Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pictures! (It's Been A While, Huh?)

Got my hair braided!  Long, heavy and purple.  Yes, purple.  This is with
my friend Ashley in Parakou for Halloween.

My 14 year old friend/spider exterminator Epiphane.  He saved me
from the evil designs of this Anyphops.  Tee hee, Anyphops.

Still working on the world map! Not done yet, but with outlining and labeling, it's looking really good!

See that line snaking its way through the school yard?  That's a two-inch
thick line of marching soldier ants.  They stop for nothing, eat everything,
and according to Gabriel, attack people if they get in their way.
My legacy as an English teacher in Benin.  I'm so proud. 

Visited my friend Claire's village, Ketou, where the main landmark is this GIANT sacred
pile of trash.  Apparently there's a voodoo priestess buried underneath.
This week, I killed my first chicken!  Here it is alive.

After giving it its last drink of water (in Benin, you always
give the animal a drink before you kill it, because you
don't want it to have to die thirsty), I did the actual
cutting of the throat.

With Pierrette, post-chicken killing.  She was proud
of me!  I mainly just wanted to wash the gunk off
of my hands. :)

List #2: Things I Want To Do America

- Go shopping and get a pedicure with my mama

- Dress up, wear heels, feel pretty

- Go grocery shopping, just for the shock of it

- Get a beer with Dad, watch a movie and drink tea with Mandee, and make Katie laugh. :)

- Have a girls' night with the ladies

- Gain 10 lbs in 10 days. It can be done, bring on the milkshakes and melted cheese!

- Use a washing machine (described by my village friends as "a computer that washes clothes..." Which I denied existed, until I realized it does.)  microwave, and fast internet.

- Dry my hair with a hairdryer (and get a haircut).

- Get new music!

- Catch up on YouTube videos (send me your favorites)

- Wear a coat. And boots. And jeans that actually fit. 

Can't wait-- less than 4 weeks!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Weekly Updates: Thanksgiving!

- Finally allowed myself to open a jar of American peanut butter Mom brought with her in July. Horrible discovery: after a year and a half of Beninese peanut buttter -- just ground peanuts, period -- Jif tastes like sugary lard. The flavor is kind of... Weak. Sad. It'll just never be the same.

- My village's central transformer or something blew up, taking with it all of the electricity and water in the entirety of Daagbe. No pumps were working, meaning that I was living out of the two trash cans of water in my kitchen. Fun! Ended up being only a week and a few days. Bathing out of a bowl... Now normal.

- The pope visited Benin. That's wonderful for the Christians in the country, a truly inspiring visitor. Minor problem from my point of view: to prepare for the highest-ranking visitor in all of Catholicdom, Benin decided to "straighten up" Cotonou. How? They razed hundreds of shanty houses and businesses from all across the city. As the hundreds of now-homeless men, women, and children stood and watched, bulldozers leveled row after row of shacks made of scraps of tin and salvaged sticks. Then they burned it all. The people I've talked to, most with steady jobs and cement houses, said it was a good thing: this way the people will be forced to pay for their space rather than "mooching" the unclaimed alleyways they inhabited before. And if South Africa and India are any example, razing shanty villages is nothing new. Still, it's disheartening that the most marked change in Benin after the visit of the most famous (currently-living) Christian figure was the leveling of hundreds of homes.

Upon My Mother's Request...

...I introduce The Lists. This is how I stay busy at post (while not saving the world, obviously). Things I Want To Eat/Drink While Home:

- bacon
- toast with butter
- hot chocolate with marshmallows
- orange juice
- a chicken breast
- cheese!! Chevre and sharp cheddar, mainly.
- frozen green peas
- glass of 2% milk
- a good, juicy hamburger with pickle relish
- broccoli
- a cappuccino
- ham sandwich
- pizza and soup from broken rocks
- gala apples
- spaghetti with meat sauce
- good beer (something stout)
- frozen blueberries with milk and sugar
- cereal with milk!!
- grilled cheese with tomato soup
- mashed potatoes
- cheese-its
- gingersnaps

Friday, November 11, 2011

For maybe the first time in my PC service, I am stressed about getting things done. Yay! I feel productive! Besides teaching, I'm working on the world map (so pretty!), getting aprons and family Christmas gifts made, a scholarship program for a girl at my school (yet to be chosen)*, and of course, that giant grant application for the library. 

The library grant is what's really stressful, mainly because of the budget. Getting exact estimates from my director and carpenter has been SO difficult, and I'm still not even done. Plus, I have to figure out how much it'll cost to ship 200 books from France, and despite searching on the Internet, emailing the NGO and having Gabriel calk their office, we still have no idea what it's going to cost. No budget means no grant, so I'll be really anxious until I get it all together. Want this thing up before December, and praying desperately that it'll happen.

Other than projects and things, not too much is going on. I took the purple braids out and lost a bunch of hair in the process, but oh well. It'll be cooler in hot season, right? Visited a couple of friends last week -- Juliette, mother of the twins Doloresse and Dorothe -- who moved to Porto-Novo. I miss them... She was one of my best friends in village, and her adorable kids always made me laugh.  Have also been visiting the new volunteers in their posts, and am happy to report that none of them seem to be wallowing in depression or going insane! Yay new PCVs!

Last thing: today I was walking and a raindrop hit my cheek. My honest-to-god first thought was, "Dangit, a lizard peed on me AGAIN." What has Benin done to me??

*Scholarship Girls is a program run by our PC Benin Gender and Development committee. You create an application for the girls at your school, then form a selection committee with members of your school and community. One girl at CEG Daagbe (winner is chosen based on financial need, grades, and essay responses) will win a full year scholarship and money for her uniform and notebooks. Lots of organization required, but definitely a worthwhile program.

A little late: blogs 11.1

I haven't updated in a long time. I feel guilty about it... :/ I have a good excuse though, and that excuse is that I was in a small African village for the past couple of weeks without Internet. And I was tired of coming to Cotonou all of the time. Forgiven?

Main updates from 10.24-11.1:

- Discovered that I have a student named Manlick. Teehee.

- Got a terrible sinus infection somehow. Made a fairly successful DIY NettiPot, then subsequently found a dead ant in my snot.

- Went to the doctor, got lots of antibiotics and Mucinex, which is an amazing drug. Felt better in two days. Thank god, because...

- I went to Parakou for Halloween! Dressed up as Nicky Minaj, which wad basically just an excuse to get my hair braided with long purple weave. Long, heavy purple hair! Every girl's dream 'do, no?  (Unfortunately, my memory card reader has decided to quit working -- I think it's in cahoots with my computer -- so no pictures just yet.)

- Main update here: Dance parties are awesome, no matter which country you're in.