Friday, June 6, 2008

"Where Did you Say You're Going?"

One of my good friends--who shall remain anonymous--said to me last week: "Africa, huh? What's their national anthem?"

Or what I enjoyed more from another friend--who shall also remain nameless for the purpose of this blog-"Why are you going to Africa? Aren't they at war?"

And so here is a little information about where I am going, and what I am doing. Africa is hardly a monolithic lump. There's more than one national anthem. In fact, I dare say there's a national anthem for every nation that comprises Africa, of which there are 54 (Admittedly, I had to look that number up)--all made up of different tribes, with different languages and cultures, and--unbelievable as it may be--are not in a simultaneous and constant state of war either.

So I am going to Benin; a French-speaking nation on the West African Coast. Benin is largely Muslim in the North, and largely Christian in the South, though that is not absolute, and tribal religions still exist there too. Especially VOODOO!! Voodoo is very prevalent in Benin and it is in part how Voodoo came to the U.S. via the slave trade--Voodoo was founded there. January 10th is National Voodoo day, and they have some fun festivals to celebrate this. Benin has been relatively stable an undergoing a process of democratization since 1990. Cotonou is the economic capital and Porto Novo is the administrative capital (government--like New York and Washington, D.C. respectively in the U.S.)

There are 4 types of Peace Corps Volunteers in Benin now--English teachers, health, agricultural, and business entrepreneurial volunteers. I myself will be a Rural Community Health Volunteer, which means I will work closely with in country community organizations to develop and orchestrate health related educational and procedural initiatives regarding basic hygiene, nutrition, STD and HIV awareness, and maternal and infant health care (ie-baby-weighing, etc.)

I'll post more soon!

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