Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm the Worst Blogger Ever!

I can't believe I have not written since July! I don't really have much to say, life is normal....

I was just thinking about my arrival back in July 2010. When I got here I took an excessive number of pictures...of lizards and motorcycles. There are many of the two here and it was new, exciting and different.

A lot of volunteers talk about 'going back to post' or 'how long they've been at post....for me, 'post' has always been home. I love my life here, and have felt welcome since day 1, even with my weird, foreign habits and my inability to speak French, everyone accepted me and made me feel at home, for that, I will be eternally grateful.

PS: I'm trying to think of something interesting to write about.

PSS: I should admit, at first I wrote 'internally grateful' English has suffered, but I speak excellent French!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Soo Cold

It has been FREEZING in Africa! I kind of love it though. I love that I shiver myself to sleep every night because I know when February/March comes around I will try crying myself to sleep and FAIL because it will be sooooo hot. I keep a sweater with me at all times because it's often cold enough for one during the day and ALWAYS cold enough around 8 when it's dark.

There will be a very short flash of hot season in late September, early October, but then it will be the COOL DRY season from November-February (LOVE). Right now it's the cool rainy and it feels WAY cooler than last year, but I don't have humidity in my village and it's really windy. Last year during the cool rainy season I was living in the South in Porto Novo with my host family. It was really humid and horrible.

So that's it, it's cold in Africa. You can visit me and survive!

PS: I never tried crying myself to sleep during the hot season...that's a little dramatic, it was more like, sweating myself to sleep, yearning for a Spokane winter and praying for electricty to arrive before the next hot season (won't happen).

PSS: The photo is of me preparing to dig out my car from the mountain of snow that was dumped on us in Spokane, winter 2009/2010.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I never went to overnight camp when I was a kid, but for Americans, I know ‘camp’ isn’t an educational thing. It’s about fun, swimming, games, new friends: a great vacation for the kids and their parents! Here, camp is a little bit different. Peace Corps Volunteers do ‘camps’ during the vacance (summer vacation). We do sessions on sexual health, nutrition, malaria, goal making, study skills, etc etc etc. We also do a lot of fun and games .

The last weekend of June was Camp Espoir Ouesse 2011. (Espoir=hope, Ouesse=name of town). It was our boy’s camp and was a HUGE success!! I had sooo much fun and I know my boys did too. I’m really proud of them. Each volunteer brought five 1st or 2nd year students. There were 5 from Challa-Ogoi (me), Kemon (Michael), Aclampa (Brad), Tcharou (Obden), and 5 from Ouesse CEG1 and 5 from CEG2 (Stephanie and Alec). I brought Mohammad and Fidel, first year students and Razack, Evariste and Esai, 2nd year students.

It was from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. I think the weekend was perfect. I BARELY see kids during the vacation, they’re all working. I’m not sure parents in my village would allow their son to miss a week of work, but one Saturday is probably acceptable. We did sessions on Sexual Health, Gender Roles, Domestic violence, civic awareness, drug and alcohol abuse (me) and Moringa. Saturday night we watched Indiana Jones (in French) and Sunday we watched Ghostbusters, they loved both! They all got t-shirts too, we did skits, and tons of sports and games. There were 2 hours allotted for soccer on Saturday and 2 hours for Sunday  Oh and lots of songs! I took a video of the boys marching and singing to the mayor’s office, it was SO exciting! They all had a lot of fun and the volunteers did too P

I posted a couple pictures, I’m trying to get them on facebook, but I took a TON of pictures!

This past weekend was the Jr. Tutrice Girl’s Camp, it was more of a leadership workshop. The girls got to know eachother and we talked about our goals for Camp GLOW in August. It’s a huge week long girl’s camp in Parakou. I didn’t do any sessions, but I led songs and games. HCN’s did sessions on leadership, education, etc. Me and Lauren stayed at the workstation and two volunteers stayed at the hotel with the girls. It wasn’t really intended to be like a camp, but it was still fun. The girls are all really excited for Camp GLOW! I know they’ll all do a great job, especially Moujidatou from Chally Ogoi P I posted a picture of her in her t-shirt too.

Happy 4th of July!

My first 4th of July in Benin was awesome! I definitely was missing the Lawrence Family bbq, but I had fun with my Volunteer friends. I spent the first part of the afternoon at the pool with Bevin (the pool is the best way to spend $4 in Benin). Then we went and got market pedicures, 20-40cents! They’re probably not that safe, but I’m able to rationalize everything I do by remembering that I’m frequently hurdling towards certain death while traveling in a battered bush taxi, sitting front and center (not on a seat). Some weird foot fungus won’t kill me haha.

