Saturday, August 18, 2007

Post Visit: Copargo

Copargo is in the north of Benin, about an hour south of Natitingou but slightly north of Djougou it is one the highway so its a long town the follows the paved road, with some spread of dirt paths back into the housing. The market in Copargo is every 4 days and should have a decent selection of tomatos, yams, rice, beans, wagassi [wagashy] (cheese), and a few other things, like onions, nothing really tropical because the north is a bit more arid. So to get to Copargo what one would usually do is get to either Bohicon [boy-con] or Cotonou to get the confort lines bus (no i did not misspell comfort it really is an 'n') and then take that the 7 hours North to Copargo, but, we missed our bus. So instead the three of us going to the Nati workstation region and our three directors (big guys all) stuffed into a taxi and off we went, forgetting all concept of personal space for 7 hours, on this taxi ride, we hit a dog, ate pate, watched our taxi driver threaten a small child with the whip stick he kept on the dashboard, watched our taxi driver get into a petit fight with some random guy on the street, wondered how on earth our taxi driver knew that the random guys standing on the hill 100 yards behind us and waving his arms wanted a cigarette, and even eventually got to our posts. I arrive in Copargo around 6 in the evening and was taken to the house that will be mine for the next two years, only to discover, that not only am I inheriting a house, I'm also inheriting all of the furniture, bed, pots pans etc, buckets, basins, school supplies, and a cat. His name is Acote, he is incredably friendly and was all ready to curl up on my lap for a nap as soon as I arrived. My school is nice, it has a student population of a little less than 1500 and even a computer lab (no internet) and Robyn, the volunteer I'm replacing started a library project which I will probably end up finishing. Copargo also has a post office, a few small stores with non-parishable supplies, and the usual assortment of tailors, street vendors etc. There is also a catholic mission in Copargo. I met my post-mate Mohamed who was very nice, and despite not feeling well spent some time getting to know me and showing me around. The Area of Benin that Copargo is in (the north of the Donga region) is absolutely beautiful, with small mountains, rolling hills, and lots of patches of trees, right now its all very green as its the rainy season still, but we've been told that the north will start browning in october, which I figure works for me because I'm used to brown grass and hills. Mohamed also told me that the heat will only ever get as bad as it would be in Las Vegas, and that with a fan its not overwhelming, which is nice because I have electricity and Robyn left me a fan. After the post visit finished, I went to the Nati workstation for the night before catching the bus back home, the bus is considerably more comfortable than a taxi, and if you're into it they give you a fish sandwich. We took the bus to Bohicon, and then we took zems from Bohicon to Azove, which is about a 50 minute zem ride, unfortunately my zem got a flat tire half way so we had about 40 minutes of walking to the repair shop and repairing the tire (10 m walk 30 m repair) then we took a taxi from Azove back to Lokossa. The awesome thing about having a very short post visit, my total time in Copargo was less than 24 hours, is that all the money they factored in for time spent at post I get to keep so now I'm very wealthy.... well, I have more money than the people who were in the south and got to spend 3 days at their posts. We start model school on monday and I'm teaching at 10 am, i'll be doing functions of sentences to indicate health "I feel weak" "You should take medicine" "If you don't filter your water you will get sick." so wish me and all the other TEFL stagaires luck as we embark on our model school experiences!

Lokossa part 2 (or the real post)

So as I said last post I did in fact manage to get off my butt and type a post up on my laptop for your consumption. Because I'm so lazy this is going to be a rather long post or maybe two rather long posts. First lets talk a bit about Lokossa where I'm living. I live with a host family here and they are very nice to me although almost all of our interactions settle around food and greetings since thats where my french is good and their english is good. I have of course, my own room here with a small table, chair, bed, portable stove, and my footlocker. The house also has a flush toilet and a shower, which is naturally cold, but in reality I have yet to actually want a hot shower, although I'm sure the time will come. My family speaks french and Fon, and I even occasionally use the fon greeting which I don't know how to spell accurately using the american alphabet but I'll try ( a fon gangi a) which is generally responded to with (uhh) most of the time when people are using local languages questions can be responded to with some type of (uhh) sound and a repeat of the phrase (uhh a fon gangi). As you've probably already guessed Lokossa is a slightly larger town, and has a cyber (internet cafe) we pay about a dollar and hour, or 4$ for 5 hours (what a deal)! We go to class everymorning at 8 am, where we have french lessons for 2 hours, then usually techinical lessons on teaching, cross-cultural lessons, health, or bike lessons. Morning classes are 8 - 12:30, then we have lunch and repose until 3-6/7 for the rest of our lessons, now I'm sure your all thinking "wow! they get a three hour lunch break!" but think of it this way as well, some of the stagaires live a half-hour bike ride a way, so they get home eat, have a shower and come back, for me its nice because I'm very central so I only have to cross the street to get to school but it still ends up being a very long day. We recently got our new language levels, I've moved from novice low to novice high which is fantastic, because it gives me hope that at some point I will be able to function in french and that when I move to post in september I won't flounder.
We also were here for the Benin Independence day (august 1) which was quite the experience. We all went to see the parade which was more like a disorganized wander, than a parade, but some of the groups were amazing, dancing and singing down the street, while carrying these HUGE drums on their heads and the person dancing and singing behind them beat out the music on the drum. The parade ended in this monumet/park thing, and the groups that walked in the parade all split up and started dancing and singing in place, some of the stagaires, myself inculded got pulled into one of the circles of dancing and were taught what we are now calling 'the chicken dance' but it was incredibly fun, and very beautiful.
So The other post I'm going to be typing up is all about my post visit, to Copargo, go forth read and comment ;)