Tuesday, November 16, 2010


So I'm currently down in Cotonou for my mid-service medical exam. I came down early for a gender and development meeting of which I work on the quarterly newsletter. The meeting happened to be the same day as the new volunteers' swear-in ceremony. So I went to see them get sworn in at the ambassador's house at which point it started to pour down raining. We were stuck outside in the rain, in a country that halts all life when rain starts. Since the main form of transportation is motos, when it rains, things get messed up. So we were stuck there for awhile in the torrential downpour. That night, we traveled to Porto-Novo (the real capital) for the swear-in party where the new volunteers have a chance to relax and let loose with each other after the 9 weeks of training and before heading off to their respective posts. There was a lot of dancing so it was fun. Then since I had 2 days til my med exam, I went to visit another PCV at his post. He has a MANSION. Apparently his host structure thought that he was a real doctor when they got him so they wanted him to be comfortable. It rained more. We made a delicious chili with beans, corn, cilantro, tomato, onion, green peppers. It was one of the best meals that I have had. Then I came back to Cotonou to start my med stuff. I had to poop in a cup 3 times, pee once, have my body poked and prodded, and blood taken. I get the results today so hopefully things went well. Meanwhile, I've been eating expensive and delicious foods and enjoying the nightlife. I found out about this game called Qwirkle which is fun. I also found out that the funding for my project will soon be available to me so yay! I'll be training 20 peer educators in my village to talk about HIV. Then they will go out and give presentations for 3 days on what they have learned. Then there will be a free testing and finally the closing ceremony. Hopefully it goes well. Anytime that you don't speak the same language there are large risks of not understanding. So hopefully by using lots of pictures, I can convey the ideas to them in an easy manner. That's it for now!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


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My second kitty died. I got back from the south and saw the volunteers who were watching the kittens and they said that they have something to tell me. I guessed that my kitten died and I was right. Right after I just named it "please stay alive", so that didn't work. The volunteer of the other kitty doesn't want to give me hers so the search is on again and the mice continue to win our little battle. Apparently my friend was woken up at 4am to a screaming kitten and went to look and saw a big cat hurting and biting it. Its back was broken, bleeding, etc so that is all.

Funding for my project might not come through. Internet has been down here so its hard to be in contact with the Peace Corps people who I need approval from, but Im trying.

On the bright side, I have my mid service exam soon so i will get to see all the parasites and stuff that are living in my body! So after giving my stool samples i figured i would treat myself to a full body massage for 7 mille so roughly 14usd. That's it for now.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


So I'm sitting in Cotonou, the day after the Akon concert. The concert was pretty cool after quite a few setbacks. First, we went to the stadium around 5:00pm and there were a host of Beninese, Cote d'Ivoirian, and Ghanaian artists. Time kept going on and on and on. Then they did a whole ceremony re-enactment of the country's independence, kinda like they do for Olympic opening ceremonies and that went on for about 45 minutes. Then it was time for Akon to come on, about 11pm and so the stage is getting prepared and of course it starts to rain. The rain halts for a moment in time and then people start jumping over the balcony trying to get to the field to be close to the stage. The police security men with their sticks run around trying to stop people and hit them with their batons. We wait, we wait, we wait. A few people of our group decided to leave and finally around 1am, Akon comes cruising out riding on top of his SUV with police on rollerblades following the car. So Akon is there! It was pretty cool to see him in person, but I thought that him being "from Senegal" would mean that he knew some French...WRONG.

At one point, he told the guards to let everyone come down on the field because we were all very separated from the stage area, but of course he said it in English so nobody knew what he was saying. Finally he said, "See, that's the kind of bullshit I'm talking about" and then he asked for his translator to come onstage. A few songs later, he started yelling at everyone to back up. So there was about a 5 minute pause for everyone to back-up, but again...English. Nobody understood. You could tell he was getting frustrated and kept saying it over and over so finally his translator came back out. He continued again playing all his big songs for 1 minute each and then he came out in a life-size hamster ball and went crowd surfing. At first, I gave him credit for not being afraid to go rolling into a crazy crowd like that, but then he started getting tumbled around in that ball and I started wondering how desperate he was for money. Tickets were only the equivalent of $10. So after that, a few of us went out to go dance a little til 6 in the morning.

