships there. Some how we do stuff with them but I am not sure yet what that is, my French still isn’t up to par. I also biked out to two villages to see them doing cooking demonstrations on healthy porridge to feed 6 month to two year old children. That was a very interesting experience. The one village that we went to was very small and poor, many of the children were malnourished and had been for a while, that made me very sad. This job is going to be hard at times. It was also difficult for me because there was this dog there that was clearly on the brink of death, its ribs were protruding dramatically and it had soars all over its body and ears which is a sign bad nutrition and starvation. That hard thing was that I felt horrible for this animal but the people in this village for very obviously not even feed their own children so how was could they possibly take care of a dog. It was just something that really made me think. It also made me really happy that I am here so that maybe I can help do something about one of the too. It is amazing all the work there is to do here, it is just difficult to know what to do exactly and where to start.
Well that is most of it so far, I am sure you will be getting more blog entries because I have nothing to do so I will be writing more blogs on my laptop and then putting on my website when I can get internet. I might have it in my town in the near future, but they say that about everything so we shall see. Hope all is well with everyone.
PS I almost forgot on weekends here people play music all night long until the sun comes up, it is almost so loud that it shakes my bed with the bass, so needless to say I sleep very late on weekends here because there is not much sleeping going on at night. I think I might just have to start partying with them through the night because I’m not getting anything else done.

September 18 post Finally

Well I have finally moved into my house. I am so happy I could cry. I love my house. It is amazing that I love it because it is just concrete walls and a tin roof but it is all mine and no one can bother me if I don’t want to be bothered. My bathroom is probably the prettiest part of my house so far. It is in the back of my house and has tile floors, tiled walls, a shower head and a pink toilet. I could probably live in my bathroom it is so pretty. For those of you who have never had to share and use a latrine before, believe me when you get a toilet again you will just about kiss it.
So yes I am very happy to be in my house. I also really like my neighbors. One is a single man who works at the Centre de Sante (health center) and then there is a couple who has three kids, a 1 ½, year old and twins that are 8 months . The mom of the twins is very nice and she works at the Mayors office, she already invited me over to visit and see the kids. So, it is much better from living in a shed type house, next to one man who is never there, oh but who gets up in the morning very early and sings right outside my window, that was where the latrine and shower were .
People are also starting to be friendlier to me here. Some people know my name now so they don’t always call me “Yovo.” Also I am finding work that I am going to be to do here. For example the NGO I am working with wants to start to doing sensibilizations on family planning and I know all about that and how to do them so hopefully once they start that I can be a integral part in it. Also my boss will be coming back in two weeks so hopefully there will be a lot more for me to do.
I think the one thing about Africa that people either love or hate is the fact that there is always something going on. For example right now it is 4:00 and I can here two different types of music, crying babies, women talking and a pig crying ( I think it is being killed, not sure though.) So I would have to say that you could just look out your window and see all sorts of things but sometimes it would be nice to just have some quiet., especially at night when you are trying to sleep.
Tomorrow, which will actually be when I post this because I am writing on my laptop, I get to go into Bohicon the bigger and town and buy things, YEAH! We don’t have much of a differing food supply here in DjiDja so I am very excited to buy some things to eat.. Lately I have just been eating lunch because I don’t have anything good to cook for dinner to make me want to eat. So I guess on the plus side and I loosing some weight, however I don’t think I am getting the right amount of protein and vitamins because what I usually have for lunch is some rice and a little bit of cheese from the neighborhood lunch stand. I think when I get home Ill start the newest diet fad with the “African Food Diet” maybe I’ll make a bunch of money haha. Also I am going to buy some things to decorate my house with. They make these pretty woven straw mates here that you can use as a kind of carpet, something to sit on, or you can hang them on your wall. I am going to do all three I think just to make my house prettier. Saturday I am also going to go the carpenter and have him start making me some tables and a dresser so that I have somewhere to put things because right now everything I have is still in bags and on the floor.
Well that’s pretty much all I have for now, I hope everyone else is doing ok