Friday, January 16, 2009

Do you Voodoo?

So January 10th was National Voodoo Day in Benin...a final culmination in the triumverate of Beninese fetes (Christmas, New Years, Voodoo Day). I am glad that Voodoo Day is over and done simply because for the week leading up to it, Dogbo was going crazy. We have a pretty large Vodoun population here, and every evening for the week before they were gathering for ceremonies of considerable volume conveniently located right near chez moi. Sleeping was nearly impossible, and it reminded me a little of all through the night fete-ing that goes on for Beninese funerals.
But Voodoo Day itself was actually pretty cool to see and I am glad I got to fete. I was bouncing around and not too sure of what exactly I wanted to do (local thing, or go to Ouidah for the big national fetes there). Ouidah got too complicated in the end to throw together at the last minute because we would probably not have been able to get back to post the same night and didn't have a place to crash close by. SO instead I went to Lokossa--conveniently only a half hour away--for the regional fete there with 2 other volunteers and the Beninese friends of one of the volunteers. The fete was huge and I have to like that are pretty much the only time it is fun to be white in Benin. We were the only white people in attendence so everyone was really excited to have us there (most tourists go to Ouidah) and our Carte Blanche got us pulled up to sit next to the King and Mayor of Lokossa, and the President of all the Vodoun for the Mono-Couffo regions in Benin to see the unveiling of the zembetto.
Picture: One of the zembettos
The zembetto is this dancing hay-stack like object. There are some sects of Vodoun that don't have it at all but generally it represents the specific vodoun deity that that sect worships. Ok--so there are definitely people walking around under this little zembetto costume, I am sure...but the official word is "there is no one under the is moving all on its own because it is the deity moving it." Goodness, where's your faith? In some sects of vodoun the zembetto is dangerous for women, and not so much for others. THere is so much variety in Voodoo, and it also depends how out in village you are. If you are really out in the bush, a lot of the time women just have to stay in the house, lock the doors, and sometimes shut the lights so that the zembetto does not know you are there or it is baaaaaad news. It's not really a problem by me in Dogbo at all, but my friend has to stay indoors at her post whenever the zembetto is out. SO anyways, we're all pretty convinced that there are people under this haystack so I was pretty excited to hear that they were going to be lifting up the zembettos so we could see at Lokossa. We were standing in the back of the crowd trying to get a look--3 zembettos were lined up to be lifted--and that is when some people noticed that these strange yovos wearing Beninese tissue (clothing) couldn't see what was happening, and they immediately grabbed us and brought us up front to sit with the king, etc.

Pictures: PCVs with the King, Mayor, and President for the VOdoun; Voodoo Day Security--Because you know that when the supernaturaly forces go all willy-nilly, guns are the way to go.
I don't know HOW they did it...Never ask a magician to reveal his tricks, right? but when they lifted up the zembettos...the first one had 2 guinea pig like things that crawled out and the second one, had this massive pink blob underneath, and the third had this thumping phallus (I don't get it...but I'm sure it had to have some kind of significance...talking about Voodoo can be a delicate subject. Taking pics is also interesting--sometimes okay and sometimes not, so we gave our camera to the beninese some times to take pictures for us). No people. I don't entirely buy it (i hope that doesn't bring bad gris gris upon me). I got some great videos of the zembettos but haven't been able to post them for some reason...maybe that's just Beninese Internet cafés for you.
Picture: Unveiling of the pink blob zembetto
So after the unveiling--or the lifting of the skirts, if you will--of the zembettos, every group of Vodoun came before the King and gave a little performance of either dancing, singing, la deux ensemble, or zembetto antics etc. There had to have been about 10 different sects that came out, each with their own sign, traditional outfits, and dances, etc. It was completely awesome to see. The place publique of of Lokossa was filled to bursting with people.

