My adventures serving in the Peace Corps

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm still alive! (despite viscious goats and the sky falling)

Wow, I can't believe that it's been over a month since my last post... and here I always bragged about how up-to-date my blog was :( sorry! I had absolutely no idea how crazy my last few months here in Benin were going to get. And there truly are only a few months left... And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: AUGUST 12! I will leave my village on August 4 or 5 and then fly out of Benin on the 11th. Just over two months, how crazy is that?? I feel like I've been waiting for so long to know an actual date.
I won't bore you with excruciating details of the last month of my life, but here's a taste:
-We had our last Camp GLOW meeting! We divvied up the number of girls that each volunteer gets to bring, and this year I am bringing 5! It was hard to choose, but I think I picked some really hard-working and driven girls, all from my sixieme classes. I have been visiting the girls' families with my homologue, and so far so good. No crazy bush-whacking moonlit experiences this year, but that's ok. Most of the work for Camp GLOW is done, or at least has been delegated. What I am having a hard time with now is just trusting that all of the delegated work will get done... I know it will! We have some great volunteers working on the camp this year. Camp starts in 26 days!
-On April 30, Andrew and I ran some camp errands in Porto Novo, mainly giving people down payments and trying (unsuccessfully) to meet with the mayor. We then headed to his post to hang out for the weekend and celebrate Labor day there. He lives north of Porto Novo in the Oueme river vally, which, believe it or not, is the second most fertile vally in all of AFRICA after the Nile. It really is just a beautiful, lush area, and his town is on a bit of a hill overlooking the river... which was beautiful until it rained. And rained. Than it kept raining. And rained some more. I literally got stuck there and extra day because of the rain that just wouldn't stop and the resulting quicksand/mud. The only time we ventured out of his house that day was to buy food to make some dinner, and it took us almost two hours of desperate sinking and sliding to walk a grand total of maybe a 1/4 mile. Sounds silly, but it made me REALLY appreciate drainage and sewer systems in the US!
-Belle and Baby had their kittens!! Belle had hers the morning of the Cotonou GAD fundraiser, so I didn't end up going to that. I got to watch the whole thing which was pretty fascinating. She had two adorable and healthy kittens, both white with brown and black spots. Honestly, they look a lot more like Baby! Speaking of Baby, she went into labor two days later just as I was on my way out the door. When I got back from class, there was a bit of liquid on the floor and Baby was definitely skinnier, but no sign of any kittens. My guess (hope) is the kitten(s) was stillborn and she ate it, in which case I'm sure glad I wasn't there to see it! Like before, she is acting like momma #2 for Belle's kittens, which is really cute.
-Sad story about kittens... sorry to retell this awful story, but it's fruitful to know the random and cruel way people treat animals here sometime. Brigitte, another PCV who took one of Belle's first kittens, was out of town for a training and left the kitten with her neighbors. One night while she was gone, the cat was outside in front of the house, when an old man with a walking stick started beating it mercilessly. It was able to jump into a well for safety ("safety") and the neighbors were able to get it out. Unfortunately, most of it's bones were broken and it could barely walk, and couldn't control its bladder or bowels. Brigitte called me crying, asking my permission to put the cat to sleep. Obviously I said yes, but the story just broke my heart. She said the hardest part about it all was the indifference of her Beninese friends and neighbors, just telling her to "get a new one." She has not yet told me if she ended up putting him down or not. I also recently witnessed one of the beby goats in my concession get hit by a moto and break one of it's legs pretty badly. Now it's mother refuses to nurse it and it is growing very weak. I have had a pretty thick skin so far when it comes to animals here, but both of those things have made me cry.
-Finally had a good old "hang out in Lokossa" weekend like I used to do ALL the time last year. We baked a pound cake and I learned how to make my favorite Beninese sauce. Can't wait to make it for some of you next year!
-Crazy weather. For a while, it seemed like the rain was pretty predictable, at least once every few days. Now, it seems to go a while with no rain, and it is SO hot. One day last week, I left my house for school and noticed that the sky was dark and looked like rain. I arrived at school just in time to see students and professors alike SPRINTING to take cover inside classrooms. I looked out over the soccer field to see that the sky was LITERALLY falling. It had turned black as tar and was rapidly lowering to the ground. The wind must have been blowing at 90mph, and suddenly the fiercest rain I have ever, EVER seen was falling. I was actually cold for a few minutes there! I now know that I had not experienced a real African rain until that moment.
