My adventures serving in the Peace Corps
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
When I tell people I'm going to Benin, I get one of the following reactions: "Where??" or "Is that a country or a city?" or "Is that in Africa, or Asia, or what?" or-my personal favorite- "Oh yeah, Benin!" (when it painfully clear that they have never heard of it before).
I shouldn't expect people to know much about Benin. I only know a lot about it from taking African art history classes. However, it is sad how little people in this country know about world geography.
So kids, here's a brief lesson on Benin/the Peace Corps there!
-Benin is a tiny country on the west coast of Africa, wedged between Togo and Nigeria (it is also bordered by Burkina Faso and Niger)
-the French pronunciation is "bay-naeh", although I'm not sure how the Beninese pronounce it
-the GDP of Benin is 163rd out of 179 countries in the world
-education is the Peace Corps' largest project in Benin, followed by small enterprise development, health care, and environmental action
-it used to be a French colony (hence French being the official language there)
-Benin is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania
-population of about 8 million
-hot and HUMID in the south (along the coast), a bit drier in the north
-Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo (and has large Muslim and Christian populations as well)
-Benin is 6 hours ahead of EST
-about 37% of the population lives below the poverty line
-one of their main foods is "fufu", which is mashed up cassava and plantains. You eat it with your hand and dip it into a sauce
As for me being in Benin, I don't know yet where I'll be assigned. They say most teachers work in small villages, but not all. Apparently there is a better chance than I think of having electricity in my home! During training, I'll live with a family- YAY! I am so excited to live with a family in another culture after having done so in France, Japan, Germany, and Austria and loving it! Sounds like I'll be eating a lot of okra, peanuts, spaghetti (apparently?), and mangoes, to name a few. Volunteers who are serving in Benin right now say we absolutely need to bring a teflon frying pan, a knife sharpener, and a garlic press! Love it :) Apparently I can get good quality clothes made cheaply for me there, which I will definitely take advantage of. Girls can't wear shorts (even long ones), skirts above the knees, or tank tops. It is also recommended to wear dark colors, because lighter colors get dirty so quickly. Peace Corps will provide me with a mountain bike and helmet for riding moped taxis there!
Enough random babbling, it was just what I would think of off the top of my head. There are about a million other things I could tell you about Benin, but I'll save those for later. Go out an read about it- it's a very intriguing place!