Tag Archives: Africa

chicken dance and treadmills

last year i wrote about how surreal it was to listen to music from home against the backdrop of bustling benin, west africa.

now the opposite is true… when an african song starts playing on my shuffle as i fight with the treadmill (i can’t wait for sunnier mornings and outside runs!)

it’s happened before. i can’t help but smile at the music, thinking of outdoor market scenes and sandy toes. but today it took everything in me not to jump off the treadmill and start gyrating… struttin’ my african dance moves. oh, how the heads would turn! how can you NOT dance to that music?!

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study in contrasts

i was driving up to virginia earlier this week (where i am now, visiting family) and i couldn’t help but contemplate the differences in this thanksgiving and the last. for one, my whole family (including both divorced parents) came together for the first holiday in almost 3 years. that was definitely cool. and easy. and natural, even?

but really, what got me thinking, was listening to african music while driving a car (something i didn’t have last year) by myself (versus a jam packed bush taxi) on very smooth paved roads (no pot holes) through the mountains (not the beach) on a cool fall day (no 60% humidity here)!!

the music took me back to a very different place and time. the always present feeling of sand between your toes. the never very cold beer. the lost sense of time. but what was it that made it feel so very different? not these details… something less tangible.

finally it occurred to me. i think it was this feeling of being in a forgotten land. kinda feeling like you don’t matter. not in a bad way. just in a all-that-matters-is-this-moment-and-how-i-live-it kind of way. here, it’s always what’s leading to the next thing. there, the next thing won’t come along till you’re finished with what you’re doing now. it’s very very different. and so distant. like you’re not just in a different geographic location, but a different time altogether.

sometimes i really miss it.

which isn’t to say i don’t appreciate the paved roads and time spent alone thinking in the car, fully equipped with a seatbelt.

just different.

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and i’m back

south africa was awesome, though i took very few pictures (it wasn’t that kind of trip) and bought nothing while i was there (other than decongestants for my cold… why do i always get colds in africa?)… i DID get to see 5 of my students from benin!pictured are anthelme, alexis, yves, jonas, pelagie and me.
i stayed in a “luxury tent” 2 hours north of jo’burg. i wasn’t sure what that meant until the porter at the hotel ushered me to my room, at which point i exclaimed, “holy crap!” (i have a way with words.) the thatch roof made it a “tent,” while the heated floors, huge bathroom, plush furniture and chandelier made it “luxury.” it was a paradoxical week to say the least. worlds colliding on so many levels. thanks for your prayers; it was quite the blessing.


off to africa

i’m leaving for jo’burg, south africa, tomorrow morning. i haven’t packed. i’ll be gone 9 days. i have a theology test 2 hours after i get back to the US, so i’m typing my little fingers off, trying to get as much information into my computer as possible so i don’t have to lug the dictionary of christian theology and the dictionary of the christian church along with me. good times. i did do laundry this morning, so at least i’ve got that going for me.

i’ll be staying in a “luxury tent.” i can’t wait to see what that means!

i’m pretty psyched that i get to spend a week working with YFC again. it’ll be great to work with youth from all over the world (it’s an international youth leadership conference), and it will be great to see some missionary friends too.

i’ll admit, though, that i’m really going to miss my kids here, and the peeps i work with, and my friends. i’m so glad i’m going to miss them. it feels good.

please pray for my safety, thanks.


rains: then and now

i knew when i walked out the door to work this morning that it was going to rain. i was surprised the skies held back as long as they did, finally unleashing their wet fury as i started the walk back home from the office. i didn’t mind. i had a ridiculous grin on my face as i walked, glad my umbrella would hide my elation from not-so-considerate drivers, sloshing me in their wake.

i think the rain here is funny. i know it will soon be the start of the shorter rainy season in benin, where the rain seems to shoot up from the ground rather than down (or sideways) from the sky. here, the sidewalks and streets create rivers in a matter of moments. in benin, “potholes” the entire width of the dirt (really, sand) road form green filmed pools of various wastes. i don’t mind walking in the rain run-off here. sure, it’s full of harsh chemicals, but i’ve yet to see a man pee on the wall of my home in my nearly 3 months here, so i’ve got that going for me.

since i was reminiscing a bit, i thought i’d look up my journal from this day a year ago in benin. here’s an excerpt on food.