-COS conference happened! It was at a really nice hotel in Cotonou right on the ocean (alongside the fishing tenements, lovely). Not only did we get to stay in air conditioned rooms with hot showers, but we had a HUGE swimming pool and were fed some pretty fabulous meals each day. It was really the first time we had been together as a group since training, and it's probably the last time a lot of us will see each other. The first day of the conference, we talked a lot about the logistics of COSing, picked our dates (which was SO painless... they basically let us decide amongst ourselves and there were plenty of slots available, so I basically had my pick from August 9 on... hence the 11th! I'm COSing with Michelle and Kristin, two of my best friends here in country, so that will be nice), and talked about honing our Peace Corps experiences into concrete skills. The second day was dedicated to resume writing and interview skills, along with giving feedback to PC Benin administration. We had a fancy luncheon that day during which we received certificates of thanks from the various Beninese ministries we serve... I was shown on national news accepting my award! That night, we had Kendra's bachelorette party! Please appreciate the veil made out of mosquito netting :) Her boyfriend proposed to her when he visited Benin last summer, and they are planning to get married in Atlanta in May 2011! Kendra is another TEFL volunteer. On the last day, we talked about readjusting to life in the US, how to share our experience with others back at home, and strategies for saying goodbye to our villages. We put together a really nice slideshow of our time here, too. You'll all have to be very patient with me when I come back home for good... it's gonna be a tough adjustment and I'll probably want to talk your ear off. On the way home from COS conference, I stopped at a nice bakery in Cotonou and got a slice of cake and lots of cookies for Mariam and the girls since it was her birthday. (She wanted me to bake her a cake; she had reminded me about 4 zillion times when her birthday was.) Turns out she was having a little birthday party, complete with a photographer (the hallmark of any Beninese celebration) and all! The cookies were a big hit with the kids :)
Now, the part about viscious goats. You might wonder why I'm down in Cotonou, during the school week and a whopping three days after COS conference ended. I'm in the med unit because- I kid you not (pun intended)- I was bit by a goat. On the hand. Quite hard. I had some bread in my hand and wasn't paying attention, and up snuck the goat and chomped down on my fingers. It broke the skin, and after washing it, reading the med book, and lots of deliberation, I decided to call the doctors to see if I needed any treatment. I woke up this morning with a red, sore, puffy finger, so I think I made the right choice. The good news is, goats can't carry rabies, so no risk there. I did, however, have to get a tetnus shot and am now on antibiotics. There are some things about Benin that I don't think I'll miss much!
I would say that I am overall quite happy right now, though I'm really stressed out. It's the end of the school year (last week teaching!), which means typing and grading exams and calculating year-end grades, and my end of the year report to Peace Corps. Camp GLOW is 3.5 weeks away. And now I have all my mountains of COS paperwork to fill out. So, I'll do my best to keep updating. Not sure when the next time I'll have internet access is, probably in two weeks or so when I'll come down to put the finishing touches on Camp GLOW. I'm going to try and spend as much time in Lobogo in these last few months as possible.
Quick explanation of the pictures: Mari's birthday party, the bachelorette party, the press crowding in front of the podium so the audience can't see a thing, as is usual here in Benin, the kittens!, a pink chicken (people dye them to identify which one is theirs), and one of my students who showed up as a Pink Lady one day!

1 comment:

loehrke said...

Never, ever apologize for an perceived "lateness" of your blogs. You keep up MUCH better than just about anybody. You should be proud!!
That rain must have been spectacular. Does your classroom have a tin roof?? It must have been SO LOUD!!! Crazy.
That is really great that you can take 5 girls to Camp GLOW. That is such an amazing project. you are changing lives. Never doubt it.
Watch out for killer goats!! I'm going to have to look up what is the flora of a goat bite!! Ah, Africa, it never fails to amaze me.
Enjoy your last few months. Your family and friends will be SO HAPPY to see you.
Stay healthy, Mark Loehrke (Carly's dad)