Tag Archives: Africa

cross dressing, what?

so, peeps at salsa have been talking for a few weeks about having an “exhibition.” i had some idea of what that would look like, but maaan, was i wrong. we arrived to watch a movie. what? i paid money to dance, not watch a movie! but it was actually a great film about a french musician who left the conservatory to follow his passion (salsa, of course) and found love. after that we were all in the mood for some dancing… will this bring me romance? oooh, that’s a different post.

after a few dances, we took our seats and prepared to watch what i had been anticipating. 3 guys and 3 women had been practicing a group dance. cool, right? the surprise, though, was when the men walked out wearing drag. what? the thing is, though, homosexuality is nonexistent here. at least it’s illegal. so men wearing drag isn’t anything but… funny. it’s not a bit suggestive.

so here are some pics of my guy friends wearing drag. never thought i’d say that on laurenlaughs! and of me dancing with romeo… simply because i’m a little shocked about how long my hair is.

click here for more salsa pics.


i heart mail

i’ve received a few boxes and care packages in my time here… plus numerous letters. but the best package ever came last friday (ok… it actually arrived almost a month earlier, but that’s benin mail for you)!! yes, when it comes to snail mail gifts, jeff takes the cake. here are the brilliant contents:

8 issues of the economist and 3 time magazines
1 newspaper clipping concerning maryland politics
1 book: cheadle & prendergast’s not on our watch
2 letters (one was a christmas card)
4 cd’s! one each for thanksgiving, christmas, new years and valentines

the key to this gift being so awesome is that jeff actually made mix cd’s using music from what he knows to be my favorite radio station ever… 103.1 out of annapolis. dude, that is what i call thoughtful! score one for jeff.

other great packages have come from paige, christin, eric, aunt carole, ann, caroline, ron & ruth, mom & dad. i’ve received m&m’s, celebrity gossip magazines, books, dvd’s, christmas decorations and beautiful photos. thanks peeps!

and while i’m saying thank you’s… here’s the list of peeps that have sent letters: anna & jase, velasquez fam (complete with kids’ artwork!), leslie, maria, deseree, sally, alvin, and carolyn (and molly). i can’t remember who i’m forgetting… y’all are fabulous.

i love mail.


meat+museum=bloody mess

last week while leslie was visiting, i wanted her to see the wonders of the meat market… it’s definitely not like the deli section in your neighborhood grocery store! so we went to the marché, where i stood in front of a freshly dead cow and asked some young guy to hack off half a kilo to be ground for me. he stuffed the raw meat into a black plastic baggy and handed it to me with a smile. so friendly. leslie and i then walked in a circle to see the rest of the dead animals just waiting to be eaten. i wouldn’t recommend this tour for the weak stomached… or vegetarians.

after our marché adventure, we had about half an hour to kill before lunch, so we stopped into a free art museum i’d heard good things about. we enjoyed looking at the lovely photography exhibit, laughing at some pictures, talking to our guide… and then leslie got my attention–“lauren, you’re dripping blood…” ah! sure enough, my raw meat purchase was dripping all over the sparkling white tiled floor. oops. i turned to the guide and started apologizing and explaining in french, “ah, we just came from the market and the meat i’m carrying has made a mess of your floors!” he smiled and said it was no problem at all, as if this kind of thing happens all the time. in a few moments he returned with a rag to mop up the mess.

and again, i find myself asking… since when did this kind of thing become normal?

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monkey business

there is a monkey loose in the neighborhood. not my neighborhood, but the neighborhood where i am currently residing while i dogsit my friend shiloh (who made his debut on youtube back in october). in any case… this monkey has been terrorizing the neighborhood for weeks now. it used to be pretty skittish, running off the moment i’d come to rescue the furiously barking weenie dog. but now it seems to be comfortable with the routine. the monkey is testing his limits.

for instance yesterday, the monkey sat on the porch and looked as if he was actually contemplating opening the door to come into the house.

and then this morning, when i tried to bring shiloh into the house, the monkey actually bared his teeth at me. i did what any dog-protecting missionary would do… and hit him with a rock. i’m pretty sure he’ll start throwing rocks back soon. he’s bold, and a quick learner. shucks.

somebody call PETA, because this is about to be war.


party chez moi

my good friend leslie flies in to cotonou tonight for a long-week visit. partaaaay! here’s a picture of leslie and me chillin’ out with st. francis this summer while we were in training. she’s a missionary in geneva. won’t be posting much this week as i will be too busy having fun with my girlfriend.


bird’s eye view

first off, i’m malaria free, in case you’re wondering…

and now for a story:

there’s funny lady from middle-of-nowhere illinois visiting some missionary friends of mine this week, and they asked if she could accompany me to english class. sure! the students are always eager to greet visitors and i’ll admit i love showing off “my kids” (in case you haven’t noticed). so last wednesday, cynthia came with me to porto novo, braving the bush van and all. she was a very good sport… the kind of visitor you actually want to have (which is far from everyone).

here are a few of the funnier moments that help point out cultural differences i’ve become used to and too often glaze over.

1. in the bush van, cynthia remarked that the metal bar going across the window along the inside of the van was hurting her shoulder… to which i replied, “it’s holding the van together.” she immediately appreciated the same bar she detested a moment before. and that’s how it is here. cars come here to die. for real. and so you thank God for the extra bars holding them together, even as they dig into your shoulder.