Pictures: 2 of the performances for Voodoo Day. You might notice the woman front and center in the second picture is wrapped in an old "Rugrats" bedsheet...yup...that is Tommy, there. I thought it was pretty awesome.
Afterward, the grand public fete ended and everyone went home for their own fetes, etc. Thomas, one of the friends of the Volunteers with us from Lokossa, brought us to the house of a friend so we could fete with them for awhile. By the time we slowly sauntered over like the bunch of yovos who can't take equatorial Beninese midday sun that we were, the hoopla was already well underway, with dancing, music, etc. We were brought into the house of the Vodoun man there, and offered Sodabe (local alcohol that tastes remarkably like rubbing alcohol and im sure can not be safe for consumption) and beans with oil. I went out into the bush to use the bathroom (no latrines there) and ran into my first snake since coming to Benin, which freaked me out. But in general the time there was really interesting, and I was grateful to get a small scale view of a local celebration for Voodoo day. THis group was VERY excited to have us take pictures and the one man wanted us to take them with him in it all the was kind of cute. We got in on some dancing with them, had oil and baby-powder thrown on us (i have no diea why) was all very bien integré.

Pictures: Celebrating in village. FIrst is a woman being possessed by a vodoun and the others are dancing and music. YOu can see Mami Watta paited on the wall in the background. It is a Voodoo myth (looks like a mermaid).
I went out yesterday with the Peace Corps facilitator who lives nearby to meet up with a new women's group in Amahoue, nearby. The meeting went great and there were only 10 women so I'll most likely remember all of their names, and we set up a time next thursday to go back and do some moringa work. Unfortunately I am currently at the cyber because my homologue stood me up on the one day he reserved to work with me this week. I went to the NGO at the time we agreed to meet and he wasn't there and I tried calling him but he never picked up. SO i sat--and since i never leave my house in Benin without a book--it was fine and I just read but after an hour I was annoyed so I sent him a txt (txting is main communication tool here since phone calls are so expensive) telling him that I had waited for him for over an hour and he can call me when he really wants to work. I'm just sick of his antics and have firmly decided that I will have none of it anymore. So I guess we'll see what happens.
But anyway, yesterday, like i said, was really great. After meeting up with the women's group I came back to Dogbo même with the facilitator and worked on French for 2 hours. It wasn't so much an outright tutoring session as it was just a conversation from which he would analyze my many weaknesses in speaking (ie--the past conditional and the ever damning subjunctive...ugh). So he asked me my major and when it came out I had done poli sci we got into a really great discussion about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, Israel/PAlestine, Hamas, Hezbollah, our previous support of the muhajideen during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, etc. It felt great to talk to someone about those things in general (and learn how to say bomb, suicide bomber, world power, etc. in French). It was especially nice to have this conversation with a Beninese since prior to that, the only political savvy I could glean from the Beninese population around election time was that Barak Obama was black, young, and democrat (all admirable qualities) and that John McCain was white, old, and republican (all apparently damning qualities, which always interested me since the culture here has great respect for elders and since President BUsh, who is also Republican, was the only president in U.S. history to ever take the time to come and visit Benin, as well as his pumping considerably large sums of money into Africa compared to any other president in recent memory for AIDS/HIV relief through PEPFAR--albeit with a perhaps unrealistic over-emphasis on abstince education instead of condoms, etc-- and the high number of mosquito nets provided to Benin through the President's MAlaria Initiative).
But anyway, so it was really amazing to just talk about something meaningful and beyond the basic line-up of formal greetings in Benin with a Beninese person. This man, who I'm not going to name for his own privacy, was actually a Beninese political activist during Benin's communist era . In 1986 he was imprisoned for his activities and remained in prison for 2 years--pretty good, considering that all of his friends were in for about 5 or longer. He had already been working with Peace Corps at the time and 2 volunteers, a couple in Klikamé (nearby village) were so disgusted with his imprisonment that they ETed (early terminated--ended their service) and petitioned Amnesty International when they were back home on his behalf. Benin kept popping him around to different prisons--ie, if they said he was in Cotonou in prison they would move him to Parakou so when Amnesty came to look for him there there was no one by that name...but eventually it worked and he got out. So he is really interested in politics too and liked learning about some of the things he only had vague ideas about as much as I liked hearing his own story. My high following the conversation was deflated minorly by the assigning of exercises for the subjunctive, but all in all, it was a great afternoon.
Afterwards I headed out to the hardware boutique where everyone kind of loves me because I spend a lot of money there but also thinks i'm kind of crazy because I'm this weird yovo woman buying all this stuff to do work on a house when any self respecting person would hire a professional. SO yesterday I was out for metal screening since scout, my cat with apparent chimpanzee lineage, has ripped to shreds my non-metal screening when she climbs up to the top of my back door every day (she can also climb my cement wall out back about half way). TO be entirely honest, it might just be worth it for me to pay someone to come and do the things that I end up doing myself around my house because it takes me awhile to get it done. Last night putting up the screen took me well over an hour on account of me having to stop and put bandaids on my fingers every few minutes as I cut them up, one after another, on the rough edges. Plus my neighbors always run over to look in my front door whenever I whip out the hammer and start making a lot of noise in the house. Between that, my one-sided conversations with Scout and BBCnewscasters, I'd really love to know what they think about me. Of course I hear them next door singing the yovo song quietly to themselves sometimes so we've all got our issues. BUt I think, at the end of the day, I like doing those kinds of things myself because when it is done, it is a pretty good feeling of accomplishment to know that i did that work myself and I feel like i'm being given the opportunity to learn a lot about myself. I never thought I would use a leatherman as much as I have in the past 6 months in my entire life.
Picture: Scout playing with her mouse in her diva coller.
Speaking of Scout, she is looking pretty jazzy in the little diva collar A. Loretta and U. Mike have sent over her way. It has been quite the point of cross cultural exchange with Basil and Filomene when they come over. While they both think it is pretty amazing with all of its fake little diamonds, they don't really get it, since even dogs here don't wear the most basic of collars and cats are more often dinner than pets (Basil was also pretty enamored by my mechanical pencil that Cathy sent me and I can't wait to go home and load up on some stuff that he would just love for when I get back as a souvenir/thank you for watching Scout). But I had the vet come over the other day to give her her rabies shot and i felt sooooo terrible. The vet here comes to the house since he doesn't really have an office (It's not like you're going to take your cow to the Dr. though you can actually strap a goat onto the back of a moto--they scream like children being is terrible to hear). We chatted for a few and I told him I had worked in a vets office for a few years and he was really excited because I could help hold the cat. I had told him that back home, we generally prefer working with dogs because they are usually a lot less finicky with shots and medication and I was surprised to learn that it was the exact opposite here. Beninese people most of the time strongly dislike dogs and do NOT trust them. They aren't bred for temperment and they get hit a lot, or kicked, or rocks thrown at them so they generally aren't too nice (i've had a few follow me around out in village and nip my heel). My post mate's neighbor HATES her puppy (who is actually really nice since we have a different approach to raising them) and thinks even if he seems nice that sorcerers can use the dog to attack her by sending evil spirits into it soooo....yeah. But I was surprised to learn that even the vet felt such a distrust for dogs, and Scout was still pretty squirmy. Turns out they poke the needle in the side by the ribcage here instead of by the extra skin you can bunch up at the neck or haunches, which seemed unsavvy to me, and i will DEFINITELY be bringing back a small syringe for her for next year, because I felt so terrible. What he used HAD to have been for farm animals the tip was so big and she was howling. It took forever, and a lot of forceful jabbing for that needle to pierce her skin. ugh...not fun to hold her, anyways, but at least it is done for this year. So, yeah..that is all the news that's fit to print for now. I'll be back soon. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Resolutions and Changes pour la Nouvelle Année

