September 13, 2003 - Travelpod: I will be living in Benin, West Africa, a tiny country between Togo and Nigeria, for the next two years and three months

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Benin: Peace Corps Benin : The Peace Corps in Benin: September 13, 2003 - Travelpod: I will be living in Benin, West Africa, a tiny country between Togo and Nigeria, for the next two years and three months

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, September 13, 2003 - 1:55 pm: Edit Post

I will be living in Benin, West Africa, a tiny country between Togo and Nigeria, for the next two years and three months

I will be living in Benin, West Africa, a tiny country between Togo and Nigeria, for the next two years and three months

Last Saturday, I lay in bed in the air-conditioned ranch house in Goliad, Texas. The lights were out, and the stiff sheets were tight under my chin. Suddenly, I heard a loud rustling in the corner! What was it?! A cockroach? A mouse? I quickly turned on the light, careful to keep one hand on the sheet . . . musn’t let that slip down exposing me to the little creatures that were surely about to surround and conquer! I gazed in the corner trying to decipher the cause of the noise. Soon, a moth flew out from behind the cabinet and toward the lamp. Whew! Just a moth (or was it a flying cockroach in disguise?). I turned the light back off and cozied under my covers again. And I laughed. How on earth was I going to survive in Africa if I couldn’t even handle the luxury of an air-conditioned, enclosed ranch house with running water?! A week from tonight I will be climbing under a mosquito net in Benin, West Africa, for the second night in a row and falling asleep (hopefully) to the sounds of chirping crickets, voodoo drumming, and critters scurrying across the floor of my room.

But right now, my eyes hurt. My throat is a little sore. My body is tired. And I am Awake (barely). As usual, I have waited till the last minute to do ridiculous things like burn mix CDs and organize my email account. And, yes, my bed is still covered with things that need to be stored away while I am gone or stuffed into an already overflowing backpack that is surely going to exceed the weight limit. This is who I am: Queen of Procrastinators. Maybe it is really a technique to distract me from the butterflies in my stomach. After all, I fall asleep much easier when I am thoroughly exhausted. I plan on hitting the sack soon, but first a quick rundown on my future and how you can contact me.

For those of you who may not have heard from me in ages (or who may be hearing from me for the first time since meeting me in Europe or elsewhere), I am embarking on a new adventure. I have joined Peace Corps, an American volunteer organization. I will be living in Benin, West Africa, a tiny country between Togo and Nigeria, for the next two years and three months, unless I decide to Early Terminate (ET in Peace Corps lingo...get used to the acronyms). I will be working as an English as a Foreign Language teacher.

The day after tomorrow I board a plane at 6:30 a.m. (UGH!) for Washington, D.C., where I will visit a couple of friends for one night before heading to Staging the next day. Staging is an orientation in the United States before going to the country for training. On Tuesday, I will go to Philadelphia, where the Staging will take place. I will be there for two days meeting the other volunteers and learning a little bit more about the program before getting pumped with some vaccines and then climbing into a plane on Thursday. On Friday night, I will arrive in Cotonou, Benin, and training will begin.
After one week staying in a hotel in Cotonou, we will head to smaller communities to begin our home stay and our more specific training activities. Much of our training will actually come from our host families. Just like a study abroad program, we are expected to integrate ourselves into their daily life as much as possible, learning how to bargain at the market, helping cook Beninese food (I think I may actually be okay with much of what they eat there...we’ll see), and attending traditional ceremonies. We will also come together with other volunteers to receive language and technical training (I may eventually be learning a tribal language because I already speak French), learn how to fix the bicycles Peace Corps will provide for us, and discuss our future placement with the head honchos who decide those sorts of things.

Benin is a tiny country between Togo and Nigeria in West Africa. For those of you who don't know where it is, you are not alone! I had to look it up myself when I first found out. It is in the armpit of Africa, the little indention before the coast line goes straight down towards the Southern part of the continent. Check it out on CIA web site (my dad's favorite) or another one. I will try to put some links in future entries, but time is running short right now. Another couple of web sites to check out are and the Fon is Fun web site, which you can find easily if you type it in any search engine. The Fon is Fun site has some great pictures, funny stories about one Peace Corps Volunteer's experiences there, Beninese food recipes, and more! The temperature will be much like Corpus Christi (hot and humid), but without air-conditioning. I've heard of some people having fans made for them out of car batteries. We'll see how long it takes before I succumb to such a wonderful invention.

I would love to write more, but I must finish straightening up my room and the house and getting myself organized, or I think I may not make it to Benin for fear of my parent's wrath (just kidding...they've been quite supportive of boxes and papers littering the sunroom for the past few weeks).

Thank you to all who have been very supportive during this process. Some of you have written recommendations for me. Some of you have told me your own Peace Corps stories that have encouraged me during this eternal process. Some of you have given me incredible gifts of books, letters I can open when I am there, and free housing during my in-between times. Many of you have been wonderful, supportive friends, always asking me how I'm doing, where I am in the whole shebang, and doing your best to convince me that I am really capable of doing this. Thank you so much!

