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!! :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

2 Days, 3 Tarantulas.... my house.

They're no longer with us. I don't think further explanation is necessary.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

RIP Hedgehog

As I was arriving at my family’s house yesterday on my walk home from school, the little kids all raced inside. I sat down and they came out holding an adorable hedgehog!! I love hedgehogs (as I do all pets) and was super excited. I told them I love those (don’t know the word for hedgehog) and asked to hold it…..they seemed confused and plopped it into my lap. It looked sick, so I said, ‘oh, I think it’s sick.’

Barakatou responded, ‘No, it’s dead.’


So, later last night….I ate hedgehog. (tastes similar to forest rat – agouti). I feel bad, but I don’t refuse food, especially from my family and especially meat, that’s kind of a big deal.

PS: Never occurred to me that hedgehogs live in the wild. They live in my forest!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

So, I'm Buying Blood Right Now

A few days after getting back to post after vacation in February, I was walking home after school with two of my favorite girls.

As we're walking, Adeline asks me, "how much does blood cost?"

"Umm, what? Cow blood?" (I thought maybe they wanted to drink it??)

"You buy cow blood?!" - Ruth (pronounced Root)
(giggles from Adeline)

"What? No! I don't buy cow blood, I don't know how much blood costs, why?"

"But, you buy blood when you leave?" - Adeline

"No....I don't buy blood when I leave, who said that?"

"The village."

"What? Why? No, I don't buy blood, that's not true!"

"They said you have to buy blood because you walk in the sun."

(Sidenote: Apparently I'm the first volunteer that walks to the markets that are in the two neighboring villages, and walk to school every day, even all during the hot season. I often get free rides from professors and other villagers who think I'm insane.)

"I don't understand.? No, I don't need more blood."

" run out, because of your white skin, you need to buy more." (Said something like but your blood is finished because you're colorless, I can't remember, it was funny directly translated into English though)

"No, seriously, I don't buy blood, I don't need blood. The sun makes my skin different, but I don't lose blood." (People here ALWAYS touch my moles, freckles, tan lines, burn lines...quite funny.)

"oh." (totally didn't believe me.)

AND, when I left on Friday, this really old lady who doesn't speak French said something about my health, and did like a drinking motion....oh jeez

Some other funny things my village does/thinks
- Women can't butcher animals, men have to kill them
- Women cannot eat cats, it's intredi
- Men and women don't eat together
- Children and adults don't eat together (Also, in my family at least, youngest to oldest eat. We wait until all the kids have eaten, then we eat)
- People CANNOT whistle at night!! It calls snakes. (I've gotten in trouble for this)
- Lots of people want to eat Harrison, (he's so big!) I've been spreading rumors that I put gri gri in his collar (it's a normal American collar), and they totally believe me. People from village just joke about how big he is, but I am a little worried about strangers.
- palm oil gives you better eyesight
- moringa powder cures malaria
- twins are awesome/dangerous/wanted/cool
- alcohol is good for you (like moonshine), people drink all day

I can't think of anymore, there are so many funny things I hear everyday. I'll start writing things down.

Asking for money....for an EXCELLENT cause!! The Future of Benin's Girls!

I'm working at and bringing three girls to a Girl's Empowerment Camp - Camp GLOW, in August! Want to help out? Donate! The girls I'm bringing have never been out of the village, and the camp is in a city, with electricity and showers!! We have several impressive Beninese women speaking and working at the camp (businesswomen, doctors, nurses, teachers, etc.) and awesome activities and fun programs for the girls!

Donate here:

Things My Students Say PERFECTLY in English.

Just a disclaimer, I’m the only professor that does not beat children. I also don't punish them with other physical punishments, such as forcing them to kneel in the hot sun in gravel, or making them leave class to work in the orchard (missing class!). I also don’t ask the principal or vice principal for help in punishing because they just beat the children. Last week, one of the girls was knocked out by a professor when he punched her on the head when she fell asleep in class. TOTALLY uncalled for…she went to the hospital. I consider myself to be really lenient with late and/or tired students. They have so much work to do at home and a really long walk to school. I have a really easy life here, compared to the Beninese in my village, especially children, and I try to be flexible and understanding as a result.

- Good Morning Teacher!

- How are you today?

- Fine, thanks. And, you?

- You see?

- Copybooks IN your desk!

- WHY are you talking?

- Stop talking.

- Who is talking?

- Shut your mouth!

- Verb to be and all its conjugations (I am, You are, He/She/It is, We are, They are)

- Verb to have and all its conjugations.

...that's about it, oh: dog, boy, some other random nouns

Madame Elyse

Also, I love teaching. I love my students and the challenges the present me, daily. :) I'm seriously considering pursuing teaching when I get back to the states because I love the job so much. We'll see in two years.

Friday, February 25, 2011

VACATION! Burkina Faso, Mali, Dogon Country

A picture is worth a thousand words….

So in this case, it’s basically like I’m writing 300,000 words about my vacation, because I'm providing a link to all the photos I took. Erik did a lot of filming, so I took pictures, there are a lot of him, and a lot of random photos, like trees, because I love trees. Also, after Dogon country, I was so exhausted, I kind of forgot about my camera. Though, I did get an amazing picture of two men on motorcycles, on top of a van on our ride home.