Resolution 1: Actually remember to put on sunscreen when leaving the house on a regular basis

Resolution 2: Do not catch amoebas or any other gastrointestinal distress-inducing parasites (*note—this may be too late. I guess we’ll see when my MIF kit comes back, but if I ingested them in 2008 I am not counting their unpleasant manifestation against this year)

Resolution 3: Be more patient in waiting for mango season to come

Resolution 4: Limit fanmilk consumption to 2 per week (if possible)

But seriously, I’ve been taking the start of the new year to try to redefine my role with my ONG (NGO in French). So for the first 3 months at post, we weren’t really supposed to be ‘working’ per se. We were supposed to be focusing on community integration which would theoretically facilitate our work here in the long term. No use jumping in blind in our new communities when we didn’t have the trust and respect of community members (not that I am entirely convinced that 3 months of twiddling around here accomplishes that either, or that at the end of the two years I will have even achieved that seeing as how I am still called yovo by a majority of the community that does not live on my street. I’m pretty sure that even if I lived here for years and years, I would always be seen as an outsider). So instead of turning in our quarterly report for the first 3 months, Peace Corps had us do an ‘etude de milieu’—community study—in which we went around our villages and towns and found out all different information on the social, religious, and political (local and traditional leaders, etc.) norms, as well as info on the schools in our communities, water and electricity situations, medical facilities, etc.

