Sunday, September 7, 2008

Now Leaving the Comfort Zone...again

I'm a volunteer...whoo hoo!!

Training is OVER and we swore in at a grand fete at the palais du congress with President Yayi Boni in attendance, which was a pretty amazing experience. The last time I came to the Cyber the power cut out after I sent my first email and I didn't feel like sticking around for it to come back on so my apologies for the delay in the posting...though...this is probably my last time posting for awhile since I leave for Dogbo tomorrow and there are no cybers in Dogobo. I have to take a taxi to Lokossa though to get to the bank and I believe there is internet there so hopefully I'll be able to update at least twice a month or something comme ça. Ps-I hope you all enjoy the use of franglais.

So the other week was like Christmas! Thank you so much everyone for the packages! The peace corps was apparently holding them all for awhile and brought them all out one day! I gave the stuff to my host family who were blown away and overwhelmingly thankful for everything...They asked me a million times over to thank my family in the U.S. for thinking of them! And thank you for the stuff for me too! lol. I have secured foodstuffs to the best of my ability to keep them away from the ants...i hope it works. One day, i will come back to the United states and I will not have to worry about ants crawling on me all the time or my food, and it will be glorious...until then...well I guess it is protein, right?

Speaking of protein, i got a cat today! What is the association peut etre you wonder? Well...cats are eaten here. hence, i will be leaving my thus far un-named chaton dans ma maison where he can feast his little heart out on lizards and cockroaches, if he wants. I don't want my neighbors to think it is dinner. My brother came home today from the marche with him in this teeny tiny box and he was just sleeping. He was pretty gross and smelled like fish but i gave him a bath, which he did not like... and now he smells a little better and is looking pretty cute. Transporting him in a cardboard box to dogbo for a 3 hour brush taxi ride should be just delightful. He is calico--white, blackish brown and orange and since I just got my wonderully pink Razr phone from the U.S. unlocked for use in Benin I am going to see if I can send a picture text message to someone with him. Officially I have gotten all of my accessories in Benin to be pink too, which-- frankly-- amuses me. It seems like owning a pink solar powered ipod charger is contrary to the idea of a Peace Corps Volunteer, but I have to say...if that is so wrong then I don't want to be right because my iPod Might just be what keeps me sane on some days. Like when I am riding my bike and I just think I will run over the next kid who sings the Yovo song at me, I turn on the iPod and drown it out.

Speaking of being run over (yes, i know, my connectors are wonderful today) I came face to face with the harsh reality of driving in Benin yesterday. It is REALLY dangerous here in cars and on zems which is why we always have to wear a helmet. And they tell us in all of our sessions if we have a serious problem with the possibility of bleeding out on the side of a road while waiting for an ambulance to come for 3 or more hours than Peace Corps Benin is not for might think I am kidding about that...but I am not. We actually HAVE gotten THAT EXACT speech several times here. They want to emphasize that we can't get the same kind of medical attention here nor should we expect it. So I was on a zem yesterday and passed by this really congested area where I saw a dead man on the ground covered in tissue except for his feet--he had just been killed in an accident. I don't know if it was zem or car because it had already really dispersed by the time i passed by but I have to say it definitely shook me a little and prompted me to readjust my helmet. Good thing too, because I definitely fell right off my zem last night. It wasn't even moving so don't worry. My skirt got caught in the back apparatus and i fell right off into the road when i was dismounting, as a million people shouted doucement, as if i didn' t already know to doucement. Doucement, i've discovered is becoming an amusing pet peeve of mine. I love when people spill things on me and say doucement. All i can think're the one spilling this on me...YOU doucement! The first time my little sister did it it was KIND OF cute how she said doucement but now i think it would be cuter if it didn't take me an hour to wash 4 shirts by hand in caustic soap after l'huile rouge (palm nut oil) gets all over it.

So anyway, Grand Popo last week was BEAUTIFUL!!!!! It rained in the morning when we left and we were all upset but by the afternoon when we were there it was a gorgeous afternoon and sunny...we stayed for the day at 'the auberge' on the beach which had the little tiki hut type things to lie out on and hammocks and coconut trees. There were some other yovos around because it is a tourist spot...they were mostly french. And I actually got to have ice cream in the auberge even though it was chère. It was interesting--mint, made with actual mint leaves, and was really refreshing. You can't really swim in the water here because the tides are just too dangerous. When I heard that I thought 'yeah yeah yeah, whatever you say' and then I stood out looking at the water and knew i had no desire to go in past my knees. The waves are incredible. It was just a wonderful and peaceful day...for most of us. We squeezed 60 of us onto 3 tiny buses and one of them broke down just outside of Porto Novo so they got there really late and peut etre it wasn't AS relaxing for them. But it felt really nice to just be at the beach and is still odd to think that it feels like I should be back at school writing papers and les choses comme ça that habitually elevated my blood pressure every september through may.

