Well, I am finally in a place where I have access to high speed internet so I will try to give a brief but detailed update :).
After about a day and a half of flying I arrived in Benin. Flights were a bit delayed due to a snow storm in Paris and I didn’t have my luggage for the first 2 days but eventually that arrived as well. When you don’t have your luggage you start to see things in a whole new light. I realized that I could theoretically live without my clothes, toiletries, and comforts from home. I also really appreciated a pair of clean underwear given to me by a Swiss lady at the guest house!!
The first city I was in was Cotonou which is on the coast of Benin. Highlights include my first motorbike ride (local form of taxis) and swimming in the ocean!!
Right now I am in a city called Parakou which is about an 8 hr drive further north. There are a few missionary families here and I’ve had fun wearing several different ‘hats’ this week with the 6 MKs (this has included teaching art, doing math games, helping with sports, and speaking during chapel time). I’ve also had the chance to help out with a few African kids clubs (soccer and balloon twisting) and taught the colour wheel at one of the schools (i.e., red + blue = purple…which they found really cool). One cool thing I got to see was all the Operation Christmas Child boxes being given to the kids. Even though they weren’t allowed to open them at the school they were so excited to receive them! And the boxes came from Canada!!
To say it is hot here is almost an understatement. Today the high is 40 degrees Celsius and it is supposed to get to 43 this week. At first I wasn’t sure if it just felt hot since I came from the “Great White North” but even the locals find the temperature stifling. Skirts are nice in theory since you have the breeze between your legs except you can also feel the sweat droplets running down every bit of your body.
Some of the local dishes here are bean cakes, fried potatoes, yam pilé. So they pound the yam and maybe bake it and it makes this kind of flavourless puffy gloop (actually, the texture is quite nice). When I had it there were 2 sauces to choose from so I tried a bit of each. One was curry/peanut sauce which was tasty. The other one…had okra. In general I have a very high tolerance for eating different/unique foods. I’ll try anything once and will usually finish it. The okra sauce was a struggle to keep down. Let’s just say it has been nicknamed “snot sauce” by more than one person. Next time I have yam pilé I will skip the snot sauce and stick to the flavourless gloop. The other dish that was a struggle for me was ribs. The meat itself was delicious but the family I was with ate everything off the bone, fat included. I nibbled away at most of the fat but couldn’t bring myself to finish the whole thing. I guess God is teaching me to be grateful for every bit of food on my plate!
Other random thoughts:
- I have a new appreciation for pressurized/running water and clean/dry underwear.
- Up until a few days ago my feet and legs had ballooned in size. My ankles were pretty much indistinguishable…as were my knees. Luckily the swelling has gone down.
- African children singing under a mango tree is one of the most beautiful things I have heard.
- In Benin, knees are sexy.
- My standard of cleanliness has dramatically decreased.
- Carbs are the main source of nutrition here; however I think I’m in better shape than I’ve been for a while. The reason? Chasing after/entertaining the 6 MKs.
- Although I’ve been walking/running around barefoot more often my feet aren’t altogether disgusting (when clean)…although I wasn’t thrilled to find dried blood on the bottom of my feet after playing kick the can a few nights ago.
Unlike previously planned, I will be staying here in Parakou for the next week and not traveling up to Bembereke until the end of next week. That’s because I’ll be helping out with a local football (soccer) tournament for girls on Monday and Tuesday. We are expecting 80 to 100 girls to come!! The majority do not come from Christian families and are never given the opportunity to publicly play football. It should be a lot of fun J. In theory I am assistant coach…with my extensive history of professional football playing (one year in high school…haha).
Not sure when I will have internet access again…hopefully a little later this week and hopefully I will be able to attach a picture or two!