Simple itinerary:
Day 1: Village to Natitingou (PCV Benin Workstation)

Day 2: Natitingou to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (We stayed at Hotel Evangelique something or other, $3 each, and the room had beds with nets, and a bathroom with a TOILET and shower!!

Day 3: Ouagadougou to Bobo, Burkina Faso. (Got a wonderful, nice, air conditioned bus. Stayed at Hotel Royal, $3 each, same business. We also ate delicious chicken and fries and I had 3 beers…bad idea considering my starvation mode for traveling…it’s hard to use the restroom on the side of the rode, so I avoid food water.)

Day 4: Bobo, Burkina Faso to Mopti, Mali. (HELL travel day. We sat on plastic water containers in the aisle of the jankiest bus you’ve ever seen. My container was leaking a mystery liquid all over my I nicely asked Erik to trade and he obliged (probably because of the huge mamans, he's not THAT nice). I couldn’t even read and was trying to save my ipod for potential worse scenarios. I was sitting between two big mamans and literally could not move the entire EIGHT HOURS. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Our hotel, Hotel No Problem (Hotel Il n'y pas de Problem), was amazing, but $9 each. A little expensive, but worth it. Pool, wonderful, clean beds, towels provided, amazing. Plus a restaurant with great American-y spaghetti.

Day 5: Mopti to Dogon country!!! AMAZING. Most of my pictures are from Dogon country and if they don’t have captions yet, rest assured, they will have captions soon.

Day 6, 7 and 8: DOGON Country and Hiking! We hiked and climbed about 30 miles. It was intense. A Volunteer from Mali and her friend visiting from the United States were with us the first three days and were really fun to hang out with. (Side note: Erik told me to bring my therma rest to sleep on....each village provided us with mattresses. We're still friends though).
- I also must mention that the food was SO good! They fed us rice or cous cous with amazing red, vegetable sauce and chicken. And we had really delicious beans twice too. Plus, mangoes for dessert! Breakfast was bread with laughing cow cheese, jam and/or nutella which our amazing guide brought for us.

Day 8: Dogon country to Mopti. (Hotel No Problem, glorious, found kittens in a basket in the pool veranda area)

Day 9: Mopti to Bobo (Don’t even want to talk about it, worst possible travel experience ever. Got stuck in sketch village, I wont even write what the men said to me when I asked about hotels. We ended up paying ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS to get a taxi to take us to Bobo out of the sketch village that our bus just dropped us off in because the driver decided he didn’t want to go to Bobo anymore. UGH. Had a delicious and ice cold coke at the hotel restaurant though :)

Day 10: Bobo to Ouagadougou. (Easy, same amazing bus, hung out with Burkina Faso volunteers, ate delicious pizza and drank Castel beer on tap at a restaurant they showed us. So much fun!)

Day 11: Ouagadougou to Natitingou. (Stayed at workstation).

Day 12: Stayed the night again, had Boy’s Camp meeting, straightened my hair, plucked my eyebrows, felt American, went out with friends, amazing night.

Day 13: Natitingou to Parakou. Still here. Allison arrived the morning of the 23rd and convinced me to wait for payday (potentially the 1st) before going back to post. I couldn’t resist because I LOVE Allison, she’s the cutest pixie looking, vegan, tarot card reading friend ever. Plus, it's school vacation, I deserve to relax after all that traveling, hiking and sunburning.

Day 14, and 16: Parakou. (Shopped with Allison (found cute pants for $2, American cute, and two dresses for parakou). Made lots of salad and avocado/onion/tomato sandwiches. Drank cold water. Had real (cold) showers.)

Day 16 (Today): BACK TO VILLAGE!! SO EXCITED!! I have to stay for basically all of March because of elections. Our security officer deemed it unsafe for us to leave our village during the heat of elections.

Here is the link to the pictures, enjoy!! (Facebook didn’t work, that’s why they’re on flickr, hopefully you can see them, I have no idea, never used flickr.)

or as a slideshow:

***********First, you'll be viewing the photos in reverse order of when I took them, Second, flickr wouldn't allow me to upload more than 200 time i'm with internet, hopefully facebook will work. Sorry. Stupid flickr

PS: Erik wrote an extensive, detailed blog about our trip, you should probably just read that, sorry I posted this at the end haha.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I’m supposed to, or rather, wanting to write about my amazing vacation in Burkina Faso and Mali, but I’m still processing how awesome it was. Therefore, I’m going to write a bit about food. The most frequent questions I get from friends, family, random people who read my blog and potential volunteers are about food. What do you eat? What do they eat?

Plus, honestly, food is one my favorite topics. I spend more money on food here than anything else, dream more about food I miss than anything else and just really enjoy eating. Luckily I also walk everywhere, do laundry by hand and carry water on my head so the effects of my affections for food are somewhat mollified. I don’t think I used mollified correctly, but I like it and you get the picture.