I wouldn’t exactly say that I did no work since coming to Dogbo, since I tend to be a chronic overachiever and have severe problems with not working (most volunteers are the same and also have started going out and doing activities, though not big projects within their neighbourhoods as well). But my work in the first 3 months was not really so much with my host country partner organization. I’m fortunate enough that one of the Peace Corps facilitators who worked in training health volunteers during summer training lives a half an hour away from me in Lokossa and I have been able to go out and do a lot of activities with him. It has been great because he actually understands volunteers and what our role in our communities is supposed to be (NOT a source of money, but rather a technical asset), and how hard it is operating under the conditions we are in. It is with him that I have gone out and done my sensibilizations on moringa and making soy cheese in Kpodaha and talked to the girls at the school in Hoedogli, or visiting the orphanage in Lokossa, etc. He translates for me between French and Aja with the women who can’t speak French and actually has convinced them to call me ‘Caterine’ (the “th” sound apparently does not exist here) instead of yovo. All in all, going out to villages with him is largely what kept me sane in my first 3 months. I think we might even start up French tutoring together, because while I can function perfectly fine in French here now, I definitely am not fluent and would like to take advantage of Peace Corps willingness to pay for a tutor for your first year of service.

But in the meantime, the time I spent with my ONG the first three months I found utterly stressful and kind of morale-killing. All volunteers in Benin (I think what has surprised me most about Peace Corps is how radically different it is run from country to country) are partnered with a ‘homologue’ or ‘work partner’ who is a host country national of your community (and normally, in the case of health volunteers, who works with your ONG or health center). Their role is supposed to be collaborative and supportive of your work in your community. Since they are already supposed to have contacts within the community they are supposed to be able to help you get going with your work, arrange meetings and activities, help with translation when necessary, etc. My homologue, for the first three months anyway (hopefully it will change now), has pretty much only made me want to tear my hair out (which is bad, since weekly Larium medication for malaria in addition to its penchant for inducing psychotic effects and dreams actually makes my hair fall out in considerable quantity already).

I found that he usually just toted me around with him to villages to see what he was already doing kind of as his token yovo. I don’t think he respects me fully as a volunteer or as a woman (just a vibe I get from little things he says like I should do this or that with the secretary for the ONG since she is a woman too). He never let me talk when we went out to village because I don’t really speak Aja beyond the greetings. Also, he calls me yovo to people all of the time even though I have told him countless times to refer to me as madame (mademoiselle, which he has also been known to refer to me as in a room full of men, is just an invitation to unwanted male attention and marriage proposals…Hence, the wedding band I wear here) and scold him publicly when he does call me yovo now. And as much as I thought ‘maybe it is just me’ for awhile, ALL of the other volunteers thought he was equally obnoxious and arrogant at our December IST in Porto Novo, and the Dutch woman in Dogbo who works with my ONG and also dislikes my homologue had me over for dinner one night and started off conversation with ‘How do you stand the way he treats you like a child?’. My job, pretty much, when I was with him was to tape up the posters he brought on the walls. He also just seems to think that he knows EVERYTHING under the sun and has NOTHING to learn from ANYbody, in which case I couldn’t help but wonder, what is the point of our partnering together if we are supposed to be learning from each other. But then again, I think that goes back to the me being much younger and female issue.

I’m truly ashamed to admit that sometimes when he really frustrated me in the first three months, I just wanted to shout at him “I don’t care if I am younger than you, or if I am a woman! I am so much smarter than you!!! You can shut me down all you want, but at the end of 2 years I am going home and will achieve something more than you can even begin to imagine, and you will still be here forever, doing this exact same damn thing!!” I never did. When it got that bad I would walk away from the moment and try to file the situation under the cultural adjustment folder. And please, don’t feel the need to point out how terrible that sounds because I am perfectly well aware of just how terrible it is. I actually went home that one night crying because I was so angry and frustrated, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I really thought that, then why am I here at all? What the hell am I doing? I had a similar problem the day that I did the HIV AIDS talks at the school here. The students were SO unbelievably disrespectful to me and their peers that I wanted to just leave. Fine, I thought; Get AIDS—If you don’t want to listen, I certainly can’t make you, and I am at my wits end. Please, again, don’t say anything. I know it sounds like I am a terrible person but I truly believe it is impossible to understand if you have not been in the situation to feel how overwhelmingly discouraged you can get. I never knew it was possible for me to feel so frustrated and useless at any given moment.

