My adventures serving in the Peace Corps
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Ok, this is getting ridiculous. I know I lamented my being away from the internet for several months, but here I am, only a week after my last blog post. You'll never guess why I have internet access- I'm in the med unit! Again! This time, it's a yeast infection, probably from the antibiotics they put me on last week. They really should give all the girls treatments for this in our medical kits, instead of having us come all the way to Cotonou. Then, once I got here, I went to the bank. Over two hours later, because of “a glitch in their system,” they “forgot about my check.” The bank was packed and for that whole two hours I was standing in line. Maddening. Africans are very patient and I did my best, but the American in me was flipping out. I just keep thinking to myself: air conditioning, internet, and hommous. (I told you I would say it every time.)
So, there's not a whole lot new and exciting to report from this past week. My zemidjan driver on the way back from Cotonou last week took me a back way to my village and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I saw some trees that must have been around when the dinosaurs were they were so huge. When I got back to Lobogo, the carpenter, cushion-maker, and my homologue came over to work out the price for the dining room table, two chairs, and couch that I ordered. I ended up spending about $160, which is a lot here, but they are important items and should be well worth it. Once those are installed in the next week or two, and I hang a few more things on the walls, my house will finally feel like a home.
And next week, I will welcome into my home two more roommates- kittens! I was planning on buying a kitten or two at the market on Sunday, but on Saturday, I happened to notice two adorable kittens outside one womans house, so I stopped in to inquire. She spoke no French, so she had her son come over to translate. We worked out that I will pay her about $7 for both cats, and I will take them when they are ready to leave their mother, probably in about a week. They are really beautiful cats: one is light gray with darker gray stripes, and one is white with tan spots- see the pictures! I was thinking about giving them names in Sahoue, the local language, but it is to hard for me to pronounce haha. I am thinking about naming on Belle, and maybe the other one Baby? (They are both girls. I am definitely going to look into having them spayed!) Anyone have any good suggestions?
Speaking of creatures, this week I discovered that there are three monkeys in my village, but not wild- they are chained to trees as pets. How sad and bizarre. Also, I have decided that the spiders that live in the big palm tree in my concession should be classified and animals as opposed to insects based on their size. I put up a picture, but it doesn't do it justice in terms of showing the true size. (I also put up pictures of my family and last dinner in Porto Novo, my STUFFED taxi on the way to Lobogo, the huge and colorful grasshopper that sometimes visits me in the shower, and my first meal I cooked for myself- African eggplant and couscous in a tomato and olive oil sauce.)
There were several exciting happenings in my world of cuisine this week: 1. I learned how to cook beans! As I have said, protein here is hard to come by, so this is a big break for me. (Unfortunately, when you buy beans at the market, there are inevitably bugs in them. They're fine if you wash the beans before you cook them, but it still really grosses me out to look in the ziploc bag I store them in and see little bugs crawling around inside. This is another example, my friends, of something I deal with here that would NOT fly in the United States.) The second exciting thing was I met up with the woman at the market who is going to bring me vegetables each week! I am going to give here about $3.50, and she will bring me green beans, avocados, cucumber, apples, potatoes, lettuce, and carrots. She even brought some to me this week! One night I had a salad consisting of lettuce, green beans, avocado, cucumber, and carrots, with a mustard vinaigrette, and all was well in the world. Number three: my neighbor made me chicken. This may not seem earth-shattering to you, but since I virtually eat no meat anymore, and when I do get it on a rare occasion it is nasty fish, this was graciously accepted and consequently devoured. Finally, number four: I found huge cloves of prepeeled garlic at my market. This, once again, may not seem like much, but normally the garlic you find here is tiiiiny cloves that are in such a hard casing they can barely be peeled. Yay! (It's the little things, here.)
Anyways, yesterday I met up with another volunteer who is a few villages away from me at a bar right on the lake. It was lovely: we sat and had some beers and talked for several hours, and while we were there a thunderstorm blew across the lake. It was gorgeous! Afterwards we got some delicious beans and fish from a woman on the street. Seeing another volunteer is really nice and somewhat therapeutic when you're over here. And actually, Friday is another volunteer who lives in Lokossa's (the closest major city to me) birthday, so all of the volunteers in the region are getting together for lunch and drinks and supermarket and internet time. It will be really nice to see everyone!