Other than that, things have been somewhat busy at post. The mice have been CRAZY in my house. They have started dive bombing into my house from the ceiling. For the past year, we have lived contentedly in our separate halves. Me on the first floor and them in the ceiling. They make a lot of noise, but I put up with it as long as they stay there. So I reach the one year mark here in Benin, and they start entering the first floor. There are about 7 and so I put some tape up in the big spaces they were coming through, but then...they started biting holes in the middle of the plastic bag ceiling pieces and so they just drop in like that. I usually get in bed, then hear them start moving around so I keep my flashlight with me and shine the light on them to let them know that I'm there and that makes them squeal but then they continue to eat everything in my house. So that's fun. One night, they took some bubble wrap back up top and continued to chew on that for 30 minutes or so. All of that has prompted me to get a new kitten so I have 2 coming to my house when I get back. They are really cute, but still lacking names. Mine is a nice little Calico, and the other I will be babysitting.

Project-wise, I'm currently working on getting funding for and HIV/AIDS project in village which I will explain in more detail as long as I get the money for it. But I would train 20 peer educators and then do a testing in village and cool things. But for now, I'm going to do some Cotonou things since I'm never down here!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

AKPUNANDO! (Goodmorning in Bariba)

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I would have to say that my local language is probably the coolest in
all of Benin. You can carry on a whole conversation with only saying
"mmm" or "ooo" and bowing to show respect. Anyway, I went down to
Porto Novo for the independence day fete and 50th anniversary of
independence. There were a ton of people in town, lots of cool
clothes and hats. There was a uniform fabric so that whomever wanted
to wear the same tissue [fabric, dress] could go buy that and match about half the
people celebrating. There was a parade, some motos did some tricks,
people in weird costumes, but that was about it. Oh yeah, there
were also fireworks, but many of them went off on the ground instead
of in the air. I visited my host family and they took me to
another fete, then we went back to eat some good salad and pate rouge!

After that, I started training the new volunteers. They have a 9-week
training program in Porto Novo and so I worked weeks 3 and 4. The
first week we talked about nutrition and they also received their post
announcements, a really exciting day. My region is getting 5
new volunteers and they all seemed pretty cool. During the weekend,
another trainer and I went to visit a trainee and his host family
where there was a funeral party. We were given a shot of local
liquor, then beer, then we danced for a long time, and then we were
given the spiciest food of my life. That was a memorable night. We
danced until 2:30 and then went home to sleep in. The next day
was another fete at a host family's church. Pretty much, Porto Novo
is just a big party town. Every weekend there are constant parties,
but that sounds a little better than it is. A party is basically just
a bunch of plastic chairs brought out, beer, local liquor, a bunch of
people trying to get the free food, and music, with the occasional
man yelling into a microphone too loud you can't really hear
what he is saying. The 4th week of training, we made enriched
porridge and soy cheese (tofu) which was really good. Now, I'm on my
way back to post to see what damage the mouse has done to my house.
Now I begin my search for a new cat aka Le Tigre deux. (See post below)

More good news! Just found out the Akon will be in Benin on 8/28 so I think I will make a trip south. It's a 12 hr trip for just one way but how often is Akon here???? That's it for

[Akon is a Senegalese-American R&B singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, businessman, and philanthropist. He is known as one of the most successful and versatile R&B singers of the 21st century, grossing over 30 million dollars a year according to Forbes.]

