My adventures serving in the Peace Corps

Monday, December 7, 2009

PCPP is approved!

That means that within a few days' time (hopefully), you will be able to donate to Camp GLOW! It was approved this afternoon by the director of Peace Corps Benin, and will be sent on to Washington DC tomorrow. I'm told that when it reaches PC in Washington, it gets online within a few days. I'm still not exactly sure of the precise process for donating, but I will let you know as soon as I do.
Once again, I am back in Cotonou... I am beginning to feel like I live here! I returned to my village last Tuesday night and taught class on Wednesday and Thursday. We reviewed for the midterms that are taking place this week, and it was a lot of fun, especially with my older classes! I am really enjoying working with them. We reviewed adjectives we had learned like "afraid", "dizzy", "sick", etc and it was so much fun- I acted each one out. For "afraid", I cowered behind a students and said that there was a lion on the other side of the door; for "dizzy" I spun around in about ten circles and then stumbled around the classroom. The kids loved it, and they were actors as well when they had to do doctor-patient dialogues. I really hope they do well on the exams! I wrote the exams for both sixieme and quatrieme, so that should give my students a better chance at succeeding.
Friday morning, I headed to Dogbo to celebrate Catherine's birthday. I zemmed straight there again, but this week we took a different path than normal. It was seriously like driving through the enchanted forest/the most stereotypical image of rural Africa that you could imagine: dense jungle complete with vines and monkeys, topless women and scantily clad men, the tiniest mud-and-thatch villages you can imagine. I honestly believe that 75% of them had never seen a white person before, so driving though that area caused a huge shit storm. We were stopped multiple times en route by villagers blocking the road with a log, demanding money to pass. Can you imagine someone doing that in America?! Crazy.
Getting to Catherine's house was really nice- it is so Christmas-y! She had tons of decorations out, candles burning, and Christmas music playing. (Later in the weekend, we even made a homemade wreath- check out the picture! Other pictures are of more Harmattan dust in the air in my village.) That night, her, Michelle, and I made mexican food and brownies for dinner, and watched the Muppet Christmas Carol! It was also fun seeing her cat which is just as, if not more pregnant than mine.
We got up early the next morning to head to a small village where we were participating in a youth-oriented panel discussion. Once we got out of the taxi, we had to zem to the village, and I must say that I have never had a scarier zem experience here in Benin. The road to the village was a narrow and crowded sand path with lots of twists and turns, and I would estimate that our zems were taking it at about sixty mph. Not only were there other zems on the path and women walking to the market, but the dust was kicking up in our faces so much that we could hardly see and inch in front of our faces. We were screaming at our drivers to slow down, and they completely ignored us. When we got to our destination and I told him how dangerous he was being, he only laughed. It was awful and we were all really shaken up. Travel during the holiday season is not great: prices go up, and many drivers have had too much to drink, even at 8am.
The forum was not particularly great. It consisted of a huge group of young adults asking the five of us volunteers questions about life in America, mostly relating to women's rights. I suppose we planted seeds in their heads about the way things could be, but it really seemed like us just telling them how much better America is than Benin and them not being able to do a thing about it. The room was also boiling hot and the forum lasted about three hours, so those factors didn't help, either. One cool part about the day, though, was we got to see a library in the village that is exclusively for girls. Apparently of the 360 or so girls who used the library last year, only three of them didn't pass on to the next grade level, which is astounding for this country. To top off our not-so-great day, Catherine was describing the brown widow spiders (like black widows, only deadlier) she sometimes gets in her back area, and when she showed me what their egg sacks look like, I discovered that I, too, have them at my house. Great. At least we made yummy pad thai for dinner...
The next morning we made bacon (sent from home) and cinnamon rolls and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, so the day definitely started off on a better foot! I then came down to Cotonou and got some work done, which has been easy to do as I have been the ONLY volunteer here this whole time. This literally NEVER happens, so I have been trying to make the most of it! Today I finalized my PCPP and met with the president of the organization who is co-sponsoring Camp GLOW- the Reseau des Mamans Modeles (model mamas). They are an awesome organization of Beninese women who are lawyers, entrepreneurs, doctors, etc. and do activities such as "take your daughter to work day", so they should be perfect to help out with Camp GLOW! I met with the woman at the restaurant she owns, and she treated me to a nice dinner.
I guess the last thing I will talk about is our trip to Mali that is coming up in a few weeks. In the past year or so, several westerners have been captured and ransomed by terrorists in the Sahel (the southern part of the Sahara). About a week and a half ago, a Frenchman was captured outside of his hotel in northeastern Mali, and back in June, a British man was captured and murdered there. The recent kidnapping, combined with the termination of Peace Corps in Niger, have resurrected concerns about safety in the area. That all being said, the area where my group is traveling is not near to any of these places- Mali is an enormous country. After much discussion and a slight modification of our itinterary, I think that our trip will still be a go. We have a large group, we won't be traveling with much money, and are going with a guide who has worked with Peace Corps for many years, so we all feel pretty safe about it. I don't want this to freak you out, I just thought that I should let you all know what is going on.
I think that I am returning to my post tomorrow, but there is a slight chance that it will not be until Thursday or Friday. Hopefully, I can just stay there until the 23rd when the trip begins!


loehrke said...

Tell those zemi drivers "DOUCEMENT!!!!". Crazies.
And I don't like the sound of those brown widow spiders.....always SOME crazy thing!!
The ONE movie our family HAS to watch every Christmas EVERY year is "Muppet Christmas Carol". It is just THE BEST!!!
Stay safe and healthy, Mark Loehrke (Carly's dad)

Angelina said...

Yeah, my family watches it on Thanksgiving every year! I remember bonding with Carly over our mutual love of the movie on Thanksgiving last year :)