I’m getting better about eating meat off bones and using my hands. Farhan would be proud. I don’t know if I was eating pork or goat tonight… it was tough enough to be goat. It was good though. Meals basically consist of some form of meat (whole fish, pork, chicken, goat, or “bush meat”) and a cheap simple starch. The starch could be couscous or rice, or more likely pounded yam or maize, which looks gross and gelatinous when first served, but then settles and changes to a consistency similar to powdered mashed potatoes. It’s actually pretty tasty. I had fish for lunch, and I tried tasting one of the egg sacs in the fish. It actually tasted kinda like pate, but I couldn’t eat the whole thing just because of what it was. The only thing not eaten here are bones. When you eat fish, that means the brains, eye balls, and everything. I always give Josue the head to eat. Bleh. They serve a whole lot of starch at every meal so you fill up fast and then get hungry later. I don’t always clean my plate, at which point I think of the expression, “There are starving children in Africa.” I know! But a girl can only eat so much rice! Sometimes we have beans, which are called “azingoqui” in Fon. At the camp, the beans came with a side of bugs. I didn’t mind when I found one bug in my food. It had been boiled. No biggie. I showed it to Augustin and he asked, “what is his name?” and I laughed it off. But after finding 4 more (in the same plate of beans, mind you) I decided I’d had enough azingoqui and friends for the day. Every meal, I pray in my head, “God, may this food make me strong and not sick, please. Amen.” So far, so good.

sometimes i miss life in the developing world. maybe you know what i mean.

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happy bday benin

benin just celebrated 48 years of independence, as this article states, in nonsensical english. the writer’s last name is assogba… wonder if he’s related to my friend mathieu? the famous singer and genius behind this video?


totally sucks awesome hated it beautiful

yes, this week i’m exploring a series of paradoxes with a bunch of other missionaries just returned from the field. a little thing called “debriefing and renewal” in the mountains of colorado. some people have come “home” for good, others are just here for a year before returning to assignments abroad. all are totally grateful for their experiences and are struggling now with varying degrees of home-sickness (for “adopted” countries) and identity crisis. yet all have been burned, bruised, and battered; the side of being a missionary that is rarely shared outside the safest of circles. this place is definitely a safe one, and i’m glad i made it out here, albeit (slightly) grudgingly.

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mission (pretty much) accomplished

i just had a taste of benin right here in the good ole us of a.

last night i took the train down to dc to catch up with some peeps in our nation’s capitol. it was a great cast of characters… melissa (friend from benin) and her boyfriend pedro, lily (old roommate), laurel (one of the previously inseparable b’more foursome… till we all left b’more), skye (college buddy), rhett (friend from benin), brian (old work buddy) and various innocent bystanders.

we met up at ghana cafe, which serves up some okay fufu (starchy mush) and a mean peanut sauce, among other things. they also have a good west africa music selection… all on the computer so you can pick your own songs… and i hear it’s quite the place to be for live african music on weekends.

while people, food, and conversation were definitely the point of the trip and worth every moment… the kicker came later in the evening.

first off, rhett and i dusted off our salsa shoes (flip-flops in my case) and made our debut on the latino scene. i will say that the salsa here is quite different from africa, and i, for one, was a bit intimidated. but we danced, and i think we held our own. i actually danced with a couple latino men as well, and one of them (a kind old man) told me i danced well, and that he hoped to dance with me again… THEN he turned to rhett and gave him the thumbs up. ooooh, just like old times. why do peeps always assume two whities in a salsa club must be together?

next, we flagged a cab. and as soon as we started moving, the cab driver began to speak on the phone in what sounded like a familiar african language. i smiled at rhett as he asked, “is that yoruba or igbo?” “yoruba!” said the cabby. an excited conversation ensued about benin and nigeria. the cabby then asked, “are you two married?” he didn’t seem to understand when rhett laughed and said, “no… but we would be if i loved Jesus.” he gave us his congratulations, though neither of us is sure why.

so, yeah. good friends, starchy mush, salsa and yoruba all in one night. benin’s not so far away.