My host brother.
Our girls camp just finished so I'm pretty happy. It was a lot of
fun, but extremely tiring. The days were basically 6am-midnight or
later. Those girls don't tire out. The sessions that I did went
really well. My work partner came to talk about breast cancer and a
couple of the girls volunteered to learn how to give themselves a
self-exam in front of the class so of course they removed their
shirts. That was humorous. But I may have seen more women without
shirts here than I have women wearing shirts. So that was normal.
Then I co-led a session on Moringa and so we made porridge and put
some moringa leaves in at the end and talked about how healthy it is
for you. Then I did a musical instrument session that was pretty
cool. We made toilet paper roll tambourines and moroccas filled with
rice. Then I let them decorate paper to wrap around them and color
them and fill them with stickers. They went crazy but it was really
cool cause at the closing ceremony they used their instruments and
sang a song. The girls that I brought all did awesome. One of mine
was voted the favorite by all the other volunteers. When I took her
home, she ran home to go bring me some eggs. They all learned a lot
throughout the camp, they learned about computers, I don't think most
of them have ever touched a computer. They learned about malaria,
HIV, health in general, instruments, they got to watch some of Planet
Earth (they saw a lighthouse in the ocean and everyone yelled out
'mosque' so that was funny), I also led a soccer session that went
really really well. They were pretty good at headers. It was also
good to see them play because one of my girls from my village team
came and she was definitely a lot better than them which is nice to
know that she has been improving from our practice in village. They
also learned about entrepreneurship, geography, a bunch of stuff so it
was pretty cool. As for logistics and stuff, it all went fairly
smoothly without any problems which was a huge relief because at
another girls camp in the country, one of the girls was sent home for
leaving the compound at night and selling herself. Yeah. It sounds
bad, but that's cause it was.

Today, to celebrate the end, some volunteers and I went to the pool up
north more towards Niger, ate hot dogs, 7-layer dip with velveeta
cheese, and American things. Tomorrow, I'll stay to take care of some
things and watch the World Cup and then head back home.

My garden is looking good. The zucchini plant is gigantic so
hopefully it produces fruit. The cucumbers and beans and radishes are
doing well. Slowly, my family is learning what to put in the compost
so that's progressing. My girls who went to the camp want to have a
girls club so I'm more than willing to do that, but it might have to
wait until school starts in September because everyone is out in the
fields. Speaking of the fields, one of my friends who was supposed to
help and be a counselor at the camp got bit by a scorpion the day
before on her foot in the field so she couldn't come. At the very
last minute, a friend's sister came and she couldn't have been better.
She was awesome with the girls, so willing to help out, and willing
to continue to help after the camp. It's so nice when you finally
find someone who is motivated and wants to help, unfortunately she
will be leaving again when school starts back up.

My next plan is to start a young doctors group and teach kids some
stuff about health. Then I'll be helping train the new volunteers
which is cool cause that means I've been here a year!!!! Time flies!
Then, I'm gonna go visit another volunteer in the south and help
organize a "Iron Chef-Benin" to see who can make the healthiest dinner
and educate them a little on nutrition. Then there are summer courses
in village that I've been asked to help with.

So things are good. I heard about all the crazy stuff with the NBA.
Hope everything else is going well.


Some sad news is that Le Tigre has died. He had been sick and
wouldn't eat for 3 days and one day he just stopped walking, and my
family came over to me and said "c'est finit" That was sad. I almost
cried but crying in front of people here gets really awkward and the
Beninese don't know how to react and they kept coming to my house to
ask me if he really died when they saw Maman throw him over the
wall....but they were kind and said it was God's plan, even though
they are Muslim. Le Tigre was the cutest cat in the world. He purred
non-stop. You could look at him and he'd purr so maybe in the future
I'll get another, but as for now there is already a new addition. The
day before that though they brought this tiny tiny puppy to the house
and it looks about 3 weeks old, wayyyy too young to be away from it's
mom, but it's their new guard dog since the old one got hit by a truck
one morning. They call it Champion and I feed it so it tends to stay
2 inches away from my feet at all times which is cute/annoying. I
just left for a week though so hopefully he is still there and being