This week I have been spending a lot of time with my neighbors, playing cards, doing puzzles, and just talking. They are very nice and helpful people. One man helped me put up this straw mat on my wall in which I put all the pictures and letters I receive from home (see picture. I also put up pictures of my house). Angele, the landlords first wife with whom I am becoming close, told me that I am one of the only reasons she still lives in this concession, because “her husband no longer likes or loves her.” That was really sad and hard for me to hear, since she is such a sweet woman. Her husband is quite nice to me, but I know how he treats his wives and kids. One of her children is albino, so everyone, including her family, calls her “yovo.” I really don't understand or like this, but c'est la vie. Also, one of the goats that lives in the pen in my concession had two kids this week- SO CUTE (see pictures).
Well, I think that's about it for now. I have gotten several phone calls in the last week or two which have been really nice since I am so bored and lonely! Keep them coming! Several small things before I go: on my letters and packages, you can now write “Angelina Hurst, PCV” instead of “Angelina Hurst, PCT” since I am now a volunteer instead of a trainee :) Another clever trick you can try to ensure their arrival: write “To Sister Angelina Hurst” like I am a nun, or write “Dieu vous regarde” (“God is watching you”) on the package. I have been getting some things incredibly fast, and some things that were sent not long after I left the States still haven't made it here and might not ever. I really don't think it is a problem with theft, I think it is the disorganization of the postal system here. I think I mentioned this in my post about my packages being missent to Belize, but instead of writing Afrique de l'Ouest on things, go ahead and write WEST AFRICA in all caps so that it's hard to miss :) Also, here is an update to my wish list for things to send to me:
-big ziploc bags
-envelopes (for letters)
-powdered drinks (preferably sugar free, vitamin enhanced)
-candy/snacks- beef jerky for protein!
-old textbooks/school supplies
-dried fruit (especially apples)
-games and puzzles
-tape (scotch tape, masking tape, and duct tape)
Well there you have it. By no means am I expecting any or all of these things, but I keep getting asked what I would like or need, so there you have it! Final thought: if you are looking for a good book that gives you an idea of what my life is like here, go get “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” by J. Maarten Troost. He and his fiancée volunteer for two years on an island in the south Pacific, and his anecdotes about the culture, heat, and bugs made me laugh so hard because it is so similar to my life here. It is a hilarious and quick read. Anyways, I love and miss you all! Only a week and a half until the boredom ends and school begins :)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
How, might you ask, does one get access to the internet when one is supposed to be on lock-down in one's village for three months? Easy: acquire a sinus infection and infected toe and you win a trip to the med unit in Cotonou! It's not as bad as it might sound. I thought I just had a bad cold and was too busy getting used to my village and setting up my house to actually pay attention to the symptoms. Last night it occurred to me that the constant stream of neon green slime emerging from my nose (sorry for being graphic, but this is Peace Corps, folks, where favorite conversation topics include tropical sea lice and rampant diarrhea) and the outrageous amount of pressure in my head were indeed symptoms of a sinus infection as opposed to a cold, so I called the doctor this morning and he told me to come on down. I also have had this weird... issue (for lack of a better term) with my toe that had been going on more or less since I got here that I am glad I will finally have looked at. I will never fail to mention the other wonderful benefits of Cotonou: air conditioning, and a dinner this evening that consisted of shwarma and fresh veggies with hummous and olive oil. Not to mention a brief respite in the monotony that is life in my village until school starts on October 6. So, village life! Last Monday the 8th a taxi came to pick me up (it was only 20 minutes late! Remarkable) and by some small miracle we were able to fit everything into/on top of the car. Because it is the end of rainy season and rainy season is an enemy of dirt roads, we had to find several alternate roads. Once we found these roads, it is a miracle that we did not drown or get stuck. Parts of this taxi literally didn't have a floor, yet we drove through some puddles (more like lakes) and pot holes and mud pits that hummers would dare not attempt in the USA. My first few days at post were nice because the girl who I am replacing was there to show me around and help me move in. She introduced me to a few people and we went and greeted lots of people around the village. We also tried out the new village cafeteria (the closest thing you get to a restaurant here) and I struck up a deal with the owner that he will buy fresh eggs for me once a week! Eggs, though I didn't eat them much in the States, are my main source of protein here. The fish always look horrible to me, possibly because the heads are still attached and tend to be covered in flies. (Nothing like the seafood counter in Trader Joes I had in mind when I put on my application that I really like seafood.) Once in a while there are a few varieties of mystery meat laying around the village, but once again I don't go there. The one time I bought what I think might have been turkey it was about 90% fat so I wasn't too thrilled about that. I really