Many of you have asked me how you can write me. I am creating a specific entry with instructions on how to go about doing that very thing!

So, the next time you receive news from me, I will be in the craziness of Cotonou, where moped taxis rule the streets and VCRs have replaced the movie theaters (so I thing I am very depressed about!).

Have a wonderful week!

Hello again!

Some of you have requested information about how you might write me real, old-fashioned letters. Below, you will find instructions on how to send me mail. If, after reading all of this, you decide it is still worth it to write me, thank you, thank you, thank you. I know that letters will probably be the best therapy I'll be able to get over there.

Here goes:

1. Make a copy of your letters and number them. While the post is fairly reliable, things do sometimes get lost or delayed. Numbering letters lets me know whether or not a letter has been lost.

2. Write “Air Mail” and “Par Avion” on the envelope.

3. As much as I would love to receive it :) , don’t send any money, checks, or anything of value. There is a large chance that they will be stolen.

4. If you do decide to mail a package, send it via air mail, not surface mail (surface mail has been known to take longer than two years to arrive). Also, bubble envelopes tend to work better than large boxes because they are less tempting to would-be thieves. Clearly and honestly mark the contents of the package, but a general description is sufficient: “clothing and candy” rather than “Nike sneakers and 2 lbs. of Godiva chocolate.”

5. Express mail is an expensive option that may take just as long to get to Benin, so don’t bother with it.

6. There is a tax, which I will have to pay on all packages I receive before I am able to pick them up at the post office, so don’t send anything unless you think I’ll really, really love it or need it.

7. If for some reason you receive something from me that has been mailed from the U.S., don't worry. I have not necessarily been medically evacuated. Oftentimes, volunteers will send letters via other volunteers who may be home visiting their families because they will arrive more quickly. There is a small chance that these letters may be opened by customs officials when they leave Africa or enter the United States.

So, my address for the first three months will be:

Suzanne Kratzig, PCT
Corps de la Paix Americain
B.P. 971
Cotonou, Benin
Afrique de l’Ouest (West Africa)

This address will change as soon as I get my placement. I will post the new one on here as soon as possible. Try not to sent any letters to this address after the first week in August. Wait till I post the new address and then send them there. Thanks!

Can't wait to hear from you!

I have about ten minutes to give a quick rundown. Of course, I didn't follow my plan to write this out before coming to the internet place, so lower your expectations a little bit. This entry will be far from poetic.

So much has happened in the past couple of weeks. As I sit here writing this on a fairly fast computer (especially considering the connection to the internet by phone, I think??), a cool fan squeaking over my head, I can hardly believe that I am in Africa.

Less than two weeks ago, my fellow stagiaires (trainees) and I ran over to the windows by Mary Kate to get our first glimpse of Africa. The Sahara desert stretched out below us like a bright red sea. We all turned to look at each other with nervous, stupid grins on our faces. A few hours later, we stepped out of the plane and into the Beninese heat and humidity. Thank God for Corpus was less of a shock for me, I think.

But let me back up a bit...

Staging in Philadelphia was quick and uninteresting compared to what has happened since, so I won't dwell on it. At the time, though, it seemed very exciting to be sitting in those cold chairs in a hotel conference room discussing cultural issues and malaria medication and playing icebreaker games. It was a great opportunity to get to know our fellow stagiaires on familiar soil. I like everyone in my group. We have a good combination of serious folks, jokesters, married couples, first generation immigrants, dancers, men, and women. We all seem to get along well, and I feel very fortunate to be among such a good group.

AAAHHH!!!! I have taken too much time. I will try to get back to the computer soon to write more. Culture class beckons, though, and my bike chain has already fallen off once. We haven't yet learned how to fix them, so I better get a move on.

Once again trying my luck in the cybercafe. Some Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) have given up completely on email because it really tries your patience.

So, the story continues...

All 24 of us stagiaires made it through staging and began the LOOOOOONG voyage to Benin. On the way to JFK, we anticipated our future bowel movement problems and nervously giggled our way through the Diarrhea song ("When you're sliding into first, and you feel you're gonna burst..."). Hope I'm not offending anyone here. I think we spent more time in airports than airplanes. Did you know that JFK Airport has quite an extensive collection of old video games? My skills at Ms. Pac Man and Galaga have not improved with age. From Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I made some final phone calls to friends there before stretching out in the spacious Air France plane and watching my last American film for the next two years (so I thought), About Schmidt. Funny film but quite depressing. Hey, if a child in Africa can save Schmidt, maybe I am on my way to having a meaningful life.

No Ms. Pac Man games waiting for us in Benin. We stepped into the heat and were greeted by a few Peace Corps folks who warned us about the men in yellow coats who would offer to take our luggage. After collecting our million pounds of luggage, we made our way out to the very posh Land Cruisers and van that would take us to the Centre Paul VI, a monastery. I certainly never expected to climb into an air-conditioned SUV upon arrival.

