Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Agggghh, So I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated this but I’ve still had no access to internet here in Dangbo (and even in nearby Porto Novo the internet’s pretty shoddy), and it feels like so much has happened since my last blog post. 

To start off with my living situation, everything’s been going great with my host family and living conditions.  I live on the outskirts of my village (about 15km from the capital) in a somewhat large compound surrounded by palm trees and some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve seen in Africa yet.  It seems like every day I’m discovering new parts of what I thought was this tiny village and it never ceases to amaze me.  Today I went on a bike ride with another volunteer to explore the area and ran into a lagoon village of sorts where people get around by canoe.  It was another “Aha! THIS is why I love Africa!” moment for me.

So my host family consists of my mom, papa, a sister who is 19, two who are 11 and 8, and a brother who is 13.  My host parents actually have 8 kids, most of whom are grown and live outside the house, and all of the younger kids who live in the house are actually their grandchildren or nephews.   They’ve all made me feel very comfortable living here and I truly feel like I’m a part of the family.   It has been a little difficult to communicate at times though as my French isn’t that great while they speak it with such a heavy accent that I can’t understand them either, though we’ve all been very patient with one another.  I do have my own room with electricity at my house, although there is not running water directly in the house but within the compound and so I have to take bucket baths outside and use an outdoor latrine.  If I have to use the bathroom at night, I’ve been given a small “chamber pot” to use which I then empty the next morning , which I’ve definitely come to appreciate as overall it’s better than having to stumble in the dark to the latrine at night.  We have 23 chickens that roam the yard as well which get in the way sometimes! 

Most of training this last month has consisted of French class which at times has felt like overkill, but I know my mastering of French is going to be essential for the work I’ll be doing at post and in order to better integrate into my community so I’m trying to suck it up and get through it. 

This last Friday was a really exciting day for all of us PC Trainees because they announced to each of us where we will be posted for the 2 years after training ends in September.  I must say I’m super stoked about my assignment!!  I’m going to be posted in a small village called Cotiakou which is in the Atacora region of the country (as in where the Atacora MOUNTAINS are), just south of one of the biggest wildlife parks in West Africa, Pendjare.  I’m also just a short drive to the border of Burkina Faso and Togo.  I have yet to see it for myself obviously, but jeez, talk about beautiful!  In about a week, I’ll be leaving the south to spend a 2 week visit in Cotiakou before officially moving in in September, so I’ll give more updates and details about my post after that.  I do know that I’ve been assigned to work at the Center of Public Health in Cotiakou and will potentially be doing things like organizing women’s groups to discuss various maternal/sexual health topics, assisting with vaccinations (I know, I don’t feel qualified to do this either but this is what was handed down to me in the job description so we’ll see I guess!), giving nutrition lectures, etc., all which I’m also super excited about! 

So, I must say that I’m super jealous of all of you back home who are keeping up with the Olympic games as although my host family does have a TV, they are not even remotely interested in watching the games (Benin’s never been incredibly skilled when it comes to sports) and I don’t have the internet to keep up with it myself.  I’ve been trying to resist buying an internet key that would give me wifi anywhere because I’m on a tight budget with the money PC gives me and am also trying to go through this experience without it, but I must admit that I feel so out of touch with what’s going on in the rest of the world and particularly at home.  I’ve been able to find BBC on my radio but it’s not the best quality and they tend to cover primarily African news heavily from what I’ve heard so far. 

Also, I hope you are all enjoying your sweet corn, burgers, brats, and all of the other wonderful food summer brings in the U.S. as I would kill for any of the above right now.  Beans and rice is getting old real fast.  Tomorrow I’m having some friends over and we’re going to attempt to make cheeseburgers and French fries for my host family.  The quality of the meat is a little different here but I’m thinking at this point my tongue is going to die and go to heaven with anything even remotely up to par.