wish there were more cheese and nuts around, but not in my tiny village. Getting my house set up has been fun and time-consuming (which is actually a good thing when it comes to village life). My front room is my kitchen and dining room (a table with two chairs are on the way), complete with lots of shelving, a "counter top" of sorts, and my fridge. My back room is my bedroom and the living room. I got a bed frame made, which is really nice. It sure beats sleeping on the floor, which I've been doing since I got to Benin! I ordered a couch which should be done in the next few weeks. Lots of shelving in this room, too. Out back are my latrine and shower room (I ordered a stool for the shower so I can easily shave my legs. When the carpenter inquired as to why I needed a stool for the shower and I told him, he graciously informed me that only prostitutes in this country shave their legs. Thanks.), which I have surprisingly adapted to quite well. The latrine isn't bad, save for the minor swarm of cockroaches around it at night. Bucket showers are fine, though I never feel quite as clean as I do with normal showers because soap and shampoo don't lather as well when you are not as wet. I bought 2 huge trash cans that I pay the neighbor girls to fill from the well for me. (There is no way I would last doing this myself: the well is at least 50 feet deep and the bucket on the pulley holds like 2 liters of water) The biggest adventure involved in getting my house set up is cleaning. I have found some very interesting creatures living on shelves/on walls/in crevices along the way. I have gotten soooo much better at dealing with bugs than I was back at home, but I still get nervous when I have to dust off a high shelf. I got this cool bug spray that kills bugs from a distance, but with big spiders it takes them a long time to die. They first launch into a frenzied panic and do all sorts of crazy things like drop from the ceiling into your suitcase (no joke). There is this one brand of spider that is as flat as a sheet of paper and runs about as fast as a jaguar. Terrifying. There are also lots of lizards that live in my house, but they don't bother me, and they usually eat lots of the spiders. The other day as I was folding a pair of jeans, a lizard dropped out. Only in Africa. My life has settled into quite the routine here. School starts on October 6, so I have a few weeks of doing nothing. My day generally looks like this: 8am wake up 8-9 read/breakfast 9-10 shower/get ready for the day 10-11 clean 11-1 run errands/greet people/lunch 1-3 nap 3-6 read/play with neighbor kids/greet more people 6-8 dinner and dishes 8-9 journal 9 get ready for bed! As you can see, the pace of life here is much slower than what we Americans are used to. There are pros and cons to this. I love having the time and freedom to do what I want when I want, but it gets boring quite easily and I have more time to think about what I am missing at home.I am the only non Beninese person in the village, which is tough because I can't relate well to people and I am always started at because of it. Cooking is another interesting thing au village. You need to go to the market more or less daily to buy food for the day. Breakfast is never a problem, I usually have an orange or banana and some toast. Since lunch is at the hottest time of the day, I am tired, and eating on the streets is cheaper than it would cost me to make my own food PLUS I don't have to do dishes, I eat street food more or less daily for lunch. I go to the same woman every day who usually has eggs and once in a while has turkey and cheese, all served over a bed of rice in a delicious and spicy red sauce. She is going to make a lot of money off of me over the next two years. Since it is very hard to find vegetables in my village (except for once in a while African eggplant, which is shaped like a bell pepper and is white and orange and is DELICIOUS), my dinner usually ends up being a small plate of couscous or rise or spaghetti. Like I said, it is really tough to eat in a balanced way here. Market day is every 5 days in my village, and I discovered that you can find just about anything (other than vegetables. However, there is a woman who comes from a big town to the market who is willing to make an arrangement with me to buy me vegetables and bring them to Lobogo on market days!!) on those days. I am planning on getting a kitten or two at the next market day on Sunday. It will be very different from owning cats in the states (they have lots of babies, and fleas, and eat rice and fish instead of cat food), but I think they will really keep me company. It is pretty horrifying how they keep the livestock at the markets though, tied up by its neck or with limbs bound and lying sideways on the ground. I need to get over it. On market days the village probably quadruples in size, and you can find lots of really delicious snack foods too. Speaking of livestock, here's a story for you: the other night I got home to find several cattle in my front yard. Cattle here don't look like cattle in the U.S. by the way. These are the celebrity cattle: overwhelmingly emaciated. Anyways, I woke up at about 3am to a loud chopping sound in my front yard. I lay awake listening to it for a while, and finally decide to go towards my front door for a better listen. To my surprise, the noise was coming from just in front of my house! I began to get a bit nervous, for the only thing near my door worth chopping is my bike lock/chain. So, I was convinced that someone was trying to steal my bike, and didn't want to open my door to investigate if I was going to be faced with a machete-wielding thief. (PS it is not a myth: people here really do carry machetes with them all the time, to hack through