Monday, August 25, 2008

Vacation's Over

So I got back to Porto Novo on Saturday from my post visit to Dogbo, and I can officially say that I will miss my toilet and shower. But really, Dogbo is pretty nice and I didn't spend enough time there to get the full picture of it, but I definitely enjoyed the town. I am fortunate enough to have some measure of infrastructure in the town and am not all the way out in the brush like some of my friends. It was however, definitely mostly mud houses once you get off the main road from what I could see, which is a far cry from Porto Novo. I didn't stay in my house because it wasn't ready so I stayed with the director of my NGO's wife in her concession. But I did get to see my house and it is pretty nice. It is 3 rooms-bedroom, kitchen, and living area. It is flanked by 3 other houses though I didn't really get the chance to meet my neighbors in the short time that I visited. The area around the house seems pretty nice and the concession behind me where my proprietor lives is really beautiful. I'm hoping to hang out there with some of the mama's because they all seem to be pretty nice. Behind my house I have a tiny little private outdoor area with my douche and an area that my homologue (work partner) told me was my cuisine (kitchen). In Benin, most people cook outside because they use coals and it gets extremely hot cooking in tiny spaces inside, but i plan to use that area to burn garbage and hang up a laundry line. At first I was admittedly shocked because the shower area has no roof, but I've decided that I like that better and let me tell you why.

So at the house where I was staying I had my own latrine and next to it, a douche as well. But I have to tell you that opening the door to the douche was like a little surprise each kind of creepy crawlies will be invading my shower this time? Usually it was just daddy longlegs and I decided I would leave them alone if they stayed put and didn't look like they were going to drop down from the ceiling on me when I least expected it. But my third night I opened up the door and there on the wall was a huge 2 1/2" long (at least) cockroach. Now I have to say I really don't appreciate cockroaches when they are teeny tiny ones walking around New York, never mind mutant African ones hanging out in my shower. It was a stare-down. Paralyzed with my fear/disgust at bugs, I stood there, literally for about 10 minutes pondering how to handle the situation, and he just stood there not moving as if I couldn't see him. So I found this gigantic pole, and don't ask me why but holding that pole actually made me feel inexplicably safer. From a distance I poked the roach's antennaes to see if it would have the good sense to just leave on it's own before meeting it's imminent doom, but it didn't. So I attempted to poke it a few times with the pole in Olympian javelin-like thrusts from outside of the douche but it was too elusive for me. So after about another 5 minutes I finally just sucked it up and walked into the room slowly and cautiously and heaved my foot at the wall as I kind of seized up at the same time. I got the damn thing but only slightly so it fell to the floor spastically on it's back and started sputtering around, when i walked over and put the Kabbash (aka my shoe) on the roach for good--THAT is a disgusting crunch. My problem with killing bugs here is that they are SO fast that I have this non-sensical fear that if I try to kill them and miss that they will come back with a vengeance...especially spiders. There is this spider here that is really really flat and moves like lightning (truly disgusting) and the same for the roaches. Ugh, it makes me shudder just to think of them. So anyway, the point is, at least my douche at my house is not in a small enclosed closet-like space with the threat of bugs falling down on me--just the stars, which-- by the way--are beautiful here. I don't have running water or anything in my house so we'll see how that goes, and my latrine is around the back and is for me only--it has a lock and is pretty secure. And the wall built around my "backyard" where my douche and cuisine are is lined with broken glass shards from bottles, etc. set into the cement to discourage anyone from jumping over.

I'm also pretty lucky because even though the language of the Couffo region where Dogbo is is Adja, mostly everyone I came across understood French, which is EXTREMELY nice to know. I also had a few other Yovo sightings when I was there, though they are mostly French--but it is good to know that Dogbo is used to having Yovos pass in and out because sometimes it is difficult if you are in the smaller villages where there has never been one before. The marché is every 5 days but I can still find mostly everything that I need when it isn't marché day either in little vendor stalls or on women's heads as they walk around selling stuff which is nice because Dogbo is a big enough town.

I didn't spend enough time with my work partner or ONG (NGO in French) to formulate a definite opinion of either, but they seem really nice and I guess I will be getting to know the organization and my work partner better eventually no matter what. I made the rounds with my homologue to visit the police, gendarmerie , mayor, hospital, health center, PTT (post office), and all of the other important people in Dogbo so that I could start to get to know them, and kind of just as a security precaution that is required by Peace Corps. And perhaps most importantly (except not really) I found the FanMilk Depot in Dogbo on the main road just a 10 minute walk away from chez moi. FanMilk, I've discovered, really has the power to make even the worst of days just that much better.

I was in Dogbo from Weds to Saturday and there were definitely times when I was by myself and it can get lonely. So I walked out to the marché and made my first marché mama friend. She was this little old woman who was really sweet and asking me all about why I was there etc. and did the whole saluer-ing thing with me. I also went to this 'Cafeteria' which reminded me of one of the diners in Worcester (the bully) in a way and the stuff there was pretty tasty. Plus when I passed by it later the woman who worked there waved and smiled at me, and salué-ed so it was that kind of stuff that made me feel okay there and like I would be able to make this whole living in Africa thing work. And it will be nice when I go back in September because I will have another Peace Corps Volunteer in Dogbo with me and there are a bunch of volunteers nearby in neighboring villages only like a half hour or so away.

