Still slightly bitter about my experience last year, I decided to fete it up this time around for Le Premier Aout to make up for it.
Several friends of mine were heading down here yesterday for the celebration and I decided to meet up with them so I taxied over this morning. Being a Beninese occasion, the fete involved much standing around waiting for things to happen. But when they did, it was interesting to see. The government had been putting in a lot of work to get ready for the past year so it was really cool to see the final culmination of their efforts, especially since I pass through Lokossa each time I go to
Today tons of flags were flying all over Lokossa and there was an extreme military presence (unfortunately the uniform doesn’t deter some tenacious gents and I had to walk in front of a line of soldiers and listen to “tu es jolie, non?” to which I now flatly reply, “oui, je sais.” –“you are pretty, eh?/ yes, I know”). It was pretty amazing to me to see such a sense of national pride, actually. Everyone that I came across in Dogbo and Lokossa were really excited that the fete was here. My maman in Porto Novo called me to wish me a bonne fete (She is excited because next year for the country’s 50th anniversary the national fete will be in Porto Novo meme) and was telling me that this was the 49th anniversary. She asked me what year we had just celebrated in the states and I had to pause and admit that I didn’t even know off the top of my head. I’d be willing to wager that most Americans don’t. So I guess I was really pleasantly surprised. It was fun to feel the charged excitement of all the Beninese in the air.
Pictures: The car with President Boni Yayi (he's the one all the way to the right, waving; battalion of women
There was a parade that included all branches of the Beninese military (very impressive to see them all in their uniforms and I was surprised to see several large battalions of women as well). The highlight of the parade was definitely when a truck came by containing a standing President Dr. Boni Yayi waving to the clapping crowds (he looked a lot younger that I thought he would from pictures—granted—mostly pictures printed on Tissu here that people wear for political events). I guess coming from an experience where I have seen the measures used to protect our President it was surprising and interesting to see the Beninese President just sashay out in public like that. I mean, I suppose he was technically surrounded by the military, but still. The women across from me were holding wooden guns…doesn’t exactly inspire fear.
After he passed, our little yovo contingent turned back toward the park where there were 2 helicopters making a show of turning on and off. It seemed like most Beninese people were pretty enthralled with the display. Personally I was just happy to see that they existed because I had thought that I saw them a few days back and thought maybe I was losing it It’s not like you see planes and helicopters ever here unlike at home where my house is under a flight path. That was actually something to get used to again. When I got back to
There was a lot of music and dancing, and a voodoo day like display of national themed zangbetto dancing. Once again a lifting of the zangbetto revealed nothing underneath and we are still speculating how they pull it off each time to do that. It is maddening! Afterwards we went out for delicious igame pilee with sauce d’arachide and “fromage”—that is pounded igame with peanut sauce and wagasi (igame is kind of like a potato—this bland root that is the staple of Northern cuisine in
Oh, I almost forgot. Today marks the first time since July 5th that I rode on a moto. I wouldn’t really call it a great first ride since the streets in lokossa were crazy during the fete but I live to tell the tale for today. I decided to ride the high (huh, pun not intended) and took a zem back from my
Wound status. Apparently wicked moto burns and post accidental cuts all over my feet are nothing. It is apparently a blister and a mosquito bite that are currently threatening to take me out. Frankly, I’m getting tired of having to walk like a putz. I had this bite on my lower leg that I scratched and it is now quite infected. I woke up this morning and it was throbbing, oozing pus, and flies kept landing on it at the fete—that can’t be good. Then I had these monster blisters…and when I say monster I mean HUGE…like take a ping pong ball, cut it in half, and stick each on the back of my ankles (it was from going out for a walk in my sneakers for the first time since being back here). Unfortunately, one of them popped and was looking red and oozing quite a bit. And then there is my toenail, a continued malodorous and oozing source of pain that also attracts flies like meat in my