bush and whatnot) After nearly 2 hours of laying awake and being quite nervous, I finally slept until morning. When I went out to investigate, my bike was still there and I saw no signs of chopped anything, so I asked my next door neighbor what it was, to which he quite casually responded "Oh, they slaughtered a cattle right in front of our doors last night. The chopping was them cutting up the meat and bones." Why on earth, you might ask, would someone slaughter a cow at 3am? The answer is simple: we are in Africa! Why WOULDN'T you kill a cow at 3am? As I have said approximately 59085098349058 times before, sleep is not sacred here. The neighbor was so kind as to warn me when they were killing another one around noon that day, so as not to disturb my... lunch? Never mind a good night's sleep, though. The poor thing took a long time to die, though, so I had to listen to it suffer which really really really bothered me. They then cut it all up, and even removed the green mush from its intestines. While doing so, I happened to walk by, and one man insisted on shaking my hand. Disease control, anyone? I immediately went and scrubbed it almost raw. People at post have been quite nice to me. My landlord's first wife is really really nice, but unfortunately doesn't live in the concession because he beat her one too many times. I went to the 4th birthday party of the daughter of one of the other English teachers, and I have spent some time with my homologue (another English teacher at my school who I will work closely with) and his wife and kids. My neighbors have also been really helpful in finding me a carpenter, taxis, etc. My taxi ride to Cotonou this morning, which normally should take just over 2 hours, took a solid 5. We stopped several times to tie down the hood and/or trunk, pick up an 8th or 9th passenger (in a 5-seater car), and several times it seemed we stopped for no reason at all. I am getting much, much better at being patient about these things. Most Americans would rip their hair out by the end of the trip, not that they would have gotten in a taxi that was in that poor of a condition in the first place. Anyways, it is almost 11pm here which is pretty late for me, so off to bed I go! I added some more pictures from Swear-In and the video of my papa and sons singing. Enjoy! Keep the letters and phone calls coming- they really help!! I think I will be updating a week from Friday when I go to Lokossa for the day. A la prochaine!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Well people, this will probably be last blog post for a while, so enjoy! I will begin by saying that I was unable to upload many of my pictures and videos for some reason, sorry! Hopefully I can get them up in a few weeks. As you know, Friday was our Swearing-In in Cotonou. Unfortunately, it poured all day long :(. We left Porto Novo really early in the morning and drove to the Palais de Congres in Cotonou. (Before I left my house in the morning, my papa informed me that they still hadn't picked up their outfits made of the swear-in tissue from the tailor because they didn't have enough money to, and asked to borrow money from me to do it. I gave it to them, and then my papa didn't even come to the ceremony. I know there are cultural differences involved, but I was pretty hurt by this. My mama and favorite little sister ended up coming, though.) It was in a ritzy part of town that we had never been to before, filled with tall and clean buildings. The Palais itself was a really beautiful building, done in a very artsy and rounded modern architectural style. In true Beninese style, the ceremony was supposed to start at 9am, but it didn't start until 10, with many people arriving as late as 11. The ceremony was in a huge hall, but certainly wasn't full. It was neat, the man who was president of Benin when Peace Corps started here attended, along with the U.S. Ambassador and other diplomats and ex-pats. More yovos than I've ever seen in one place since I've been here! Benin's current president did not end up coming, though. Towards the beginning of the ceremony, there was a video commemorating forty years of Peace Corps in Benin. The pictures from the early years here were pretty amazing! There were a few video clips of JFK creating the Peace Corps and one of him saying that “there is absolutely nothing more patriotic you can do as an American than to serve in the Peace Corps; there is no greater manifestation of the American spirit, and Peace Corps volunteers are America's brightest and best.” I think everyone teared-up during that part! It really made us all feel good about what we are doing, and also provoked some discussion among us about how most Americans revere the military as the ultimate thing you can do for your country; military members get paid and have so many benefits, whereas Peace Corps volunteers are respected to a point but not known about by many Americans, and don't get paid or receive many benefits from the government. Joining the military is seen as sacrificial and joining the Peace Corps is seen as noble at best, though I've heard some people call it selfish because they don't think that one person can make that big of a difference and we are just looking for a rich cultural experience with all expenses paid. No matter what people say, we all feel good about what we're doing and know we are making a difference! A man who was in the second Peace Corps delegation to Benin in 1969 spoke at the ceremony, which was really cool to hear. Can you imagine doing the Peace Corps back then- barley any cars, no electricity or water anywhere, no phone calls home! Must have been quite an experience. Many other officials spoke as well. It was so funny watching all the media that was covering the event: when someone