Monday, August 4, 2008

You Know it is Humid When...

1. The cover of your hard cover book has actually begun to curl up
2. The envelopes that you brought have begun to inconveniently seal themselves
3. One can sit perfectly still while expending little to no energy and STILL be sweating. IS as delightful as it sounds...haha. It's actually not THAT hot out today because there is a nice breeze. Okay, so I just got back from my technical visit with a volunteer in Pobé (an hour or so away from Porto Novo). Wednesday we went "au village" to do a sensibilization (teaching session) about cooking. We basically teach how to work within the parameters of what is available within their community to build on and enhance what they already do. So for example, the women were there cooking these beignets, and what we taught them was how to find, ecrisée (crush or grind) and add soy for protein in them. So they were the same thing, but healthier. We also made a moringa sauce with it which is that really nutritionally dense plant. The men of the village came too and they dont really do much but apparently they make sure the women do what they learned at home later on. The men and the women always work seperately and the men always get served first--I don't know if I am ever REALLY going to embrace that aspect of this culture.

So, Friday August 1st was Benin's Independence Day. I wish I could regale you with some spectacular tale of how it is celebrated here. As it is, I myself spent the day lying in the volunteers house with a 102 degree fever, throbbing head, and a stomach so bloated it hurt to even touch it with a finger. C'est la vie, right? Thus, having left the United States on July 3, this brings the tally to 2 independence day celebrations that I have missed this summer. Apparently there was a fete and parade and a lot of dancing, etc. but I guess I will have to wait until NEXT August to tell you.

Something that I did not know was that the actor Djimon Hounsou from Gladiator and Blood Diamond is Beninoise, and he was here yesterday. My "papa" met him and if i had been a home a little earlier, I would have gotten to go with him, but oh well.

Training is going well even though it feels like it is taking forever! I am pretty excited to see my post and I think my post visit is coming up on August 20...I go for 5 days there with my work partner to see the village, my house, my ONG (NGO en francais) that I will be working with, etc. It will be good, though I am nervous too. Another trainee decided to leave after the technical visit so we are down another one and usually a few more duck out after the post visit too. It tends to be RCH and EA (health and environment) over SED and TEFL (Small enterprise development and teaching english as a foreign language) who tend to early terminate and no one really knows why except that those two programs lack as much structure as the other two. So it actually felt nice to get back "home" in Porto Novo and my fam was pretty excited...especially Mariane and Matthew. Apparently being away broke some kind of barrier, and now they are all over me all the time to play and hang out. It's kind of cute...exhausting...but cute. But I am struck by how badly the littlest boy acts sometimes because his siblings are so well behaved. So I don't know if it is that he is spoiled and can get away with throwing tantrums or if he will just grow out of it and more like his brothers. Kids in this culture generally do EVERYthing for their parents...they are the go getters-definitely different from the U.S.

But yes mom and dad, I help out in the kitchen cooking and doing the dishes and it makes my 'mama' really happy because most of the other trainees aren't when she speaks to their families (you think you're soooooooo funny writing in french). But then again a lot of families don't want us to help out of they have domestiques to do the cooking because we are in the city so a lot of families here are pretty well off. I think that is really going to be a rough transition when we get out to post. I usually eat bread for breakfast with some hot cocoa or tea and butter or confiture, and lunch and dinner consist of eggs, pate (a pretty much nutritionally defunct mix of flour and water that is the staple of the diet here and many AFrican countries by different names) pasta, fish (i swear the fish is getting to be a bit much) etc. It is pretty repetetive. Cant wait to get more fruits and veggies when i get to post...I am definitely craving it.

Kuehn!!! I plead the fifth on that one but you MAY be right. lol. ask her. Zildlife so far actually hasn't been THAT extensive except for farm animals alllllll the time. Seen some interesting birds with these really long tails flying around. They are pretty and blue colored. I have an awesome picture of a spider to post so I will try to bring my camera later this week to the cyber.

Thanks for all your comments! Sometimes I start to feel reaaaaaally lonely here and then I get online and read your stuff and it makes me smile again. If there was a printer here, I would print it out and bring it back with me but there isn't so i can't wait for snail mail. lol. Alright. THat's all for now! à teut à l'heure! Miss you all!


Andrea said...

Hey!! I am glad training is going well. So let me get this you actually have to call him "papa" or are you just calling him that in your blog? It seems a little strange. But I am glad to hear that you brought your manners to Africa and are helping out :) hahaha. You must be the best house guest ever! Please keep posting, I love reading them!! Miss you!!

xo ~ Aunt Annie ~ xo said...

Good morning Catherine. The more I read...the more fascinating it all becomes to me! But as for the "spider picture"...I'll pass on viewing that! I'd like to see a picture of YOU! I mailed you a few pics...I won't say of what, but I'm sure they will make you smile. I hope your feeling better. Of course any time you tell us your sick, our concerns will grow stronger. Please take good care of yourself. I love you and miss you. Uncle Tommy & I are supposed to have dinner with your mom and dad this week...wish you could join us baby doll. Instead, you can enjoy the ear ringing as I'm sure you'll be in most of our conversations. Just letting you know that your thought of often. You know...Your My Hero! We love you. xoxo

Uncle BigMike said...