Anyway, after pedicures, Bevin headed back to the workstation and I went to visit my ‘jewelry lady.’ She had her son Hughes with her, he’s 3. She and the ladies hanging out told me that I should marry Hughes and I said I’d marry him, but I needed a ring. Maman gave him a ring and he gave it to me, it’s so cute, it says LOVE  So I kissed him on the head and the ladies went CRAZY! They were dying laughing, it was hilarious. So Hughes is my husband. Now when Beninese men harass me about my marriage status, I can honestly tell them I have a husband named Hughes who lives in Parakou 

After getting married I headed back to the house and we all started preparing dinner. It was a FEAST! Not exactly comparable to a 4th of July Feast in America (at least in my family), but it was still excellent. We made real cheeseburgers, Kraft macaroni and cheese (thank you Sara’s parents), coleslaw, French fries, green beans, guacamole with mini toasts (there aren't chips here), and lemon bars for dessert  .

Of course, in true Parakou fashion, we went dancing at Laser Bar afterward. There was a bigger group than usual and we were quite the entertainment for a few Beninese. Me, Alison and Lauren (as always), plus Bevin, Erin and Tom! I told the guys who work at Laser Bar that it was the celebration of America, the party for Americans, the anniversary of our independence and they let me be dj using my ipod! Hahahah it was pretty hilarious, but so much fun.

I actually was telling everyone, all day, about 4th of July. Everyone was really excited for me and America (and many asked if they could come to our party haha). 

Hope everyone had a fun and delicious food filled 4th of July!

PS: The picture is me (right) and Lauren digging into our July 4th dinner :) I got really tan at the pool haha.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kittens!!!! DOB: June 9th, 2011

Moose had FOUR babies! (Don't judge me!!, vets don't spay cats here).

I'm not sure how many kittens cats usually have, but everyone at home is REALLY REALLY shocked when they see/find out she has four. They keep telling me that it's soo many, that cats usually have one or two. Maybe it's because Moose eats better than I do?

They are so adorable, I'm trying not to get attached, but they're a great source of entertainment! My maman who lives behind me wants one and my grandmaman who lives next door wants's great, but I'm afraid they'll just end up living at my house (since I feed my pets).

I wish I could bring them all home with me!!!!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Welcome PSL 24!!

This post is for volunteers who will be arriving in July! First, congratulations! We're all so excited to meet you guys. Second, I seriously cannot believe I've been here almost a year!

I remember thinking way too much about packing. I did lots of blog searching and emailing my mom lists and taking over our living room with my packing, unpacking, repacking and unpacking again. So. I'm gonna make it more difficult on you and give you yet ANOTHER list! hahah

My number one suggestion is to bring your stuff! Don't go buy fancy (and or used) clothes and equipment, it's not necessary. Bring things that make you feel like you.

I NEVER wear the clothes I bought for Benin, like goodwill long skirts and ugly shirts. In village, I mostly wear clothes I've had made here and in cities (workstations) I wear jeans, tank tops and t-shirts, exactly what I wore in the states. After school I almost always change into shorts and a t-shirt (and just wrap on a pagne if an adult comes over), just like I did in the states as well (minus the covering up my knees if an adult comes over). Anyway, just bring your clothes! Ladies, you just 'need' to cover your knees, and Beninese ladies do not like to see bra straps.

With that, here's a (kind of) brief list of suggestions:

Best Things I Brought:
*Battery powered fan. Ok, so I don't have electricity while most volunteers do. But it was $6, so I'd deem it worth the risk. Also, I couldn't afford a D battery charger, but if you can I'd recommend one, if it's solar great, if not, all villages have 'charge stations' where they use a generator to charge phones, you can charge batteries there, I charge AA's there. I'm probably single handedly destroying the world with my use of crappy Beninese D batteries.

*Ipod. I also got an excellent case/speaker for $10 at Bed Bath and Beyond. I don't know what I'd do without music, it reminds me of home, I love to dance around my house, listen to it when I do chores or grade papers and I LOVE playing music for my kids. I charge it at workstations and use it wisely, but I think I'm going to buy a solar charger off of a volunteer who brought one but has electricity.

Travel/Pocket French/English Dictionary. Priceless, use it all the time, kill time in taxis learning words, must have! (fyi Peace Corps gives you a regular sized dictionary).

*Mexican/Taco Seasoning.My favorite thing to cook at post is Mexican rice and lentils, or I buy prepared beans and mash them up with it and make tortillas, or I put it on popcorn. Also curry, but curry is easy to find and not that expensive.

*Netbook. I didn't buy mine for Benin, but I would if I hadn't had it, or at least I hope I would have. Again, no electricity, but I can watch 1 movie and charge my ipod 3 times before needing to recharge. Plus, there is wireless internet at the workstations. Also, when I go to workstations I can watch movies on my laptop while people are waiting to use the one computer we have. Don't forget your external hard drive.