speaks, there are a million reporters on stage in front of them with cameras and microphones so that the audience can't see the speaker. Big cultural difference there. Many of us gave speeches in local languages which was really cool. It was so weird hearing/seeing these young white people speaking these crazy tonal languages! They also had a neat anniversary cake that they cut on stage (that turned out to be about 95% rum when we ate it later). The singing was a bit of a disaster: many people didn't know the words/pitches, the guitar broke, and the last song ended up being a prerecorded CD that we sang along with and Ellias, one of the facilitators lip-synced along with the recording as we danced in the background. Most of us were laughing too hard- because the audience was dancing along- to sing well. At the end of the ceremony, we all had to raise our right hands and repeat and sign the oath of service after the ambassador, which is the same oath that military and government officials take. It felt really good afterwards to know that we were now officially volunteers, and we hugged and cheered! After the ceremony they served refreshments in the lobby, were I witnessed another difference between Beninese and American culture. The drinks were served at a bar in the lobby and there were a few people walking around with trays of snacks. Well, there was absolutely no semblance of a line at the bar or a correlation between when you stepped up to the bar and when you should get served. Worse still were the snack trays. People were literally bowling one another over to get to them as if they were starving, and when they got to the trays there was no polite “Well we should only take one and leave the rest so that everyone may get some.” Women were literally shoveling 4 or 5 pieces of cake into napkins and shoving them in their purses to have for later. Many volunteers didn't even get anything to eat, as it was literally dangerous in the lobby because you would be stampeded by the ravenous Beninese. I learn a new aspect of the culture every day, that's for sure! After the ceremony we had about two hours of free time in Cotonou, so John Mark and I went to get hummus and shwarma for lunch. That night was a dinner at the Palais, provided by but not attended by the President. The dinner wasn't too wonderful since there were enough plates and utensils for about 2/3 of the attendees, and you had to eat your dinner standing around in a crowded room with hardly any air conditioning. I did get to talk to the director of Peace Corps Africa for a while though, which was neat, and they also had an open bar so I got two glasses of Bordeaux :) That night we stayed at the Catholic mission in Cotonou, and even though we were were all super exhausted since we had gotten up at 5am, we stayed up celebrating until the early hours of the morning. It was really fun but also bittersweet since we knew that we won't be seeing many of these people until next year! It is odd that up until now our Peace Corps experience has been very group-oriented and we have been going through things together, whereas starting this week and for the rest of our service it will be very individualistic. Saturday morning we came back to Porto Novo so we could begin getting ready to leave for post on Sunday and Monday. Unfortunately I couldn't do much yesterday because of some sort of problem I'm having with my toe. I am not entirely sure if it is infected or not, but is hurts and is producing a lot of water and looks pretty weird. I am hoping tat it's not infected and have been cleaning it, putting antibiotic ointment on it and keeping it covered with bandages. The problem with issues on your feet, though, is that it is nearly impossible to keep them dry and clean, especially since a new and heavy rainy season has started. If it doesn't get any better within a week I am going to have to go see the doctors in Cotonou, which is the LAST thing I want to do right after moving to my village. I also have a small bug bits that got infected on the back of my leg, but I am taking good care of that too and am not too worried about it. I also have a cold. It really is true that changing climates and germ environments throws your immune system for quite a loop. Today I still have to buy a few things at the market, say goodbye to a few friends, and finish packing up my stuff to take to post with me. I think I am leaving at about 9am tomorrow morning, which will get me to my village around noon. The volunteer who I am replacing is actually going to be visiting the village on Monday and Tuesday so she is going to help me move in a show me around Lobogo a bit, which is nice. I am excited and very nervous to go. I am sad to leave my littlest host sister, who absolutely adores me. She always has to be hugging or petting me, and last week, in her broken French, she said to me “One day, you and I, we're going to get married.” It just about broke my heart! I wish I could bring here back to the States with me. Anyways, as I said I will not have internet at least for a few weeks, since the closest internet to my village is a good 45 minutes. However, September 26 I think I am going to the town that has internet to celebrate my friends birthday, so hopefully I will be able to update then. I will also not be able to pick up mail as frequently now. So, the best way to reach me is by phone, and believe me I will really be needing it in my three months of isolation! I will have a lot more free time now, so you can really call me anytime before 5pm EST. Texting is good too :) Thanks again for following my blog, and keep it up, it just won't be updated as regularly! Wish me luck on my big adventure! Lots of love from Africa xoxo
