My adventures serving in the Peace Corps

Friday, December 12, 2008


Only a week since my last post! I am one lucky girl with all this luxurious internet access :)
The rest of my weekend in Lokossa was really nice. Michelle and I went to a local orphanage for the evening and stood in a circle with the kids while they taught us various singing/clapping/dancing games, some of which involved us dancing solo in the middle of the circle. Peace Corps moment right there, folks. We also taught the kids some American songs like the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Surprisingly, many of their games were to American/European tunes, such as Old McDonald. We tried to teach them the Hokey Pokey, during which they excitedly exclaimed “Le Bougie Bougie!!” Apparently here it's the bougie bougie, not the hokey pokey. It was really good spending time with these kids. They ranged in age from newborns to probably fourteen or fifteen, but they all worked and played hard together.
After that, Michelle and I made ourselves some delicious mac and cheese for dinner. While cooking, my dad called me on his cell phone from the christmas tree farm telling me about the tree they had selected and making sure that one was ok with me, so I could be a part of the decision as usual. To my surprise, this made me start crying, and probably even more to his surprise, my dad cried a little too. It was very sweet of him. Apparently the Hurst family tree is beautiful this year :) The next morning I took a real shower because Michelle has running water, and we made some oatmeal/oat bran/muesli pancakes for breakfast that were really good. (I swear, I don't eat like this all the time here! Only when I get together with other volunteers :)
This week was “finals week” at my school so I just had to proctor exams. Though it was a nice break from teaching and lesson planning, it sure was boring! The kids definitely didn't take me as seriously as a Beninese (and male) proctoring teacher, which was frustrating. They tended to not take me seriously when I told them to stop talking or got angry. This is a constant frustration of mine in school here (though my own students, for whom I did not proctor, take me a bit more seriously). Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing how my students fare on the exams.
Biggest frustration of the week: I got sick, AGAIN. Seriously, I am at a loss for what to do about this. I didn't go to the med unit this time, but it did keep me from a day of school. Tuesday evening I felt quite fatigued and “out of it,” so I went to bed early thinking maybe I was just overly tired. Wednesday morning I felt so-so, so I popped some ibuprofen and went to school. After school, however, the feeling came back. I didn't have a headache or anything, but I felt extremely sluggish and down and I had a fever of close to 101. I took a cold bath before going to bed early and hoped for the best. Well, like magic, Thursday came and I felt just about 100% better. So, I have no idea what it was. Perhaps some sort of virus coming on that my Z-pack antibodies fought off? In any case, it was really, really frustrating. Obviously I am tired of being sick all the time, but I was even more worried that I would have to go to the doctor in Cotonou again. I know it is not this extreme yet, but lord knows I would not want them to send me home on account of my constant health problems here. It is also frustrating to constantly tell Beninese people I am sick. I am assaulted with offers of mysterious cures that I have to rudely turn down, the typical “├ža va passer,” and the telltale look in their eyes that says “crazy white girl, why are you sick all the time??” What they don't understand is that I was plopped into this hot and humid germ-friendly environment and exposed to bacteria and germs that don't exist in the United States. My neighbor was also quite perplexed when he spotted that I had been crying and when I told him it was because I was sick and frustrated, he acted like that was about the strangest reason in the world that a person should cry. Oh, well. As the doctor says, at least I am lucky in that-and knock on wood- I haven't had too many stomach problems, all things considered.
Being sick here is also quite boring. No movies or TV or internet, so basically I had to choose between staring at the ceiling and reading, which can be hard to do while sick. Nonetheless, I read The Poisonwood Bible, which is about an American missionary family who goes to the Congo in the 1960s. It was an excellent book and I encourage you all to read it, especially if you want a glimpse into some of the finer points of life here in Africa. The details about how people dress, eat, and even walk were extremely accurate.
I am in Lokossa again this weekend for a Volunteer Advisory Counsel meeting, and I think tonight some of us are going to make an Italian dinner complete with lasagna and tiramisu :) Speaking of other volunteers, I still haven't figured out my exact plans for Christmas day. I'll be with other volunteers, somewhere. I am doing pretty well with the holidays, but I do miss home a bit more than usual. As Leah pointed out on the phone, it is probably harder for people back home who haven't changed environments like I have- they just have the same old Christmas, just without me. I have two packages from my parents that they want me to open while on the phone with them, as close to Christmas as possible. I also found out that Mr. Vess' French classes at Pioneer, with whom I am doing a correspondence program, are getting together some packages to send to my school! And I think I already mentioned that my cousin is sending me tons and tons of books from a closing-down library near her. Speaking of packages, could someone send me an extra pair of headphones? The really nice ones I bought before I came here only work in one ear now! Christmas cards and other goodies are welcome :) That's all for now. I hope your holidays continue to be joyful and filled with friends and family!

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