When I left, I took the brush taxi by myself for the first time--even though my homologue discuter-ed the bonne prix for me before I got in. I have to say, traveling in Benin really puts a new meaning to the phrase 'Bon Voyage' for me. Whenever someone (ie- my work partner) says 'Bon Voyage' to me as I descend into a brush taxi, I say my obligatory "merci" but I really can't help thinking "fat chance" considering there are already 12 other people in this clown car you call a taxi and you want me to put my grosses fesses where? At least there were no animals in the car.

Coming home was awesome. It was great to see my host family and I think my 'maman' was surprised when i gave her a big hug--I was surprised how much i missed them after a few days of being away. They want to take me up to Dogbo when I move to help me settle in, but I don't know if that could work logistically since Peace Corps is getting me a car to take all of my stuff--It would be nice though, and my fam doesn't have a car or anything so they would have to louer a taxi. We went to this great fete saturday night at a museum in Porto Novo. It was a beautiful cool evening and my 'papa' had invitations to this cultural festival. An evening of Beninese dance and song, under the stars when the power cut out (twice--again...infrastructure), and I had a really amazing time...especially when my little sister who really likes to dance decided to march up on stage randomly and dance away much to the delight of everyone in attendance including the Mayor and King of Porto Novo. Well anyway, I could go on but I've been here for an hour and should prob get going. I will come back later in the week and write more! I miss you all!


Aunt Loretta said...

Hey Catherine .... Look at sneaky Aunt Linda trying to be the first to leave comments on your new blog ... she missed, I win!!!!! I was doing some Benin reseach and Yovo reseach this weekend and actually find a Youtube video of Beninese children singing the Yovo songs. It's quite unbelievable. I also came across a blog of another PCV who's in Benin from July 2008 through November 2010, so I'm thinking you must know him .... his name is Elliott. Anyway, I've got to run to work, so I'll be back later to leave you more comments. Any packages yets????

Uncle BigMike said...

Well hello there.I see you have a bug problem we will have to send you a BIG FLY SWATTER.So your new pad is a 3 room hut is that the norm or is that just for PCV? You talked about the Shower is it a shower or a bucket that you stand in and pour water on yourself? Aunt Loretta is so proud of you she tells all our friends about you and where you are.Well time to go keep up the good work....Love Uncle BigMike.....

Aunt Loretta said...

Okay, I'm back darling. I just finished reading and absorbing your newest update. I've got to tell you Cat, you are amazing. I can't say I'd be able to handle the "roach" situation as creatively as you did. I probably would have tried to find someone to kill it for me. How many PCV headed to Benin with you, and how many are still left. I know you mentioned in earlier blogs that some had already left and other leave after the sight visits. I hope you get your packages soon. Uncle Mike and I found a sunshower that does not require a hose, but instead can be submersed in water to fill it. We'd like to get it for you if you think you can use it. Let me know so I can purchase it and ship it to you. I'm going to send you Mom and Dad the Youtube website of the Beninese children signing the "Yovo" song. We'll be doing our Labor day beach trip this Saturday and I came up with such a great idea for you ... I'm going to take lots of pictures and send them to you via snail mail so you'll have them when your feeling lonely and they'll cheer you up. I working on a special project and will be getting that off to you just as soon as I'm done. Love and miss you millions and millions ......... Aunt Loretta

Anonymous said...

Hey buddy,
Its funny how you're getting your own place,bet its a lil different than you expected. All that talk of creepy crawlers...eeeewwwww.... you're sooo brave to handle it sooo well. It sounds like your post is a good place, which makes you and me happy. I'm sending out my third letter today, score: 3 me you 1, haha. Well hope all is well, sooo proud of you, as always, and miss ya tons! Cath

Cathryn said...

Hey! I loved your explanation of cockaroaches. I was blessed on evening to wake up in the middle of the night with one, about 3 inches long half inside my mosiquito net. After a large incredibly loud scream i jumped to the other side of the bed (of course the stupid bug didnºt do anything but stay there) and managed to throw a book at it which unfortunatly didnºt kill it but got it off my bed.... AHHh I hate them! Iºve been having some trouble sleeping because of them but I did manage to get my hands on some bug spray which helped with the situation. Can you please write me an email soon. thank you!

Barbara Morris said...

So, Cat. i am trying to catch up on your blog entries, but it is a slow process.
Just a couple of thoughts about the shower:
1.Pretend you are in the outdoor shower On Swan's. ("Somewhere, out there")
2. Do you think we should send some combat discs? They should work. I doubt that Benin roaches have seen much of combat-they probably have not developed immunity yet.
I expect to be fighting roaches of my own soon. I wonder how Manhattan roaches compare to Benin roaches?