My adventures serving in the Peace Corps

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Thought I'd sneak in one last post before Christmas :) I'm on the first leg of my two day journey up to Natitingou, and just briefly stopped at my favorite cyber cafe in Lokossa. Tonight I will the stay the night with a second-year volunteer in Azové, and bright and early tomorrow morning we'll taxi to Bohicon where we'll catch a bus to Natitingou. So, unfortunately, most of my Christmas Eve will be spent traveling. Oh well. The safari should make up for it!!!
Pictures in this post: my "stuff sent to me from home" wall, the view sitting on my couch, the views right and left out my back door, and my shower room. I know it is nothing exciting, but a lot of people have been telling my that they want a better idea of my house/concession/village. I will put more pictures up in later posts when I have more time.
The rest of my weekend in Lokossa after my last post was fun as usual. Instead of doing an Italian dinner, Michelle and I made guacamole and homemade tortilla chips! (It wasn't too hard! Imagine- you would never go to the trouble to make your own tortilla chips in the States) We miraculously found a mango in the market even though they don't come into season for almost four more months, so we ate that for breakfast along with banana pancakes.
Upon returning home, Angele informed me that I had to come to church the next morning. Well, I was exhausted from traveling and didn't much feel like getting up for 6:30am church, so I politely declined. She went on to essentially order me to come to church, and I think took it personally when I said that it was my decision, not hers. She must think I am either really boring or really nonreligious. To the Beninese, church is the one time a week to dress up and go out, but when it starts at 6:30am and is in a language that I completely don't understand, I just don't usually feel like going. I had another small fever on Monday, but it went away pretty quickly. I think if anything, I might have an intestinal parasite that isn't really affecting my digestive system. Apparently cyclic fevers, loss of appetite, and fatigue can be symptoms. If this continues I will make an appointment to go see the doctors after the holidays and give them a MIF kit (read: poop in a cup) to test. The rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful, although I got phone calls from my parents, grandma and uncle, and the Holleys which was nice :)
It was the last week of school before break, and I think both teachers and students alike were quite happy about it! Since I always liked it when teachers did this before breaks when I was in school, we took it a bit easy this week: played some hangman, “telephone”, and I taught them how to sing Jingle Bells and Let it Snow! I will put up a video of the kids singing Jingle Bells when I have more time, although Let it Snow was a bit easier for them! The bad part about this week was that I received a pile of roughly 225 exams that I have to grade over break. So far I have done about 75, but I still have a ton more to plug through. It has been frustrating grading the exams because of all the little errors on the test. First, the test is hand-written by a teacher who is not fluent in English, and then the hand-written copy is given to a woman who can barely even speak French, let alone English, to type. Needless to say, it had quite a few errors on it that threw the kids off and I had to be careful deciding where to cut them slack. Some kids have done really well, but a majority haven't been doing as well as I would have hoped. I blame it equally as much on the test as I do on the students.
Thursday night my proprietor's sister from Nigeria came to visit, and even though I'd never met her before, she bought me three large beers, and then gave me a boumba (a traditional outfit) and a wine glass! It was very nice of her. Sometimes it amazes me how giving this culture is, and it reminds me to realize that when they ask me for things it is not as rude as I perceive it to be. That night Cameron also called me, and as usual, our call got cut off about 4578485724 times.
On Saturday my parent's called me and had me open my two Christmas packages from them while on the phone together. It was very sweet of them: they had put in my Christmas stocking and stuffed it with lots of goodies. That day I also heard from my grandma and grandpa and Mitch! The rest of my weekend was just spent relaxing, reading (I have read four books in the past week!), grading exams, and getting ready for this trip! Yesterday the vet came to finally give my kitties the rabies vaccine, so I was happy about that. They are staying with Angele and Quirin for the week. (Who, to celebrate Christmas, along with the rest of the village, are killing lots of animals, walking around the town in their best outfits, and getting drunk off of sodabe, the local moonshine- the ideal Beninese good time! Their two children were lucky and got to go to Nigeria to celebrate. Needless to say I am glad that at least this time around I am spending Christmas with other Americans.)
That's about all from this end. I hear you folks back at home are getting dumped on with snow. I must say that I'm jealous. I will never stop saying it: it is really disgustingly hot here. (In fact, my new habit is whenever I come home from school, stripping off my clothes, rinsing off in the shower, and then air drying in front of the fan!) At least you will have a white Christmas! I know I have said it before, but the holidays have been the hardest time so far for me to be away from home. I am not even consciously too sad, I have just been a little bit down over the past few weeks. My safari ought to cheer me up! Christmas day will be spent at the Peace Corps' workstation in Natitingou with lots of other volunteers, and then our safari guide is picking us up there at 7am the next morning! I will be sure and take lots of pictures! I love you all and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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