Sunday, November 2, 2008

Good God It's Hot















Picture is of my host family: The first is Maman and Matthieu with me and the other is --Top from left to right Maman, Papa, Matthias, Lawrence, Germaine, and then Marianne and Matthieu in front.


"I took a deep breath and told myself that a woman anywhere on earth can understand another woman on a market day...yet however I might pretend I was their neighbor, they knew better. I was pale and wide-eyed as a fish. A fish in the dust of a market place, trying to swim, while all the other women calmly breathed in that atmosphere of overripe fruit, dried meat, sweat, spices, infusing their lives with powers I feared."

-Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

I came across this passage while reading the other day and thought it pretty adequately described the exasperation I'd been feeling the past few weeks of yovoing, cultural divide, etc. Actually, the poisonwood bible is pretty great--wonderfully written and with so many things I am relating to or feeling so if you have the time I highly recommend reading it. And in case you want to better understand a little how yovo-ing can get really old really fast, i am attaching a link to a youtube video of it that my most wonderful aunt loretta found in August and I kept forgetting to post it earlier.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hCRUJIsN00&feature=related


To the left we have some random pet monkeys in Lobogo and then Me with Matthieu and below is a shot from Grand Popo.
It is hot here. It's so hot that my earrings are sticking to the sweat on my face whenever I move my head too quickly,which is every few seconds, pretty much. The short rainy season is coming to an end with the end of October and the petite chaleur is starting, much to my discomfort and dismay. November is supposed to be obnoxiously hot before Harmattan begins around december. Harmattan is the desert dust winds coming down from the north so we only catch a bit of it in Dogbo, though it is supposed to be the coolest time of year here before the long hot season starts in February...supposedly. But it has been in the 90s here and humid and while I tell myself maybe if I don't move it won't be so bad, i still sweat when I am absolutely still. It is so uncomfortable, especially when I have to boil water for an hour, which is pretty much every other day or cook every night since the stove heats up my kitchen.


Scorpions: So I am up to 16 now and have posted a picture of one of the first live ones I found for your viewing pleasure. What disturbed me about the one today--other than there being a scorpion in my house to begin with--is that I found it for the first time on my floor which totally caught me off guard because they are practically the same color and that can just get dangerous I think. Good thing I always wear shoes. My post mate is going to Cotonou for a few days so I will be dog sitting for her (stay tuned...that should make for an interesting post since he came over today to test the waters and Scout was not at all pleased) so I hope that no scorpions get him...or me. I found the biggest one in my house so far (three inches) the other day and some of the smallest this week. They say the smaller a scorpion is the more dangerous so I can't tell if I'd rather the plethora of small scorpions be a nest of hatchlings or just the more dangerous kind...kind of a coin toss i guess...i seem to lose either way.

Friday was Halloween and I thought it was as good as a lost cause in terms of celebrating here in Benin, but all the volunteers in the Mono Couffo got together in Azove for a regional meeting and then we actually stayed over with the PVCs there to have a part-ay. One volunteer who's dad sends her a package pretty much every week had accumulated so much candy it was ridiculous...there was even candy corn. My body can't handle the processed sugar anymore it feels like though..a few bites and I was ready to keel over as were most of the PCVs. Dennis, resident chef, made us all chili with cornbread and one girl came down from North Benin with a pumpkin which she carved into a Jack-o-lantern. Topped off with a bonfire and an hour-long conversation with patty...the night was quite amazing. (You are awesome for calling to, cath...all I needed was a cup of tea and it was like being at the brew :) )

So last night was a culinary masterpiece...eggplant burgers. Grated eggplant with onions and pepper all mixed and sauteed. Add an egg and throw in some gari (manioc flour) and make into patties to brown in a skillet...i even used my last 2 very chère potatoes to make french fries. I can't believe how delicious it turned out. And its amazingness was magnified by giving me an opportunity to use the itty bitty bottle of heinz ketchup i managed to stumble upon in Cotonou.
















Here are some pictures of chez moi. The lavendar color room is my 'salon.' It is about 18ft long by 14 ft wide...pretty big for a volunteer house considering the ones I've seen around here. I appear to be lucky to have 3 rooms because most I've seen around here only have 2; The 2 back rooms are my 'kitchen' and bedroom and each are half the size of the salon. Before I painted it was cement walls the same color as the floor making it quite difficult to find scorpions.

Yesterday when I got back from Azove I met up with a woman who works in the Mairie (Mayor's office) here. THe training for last year's health volunteers was held in Dogbo and she hosted a PCT for the summer so she is familiar with Peace COrps and so nice to me. She is the president of a women's group in Majdre (and arrondissement of Dogbo) and took me out to see the group and what kind of work they've been doing. I'm hoping to start going to their meetings and working with them. They do a lot of things with manioc and corn and I think perhaps it might be a good place to start moringa cultivation though I will have to wait and spend more time with them first before I can actually tell. Her village is really beautiful too, and the people went crazy when I practiced the little bits of Aja I've picked up so far. It's actually kind of motivating me to practice more but I just find aja so difficult.

On a random note, I think I will open a boite postale in Dogbo for 2009 since I think it might be more efficient than waiting for Peace Corps to handle my packages and mail. I talked to the French couple who live here and they say they've never had a problem getting packages out of the PTT here, and it costs less to get them than what peace corps charges us, so. There is no point paying the 10.000CFA to do it for the last 2 months of this year but I think it will be worthwhile for next year to split it with my post mate. Well that is all for now. I have to head over to pick up the puppy for what is sure to be an interesting 2 days. Bonne chance à moi. à la prochaine!