Breakfast, in my village, is the most exciting meal of the day; there are so many different possibilities. People I know eat the same exact thing for lunch and dinner, but breakfast, you never know. Volunteers call any food not purchased in a store or actual restaurant ‘street food,’ deeming everything I buy in village, street food. Afternoon and evening there are 1-2 options, but from about 7am to 11am there are SO many options. Just on my walk to school, I have the opportunity to buy multiple different types of fried dough, spicy African black cous cous, spaghetti with spicy red sauce, rice with spicy red sauce, rice with beans (not rice and beans, rice with a few beans mixed in), yam pile with sauce and porridge. I think that covers everything.

Since I noticed my daily fried dough getting to me, to my stomach that is, I’ve lately been eating oatmeal with a glob of African peanut butter (plain, real, sugarless peanut butter). It’s not delicious, but it actually keeps me full. If I go the street food route, I end up eating at school again at our 10am snack time break. On weekends I almost always get fried bean flour dough and porridge. I wish I could just eat that sugary, nutritionless porridge every day, it’s so addicting. Not many volunteers like it, I’m obsessed. It’s definitely a ‘poor people’ food and in my village you can get it breakfast or dinner and many, many people eat it. The first time I tried it I couldn’t finish my bowl, now I’m finished in seconds, wishing for more.

If I can’t get out of bed in the morning and consequently miss breakfast, I eat at school at 10am. We have ‘lunch ladies’ whom serve before school and at 10am break. I love yam ragu or African cous cous, or a combo of the two, and sometimes I add a certain kind of fried dough called pâté (not to be confused with pâte).

Lunch street food always includes rice and beans. Sometimes the buvette maman sells yam pilee, sometimes this one lady sells anyaya, there’s no name for it in English. It’s this gelatinous, bean and oil/lard flab thing with tons of piment (mouth burning spice used in everything), I sometimes buy 10 cents worth for my dog, he loves it. One of my favorite mamans sells rice and beans, always, without fail, she is there. Plus, there’s this kind of table thing and a bench under a tree where I sit and she always brings me water, almost feels like a restaurant. I almost always eat at her house on my way back home from school or on my way to school. She also makes a fiery red sauce so people can have their much loved spicy rice.

Most Beninese eat pâte or akassa (fermented pâte) with sauce for lunch, or spicy spaghetti. Pâte is a gelatinous white goo carb used to scoop sauce (sorry if that’s repetitive).

Dinner, I can find a few types of fried dough and porridge. Most people eat pâte with sauce or boiled yams. I usually try to make dinner.

I usually make American style red sauce with garlic, onions, tomatoes, sometimes tomato paste and a ton of random herbs, I change it up regularly. I eat that with boiled yams, rice or pasta. Lately I’ve just been eating yams plain, they’re so cheap. They taste almost exactly like potatoes, I just boil them and add salt. Occasionally I’ll dip them in veggie oil (a maman served that to me once, it’s delicious). If I’m really lazy I just make oatmeal or popcorn. I love oatmeal because it’s just boiling water, I love popcorn because I have a designated popcorn pot, so no washing haha.

Oh, I forgot to mention that all day long there is at least one woman (boutique maman) selling fried fish chunks. One chunk is 2 to 3 cents, and people eat this more as a snack, or add it to their sauce. Sometimes this older maman sells fried fish, if I pass her when she’s selling, I’ll buy 5 or 10 cents worth for my pets as a treat. Boutique maman sometimes sells other random fried meat chunks. Once, during a huge funeral weekend when there were tons of visitors she did chicken. If her brother shoots some random forest creature (usually rat), she’ll fry that up.

After trips to ‘big cities’ I love to indulge with laughing cow cheese. I’ll buy several wheels to bring home. The best thing ever is a laughing cow cheese grilled cheese sandwich. Even better is if I add basil (dried) and diced tomato. Sometimes I’ll add basil to the oil and heat the oil with it before frying the sandwich. I can often buy bread in a neighboring village on Wednesdays, too. Or, I can make macaroni and cheese, or someone just told me canned corn with laughing cow cheese melted in it is delicious, I'll try that this weekend.

In parakou, I can never resist getting chicken and fries, despite the steep price of $4. You get like half a fried chicken with a huge pile of fries, such greasy deliciousness. I also recently tried an actual restaurant in Parakou which serves a pretty good cheeseburger, $4 and garlic steak and fries (steak here is VERY different than over there), which is $6. If I’m trying to be cheap, I’ll just indulge by buying bread and some grilled meat, or bread and avocado which is slowly coming back into season. I LOVE an avocado and onion sandwich. I always always eat salad because the only vegetable in my village is onion.

Weirdest things I’ve eaten are probably snails, rat, forest rat and rabbit (different, but kinda've delicious). I’ve been offered bat and snake but successfully declined both. I’m sure I’ve eaten other weird unknown meat. Goat and sheep are really big here, I hadn’t eaten either before Africa, but it doesn’t seem strange to me now.

Ok, I hope I answered most questions, I can’t think of anything else to write. Beninese eat lots of carbs and I miss American food, that’s the moral of this story.

***The picture is some chicken and fries I bought in Bobo, Burkina Faso, with my favorite beer 33. It wasn't fried and was way more delicious than chicken and fries in Parakou.