I decided the other week that my life here is decidedly plain...which is just to say that despite how exotic it might sound in my blog, and despite the scorpions, and voodoo, I still have to wake up every morning, go to work, figure out what I am going to eat for the day, and deal with all the normal everyday stuff like laundry (admittedly a more difficult process here) and cleaning. Maybe it's just because I am used to the livestock roaming around and the kids on the street in their underwear, but I couldn't help but think that life here isn't so very different from home. And then I was sitting with my work partner who was so excited that Obama won, that he told me he was going to come to the US, to New York to visit me when I left. He told me he'd get off the plane and ask for Catherine and that would be that. I looked at him trying to gauge whether or not he was being entirely serious and sad laughingly that he'd have to be more specific because there were a lot of Catherine's in NY. He then said, alright, he'd ask for catherine, daughter of --insert my parent's names-- (actually that's a lie...he meant daughter of my father--sorry mom-because its still patriarchal enough here to ask that way), who had lived in Benin. I looked at him blankly for a minute again thinking, yeahhhhhhhh...still going to need to be more specific, and told him as much. "Ah!! Bonne?" he asked with delighted surprise. And then I realized that I had been wrong. Life here in so many ways could not be any more different from home. I was going to say something to him and then I thought...how could I even BEGIN to describe a place like New York City? Our airport shops likely have more commodities available than the capital city of Benin. How could I possibly explain the vastness and, for the large part, absolute frivolousness of our supermarkets? How could I say that people will pay 5 dollars for a cup of coffee at starbucks when that translates to over 2,500CFA and an entire pineapple costs 75CFA? At that moment life here couldn't have felt any more different.
Pictures: First you have Filomene and Basil, the kids who help me around my house with different things and bring me water. In photos the Beninese do not smile. And a lot of the time they don't look at the camera either so they aren't unhappy or anything...that's just the way it is. Next you have me pouring the water I've been carrying on my head into my container in my house. I know the picture isn't great but having a Beninese person take your picture is like asking my mom to...you never know what you're going to get (Love you, mom!).
Dad, you'll be happy to know that I went to mass on Sunday. Perhaps you'll be less thrilled to learn that I opted for going to a Voodoo mass with my friend Filo, rather than the Catholic mass. But don't worry, I am not converting. It was actually really interesting to see. THe mass is usually in Aja though they translated some of it into french specially for me and my post mate which was made pretty clear as they stared at us yovos in our boombas during the french parts. Basically they told a story of an evil sorceror, and that voodoo protects you. One woman fell into a stupor that I could only liken to what you would think of at big chruch revivals... It was like she was possessed--so they took her away. The role of the Kola nut was also intriguing. You go up to receive some smooshed Kola paste on your forehead, and then you get another white substance (don't know what it is) drawn on your cheek. THey are meant to purify your skin. They also hand out Kola nuts to everyone (kind of like communion). You take it with your left hand and hold onto it until they tell you, then you kneel down (dirt floors, an you have to remove your shoes as a sign of respect too), and whisper your hopes and wishes to the kola nut. It was a really interesting moment and hearing this very low murmer from everyones' prayers during the mass was strangely symphonic. There is an altar for the Kola nuts, and they collect everyone's Kola nuts after the prayer and bring it to the altar.