I actually stopped the talk to tell the students that we (I had worked with a group of kids from the school to do the presentations) came there for them and that this was all for them; that if they didn’t care about their own health we would leave. I told them that AIDS in Benin is the worst in the Mono –Couffo regions, and there is no cure—if they get it, they will die…it’s really just a matter of time. Contrary to popular belief, sleeping with a virgin won’t cure it. Maybe it wasn’t the wisest approach but I didn’t know what else to do. Brutal truth, I thought in a last ditch effort, might hit the point home. It didn’t. Finally the group of students I was working with and I did actually walk out of one of the classrooms and the saving grace for the day was the one boy who ran up to me afterwards asking if I could give him some information to read on HIV since he couldn’t hear anything in the classroom and he wanted to know more. Good, I thought. We got to one. And it might only be one, but on any given day in Benin, it is that one person that keeps me here because even one is worth it. That’s pretty hard to see and to realize and it takes my blood boiling over and me calming myself down considerably enough to objectively understand the situation from the cultural context in order to try to stay sane here. And I remember in those moments that that is why I am here. Because at the end of the day I do believe that we can work from the ground up to change, even though I am prepared to admit that I will likely never see the change that I want to see within my lifetime. That doesn’t mean I can’t do my part to help.

But anyway, back to my homologue. So I didn’t cross the Atlantic and settle down in Benin to become a little yovo assistant. I think part of the problem is that my ONG already works with some Dutch people, and the role of a PCV is so radically different from any other western development work. I get the vibe that even though they requested a volunteer, my ONG doesn’t really know what to do with me. The role of the yovos working with the ONG now is to find financing for their projects and then help in the management of projects. So they don’t ever really go out and DO stuff in the field with the animateurs of the ONG, like I am supposed to. And I am not here at all to locate funding for the ONG. I guess something I am struggling with myself is my point in being here. Benin is different from a lot of other peace corps countries (but certainly not all) in that there is so much local language. We are taught French because that is the national language and because it is impossible to learn over 50 local languages, but in the smaller villages where this is the first generation of kids going to school and learning French, and especially up north where there is very little French spoken, PCVs have to operate through the homologue as translator system, and my homologue does not seem interested in bothering with this at all. I’m pretty sure he sees what I sometimes can’t help but think—that I have no credibility or legitimacy for lack of a better word, going out to villages and working in French when people don’t understand. Another side note. Part of what is also difficult is that I am a Rural community health volunteer but am not posted in an itty bitty rural village, so it is a challenge to mold my type of work to my community and a lot of my work with my ONG is out in the smaller villages in the grander commune of Dogbo where I am not a direct community member. Yet as much as I see this as a barrier when I am with him that can’t be all true because when I work with the Peace Corps facilitator, it really isn’t a problem at all. I think we just have a misunderstanding of my function here and the support a homologue is supposed to give a volunteer.

That is why today, I arranged a meeting with him to sit down and talk about how we are going to proceed now for 2009. I thought being assertive might be a good approach to commanding some respect from him so I told him I didn’t leave all of my family and friends in the US to come here and do nothing when I go out to villages with him; that from now on he would not be toting me around with him to just sit there stupidly. We would schedule different activities and plan them together, and then execute them together. I am not coming to my ONG every day anymore (no volunteer is supposed to do that but he seemed to think I should be there 9-5 M-F) because I have other work partners (women’s groups, student groups, the other Peace Corps employee etc) that I have work with too so it is necessary to plan in advance what he wants to work on. He has his work, I have mine, and then we have some things we can do together. It would be foolish and naïve of me to think that I have nothing to learn from him, just as it is equally foolish for him to think he has nothing to learn from me since apparently he didn’t even know women should technically keep breast-feeding after 6 months or how to conduct a baby-weighing. This is his country, his community, and he is bien integré here already. He understands the cultural norms and nuances that can trip me up. That is why PCVs and homologues work together…ideally. Most situations, I have heard however, are less than ideal. Before totally brushing off my ONG and doing my own thing here in terms of work here though, I am determined to take action and do what I can to redefine my role here and try my hardest to make it work. He seemed receptive in our conversation today (we arranged a meeting this Monday with the head of the Dogbo health center to see if we can use a scale to go out and do baby weighings and we are going to meet up next week to make a schedule for what villages we are going to go out and see, etc, even though he still doesn’t want to let me do sensibilizations in places where there is no French because he doesn’t want to translate), but I don’t know if he was just placating me. So I will give it a chance to see how work seems to develop over the next few weeks and if it does not seem to improve at all, I will distance myself from my ONG and continue searching out more partners for work independently. In other PC countries, the role of the homologue is not emphasized NEARLY as much as it is in PC Benin rhetoric (maybe it is because in PC Benin, the host country agency pays for volunteer housing, but I don’t really know why), so I don’t think that is the end of the world.