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flying dogs

flying back to the US from cotonou, i had a little extra baggage… her name was josie. her papers said she was a lab, but i’d never seen a lab look like josie before. she was born and raised in cotonou and belonged to a missionary family there. because dogs can’t travel (with certain airlines) between may 15 and september 15, the price family (who departs benin after may 15) asked me to bring josie along. this is the story of our adventure together.

josie weighs about 23 kilos. she’s really very sweet, though i’ve only been around her while drugged on sleeping pills (not me, the dog). when traveling internationally with a dog, there are all sorts of hoops to jump through. lucky for me, the prices did most of the hoop jumping. josies shots, papers, and even the little computer chip embedded in her shoulder… everything was meticulously cared for. all i had to do was get her from point A to point B. easy enough, right? eh… no.

it started with check in. the peeps in cotonou insisted that my luggage could only be checked to paris… not to dc. i said, “are you sure?” knowing they were wrong, but they thought they were right, so i let it slide. i was going to have to go through customs in paris anyway to take the dog out for a walk, what’s a little luggage to keep me company?

i arrived in paris. i waited half an hour for josie to appear. in the mean time, i talked to the luggage peeps… three men eager to help. they said to leave my luggage with them while i walked the dog. “you sure?” “mais, oui! of course.” ok.

josie and i got through customs and i took her out for a walk. she was very happy, though not as jumpy as i expected, feeling a bit groggy i suppose. we met a homeless man. there was no grass. she sniffed around for half a hour and was content to go back in her kennel. she even took two more sleeping pills without arguing. easy peasey.

we went back into the aiport, at which point i realized i was screwed. there was no way of getting back to those oh-so-helpful luggage men. i went to the airfrance counter to explain the situation and ask for help. they immediately said it was crazy that my luggage hadn’t been checked all the way to dc. duh. no changing that detail though… so onto the next solution. airfrance lady told me to go to the next terminal, with josie, to check in again. and my luggage? she promised it would make it. ok.

i made it to the next terminal, that was easy enough, and found my place in the longest line ever. at this point i accepted the fact that i was likely not making my flight. oh well.

(side note: in my effort to make this experience less painful, i left one of my carry-on bags with my friend rhett, who happened to be flying with me from cotonou to dc. unfortunately for rhett, he was spot checked twice in my absence, both times insisting that the third bag belonged to his “wife” who just stepped out to walk the dog. rhett and i are not married, nor will we ever be (unless he finds jesus), but half of cotonou thinks we are, so he just ran with it.)

back to me. after half an hour of not moving in the longest line ever, i realized i was in the wrong line… so i found the right line and waited another 15 minutes before someone yelled, “passengers for dc?!” yes! that’s me! i scooted to the front of check-in where i explained the entire situation to the lady behind the counter. thank God i speak french now. the lady said that the previous lady was crazy to send me on without my luggage. she also said cotonou peeps were crazy not to check my luggage all the way through. after establishing these truths (once again), she said she could get josie and me on the plane, but made no guarantees about my bags. good enough. i know people think the french are snobs, but this lady was a gem. 15 minutes later, i was racing through customs.

i ran to my gate and arrived just as they were shutting the door. i was the last person to board. i passed rhett while walking to my seat, at which point he said, “thank God!” (though he probably didn’t really say that since he doesn’t believe in God) and he filled me in on getting searched while carrying my luggage with “girlie” things inside.

i collapsed into my seat.

the funny thing is, josie didn’t even pee in paris. she just wasn’t feelin’ it. maybe she was too sleepy.

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i got mugged… i forgot

i celebrated my 5 year reunion this weekend at the world’s finest learning institution… washington and lee university. you can say your school was better, and for you it probably was, but for me wlu was the best. is the best. in any case, i was catching up with friends, discussing world travels, when suddenly i remembered i was mugged last week! here’s the story…

saturday a week ago i celebrated my students’ graduation and then went to a dinner party for rhett, an american friend of mine who is returning to the US after 9 years of working in africa. i was sporting an african outfit (as pictured 2 blogs previous) and wanted to run home to change before late night activities ensued. so i jumped on the back of a zemi (moped taxi) and at the last minute asked my friend romeo to jump on behind me. this means there were three people on one moto-bike. this may or may not be illegal… technically, no more than two are supposed to be on a bike at once, but i’m convinced no one in cotonou is aware of this detail. so off we go, the three of us on a moto, at maybe 10pm… not even late.

the zemi driver stopped at a light… because it was red… this is normal. out of nowhere, like a flash of lightening, a man runs up to the moto, grabs my bag and runs off. only… he loses his grip. my bag was wedged so tightly between me and the moto driver–mugging man didn’t have a chance. plus, romeo grabbed me and my bag from behind for protection. it’s a darn good thing i opted to travel with the illegal third person!

so i’m okay. no harm done. maybe that’s why i forgot to write about it.

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