Friday, April 30, 2010


So it's still chaleur, meaning extremely hot, but there have been
occasional bizarre interruptions of 2 minutes of rain and some
hurricane-type winds. Unfortunately, it only makes it hotter the next
day. I went all the way down to Cotonou for a training, and secretly
hoping to escape the heat and heat rash but I ended up being hot still
and staying in a room with no AC. Not there is AC anywhere in this
country, but I thought maybe a Peace Corps function would pay to let
us be luxurious for 4 days. No luck. Instead we worked and talked
about objectives of PC for 4 days which was a waste of time, but at
least I ate amazingly good food. I went out dancing, saw the other
volunteers, and had a good time.

In village, I like to say that it is mango hunting season. You see
kids sitting under the tree with their slingshots, shooting at the
mangoes to knock them off the tree. You see women with long corn
stalks to shake the mangoes, kids climbing trees. It's all a big
hunt. But I end up profiting from it. Occasionally I buy a mango.
There are both grafted and non-grafted but the non-grafted ones are
tiny and very stringy and get stuck in your teeth. Most of the time
though, people give them to me as gifts. I made a nice mango chutney
with a huge sack of mangoes my friend brought over and one of the kids
in the concession brings over a lot of large grafted ones. I made
mango bread with that and it was delicious!!!! I also learned how to
cut a mango pretty effectively.

Some sad news is that Le Tigre has died. He had been sick and
wouldn't eat for 3 days. One day he just stopped walking. My
family came over to me and said "c'est finit". That was sad. I almost
cried but crying in front of people here gets really awkward and the
Beninese don't know how to react and they kept coming to my house to
ask me if he really died when they saw Maman throw him over the
wall....but they were kind and said it was God's plan, even though
they are Muslim. Le Tigre was the cutest cat in the world. He purred
non-stop. You could look at him and he'd purr so maybe in the future
I'll get another, but as for now there is already a new addition.

The day before they brought this tiny, tiny puppy to the house
and it looks about 3 weeks old, wayyyy too young to be away from it's
mom, but it's their new guard dog since the old one got hit by a truck
one morning. They call it Champion and I feed it so it tends to stay
2 inches away from my feet at all times which is cute/annoying. I
just left for a week though so hopefully he is still there and being

In terms of work projects, I went back to the school and did an essay
competition on malaria. How malaria is spread and so on since rainy
season is coming and the mosquitoes get really bad. I told them to
write something creative like a song or something, and so of course
most of them copied something out of their notebooks from a class. At
least they had to write and practice their handwriting. I'm trying to
get mosquito nets to give to the winners. I also talked to a
professor and got the soccer balls back for the girls. Now we can
start playing again! Yay! It's always comforting going to the school
and having all the girls run up to me with excited looks on their
faces asking when we are going to play again.

As for my next projects, I'm going to do another mural because for some reason my
work partner really wants one, even though they don't use my first
one. But I will make them do something with it next week and say they
don't get a new one until they use the first one. Other work, I don't
know. I'll be going to Ghana at the end of the month for the GRE,
going to another training right before that and that is May so time is
still flying by. I painted the door and window of my house. And when
I say that I painted it, I drew an outline and the boys took over and
painted the rest. It's okay, that was a REALLY hot day and I
shouldn't have exerted too much energy anyway. So now my house looks
awesome and you can clearly spot it from the road, the lovely bright
colors!! I'll try to get pictures up at some point.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


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Things are gonna get scarce during the dry season, meaning fewer tomatoes, hotter weather. I met a guy from Cote d'Ivoire tonight and he said he cried when he first came here because it was so hot and he is partially conditioned to it so for me... it's gonna be bad.

