December 15, 2008
(note that this post was written on multiple occasions)
At the moment I am resting on my bed, after a half day of work and a failed attempt at a nap. I spent the majority of the ladder half of last week reading and trying to get myself back into better health. I greatly enjoyed finishing Catch 22 and am now started on Howards End. Past reading around the house I also spent time wandering around and trying to get more familiar with the town. In the midst on my orienteering of sorts I came across a family in the bush I few hundred meters from my place. There were a few houses there and a few families I guess; however, I spent most of my time talking to a man in his forties named Gerard. He’s pretty chill, lives in a mud house and grows corn and tomatoes. I wound up hanging out over there on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I was asked to head over a little earlier so that he could show me around town a little on his moto. When I got there he was out but after a little wait, a decent amount of awkwardness, and helping with sorting some of the crop used for ‘huile rouge’ he showed up and we were soon off. We wound up going to an old friend of his’. We essentially chatted, and ate papayas. I was quite content. I also left on my own for a few minutes to look around. In doing so I got swarmed by puppies, and finally managed to get close to one of the fetish trees. Tuesday it was time to head back to work. This time in the village of Nianrin: also located in Toffo. Before going to work I had breakfast as usual, and then I had some bouilli, and a few minutes afterwards we wound up having pate his sheep. So I’d essentially had three meals before ten o’clock. We also met Caroline’s old prof on the way who invited me in to have a Youki Mocha; which Caroline and I passed back and forth (neither one wanting to finish it). We then continued on to work where it was honestly quite similar to the work we had done the past week in Sedge. In the morning we walked around and organized food to feed the crowd at lunch. I had brought my camera on the first day this time but we were located under an open-air building dealio with a metal roof. So, while everything in the background was always bright, the people were all in the shade, thus making things complicated. Worth noting was a guy on his motorcycle with the majority of a tree behind him. Today, the second day there, I also tried some Vin de Palme. On the way back we also stopped at a natural water source… Something to note. Oh yah And without actually driving a got a lesson on how to drive a motocross.
On Thursday I skipped the ‘journée d’activité commune’ in order to go to another village in Kpomasse. We took some minor sideroutes to get there instead of the Route des Esclaves. It was honestly kindof painful; about an hour and a half of motocross with bumps and bends the entire way. About a hundred meters from where we had to be the moto broke down. We had work as usual. I was honestly really not into it. At this point the scene seemed familiar and I just wanted to sleep. Headache, and heat were both factors. At least Caroline was similarly disinterested. We wound up leaving at some point to go get some food (which she essentially made herself). It was super spicy and she laughed as I tried to hold back tears.
I should note that I was supposed to come back the same day for the JAE but we Caroline didn’t really want to do the whole drive back. So we decided to stay the night. I called Jonathan and told him that the moto broke down (neglecting to inform hi that we had got it working again). So, after work we went and checked out the beach at Ouidah. It was stunning. Never-ending sandy beach with palm trees as far as the eye could see. Once again I felt sick but still enjoyed walking around and taking pictures of just about everything. There was also fisherman selling their catch a few hundred meters down. I quite enjoyed walking barefoot on the sand among boats, piles of fish, and nets just about everywhere. I got asked for money a few times when taking pictures but saying that I left my wallet with my shoes worked pretty well. There were also a number of Nigerians going on about how the Shell Oil Company and the Government took their land and make living conditions so harsh that they’d moved to Benin. Caroline came down and picked me up. We then headed to where we would be staying the night. A MP’s house in a village a fair distance away. We got there, ate, and such. There was a young boy she nicknamed Bébé as his older brother Boris who essentially did everything she asked and cleaned all the clothes I had brought with me. It just seems to be how things work here. We spent the night, and being exhausted decided to head out to work a little later the next day. However, a good ten kilometers down the road the bike stalled – and this time it wouldn’t start again. We were in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully a zemidjan came by and had an idea. This was definitely one of those ‘only in African’ moments mixed with a little ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. I got on the back of the Zem and Caroline put her bike in neutral. The Zem driver starting driving with his foot on the back of the other bike’s footrest, thus pushing it along. This went on for a few good kilometers. But note, this is on a road with dirt and sand, oncoming motorcycles and the occasional SUV. Every once in a while we’d be loosing traction in some sand so he’d give a good push move to the side or behind and just as Caroline was about to stop he’d rush forwards and start the whole process again. Eventually we got to the mechanic’s house. He proceeded to take of all the sidings as well as the seat, leaving the bike just about naked. The then took apart the carburetor piece by piece with his knock of tools. He cleaned all the pieces with gasoline he took out of the tank. This process took about an hour and once he put everything back together it did start. But once we got our bags and helmets on we went to start it and go just to realize that the battery was dead. So he got it started manually and raced down to get some tools in order to work on this new problem. Another good half an hour later we actually got on our way and showed up to work a good number of hours late. After another long day of work I had the option of taking a cab to Cotonou and then to Allada (by myself) or staying another night. I chose the second option. In the evening I headed down to a couple of houses and wound up helping some kids with math homework while most of the family watched some bad South-American soap opera. It was hilarious there were actually about 20 of them crammed into a room watching. I also managed to get ravaged by mosquitoes in this process: fingers crossed that malaria pills work! One of the Canadians has already caught it. Anyways the next afternoon we were off again to Allada where things have been pretty status quo since. I did get my first shirt made for a whopping 7,50 (material and custom tailored). There is so much else to be said but that’ll be for another time.