Today has been weird because my fam is trying to send me out in style, making big meals and having us eat as a family (usually the kids eat in the kitchen and i eat with mama and papa alone), but I don't know why, my mama seems really angry and is yelling a TON at the kids today. It is really awkward to be around and I don't like it because at one point she was beating my brother and I am so unaccustomed to seeing that that i find it really disturbing even if it IS normal here. She smacked him hard in the face repeatedly and one time when I walked by she had his neck in both of her hands and was shaking him violently...i don't even know what he did. That's not to make my maman sound mean...she's not...that's just how disciplining children is here, and in 2 years, I don't know if I will EVER get used to seeing it.

So tomorrow I leave for Dogbo...I am pretty nervous and am completely stepping outside of my comfort zone again. But that's okay because I generally think that the most worthwhile things I have done or found in life have been outside of my comfort zone. I just have to brace myself for it and acknowledge that it is going to be really awkward for a really long time, but alllll the other volunteers are doing it too. And, I can just speak english to my cat...pas de problème, even if my neighbors DO think I am a folle. Plus, there is fanmilk in dogbo, which makes any day a better day for only 150CFA.

I don't know when I can write again here but I will commence with my letter writing to everyone as i get settled. Thanks again for letters and packages and thinking of me!!

PS - got a new phone number 93 26 00 77. Don't forget to type in the country code and calling out of US code that I mentioned in an earlier post. I have 2 phones now so if you call the other number I'll still get it but I am trying to phase it out because I think this company is better at my post, is cheaper for international calls for me, and then I can sell the other phone since I got to unlock the one I brought with me. A tout a l'heure!!!


Uncle BigMike said...

I WIN This time.I beat them all.I will write back after I read your post.

Cat said...

bonne travail uncle mike. i am impressed

Uncle BigMike said...

So you got a cat good for you.I hope you gave it a good name.Well I think you will need to put a bell on your cat so the people in your village won't eat it.We will send you one the next time Loretta sends a package.At time point in time 2:10 pm your aunt is at the local beach soaking up some sun.That is why she is not the first one to post ha ha ha..Well Take care and Me and your Aunt love you stay safe.

Aunt Loretta said...

Hello darling ... I am so glad to hear from you. Congratulations on your swearing in and becoming an official PCV. We are so, so proud of you. So tomorrow is your big day. I will be thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers. I completely understand your fear and concerns, but knowing you, you are going to rise to the occasion ... and then some. Like I told you before you left, family are like the stars. You can't always see them, but you know they are always there. So if there are times that you need comfort or reassurance, know that we are all here for you and we are constantly thinking of you and keeping you in our prayers. Porkchop and Beans send a big "Meow" to their new Beninese cousin and will put a little something in the next care package for him or her (what is it). Also, don't worry ... we'll send you a collar for it, but I'll make sure it DOESN'T have a bell since I don't want your neighbors to think it's a "dinner on paws" (kind of like measl-on-wheels). Hugs and Kisses to you ...... love you all day, Aunt Loretta

Jan Jan said...

I miss you like crazy! Lets just put that out there! Work has been hard and scary lol. Your posts are great and it amazes me what you are seeing and experiencing. Congratulations on being inducted and finishing your training. Please be careful as you travel on these zum zum zum thinggys!!! I want you back in one piece. I have not called your phone yet...but I promise i will (i have to figure it out and get paid first lol) and i got your text!!!! I miss you and love you!!!!


Sam said...

Hi Cat,
Great posts!
The students will be writing to you this week. Please let us know what we can do for community service!

Anonymous said...

Hello Buddy,
AWWW officially a volunteer...oh soooo proud of you. And hey, you got a cat, that's cool. Now all he needs is a good name hehe...probably best if you don't call him snickers or something, people might get the wrong idea. Hope you're doing well, again congrats, sooo proud, and miss ya tons! Cath

Aunt Linda said...

Dear Catherine, Congratulations!! By now you are probably in Dogbo (I need to get the map out again)I loved what you said about stepping out of your comfort zone some of the most worthwhile things you have experienced is because of that, that is what seperates you you from the norm, God Bless you for doing it I'm sure more of us wish we had the courage to do so> Please be safe and we always have you in our thoughts and prayers-until the snail mail-we love you Aunt Linda & my men!

Rob said...

Hey what's up - I think gizmo is hurt that you got a new cat. He'll probably be looking forward to the company though if you can bring scout home when you come back. His cat skills have dulled since his playmates have gone deaf and blind. Having a "street cat" in the house might get his guard back up. He sneaks up on coby while he's sleeping and waps him, and doesn't even have to sneak to get to liefje. Hurricane season has been pretty good here, Looking forward to come good tropical storms. I went down to the beach for Hannah last weekend- huge waves. The METS are looking great and carlos delgado is on a tear. The Yankees are all but mathematically eliminated as well. School's been real busy and I have to start doing my linkage apps soon which is overwhelming. I hope all is well by you. Good luck with the lizards. Send me a picture of your cat! love you- rob