Monday, September 19, 2011

Pictures (Took 3 Hours to Upload)

Phil sent me real beer from a real Trappist monk brewery in
Belgium -- sooo happy.  Look how dark and delicious it is!

With my new closemates Kalyn (left, in Tchaada) and Maeghan
(middle, in Gbozoume).  Yay new closemates!

With Claire, my host family little sister.  Adore her.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekly-ish Updates: 9.18.11

  • Happy Swear-In to PST 24!  As of the 15th, there are now 54 new volunteers in Peace Corps Benin.  So exciting!  Peace Corps put five of them kinda near me, so guess who’s going to force them to come hang out in Daagbe?  Yaaaay new friends.  Okay, I promise not to be creepy or stalk them too much or whatever.  But, you know, maybe a little bit.
  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY SISTER!  Katie, who once packed me an entire box of Oreos and nothing else for lunch, turned 17 on the fifteenth.  Yay you!
  • Training = Awesome.  Training the new stage was so much fun, mainly because I felt brilliant.  They had so many questions, and I, somehow, had SO many answers! I got to walk people through pre-going-to-post stress and shopping, hear hilarious getting-used-to-Benin stories, wear/show off ALL of my tissu... Plus, they as a whole are a really great group – positive and interesting and easy to talk to... I’m excited to hang out with them au village.  Oh!  And I got to hang out with some fellow my-year volunteers from up north (I never get to see them) and cook crazy-awesome meals with them.  We ate BLTs.  I’m not even joking.  Bacon!!!
  • Bridget Visited Daagbé.  My friend Bridget, who is the sweetest volunteer in country, came to visit my post for a day before we head out for Ghana.  We ended up having to leave early because oro was coming out again (last time, they swear), but it was still really fun to walk around and show her my school, friends, life... it’s nice to have people who can picture where you’re living.
The new TEFL volunteers -- yaaay!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekly Update: 9.10.11

Whoa, today's 9.10.11.  I love patterns.

  • Stage!  I'm in Porto-Novo this week training the new stage (Peace Corps trainees) before they swear in as volunteers on the 15th.  Despite the fact that stage is draining, frustrating, and sometimes boring for the trainees (and, hey, for the volunteers that have to sit through the sessions with them), I'm really loving getting to meet everyone.

    This group is pretty fantastic -- lots of great personalities, stories, and conversations.  And no one, not a single one, has gone home (ETed) yet.  It's amazing.  To give you a benchmark point, my year lost four people during stage.  And I think 12 have left in total up to now.  Kudos to them, keep it up, and congrats in advance for making it all the way to swear-in!
  • Model School Hilarity.  One of the stagiers was overseeing the model school exams.  She told the students to silently bring her their completed copies, then sit back down and wait to leave.  The students stand up, walk toward her in a giant mass, and all start MEOWING as they hand her the exams.  What??  I was giggling hopelessly in the back of the class with another stagier... What is it with this country and cats??
  • Lou Left. :(  Lou, my closemate in Tchaada, finished his service this week and flew out for home last night.  Hope he and his puppy Rex have fun in l'Amerique! Eat some sushi for me, sir, and remember not to discuter in supermarkets.
  • Bryant Identified the Spider!  This is huge, as now I can yell at the spiders by a real name (though "person spider" was entertaining) as I hop around them with my broom and can of bug killer.  It is some species in the Huntsman spider group (Sparassidae), and its relatives in Australia can get up to a 12-inch leg span, but mine was only about a 4 inch leg span.  Ho hum.  It looked way bigger on the wall.

    Upon further spider investigation, I think the big but less scary flat wall spider is called a "wall crab spider," Selenopidae (Anyphops or Selenops). "Anyphops" is a hilarious word.  I'm going to call them by name from now on.
  • All for now.  Plans for the next week include: lots of shopping with new volunteers before they go to post, going to swear-in and the swear-in party!, and enjoying time with the awesome other trainers I'm hanging out with this week.  And then... in a week and a half... GHANAAA!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weekly Update: 8.30.11

This being my last week at post before I leave for most of September, I spent most of the last couple of days working on my world map project.  Good lord, is it a lot of work: you have to draw the countries/islands/territories, then prime them in white because the yellow isn’t strong enough otherwise, then finally paint them the right color.  And frequently, even that’s not strong enough, so you have to do a second coat.  Sigh.

