Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not So Wonderful Things About Benin.

(I wrote this on September 14th while still living in Porto Novo, it's more about Porto Novo than Benin, none of these, besides mosquitoes apply to my life in village)

Disclaimer: I already posted wonderful things about Benin and added to the list today.

1. Mosquitoes
- Mosquito bites
- Mosquito nets (though it’s fantastic for scratching mosquito bites)
- Daily Malaria medication

2. Sand
-Think about going to the beach and trying to de sand yourself before you get back in the car and the itchy feeling you have because it’s impossible…now, think about having that same feeling every single day.
- Sweeping every day

3. YOVO!!
- This should be number one. I hate hate hate the word Yovo. It means white person or foreigner and children SCREAM it, they freak out when they see you and repeat it as loudly and as obnoxiously as possible, or they sing a stupid song, “Yovo Yovo Bonsoir, ca va bien, merci” over and over again. It’s even more annoying when adults use it, but I can tell when they’re just greeting versus when they’re being obnoxious.
- Unless it’s an old person, I do not respond to yovo. Ninety percent of the time I completely ignore it. Sometimes if kids are following me, insistent on getting me to say something I’ll give them a mean lecture (I have a name, yovo is impolite, ask me my name, or just: It’s MADAME!). They either run away terrified, or attempt saying my name or say Madame and I respond and ask their name, how their day is, etc.
- PS: I remember reading blogs and thinking, oh it can’t be that bad, and they should just get used to it, blah blah blah. It IS that bad!! You cannot understand unless you’ve lived here for more than a couple weeks. I remember the first few days thinking, oh how cute and waving and smiling, etc. Now, I want to yell at all every child who utters the word! !!! 

4. Give me a gift, give me a money
- There is a huge misconception that all Americans are rich. I couldn’t afford to give handouts in the United States either, but I especially can’t now! Children, adults, even students ask for money, gifts, my shoes, etc every day. Usually I just ask for something in return and they look confused then I say I’m a poor volunteer.
- Interesting fact: My living stipend is $180/month, in Philadelphia we all received $220 for food for one and a half days.

5. No, I will not marry you.
- So many of the men are so self consumed they will just tell me to marry them, or just be perves and continue to antagonize. Most of the time I’m able to joke and that’s the best way to get them to lay off, but if I’m in a bad mood (walking to or from school in 180 degree weather), I CANNOT joke, DO NOT TOUCH ME, I am a demon and will freak out in the meanest French insults I can come up with (you are not intelligent, you are young, you are not handsome, you are annoying, do not speak to me, you are impolite).
- When I’m not in a bad mood I can joke and tease them. Often times they will ask for your bride price and I’ll say something like a new house, a new car, 500 cows, etc. This always gets a laugh. Or the other good one is to say, I need a husband to do the cooking and cleaning and to take care of the children, it always gets a laugh too. Some people say they already have three husbands, would you like to be the fourth? Etc.

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