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Hey, just a quick update. I added new pictures and a video to my last post, be sure to check them out! Monday was our prize-giving ceremony for model school, which went pretty well. As prizes, the kids got English dictionaries, pens, notebooks, etc. Tuesday we did lots of wrap-up sessions, and in true Peace Corps style, took lots of “post-tests” even though they don't count for anything. We had a session where we learned about possible secondary projects we can do involving gender and development, which is something I'm really interested in. The gender inequality here is hard to deal with everyday, especially in schools with sexual harassment, so I think I will do a project in this area. I have never been a bra-burning feminist, but being in this country makes me feel strongly about the issue. There is something every summer called Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), where volunteers bring girls from all over the country to a week-long summer camp. The girls go on field trips to government meetings and museums, meet successful Beninese women, and do fun summer camp type things for female empowerment, all free of charge to them. Especially because many girls never get to travel outside of their village, this is a really special thing for them. Yesterday we talked about how to deal with loneliness during the first three months at post which was really good to hear about. Yesterday I also had a little bit of an issue involving my host family. I will preface this story by saying how much I love my host family, which makes “having issues” with them even harder. I had mentioned to my papa that I was curious how much bed frames and mirrors cost here. Trying to be helpful, my papa asked some carpenters for bed prices. He came home and told me the prices, which seemed outrageously high (nearly half of the money that we get for out “settling-in allowance, with which to furnish our house), so I told him I was pretty sure I didn't want it. Same for the mirror: he called for his nephew who makes mirrors to come to the house and take the measurements for the mirror I want and calculate the price. The price came out to nearly $60 U.S. which is really pricey even in the States, let alone here. (Plus, I just wanted to find a mirror at the market, not get one custom-made for me.) Other volunteers told me that they got full-length mirrors for the equivalent of about $7, so I know that the $60 was way off. Once again, I said thanks but no thanks, and I would let him know if I later decided that I wanted one. Well, my papa spent all night trying to convince me that those prices were good, but I was still skeptical, so I told him that I would ask the Beninese facilitators this morning what they thought and give him a definitive answer at lunch. When I asked them, as I suspected, they were appalled at the prices and told me to absolutely refuse them (they were nearly triple normal prices). This obviously upset me because it made me wonder if my papa was trying to rip me off. One of the facilitators decided to call my papa and tell him the white lie that another volunteer who had recently completed service had left me a bed so I no longer needed one from the carpenter. My papa proceeded to tell the facilitator that he was angry because he already ordered the bed, and even offered to pay 1/5 of the cost for me. I still refused, and also told him that I didn't the mirror. He got very angry and hung up on me. I started crying because I now didn't know if my papa was trying to rip money off me because the prices were so outrageously high. The facilitators had to come to my house and try and calm him down, and he has been visibly angry at me since. I have been thinking about it since, and have decided that my papa was not the one trying to rip me off, but rather the vendors. I think that because my papa is old and quite well-off financially, they will tell him no matter what price and he will believe it. The situation was made more awkward because the mirror maker and carpenter were relatives, so my mama is quite upset because she feels that I insulted the family. The infuriating thing is that I never said that I wanted to go ahead and order these things! Our cultural differences and inability to communicate well make the situation worse and less understandable for both parties. While I know that papa was just trying to be helpful, it ended up turning into quite an upsetting ordeal. It is really unfortunate that this happened a few days before I leave because I think we might end up on a bit of a sour note, but so be it. I'm just thankful that I will have my own home in a few days, and didn't have to spend so much money! Another random rant: I am so sick of sleep not being sacred here!!! The Zangbeto/voodoo ceremony has been right in our driveway the last few nights, which means LOUD drumming for about an hour at 3am. It is also now Raamadan which means that the muslims now start praying over the loudspeaker at 3am instead of 5:30, and since they are fasting and can only eat before the sunrise the bread sellers are out screaming about their hot bread starting at about 2:30. It is also not unheard of for our doorbell to ring at 2am with someone looking to buy ice from us. This country is definitely for light sleepers or people who are afraid of things that go bump in the night. This afternoon I bought a mirror and a few more household items with my friend John Mark, since our bank accounts were finally opened and I have access to my settling-in allowance. Tomorrow is swear-in in Cotonou! Should be a really fun day- I hope my speech goes well, since it will be in front of the president and broadcast on international news! I will update again one more time before heading off to village on Monday! Bisous!