Salut tout le monde! I am currently typing this blog in the Peace Corps headquarters in Cotonou, the biggest city in Benin. If I look out of the window in front of me, I see a road with plenty of zemis (moped taxis) and some street vendors. Also lots of people carrying their belongings on their heads- a skill which I have decided that I must acquire while here :)
Our day of travel yesterday was very long: we got to Philly's airport 5 hours before our flight, then had a slight delay to Paris, a 5 hour delay in Paris (not quite long enough to go into town, boo), and then our flight was delayed almost 2 hours (while we were sitting on the plane!), followed by a 6 hour flight to Cotonou. It was so beautiful to fly over the Mediterranean and the Sahara!
When we got into Benin, it took about 2 hours to get our luggage, in a room jam packed with people in about 90 degree weather. We were then greeted by some current PCVs in Benin, and I got my first marriage proposal from a nice Beninese gentleman hahaha. We then took about a half hour bus ride to our hotel which is on the outskirts of the city. There are NO traffic rules here, so the drive was scary! Tons of zemis; PC Benin is the only PC country where we can and must use zemis to get around. Scary at first I bet, we have training on Monday for them! It was odd driving through the city at night. There were street lights, but most of the vendors on the street were in rundown huts with only candles for light. There were TONS of people out. It looked like what you back home might think of as a slum, but I have already learned that that is not the case.
The hotel-ish place we are staying at is an old Catholic mission. When we arrived, tonsss of current Benin PCVs wee there to welcome us and help get our luggage to our rooms. My roomate and I were promptly greeted by swarms of mosquitoes and lots of lizards in our shower, not to mention oppressive heat and humidity. But we still managed to have a good time! We wrapped up the night with an ice cold soda and all singing the national anthem since it was the 4th of July. After the best shower of my life (ice cold water), I tried to get some sleep in my massive mosquito-netted bed, but between the heat and LOUD African drumming party outside of my room, it was difficult.
Today we had our language interviews to determine which language class we will be in, which I assume we find out tomorrow. I am hoping to be able to start learning a local language right away, since I think a French language class would bore me. I think it should work out! We also got issued our bikes and got some more vaccines... we have to get roughly 234908239048 innoculations here. Also, PC gave me the weekly malaria prophylactic, which I am not thrilled about because it gives most people that take it hallucinations/nightmares, not to mention it is illegal in Europe. I tried giving them a doctors note, no good so far, but I am going to try again in a few days when we come back to the medical unit.
Tomorrow we have brunch at the Country Director's house, and meet the US ambassador here. The next few weeks will be intense classes on everything from repairing a broken bike to riding a zemi to bleaching vegetables to local language. We meet our host families on Wednesday. Since this is the first time that training hadbeen in Porto-Novo (the capital city), none of these families have hosted Americans before, which I think is a marvelous opportunity. I will find out my sight in about three weeks, and go to visit it July 30-August 2! I can't WAIT... I am going to try to get placed in a community that has not had a PCV before, maybe a smaller community somewhere in the middle or north part of the country.
Sorry this post was so detailed, but I am just taking everything in right now and trying to give you guys a slice of what my life in Africa is like! I don't know when I will be able to update next, so a bientot! I miss and love you all!