10 comments:

Aunt Loretta said...

I love the pictures of your pad ... it's wonderful and you've got it looking very "home-like" ... You are an exceptional individual Catherine. Like I mentioned earlier, I've got a great package on it's way to you and another one in the works. Is there anything specific you need? Please let me know and I'll put it in your Birthday/Chirstmas box. Love you to the moon and back ..... talk to you soon.

Aunt Loretta

Catherine said...

Yay, first again! How are you my dear friend? LOVE the pictures, especially the one where it looks almost like a beach scene. Your house looks cute. It looks in some ways similar to your dorm room at Holy Cross, what I mean its decorated for YOU, meaning a lot of CW emanating from that place. Very pleasant to see! I luv how there is a picture of you holding a child, hehe, see they don't bite...The monkey is very interesting, random monkey, hehe. I think its funny about the candy thing. Goodness, what's going to happen when you come back to the states,and you're reunited with good old Snicker bars, hmmm. I'm sure you'll manage :) About calling, it was a pleasure to do so. I'm starting to write again so guess that will be a few weeks. I bet I'll give you a call towards the end of Nov. and def. beginning of Dec, you obviously know why. As for here, tomorrow is election day. I'll be relieved when its over, way too much attention and stress being paid. Oh well, miss you on Halloween, def. when you come home for good 2010 (that sounds sooo weird) we should have some halloween fun hehe. Well, miss you soooooooooo much. Hope all is well and stay safe! TTYL
Cath
P.S If you ever need some books or articles about post colonialism or ethnic studies, I have oodles from my class. All yours if you wish hehe!

P.P.S What are the chances you could bring home one of those monkeys? Hehe just kidding...

Uncle BigMike said...

Hello kid it looks like you got some nice pictures there.Your new head lamp will go out in the next mailing take care and be safe.Uncle Mike P.S.Looks like I'm first this time......LOL

Uncle BigMike said...

It looks like the joke is on me.I wrote a post and posted it and it did not show up.Then I called Loretta and she told me she posted early in the morning and hers did not show up.The message that was on the screen said that the owner of the blog has to approve the post,must be something new.

maman et papa said...

Hello Catherine!
Your home is beautiful and what you did with it is so typically you! All the furniture seems to fit nicely as well as the shelves. Wonder why you don’t have a net over that since your little friends could easily hide between the pots and containers you have there and surprise you!

Your family looks very nice and I can see how the little one could be a handful. Was the picture taken in front of their house or a church (statue in the window)? The area seems very nice and stylish. Are most houses built with bricks or this is atypical.

I have a feeling that when you come home, you will have to do some cooking for us so we get a true taste of your specialties. They sound really good so be prepared!

Keep up the good work and talk to you soon.

Love you!

maman et papa said...

Hello Catherine!
Your home is beautiful and what you did with it is so typically you! All the furniture seems to fit nicely as well as the shelves. Wonder why you don’t have a net over that since your little friends could easily hide between the pots and containers you have there and surprise you!

Your family looks very nice and I can see how the little one could be a handful. Was the picture taken in front of their house or a church (Statue in the window)? The area seems very nice and stylish. Are most houses built with bricks or this is atypical.

I have a feeling that when you come home, you will have to do some cooking for us so we get a true taste of your specialties. They sound really good so be prepared!

Keep up the good work and talk to you soon.

Love you!

Aunt Nancy said...

Hello Babe, This is coming froµ GRANDMA AND GRANDPA--WE JUST VIEWED YOUR LATEST BLOG. ILOVE YOUR LITTLE PAD. Aunt Nancy just took off the caps. The typing leaves much to be desired. I am thrilled that you look so good (and happy). I was worried about your dental cae but I can see you are taking care of them.. We all miss you and everyone is happy when you post a new message and pictures. We will be caling you tomorrow (election day) and it will make it easier to visualize you in your surroundings. I'll say goodbye for now. Don't get too comfortable there -- we want you home. Much love from G and G xxxx

Uncle BigMike said...

Just a test post want to see if it gets posted

Cathryn said...

OOo wow, your house is so super cute! How long did it take you to paint all of your house?
Nice to finally see some pictures of you too. I havenºt had any clothes made but have been thinking about it, i think it is significantly cheaper than buying them here. itºs crazy how expensive clothes are here. i guess thatºs what you get for living on an island where everything is imported.
Yes, we do need to start planning our vacation some time soon. I donºt neccessarily have anyt place in mind, but was thinking somewhere in west africa, like guinea-biseu, mali, i dunno. iºd be down for guana, obv. after elections there.
Nothin too much is going on with me. Halloween was good, we went out to a club, I will try to write a blog about it tonight.
Enjoy the heat. we supposibly get that wind from the saharra too in december, which will be nice, except makes it difficult to wear skirts.. but it also suppsibly comes with tons of dust... which stinks for the eyes! Ooo well. I will talk to you again soon!

Jan Jan said...

wauters how cool is your home!!!! you seemed to have made it a comfy place to live.

that scorpion is so scary....i have a little boy in my class who writes about destroying scorpions in his video games! lol

:) miss you xoxox