I returned from my training, got back to post, made some awesome pizza with the pepperoni's my mom sent me! Gave some pizza to some villagers and they were a little baffled but food you eat with your hands is easy here. Roasted some marshmallows from the US for breakfast and they thought it was cotton. What a pleasant surprise. The girls don't play sports so I'm gonna try to get them active in something fun that isn't cooking. The basketball team is slow to get off the ground so I'm now working on a girl's soccer team in the village. It will be easier to get to practices. I went to a village in the bush today and made some enriched bouille with soy (tasty!). Talked to a guy about how he hates chaleur (heat) and he cried the first time he endured it and he's from cote d'ivoire. So that's great news for me. The heat is coming. The nights are no longer as cold as they once were. I did eat some fresh cashews the other day though! Mangoes are also coming in but this also marks the end of good foods like vegetables including tomatoes.

I just found out that the place I was going to plant my garden is where the family buried the Papa. Good thing I found out before digging. I saw my sage femme hit a woman giving birth with a stick. I really don't know if there is anything I can do about that. It's more of a problem everywhere, not just with my post. She can be so nice but if she gets mad...its on. As for next week, I'm going on a bike tour meaning a group of volunteers will get on our bikes and head out to middle/high schools and give awareness seminars on HIV/AIDS en francais of course and then bike home for 3 days. I think we are doing like 6 schools so that should get my muscles working. English Club is still going. Still writing lots of awesome songs. I recently wrote the remix to "I like to eat apples and bananas" to talk about the food groups so that I can get some health info in there. Gotta run, its kinda late here and I'm getting up early!


I'm now on my way back to my post after 2 weeks of training. It was really hot and humid here but good to see all the other volunteers and talk about things that have gone on at our respective posts. A lot of the training was repetitive, it was more the discussions amongst ourselves that we found the most useful. I did get to eat a lot of good food though. Hamburgers, salads, mashed potatoes! Yummy! The days were long, but the rooms were air-conditioned, a nice luxury. I learned more about HIV, some about creating goals and visions for projects, project funding, and most importantly, how to make enriched bouille (a breakfast food). My homologue, work partner, was there for the first week so we worked together on some things. She never has been the friendliest person but she really showed it here. She was arguing with many of the volunteers and at the end she lightly shoved one of my friends. I think she still likes me but she's definitely not the easiest person to work with. She likes to yell at the pregnant women who come for consultations and hits one of the girls who works for her. That's not easy to watch...But in other news, I have gotten to see a few African Cup of Nations soccer matches on TV. A few of us went out to a bar with a projector to watch Benin play Nigeria and we all bought Benin jerseys and shorts and wore them and took a picture and some guy wearing an American flag shirt jumped in with us so we had our countries represented well. Tonight Benin plays Nigeria so that's a big game and I'll get to watch it in Cotonou which is the biggest city here so hopefully the excitement will be out and about.

It was 2 long weeks but I know it will take some readjusting to get back into the French but I'm excited to try to start some work!


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Things have been going well. I did manage to faint this morning though...I'm completely fine now. Not sure what happened, but I couldn't have been at a better place. I was watching my homologue at the health center cut the umbilical cord of a baby and I started feeling hot and sweaty and I looked around and no one else seemed to be hot so then another nurse started talking to me and I felt the faintness coming so I started walking towards her and murmuring in French but of course I couldn't think of the word for faint so I fell into her and blacked out and woke up to them pouring water on my face. I was very calm throughout it all. They told me its cause I was standing up too long so I'll say that is what it was. I think my knees locked too long or something cause I ate well this morning, homemade granola that I made yesterday with fresh honey. Other than that, my health has been great! I think that was just an unfortunate accident. But tomorrow I'm going on safari for a week to help another volunteer with a formation on giving tours so that should be fun.

People wonder what I eat. I tell them everything, but they don't believe me so when they see me shovel some rice into my mouth with my fingers they really enjoy it. This is like my taste of being a celebrity. People like to stare at me, tell me my skin isn't tough enough, laugh at me, talk in high pitched voices imitating the french women's voices they hear on the radio or just touch me. But I like it all. Everybody knows everything I do. My prince friend came over and told me that somebody told him I was wearing bracelets and they weren't pretty. 0