2. my kids were struggling with the word “astray” (as in, to go astray), and cynthia piped in, “like when your dog runs away!” i turned to her and said, “they don’t have pet dogs.” and while maybe a very few people do, for the most part all dogs are strays, many are beaten for fun, and some make a hearty dinner. so we instead settled on the example of your little brother running “astray” when you go to market.

3. next i was trying to discuss the difference between “hard” and “soft” and what it means to “harden your heart” (we were reading hebrews chapter 3). cynthia chimed in again, saying, “the Bible tells us that Jesus knocks on our hearts like you would knock at the door,” and she knocked on her desk to illustrate her point. mmmm… no. see, lots of my kids don’t have doors… and if they do, they’re always open to allow air into the room. a pagne (fabric) is draped down where a door would be to create some sense of privacy. so again, i turned to the students to explain cynthia’s point in their terms, “like when you say ‘ka-ka-ka!’ or clap your hands before entering a room.” ahhh, yes. that makes sense now.

when did these things become second nature to me?

and what will happen when i go back to the US and say “ka-ka-ka” before entering a room?

suddenly i’ll be crazy one and cynthia will be the norm.



sittin in my chair
sittin in my chair
waiting on malaria results
sittin in my chair

that’s the song i’m singing in my head right now… which is slightly crazy… which proves that i am not quite myself and thus a candidate for malaria, though i doubt that to be the case.

it started as an innocent sinus infection, and i doubt it will amount to more. but i have random weak spells and hot flashes, which could point to that most favorite of tropical diseases (it’s right up there with amoebic dysentery) malaria!

getting a malaria test is easy as pie and only costs $7, so it’s a good thing to do every now and then. i took a zemi ride to the clinic and sat waiting 5 minutes for a young girl to get tested before me. the lab guy pricked her finger and squeezed blood onto two glass slides (this is called a blood smear). the girl was about to cry, so i told her she had very pretty blood. i realize now as i type the words that i must have sounded ridiculous, but she smiled, so i’m guessing that’s okay. she left and it was my turn… ooooh needles. i will voluntarily and gladly subject myself to an acupuncture treatment any day of the week… but needles in a clinical setting? shots and the like? makes me whoozy. not wanting to be shown up by the little girl though, i took a deep breath and got pricked. whew. two blood smears and a cotton ball later, i was paying my bill and out the door.

now i have to wait 3 hours for the results. i could call, but i struggle with french on the phone… so i’m just chillin around the corner from the clinic at my friend rhett’s office… doing a whole lot of nothing. hence this useless post.

chances are i won’t be back online to post the results (which will more than likely be negative) till tomorrow. till then… you’re welcome to sing the malaria song in your head too.

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lau vs. larvae

that’s right. a couple days ago i noticed a few little brown specks on top of my trash can lid, but i didn’t think much of it. then today, as i was actually taking the trash bag out of the trash (which is always disgusting in the hot humidity) i noticed many more brown specks on the underside of the trash can lid. then i noticed one was moving. oooooh yeah. larvae, baby. (i realize that phrase is redundant). what kind of larvae, you may wonder? well i’m no expert, but i’m guessing roaches.

was i a little grossed out by this realization? maybe a tad bit. but mostly i was overjoyed for discovering the little suckers before they hatched! i went outside and scraped off every single one and then let the lid roast in the sun… just to be sure.

lau: 1
larvae: 0

the battle continues!


leave me alone!

okay, i’m going on day 4 of being sick. but things are looking up. i don’t think it’s malaria, and that’s always good.

it started about 2am friday morning when i noted a “cool” breeze coming through my window–cool being below 80F. well that was enough to set a sinus infection in motion. my throat was sore all friday, but i was too busy to pay attention. saturday i couldn’t talk. i canceled class, popped a pill, pumped some nasal spray (yummy), and read an entire book in one sitting. sunday i did the same, but sans reading. i slept ALL day. and yet was exhausted enough to sleep through the night! today i continued sleeping till noon, when i finally left my cocoon of blue mosquito netting and got ready for a meeting with my “chief.”

what’s wrong with this picture? sounds like a normal bout of sickness to me… what gives?

oh, nothing, except that everyone and their grandma (or goat) was calling me every 5 minutes to ask how i’m doing! even my plumber called! and some random girl named maxi who works at the ice cream shop! seriously, i turned my phone off. at which point people starting coming to my house! like i want to get out of bed, put on something presentable, offer you drinks and talk for hours on end while my nose drips snot? mmmm…. no.

chalk it up to cultural differences.

word to the wise… when sick in benin… tell NO ONE!


the moment you’ve all been waiting for

remember that little blip about my new career as a professional dancer? well here at long last is the result of many hot hours of practicing what might as well be “the chicken dance” with some extra gyrations thrown in.

the video is about 7 minutes long, and it’s really worth seeing the whole thing. yours truly is “featured” of course, as are ashley and charita (fulbrights). rob is definitely the star yovo, with his tam-tam-tamming and fon-lip-syncing.

and yes, it’s already showing on television here in benin.

this might very well be the most ridiculous thing i have ever done in my entire life. and that’s really saying something.

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