from lau-mad to lau-cal

lau: [pronounced- loh] noun. a nickname given to lauren while living in argentina. most english speaking people mispronounce the name, making it rhyme with “now” instead of “know.”

lau-mad: brian came up with this word in my first post about my nomad status back in june. my nomad days are nearly over! i move tomorrow!

lau-cal: the new state of lau… see below.

another wednesday night journey to and from porto novo… so many potential stories to tell… i’ll just highlight two.

so i’m sitting in the back of the “bush van” when we stop to pick up another traveler. the only “empty” seat is next to me in the very back, so we open the trunk, and an old man climbs in. yes, i really mean the trunk… and yes, he really had to climb. now, we were already pretty crowded back there, since two big “mamas” were sitting on the other side of me. the lady in front of me laughed and asked if i was okay. typically, people try to let the “yovo” sit near the front. i smiled and nodded. the old man next to me said something along the lines of, “she’s in africa. she can be like the africans.” i nodded again, “c’est vrai…” 10 minutes later, the old man was asleep on my shoulder.

fast forward 3 hours…

i’m back in cotonou, just jumped out of the bush van, and i’m flagging down a zemi jan. you should remember zemi jans are a form of taxi… you climb onto the back of a motor bike with a man wearing a yellow shirt and tell him where you want to go. “zemi jan” is fon (local language) for “take me fast!” anyway, i’m telling my “zem” where i want to go, when another zem pulls up to ask for directions. the guy on the back of his bike wants to get to “senede.” the poor zem driver must have just moved here from the bush, he had no idea where he was going. and the guy on the back of the bike was nigerian, he also had no clue. so local lau gave them directions. mmm hmm!

to give you a better idea of the zemi jan experience, i’ll post a picture.

my dad and i were talking about zem rides over the phone last week. our conversation went something like this…

dad: so you just hold on to some stranger on a bike? (laughing)
lau: of course not! you can’t hold on to them!
dad: well then how do you stay on? you must hold on to something?
lau: well you can hold on to the seat, but it’s actually easier to just relax and go with the flow.
dad: kinda like riding a horse?
lau: kinda.
dad: and i guess you can squeeze the seat with your legs too?
lau: definitely not! the guy on the bike is likely to be wider than the seat, so you’d be squeezing him with your legs instead of the seat! not a good idea.

note to people traveling to benin: when a zemi driver asks if you’re married, the answer is ALWAYS yes!!


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