Hello Catherine I am just saying hello and I would like to see that SPIDER.Aunt Loretta hates spiders.She is such a baby...LOL.Next time Loretta sends a package we will make copys of your post and send them if that helps.If you can Aunt Loretta and I would like to see some pictures of your area.Well you take care of yourself and be safe........PS Porkchop and Beans send there love.

Anonymous said...

Hello Buddy,
How are you? I think this is soooo cool that you've been able to blog yourself this often. YAY! 102 fever? You ok? Hope so. You know that country needs to read some feminist theory books, "men eat first", ha! It's cool that your surrogate family is nice to you. You sound good, ya know, in your blogs at least. So, as I told you, you would be ok, and see "told ya so" hehe. I still get confused w/ all the names, where things are, what things are, etc. I'm also a goof ball hehe. Anyways, I knew you would be ok. Sorry about the heat. Here can't complain been in the 80s and not the sting of humidity. I've been bad haven't written some more letters. I have my paper due thurs so will have to forgo just a bit longer.Can't wait to see pics! So that care of yourself, seriously dude, just keep being your wonderful fabulous self. Miss ya! Cat
P.S Your parents French responses crack me up hehe!

maman et papa said...

Hello Catherine,
Well I will cut you a break this "blog!"
It was good to speak with you and that you were actually feeling better. Hope you're doing even better now and that bug you had is out of your system. Mom and I enjoyed once again reading your blog, but we also love to hear it first hand.
Be well my sweetie and try to keep cool although I don't know how you could when you have to boil oh! so much water!
Sorry the ants got your tums - would you like us to send you some more? By the way, in the packages you will be getting a LOT of plastic zip lock bags so those ants won't be getting into all your goodies!
ALSO - only 24 more months to go!
Keep up the great work and talk to you soon.
Mom (Maman) and Dad (Papa)

ps - everyone at the club says HI!

Aunt Loretta said...

Hi Catherine ~ I am so sorry to hear that you've been under the weather, thereby leaving you unable to attend yet another Independence Day celebration. When it rains it pours. Just remember that eventually the Sun does come back out. Hang on Baby. I've sent you lots and lots of goodies and can't wait for you to get them. Great minds think alike ... I also sent you some zip lock baggies so you can protect your loot. I also included an entire spice sample box that I got when I was in Grenada earlier this year. There's some great spices in it. So after your last update I went ahead and did some research to help me comprehend where you are and what your are seeing and experiencing. Did you make a wish an leave an offering at the Iroko tree in the sacred forest? I also checked out the Python Temple and saw pictures of individuals with pythons on them and Holy Crap ... I can't believe you did that. You are a brave girl. I also did a little reading on Yayi Boni. Quite an accomplished individual. I understand his wife is from Ouidah and that she is the niece of the former military leader Paul-Emile de Souza. I also understand why they think so highly of GW. He is the ONLY US President to have visited their country ... although he was only there for three (3) hours. From what I understand it was on his itinerary because it represents the kind of success he wants to hightlight - how American aid has helped fight poverty and disease in some of the world's poorest nations. Keep the information coming and I'll continue doing my research so I can live vicariously through my God-Daughter. So, so, so proud of you. You are in my thoughts and prayers daily. Until we speak again, hugs and kisses!! Aunt Loretta :)

Jan Jan said...


102 degree fever sounds dreadful! I am very sorry you missed 2 independence day celebrations, that definitely sucks!

I do not know how you are handling the heat, because I HATE sweating...I hope you have some powerful deodorant. You are one brave not so much lol.

You notice how my posts deal with weird things like boobs and armpit smells... maybe I should comment on something intelligent for once "hahaha" then i would not be janet!)

I miss you a lot, but I know you are doing fabulous!

<3 janjan

Aunt Beth said...

Hi Catherine! So sorry to hear you were sick. There is nothing worse than being sick away from the comforts of home. It will probably take some time for your body to adjust to the severe climate and different way of eating. Your blogs are great. I feel like I'm there with you....almost. I must admit I find comfort in knowing that the children there also misbehave. I guess that is something we have in common. I sent off a big box of goodies. I learned the hard way, from now on I will send smaller items but more often. Until next time....Love you and be safe.

Lisa said...

Hi Catherine,
Your blog is GREAT. You really get the feeling of being there. I am a friend of your mom and dad, from the HHC. Sorry to hear you were not feeling well and hope by now you are feeling fine. You have a lot of courage, determination and compassion. Thank you for all you are doing to make our world a better prove that one person can make a differnce. We are rooting for you and prayers over you for a great experience.
Take care,
Lisa and Roger Hill