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