*Photo Album. I made an album with pictures from home, lots of family and some of me. I've loved sharing it with my Beninese families, plus it's nice to look at every once in a while.

*Set of Sheets. Twin size. So happy I brought mine, they're t-shirt cotton or something and my favorite, plus there are no fitted sheets here and it's nice to have matching stuff, in my opinion.

*Cute Clothes. Really, truly, bring stuff that you like! For 'going out' or pcv parties, skinny jeans and tank tops or cute dresses with leggings are perfect. You can show your knees at the workstations and in Cotonou. I choose not to in Cotonou and am glad I brought leggings. Oh, and a swimming suit, I have a bikini, you can only swim at the Ambassador's house or French it doesn't matter.

*Rain Jacket. Have you heard Toto's "Africa?"....yes, there are rains down in Africa, lots and lots of rains, bless them for they enable me to sleep.

*Random: Duct tape, good scissors, lots of good pens, spiral notebooks (they gave us graph paper for training, I was so happy I had spiral notebooks), travel hand sanitizer (I was in to that during stage), wipes (again,'ll get over it),

*Kitchen: Set of knives, favorite spices, garlic press (whatever you like)

*Toiletries: Lots of deodorant, conditioner, and face wash and moisturizer. Everything else you can easily find in cities and towns, so just bring 1 set, also a soap container. Oh, you can find deodorant, but I haven't liked the stuff I bought.

*Ladies: cute clothes!, make-up, hair products, jewelry, lots of tampons (I've never seen them here), lots of panties, lots!

Wish I'd Brought:
*More tank tops
*2nd pair of jeans
*pillow (my mom told me to, should have listened)
*Hair straightener
*Astringent/toner (I have yet to find it in Cotonou and without running water and with all the sweating you do here, it's very helpful)
*Parmesan cheese
*Maple Extract (I love maple syrup)
*Seeds for garden
*Dog stuff: flea collar and collar (they are so expensive)

Didn't Need to Bring
*Headlamp. I never used it after like the first month at post.
*Thermarest. I like to pack light and they are bulky, plus I have no problem sleeping on the floor, but most volunteers have mats anyway (you buy them here).
*Lots of books - there are well stocked libraries at every workstation
*Extension cord/outlet- they're SO cheap in Cotonou, like $2

That ended up being way longer than I intended! Hopefully it's helpful. Really, everything you need is here. If you want to bring 3 outfits, a toothbrush and money, you'll be totally fine. Don't stress! Eat lots of good food and enjoy time with your friends and family. See you soon! :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trip to Cotonou

Warning: I’ve very whiney

I woke up with miniscule little bumps on the edge of my lips on Sunday morning, however, I quickly brushed it aside (probably heat rash or something) and hurriedly got ready for Parakou. I was SO excited to go up to Parakou and to take the bus down to Cotonou. Rather than taking a horrible stop and go, crammed taxi where I’d likely be sharing a seat with the driver, I was taking the bus down here with Jenny!! While a taxi will take me eight to ten hours from my village, our bus (where I had my own seat) took us just seven hours!! My village is closer to Cotonou than Parakou is, by about 1.5 hours. I will never taxi to Cotonou again.

Parakou was really fun; Jenny, Allison and I all hung out at the workstation, made a delicious meal, gossiped, watched movies, skyped my mom and sister (that was mostly me) and just had a fun relaxing evening. The next morning, Monday, my lips seemed a little bit worse, like really really chapped…but I didn’t care, I was going to Cotonou!

We’re in Cotonou for In Service Training. Our counterparts from school are here too (our work partners from school, Beninese English teachers). We started Tuesday morning and are finished Thursday evening. I however am currently waiting for my new medication, because you see, I have mango rash…all over my face. It’s the same exact thing as poison ivy. They warned us during training when we first got here, but I’ve never in my life had an allergic reaction. I’ve been eating mangoes like crazy for probably the past month, 2-5 a day, minimum.

I eat mangoes like I was taught: bite the skin off, spit it out, eat the delicious mango until I have to bite more skin off, repeat. So mango skin (poison ivy) is constantly on my face. I usually rinse them before I eat them. I’m guessing that’s why I just now am suffering from a reaction. Maybe I didn’t rinse one properly on Saturday? The Dr. told me to avoid mangoes now, I will. I dearly love mangoes, but the pain and ugliness I'm experiencing right now is not worth it.

Anyway, I have a rash all over my neck, on one side of my face and on my right eye. IT ITCHES SO BAD and I look like something out of a horror movie, all puffy too. UGH. Apparently it’s going to continue getting worse as well. I’m currently waiting on new medication. It’s not in the office so they’re sending someone to get it. I’m also getting some sort of cream to put on it. Feel sorry for me!! :)