Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Life in Lokossa

So Its been awhile since I updated but to be honest I'm really busy, internet is incrediblyslow, and no one is commenting, in fact I don't even get email; aside from that things are going well I received my post, so fro the next to years (as of sept. 21) I'll be livng iin the northwest region of benin in a town called Kopargo; I'll take thismomentto explain a few things about the french keybord, 1 it sucks, 2 you have to shift for a period so I no longer use one, welcome to the lifeof semicolons and commas; 3 the internet is ridiculous; i can spend one hour trying to send one email, and not be successfull;
My goal is to type up a few posts on mylaptop and post them from my usb drive but for that you'll have to wait for another week or so, until then wish me luck on my post visit, and don't expect pictures (they don't load at all)


In Cotonou, there are many strange things, some are unpleasant, some are pleasant and some just are. As I fall asleep at night, under my mosquito net, I gear the slow growl of the car and their loud low horns and the fast zip of the zems and their high quick horns. The bugs buzz outside my window, and unsurprisingly my room smells vaguely like sweat.
When I wake up at 7 am I hear the crow of the roosters faint in the distance and the quiet sounds of my roommate getting ready for the day. Breakfast generally consists of crusty bread, butter, and our choice of hot chocolate, Nescafe, or tea. After breakfast the work begins. When we go into the PC headquarters in Cotonou, things smell different; when we first arrived they had dug up the sewers so there were piles of black smelly sludge lining the streets, as you continue to walk the smells of unknown roasted meats and even a few vegetables.
People sell everything on the streets here, fruit, sandals, toiletries, plus, clothes, snacks, both fresh and packaged, all carried on the tops of their heads. (I bought a pair of flip-flops for 300 CFA which is like 75 cents) There are also the all important fan milk carts, fan milk is best described as frozen deliciousness, but is really like frozen yogurt, softer than ice cream but firmer (depending on where it was in the cart) than a smoothie. They come in many flavors, chocolate (tastes like chocolate milk) Fanyogo (which tastes like vanilla yogurt) a few fruit flavors (citrus) and Fan Ice (by far the best flavor, if you ask me, it tastes like a mix between cake batter ice cream and the best frosting you’ve ever had. It’s amazing)
We get called ‘Yovo’ a lot. A yovo is a white person or a foreigner, and children will yell it out in the streets as we go past ‘yovo, yovo, yovo!’ they laugh and smile, and jump up and down, they even have a little song they sing, the yovo song. We must look ridiculous half the time, there are 60 sweaty tired white people all crammed into a bus and some vans, or walking around in large groups, so many yovos all at once! We must be quite the sight to see!
It’s hard to write everything that has gone on, and I have only been here for three days, but already there is so much to say! St. Jean Eudes, (where we are staying in Cotonou) is a monastery, we are all in rooms with between 2 and 7 people to room with its own little bathroom (toilet, sink, and shower) the water usually works at least twice a day so we can get showers and wash up.
I’ve also learned how to ride a zem or zemidjan (moto-taxis) always with my helmet of course, and it was surprisingly fun! We all got together in a group of about 20 for a lesson and the PC had brought in enough zems for all of us, we were given helmets and a basic lesson in how to hail, give our location and barter a price, and then were sent on a petit tour, and a grand tour. It was hilarious, here we all are in the middle of Cotonou all wearing HUGE white helmets, and we are riding in this fleet down the street and then later around the block! People were pointing and laughing, and waving, the children having a great time and doing their whole ‘yovo’ thing!
So on wed. the 25th I believe we will head up to Lokossa where our training will commence for the next 8 ½ weeks, and finally we will meet our host families!
More to come!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Surprisingly enough I have a bit of free time today. We spent the afternoon getting a few vaccinations, yellow fever is a must to enter Benin, and we also had to have a pollio vaccine after the age of 18 and an mmr booster after 13. So i got yellow fever in my right arm and mmr in my left. The logic escapes me, since now both of my arms will hurt when I have to haul my luggage tomorrow instead of just one. We had to wait from noon until about 2:45 because of course the shots were given in alphabetical order, but that I'm used to.
As to staging itself, its been good. I got here a day early and it seems like alot of the people who were here early are grouping together. I think its just a familiarity thing, we know each other's names, we had an extra night and morning to bond etc. But as time goes we are meeting a lot of people (there are 59 going to Benin, which is the smallest group in Philly, South Africa has 93 and Mali has over 80). Having the facebook group was really nice because I feel like there are few people here that I already know a little bit. Of course once we get to Benin we will spending most of our time with our groups (TEFL for me). I've read that staging is like the first few days of college, I guess thats about right. We spend alot of time talking about safety, security, anxieties, etc. And of course remembering to always always always take our malaria prophylaxis.
The Historic District of Philly is really nice and we got to do a bit of site-seeing (since we arrived early) and it was definitely nice to just kick back with a few other PCTs and see the liberty bell Independence hall etc.
Aside from that I now know that as an Education volunteer I'll be placed in Lokossa, Benin for my training which lasts until sept. 21. Lokossa is one of only two training sites with an internet cafe so I'll try to have a few updates while I'm there.
We fly out tomorrow and will be in transit until 6:30 pm local time in Cotonou on friday. It still hardly seems real that tomorrow I'll be starting the journey to Benin, but I'm very excited and can't wait to be there and get started on all things we are only talking about here.
The next post will be from Benin!