FC: Peace Corps Benin
1: For the first two months of training, I lived with a host family in Porto Novo. My host mama, Nina and my sister, Marveille were amazing!
2: Part of cross- cultural training involved attending a Beninese dance Party!
4: Ouidah | The town of Ouidah was the largest slave port of West Africa. This archway was the last thing most slaves saw of their homeland
5: The Sacred Forest
6: Babies | Babies | and more babies...
7: During Tech visit, we visited Krissy's village and assisted in baby weighing
8: YAM PILE! | Yam pile is a local delicacy of the Center of Benin. In Nigeria, it is referred to as pounded yams. I think it takes similiar to mashed potatoes. It takes a very long time to make make and is commonly served with either a bean, peanut or tomato sauce.
9: American Food
10: Pythons are considered very sacred in the Voodoo religion. Many people believe that Voodoo spirits can turn into pythons and other animals. While we were at the Python temple, we saw a goat being sacrificed as part of a Voodoo offering.
11: Moving out: The Real Journey Begins... | Katie and I drove to our villages together. A trip that normally takes 20 mins turned into a 3- hour ordeal because policeman stopped us every few feet
12: My humble abode | My house was located in a gated concession. My next door neighbor was the landlord. Every morning, he greeted me with, "Bonjour Le Blanc!" The only French he knew.
14: On September 17, 2010, I moved into my first very own house, complete with latrine and private bucket shower. Isn't it beautiful? My house was called Maison Pka (because of the troll- like landlord who lived next door) The house had limited electricity and it was a 10 minute walk to get water from a pump down the street.
16: My work was divided between the office in Djregbe and my house in Dangbo. The secretary at the office, Francine was my favorite person in the whole country.
17: "dans chaque misere il y a de la joie l’essential est de savoir.”
18: This picture pretty much epitomizes my life au village | Ignace, my dutiful counterpart | This old man gave me eggs. He wanted me to help him raise chickens. | This man wanted me to help him raise rabbits | My work partners
20: People in Benin primarily wear bright, pattern cotton outfits made of tissus. Women and men both wear outfits called "boombas" On special occasions, the "boomba" is accompanied by a big hat
21: Some people just don't wear clothes!
22: Dangbo Marche | The Dangbo Market was bigger than most village markets. My daily shopping list consisted of 3 eggs, 3 tomatoes, some garlic, a pineapple and a couple pieces of tofu. For anything else, I had to go to go to Porto Novo.
24: Turning a house into a home! I spent an entire weekend painting my house all by myself. I had to balance on a precarious tower of books but it was one of my most satisfying accomplishments
25: My First Beninese Wedding! | My co- worker, Isaac invited me to the wedding of his brother. Isaac and his family were Jehovah's Witness. Jehovah's witness' do not celebrate brithdays or holidays but they do celebrate weddings! The best part of the wedding was when the priest presented the newly weds with a gift wrapped parcel. The parcel contained a tiny eraser that was intended to erase the couple's sins and past relationships.
26: Mud Stoves
28: School Instead of bringing papers and pens to class, most children brought a piece of chalk and a miniature chalkboard. You were old enough to go to school when you were able to reach your arm over your head and touch your ear
29: Gbada Spelling Bee | Our girl winner! | The actual competition | Our boy winner! | The winners of the Gbada Spelling Bee qualified to go to Nattitingou where they would compete in the National Spelling Bee Competition.
30: Adventures around village Running and biking were my ways of coping with the "fish in a bowl" aspect of Peace Corps. The only downside is, I was often chased by children. One time, I was chased by a group of children wearing clown masks and throwing motorcycle tires at me.
31: The people and adventures that make it all worth while
32: The library. I read 80 books during my service! | Peace Corps is very similar to summer camp! | The PC Bureau Kitchen | There was never enough beds! | PC savings went towards getting a waffle maker! | Wherever you went, your helmet went with you
33: THANKSGIVING One of my favorite memories of Peace Corps. Everyone was so grateful to be given such a unique experience
34: At the beginning of December, I contracted my first cornea infection. I ended up staying in the Peace Corps bureau for almost a month. The majority of that time was spent visiting the eye doctor and watching movies. The pain was so bad I wanted to rip out my eyeballs!
36: By far one of my most bizarre experiences in Benin, I celebrated New Year's Eve in traditional Beninese fashion. I attended a 6- hour mass, complete with heavy drinking and dancing and watched as the "three wise men" painted themselves white and danced down the aisles! | HAPPY NEW YEAR
37: Becky's house was my second home. When Becky left at the beginning of the New Year, it was up to me to console her neighbors and support myself.
39: The children of Benin
40: VOODOO FETE DAY! Nearly 65% of Benin believes in Voodoo. Although many Voodoo followers celebrate Christmas, the major Voodoo holiday is held on January 10th. The celebration involves a lot of heavy drinking and long- winded speeches. The spirits or zangbetos gather and dance in the center of village. These spirits can transfer from there zangbeto state to pythons, turtles and other creatures.
42: Voodoo Fetish Market Instead of going to costtly doctors, many Beninese people will consult with a Voodoo priest to find an alternative cure. Often this involves animal sacrifices and the purchase of talisman.
43: Twins are worshiped in Benin. It is considered a sign of wealth and accomplishment to have twins. As a sign of respect and consideration, one must always give money to a mother of twins if she is in need. | Twins
44: After contracting multiple eye infections, I was told to pack my bags and prepare to leave Benin. After living in Dangbo for over 6 months, I said my final goodbyes in March 2011. I will always treasure the neighbors and friends who helped me get through those 6 months. It truly was quite the adventure!
45: Edabo Benin!