·      There are WAY too many islands in the south Pacific – roughly 84,012 billion islands and atolls.  I counted.  Micronesia and I are not friends.
·      I’ve made mental lists of countries I like (mostly large ones with not-too-hard-to-follow-borders) and countries I will never be friends with.  On the positive end, we have China, Australia, Mongolia, Russia except for the fjord-y part, India, Brazil, the –guays, And most of the countries at the top of Africa.  On my hate list: Indonesia, Micronesia, the entirety of the south Pacific except for Australia, Thailand, Central America, Finland and Canada.  Have you seen Canada recently?  Ridiculous.
·      Many countries appear to have faces.  Did we plan this?  Croatia is Pac-Man. Kazakhstan is eating the Caspian Sea.  And Pakistan has a dog’s head.
·      Spending 7 hours a day with your iPod means lots of time for new music. Thanks to fellow volunteers Matt and Erin S., I now have years worth of mash-ups (Best of Bootie 2005-2010) and Jay-Z/Kanye to keep me entertained. :)
·      I have 65 countries completely done as of Tuesday night!  Hoping to knock another 20 or 40 out by the end of the week. (Update: as of Saturday, 117 countries done!)

Enough of that.  Other updates:
·      Jenny’s visiting this week!  She lives in Sori, waaaay up in the north (I visited her when I went to Niger at Christmas), and I’m excited to finally show her around.  Unfortunately, though, we’re going to have to leave a day later because of oro... I guess that’s a mild taste of southern culture, right?
·      Gabriel, Elise and I watched “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” dubbed in French on his computer.  Fun to explain American culture and quirks from it.  Gabriel wanted me to see this one part where “the people all jump up and start moving together in this really cool dance, they all move together!”  It was the Electric Slide.  I started doing it with the people, and he now can’t wait to learn.  Cultural exchange!
·      Killed another truly giant spider, and decided I desperately want to identify the species, just to know.  Here are pictures, any ideas?  Also found a moth that looks exactly like a peeling twig – cool!

Moth that looks exactly like a twig.  Crazy.

Big, scary spider.

Big, scary spider, now dead.  Can you see the hair on it?

My homologue, Epiphane, working with me on our CEG World Map a few days ago.  SO. MUCH. WORK.

Evenings Like These

After the heat of the day has passed, Daagbé comes alive again.  Around 6pm, when the sun slowly makes its way toward the palm trees and rust-colored dirt road, we gather at the water pump.  First it’s the woman with the big smile who runs the pump, sitting there and chatting with whomever wanders by.  Then I come out to wait for the grandmama who sells akassa.  I sit next to the water lady and we talk a little, greeting in Gún the little French we share. 

My neighbors join, Elise and Gabriel, and kids from around the neighborhood play on sand piles, rolling old tire rims with sticks and laughing at the faces we make at each other.  The women start to come.  Every morning and every evening, the women of the neighborhood arrive at the pump to carry water home, each with a big, brightly colored plastic basin on her head. 

The women meet and talk, share stories about their husbands, chickens, or naughty children, about funny things, about sad things., about life.  They chatter as they fill their bowls then walk them home, their hips swaying so that the water won’t spill. We sit and watch them, welcoming each with a smiling “Kualé, kualé-o!”  The water pouring, the women talking, and the singsong greetings punctuating it all.

It’s a beautiful thing, this life, this community.  Being here in this place.  I don’t understand a thing they’re saying, and still they treat me like I’m one of them, including me in the elbow nudges and group jokes.  A mama leans over and hands me a piece of kola nut to chew, and laughs heartily when I make a face at the flavor.  The akassa lady claps her hands in delight when I order from her in local language.  She gives me an extra leaf-wrapped piece of it just because.

The sun is almost gone now, and the bats start to tumble out of the mosque tower, swooping up through the air to eat the mosquitoes that come out at night.  It’s time to go inside and make dinner, maybe get some work done.  And yet I stay just a couple of seconds longer, silently willing myself to store this up for later.  This perfect place, these amazing people, this beautiful village evening.