September 9, 2007
Wow. What a weekend. Saturday I met up with the expat softball crowd. They play every Saturday from 12-2pm at one of the nicer hotels near the airport. This was my first time playing softball, and like most things athletic, I started out okay and then progressively worse. I remember the same thing happening in lacrosse. Every season the coach would be so encouraged by how much I had improved from the year before, but then I guess I psych myself out enough that I stop playing well. Anyway, I got on base a couple times and I did have a lot of fun and it is a good group of people. Sadly, I forgot to put sunscreen on my neck, which is now burnt, but burns are different here… brown instead of red or pink. Interesting.
I met up with another group of internationals Saturday night. My brother Stephen met a girl at a wedding in Texas whose cousin is working and living in Fidrosse, the beach community near Cotonou. Her name is Sarah. So Saturday night I went out with Sarah, her Italian boyfriend Daniel, and a bunch of Frenchies. We watched the Italy/France futbol game at a bar by the beach and then I crashed with my new friends for the night. This might become a regular occurrence, as everyone in Fidrosse has extra bedrooms and I try not to ride zemi’s after dark. It was fun to meet up with a bunch of people my age, mostly working with NGO’s. It was also fun to meet people from all over the world. It helps me to practice my French, Spanish and Italian. It’s still hard to find a balance between the local life and the expat life, but I think it could work for me to be integrated during the week and ”yovo” on the weekends. I don’t think the balance will ever come easily, though; I think it will be something I have to strive for every day.
Today I had my first hot shower in a month, another perk of life in Fidrosse, and then went to a missionary home for lunch. Nancy and Bruce are missionaries with the Mennonite church. A woman from Paraguay was visiting Nancy, so I came over to speak Spanish, which is more difficult now that I’m practicing French, but I’m hoping I’ll learn to switch back and forth more easily with time. I then tagged along with Nancy’s family to meet up with the English Fellowship group, where I met more new people AND had chocolate chip cookies (this is a big deal because you can’t get chocolate chips here). It’s funny to realize how I’m jumping from one social group to the next, similar to life back in Baltimore. I have my local friends, my missionary friends, and now my international friends. I feel a little at home with all of them, though they couldn’t be more different from each other.
September 7, 2007
Today I went to Porto Novo with Yves and David for more leadership training. The name town name is reminiscent of when the Portuguese came to Benin for slave trade. The training was held at a boarding school for girls where YFC has a club. Pelagie was there, and it was good to catch up with my best Beninoise girlfriend. The town is greener than Cotonou, so I enjoyed it. I had my first “bus” experience traveling to and from Porto Novo. A caravan drives past, slows down for you to jump on as you negotiate the fare, and then piles in as many passengers as possible along the way. It’s kinda like watching lots and lots of clowns disembarking from a teeny tiny car. How do they cram all those people in such a small space?
I’m reading a fabulous book that I borrowed from Rob and Lois earlier this week. Annie Caulfield’s “Show me the Magic: Travels Round Benin by Taxi.” It’s an English book, so I’m not sure you can get it in the US, but it’s comical to read. It would be like if I took my blog and published it, only the writer has visited a lot more places in a very short span of time. Still, reading about her impressions of the country remind me of all the things I’ve yet to mention here. Zemi etiquette, smuggled petrol, comical wax fabric patterns. I’ll have to handle things things in greater depth once my experiences settle down a bit. Anyway, I mention the book so you can purchase it if you wish to get a very accurate tourist view of Benin. I doubt there’s any other book like it.