My adventures serving in the Peace Corps
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Had time for another update. Speaking of, I have gotten tons of compliments on my blog from friends, family, and strangers; I really appreciate all of you following my adventures here in Benin! I have been really lucky lately in happening to have lots of opportunities to connect to the internet, however, this will not be the case for my entire 2 years here!!! I am currently living in a big city with cheap and easy-to-use internet cafes within a bike ride of my house, plus I was sick and at Headquarters in Cotonou, so the internet has been readily available. Once I move to my village on September 7, I will maybe have internet access once a month, if I'm lucky. (And that will involve traveling to either Cotonou or Lokossa, 2 big cities that aren't too far away but are not convenient to get to.) Also, during my first three months at post, I am not allowed to leave my village for any overnight trips (my first internet access will probably be around Thanksgiving when we have a week of In-Service Training in Parakou, a big city in the north). So, while I very, very much appreciate the readership and comments/compliments, try not to get used to these weekly-plus updates! Don't forget, you can always call and write me to stay in-touch!! I love getting mail :)
Yesterday, I learned how to do a few things that you would never imagine me doing: I learned how to remove bicycle wheels and repair a flat tire, I learned how to crush vegetables to a pulp very quickly using a slab of stone, I learned how to gut a fish, and I learned how to kill, clean, cut, and cook a chicken! This bike classes we take are quite useful, since we ride our bikes everywhere and there are no bike repairmen in villages who know how to work with fancy 21-speed bikes. Learning about the fish was also pretty useful (albeit rather disgusting). This won't surprise most of you, but I couldn't watch the chicken being killed, but I was fine seeing it afterwards and helped to pluck its feathers (see picture). We did all this at a cooking session yesterday where we made fish sandwiches, fried wagasi cheese (made by the nomadic cow-herding tribe called the Peul or Fulani in the north part of the country. It's pretty rubbery but not too bad), and chicken and rice in peanut sauce. For the sauce we crushed tomatoes (that's what I'm doing in the photo), onions, garlic, hot peppers (called “pima” here), and ginger on a stone slab using a small rounded stone that you grip and roll along the slab. Most Beninese have this cooking tool in their homes.
I have been talking to a lot of current volunteers who are getting ready to take a late summer vacation back to the States, and it has made me pretty jealous. There are so many things from home that I miss: hot showers, my cats, friends and family, the weather, walking downtown Ann Arbor, coffee shops, and just the culture in general. I am getting nostalgic that I will not be around this year to see Pioneer's band camp at Interlochen (I think for the first time in 9 years!), and especially that I will not be around for Michigan Marching Band and the start of the football season. I am NOT sad that I'm missing sweating in the hot sun for 2 weeks at the end of August in preparation for marching season, though :) You all have to promise to keep me updated on the football season this year!! Send me newspaper articles! (I would also appreciate articles and updates about the election and the Olympics)
All of the talk about people visiting home has made me reevaluate my feelings on visiting the USA during my service. Before coming here I was quite against the idea, saying that I should use my time in Africa to visit places on this continent because who knows when I will back. I still have some of those sentiments, however, I am starting to think that a 2009 trip to the U.S. might be in order. For as much as I would like my parents to come here, one ticket it much less expensive than two, and it might be a fun trip to make as a family someday. It would also allow me to see more friends and family than just my parents, and give me a very nice break, both mentally and physically, from my service. It is also fairly expensive and quite slow to travel around Africa. If I came home, it would either be at the very end of summer next year so that I could catch the first U of M football game, or for Christmastime. I can't come home during the fall as I'd like to because I teach mid-September through mid-December. This all depends on how my vacation time works out (I may be taking some time off next summer when some of my best friends are coming to Africa for a visit), and of course on money. A ticket back to the States is around $1500, so I would definitely be looking for some financial contributions from back home to make the trip possible. We'll see, and I will keep you all posted on my decision!
Enough rambling about home- I'm still having a great time here in Benin! I decided to skip out on church this morning because the times that I have gone it has lasted close to 4 hours and has all been in the local language so I haven't understood any of it! They also do the offertory 3 times, so I felt bad when I only gave one of the times. My family says they are preparing escargot- snails- for Sunday dinner later today, and I told them I don't think I can partake with them. The escargots here are not the butter and herb soaked delicacies that you get in fine restaurants, but horrible, slimy black slugs the size of an adult hand. I may get adventuresome and try a bite, but I told them not to count on it! I teach model school 3 times this week, 2 one-hour lessons (tomorrow's lesson will be classroom objects) and 1 two-hour lesson. The schedule is getting pretty exhausting, but we only have about 3 more weeks of it. I'll talk to you later- everybody to take a swim in the pool or walk to get some ice cream at the Washtenaw Dairy for me, would you? :)