Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trip to Quidah

Sunday, September 12th

Yesterday, Saturday, all of us stagiaires went to Quidah on a field trip. Quidah is the most well known historical, cultural and tourist spot in Benin. There is a wonderful museum with information about the history of Benin (Kingdom of Dahomey), the first kings and people and traditions and culture. There is also a lot of information, paintings and other artwork about the slave trade, starting with the Portuguese, whom shipped slaves to Brazil and Portugal. We walked through the museum first.

We also visited the slave graveyard on the walk to the Point of No Return. Millions of slaves died in route to the ships due to horrific conditions, starvation, etc and were mass piled in the graveyard. The Point of No Return is right on the beach, our guide told us that to say goodbye to their country and family slaves would walk around a tree, 5 times if they were a woman and 7 times if they were a man. *I think.* I am definitely going to return to Quidah sometime soon because it was REALLY difficult to be in such a large group, especially because I was really interested and wanted to learn more about everything. There were a lot of people just not interested and talking and it was difficult to hear our guide, plus we were limited on time. They only split us into two groups, so it was 30-35 people per group to one guide. I would write more, but I can’t be sure about what I heard. I talked to my Papa more about it when I got home, but he didn’t really know that much. It was still really intense and emotional. The paintings spoke for themselves in many instances. There were also original slave chains in one section of the museum.

We also visited the Sacred Forest and the Temple of Pythons. These were more cultural sites with a lot of Voodoo stuff. It was raining and I was behind so I heard nothing at the Sacred Forest, but it was gorgeous and peaceful and had lots of interesting statues (and huge millipedes!). I wish I had a camera!! The Temple of Pythons was really fun. Pythons are sacred protectors in Voodoo.

We arrived at the Python Temple and were ushered inside past a group of people intensely praying in a little room, with a tiny goat chained up outside. After the prayer room is a weird dome shaped room where all the snakes are kept and a man just brings out these pythons and hands them to people. (I couldn’t help pondering how that lax behavior with snakes would never fly in America because of insurance costs and fear of being sued haha). Anyway, I have no fear of snakes and Rosa, Jared and I walked up and took a couple. Tons of people took pictures so someday they will be on facebook or other blogs. It was fun to help people who were scared hold the snakes and put them on their necks for photos and such. At one point I was holding four pythons.

My friend Jenny and I wanted a photo together so I went back and grabbed two and suddenly was swept up by this large group of Africans (I’m guessing Togolese or Beninese because they didn’t speak English, Nigerians). I took at least 20 photos with this group. They had me hold the two snakes and they would pose with me for their photographer. At one point I was handed a baby and told to hold the snake next to the baby. It was hilarious. My friend Dione got a picture of them posing with me. I’m not sure if it was just because I am white and also an ‘attraction’ like the snakes, or a combo of that and them not wanting to hold snakes alone. It was SO FUNNY though. I wish I had had a video camera for that particular adventure. Anyway, a little bit later I turned around to leave the temple and there was the poor baby goat, slit throat, sacrificed to the Gods RIGHT in front of us, it was so gross. I’ve seen lots of chickens butchered but it was way more sad to see the cute little goat in a puddle of blood. 

And yes, that’s how this blog will end. Haha.

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