Saturday, October 16, 2010

“Beninese mathematics are incredible. They’ve turned a 5 seater into a 9 seater. REVOLUTIONARY” – Erik English

The title of this blog is a text from my friend Erik which very accurately describes traveling in Benin. He was going up north today and after waiting several hours for a taxi was crammed into a car with 8 other people. Oh Benin.

Steps to travel out of my village:
1. Call Nicolas the zem driver, or see him in village, tell him that I want to go Anseke the next morning to wait for a taxi on the gidron (highway).
2.Eat breakfast, eat seconds, eat thirds, learn Nagot, listen/watch people gossiping, and inform everyone that I’m leaving, why I’m leaving, who I’ll see and when I’ll be back then answer any further questions they may have.
3.Nicolas meets me at breakfast place and after greeting people we head to Anseke.
4.Nicolas is the NICEST guy ever and sits with me on the side of the highway and helps me wave down cars and busses. Whenever a car goes by I jump, wave and yell, “PARAKOU!!!” or “COTONOU!!!” hahahah, so fun and funny…I actually enjoy that part because of the ridiculousness.
5.Get a sun burn, talk to the peanut and gasoline vendors, chat with Nicolas.
6.A car pulls over, a man who just arrived steals the spot (it happened, ugh!)
7.Another car pulls over, Nicolas talks to the driver in local language (very helpful) and I greet him and the passengers and try to look friendly and compactable.
8.I’m instructed where to sit, I’ve been given the shot gun seat all but one time. (I had to switch taxis once and got put in the death seat…the middle front, on the center nothing/console/e –brake.)
- I like the shot gun seat the best, besides getting sun burnt, I get to hang my head out the window and breathe.
**3-4 people sit in the front two seats and 4-5 people sit in the back 3 seats**

It all depends on luck…..
- Going to Parakou took me almost 5 hours and 3 taxis (the first two broke down).
- Going back home from Parakou took 1.5 hours…however, I did wait at the taxi gare for TWO hours for the taxi to leave. I still don’t understand why it took so long. I even asked to pay for two seats (the front seat, which is actually 2 seats in Benin) and he said yes, but then filled my 2nd seat!
- Going to Challa Ogoi on move in day took 12 hours, on post visit day it took 8 hours, to get to Cotonou last Wednesday took me 7 hours
- On my recent trip to Cotonou I got a free ride halfway here. A really nice old man in a Mercedes Benz gave me a ride all the way to Dassa! It was WONDERFUL! Nicolas talked to him first and told him I was weak and sick, and he was insistent on giving me a (free) ride. We talked about Peace Corps (which he knew about), his CEG (he’s a principal), teaching, living in Benin, America and the differences, etc. I was really thirsty at one point so we stopped at a Buvette in a village along the way and I bought a coke, he ordered a beer and I insisted on paying for it, after a few minutes he finally let me. We stopped one other time so I could meet his daughter, and he could give her a package. In Dassa he stopped a taxi van and got me a seat, it was really really nice!! Vans are slightly better, but still cramped, and I didn’t have a window seat, but I was really zoned out and sick so I don’t even really remember those 5 hours.

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