Anyway, that has been a struggle for me here and hopefully it will change now with 2009! On va voir, as they say in French. Wish me luck. On a random note, yesterday in cotonou, it turned out that repose there actually goes until 4:00 which in my mind is truly obnoxious…we’re talking like a 5-6 hour work day, people—how much nappage do you need? Especially when it is in air conditioning. At least out in village, I understand not wanting to be out in the hottest part of the day, but come on. Something that made me really really happy was finding a bottle of balsamic vinegar AND the olive oil that my mom uses at home--Philip Berrio. Sounds stupid, maybe, but definitely is nice to have some things like that that are familiar, even if it was wicked expensive. They say you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry. Well PCVs probably shouldn’t be let into the supermarchés in Cotonou with more than 10.000CFA, because it is just dangerous to see so many tasty and familiar snacks that one cannot really afford (and does not REALLLLY need).

I ran into these two PCVs from Gambia at etoile rouge (throwback to Benin’s days of communism) in cotonou when I was getting a taxi home and they were on vacation on their way to Grand Popo, asking me for some info. It’s a small PCV West African World. They are heading to the voodoo fete in Ouidah on Saturday, so I might go meet up with them. Part of me doesn’t want to spend the money to leave post again and then part of me can’t help but think I am only in Benin for 2 voodoo days in my entire life (probably), I should just go and see what it is about, so I guess I shall see. Alright, this is ridiculously long now, so I shall leave for now but will post again soon!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Just Touching Base

Happy New Year everyone and Meilleurs voeux pour la nouvelle anee (figures I am on an American keyboard and can't find the accents). Also, if i putz up typing it is because of the American keyboard too so my apologies in advance.

I am in Cotonou today for a little break from post and to do some business at Headquarters and the med unit. Nothing too exciting has been going on because the weeks of 'the fete' no one worked and everyone partied it up all the time. Hopefully the ball will get rolling again because I tend to go stir crazy. I have a meeting with my homologue tomorrow to start planning out some work so I am looking forward to that.

I had just gotten back to post for New Years and did not feel particularly compelled to hop back in a brush taxi and travel so it was a pretty boring affair, and then the next day I ended up getting sick so it was probably better that I was at home anyway. So I pretty much spent the weekend in bed and then it was starting to hit me how much I was in Yovo withdrawal after my month of constant contact in December, coupled with my missing home for the holidays, so I decided to come to Cotonou to do some stuff that had to be done anyway (ie-clear out my locker since the headquarters office is moving from the Cotonou red light district to the jazzy too-expensive-for-volunteers expat district in a few days) and spend the night in Porto Novo with a friend there. Hanging out was great but I'm pretty sure that it might make it worse if I do it again soon so I am forcing myself to stay at post for the next few weeks and just get used to being alone again. I did get to see my host family for a few before heading out this morning which was great, especially Marianne and Matthieu who had just gotten back from school for lunch and freaked out when they saw me.

So now I am just waiting for repose (the hours between 12 and 3 when life in benin--or at least all of the supermarches in cotonou shuts down) to end so that I can pick up some stuff that I can't get back at post, and then head off to Dogbo so I can hopefully make it back before dark. I won't be back down here I don't think until February.

Saturday is National Voodoo Day, and I am pretty curious to see how that manifests itself. Part of me wants to head down to Ouidah for the day since that is like the Vodun capital of Benin, but my area has a lot of voodoo as well adn I've heard it is sometimes better to stick to the smaller villages because Ouidah can get to touristy. I guess I have a very few days to plan...we'll see. Either way I'll be back soon for a longer update. Hope all is well stateside.