SUVs were MADE for Benin. No environmental nut would complain about them here, and car companies should seriously consider filming their commercials in Cotonou or Lokossa. Some of the roads here make the ones on a Texas ranch look like heaven. And Peugots! Man, I am really shocked by what those cars can do! Forget SUVs! My host mama's peugot can take on any road with no problems!

We pulled into the parking lot of Paul VI and felt like celebrities (a common theme here in Benin). Current Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs)lined the driveway and clapped, whooped and hollered for us as though we were cyclists in the Tour de France arriving at the finish line, yet it was only just the beginning. They helped us lug our bags upstairs and then met us after our introductions and first Beninese dinner at a buvette (bar) nearby to tell us the secrets of surviving Peace Corps Benin.

Paul VI is a blur now. I remember waking up in the morning to beautiful singing from the church nearby. I remember seeing the crowds of people who showed up at the monastery for the quite raucous (is this the right word?) exorcisms performed there by the local priest. I remember laughing as we taught Blandine, one of the caterers, how to play frisbee.

In Cotonou, Nevar, a current PCV, Mary Kate, another PCT, and I met Mama Monique, a coiffeuse on a street corner. She braided Nevar's and my hair as we sat outdoors on low stools surrounded by little kids and two women. We were the spectacle. The little kids came up and gently pulled on our noses, wondering why they were so long. (Apparently, local lore states that white people don't breastfeed as long, which accounts for our longer noses). They were entranced by Mary Kate's red hair. At the end of our excursion, my head was covered in little free-waving braids, and Nevar had cornrows. Mama Monique made a pretty penny off of us, we later discovered, but it was well worth the experience.

Let's see...what can I say about Cotonou. Peace Corps Benin Headquarters is located here, on the edge of the red light district, actually. It is a big city. Zemidjans, the local moped/moto taxis, rule the roads, as does the exhaust these vehicles create. I am seriously considering wearing a mask at all times on future visits to Cotonou. Some say Mexico City has the worst pollution in the world; I beg to differ. I will try not to spend much time in this city. I much prefer the rolling green, palm-covered hills of the countryside.

I mentioned zemidjans earlier. They are the principal mode of public transportation in Cotonou and many other Beninese cities. Before we were allowed to use these pollution creating machines, we had to receive formal lessons. The zemidjan drivers Peace Corps hired to take us on our first taxi moto rides were quite amused as we went through the obligatory roleplay:
PCT: "I want to go to _____________. How much is it?"
Zemidjan: "One thousand francs."
PCT: "One thousand francs!!! That's the American price! No, 100 francs!"

Anyway, you get the picture. Then, we all put on our helmets, hiked up our skirts (if necessary), and climbed onto the back of the moto trying to remember not to hold onto the driver's shoulders as we performed this manoeuver. We were certainly the neighborhood enterntainment: 20 zemidjans carrying cruising in circles around the block and carrying white-knuckled yovos gripping the bottoms of the seats, holding on for dear life.

I better go off to class now. Next update: Ganvie and the stilt towns and Lokossa!

Hello everyone!

Many of you have responded to me, and I have loved getting your emails! Thanks for writing! A lot of you have asked about the people and the food, and I will try to write some more about that today. There is just so much to say! I have been trying to go chronologically and talk about things as they happen, but I may never catch up at that rate! You'll have to forgive me if things seem disjointed and random.

The Ganvie trip is definitely worth writing about, though, and I am going to begin with that. During our stay at Paul VI, we took a daytrip to the stilt cities. We all climbed into three long, covered boats and, after a few false starts of the motor and some tinkering around (the tinkering and restarting of the motor actually happened quite a bit during the trip--good thing our drivers seem to be pretty good mechanics as well), began to putter down a small river surrounded by beautiful, lush, green countryside. We passed by villages, and small children would run over to the bank to wave, show us their kung-fu moves (kung-fu and action movies are VERY popular in Benin), and practice their singing skills: "yovo, yovo, bonsoir! ca va bien? Merci!" This chanty song announces the arrival of white people everywhere around the south. It basically means "Whitey, whitey, good afternoon/evening [soir starts at noon here]! Are you doing well? Thank you!" Sometimes, especially when passing through the stilt villages, children would reach out their hands and call out "Cadeaux! Cadeaux!" (Gift! Gift!). The stilt villages are one of the more popular tourist sites in Benin, and many children have become accustomed to white tourists giving them candy or other presents when they pass through on their boats, according to our tour guide. This happens in other places in Benin, too.

Eventually, we left the river and entered into a lake that sort of feeds into or is connected to the ocean. I know that I should put some names of lakes and rivers here. I forgot to bring them with me, but you can look on a map and find it. It is in the south near Cotonou. Anyway, we passed through a couple of different stilt villages: Veki and Ganvie. Ganvie is the most famous. The reasons why these villages exist vary. The one that I have heard the most is that certain ethnic groups fled to the middle of the lake and created these villages in order to escape being caught and sold into slavery by other ethnic groups. The main form of transportation in these villages is by 'pirogue,' or small boat similar to a canoe, but they are often poled along like a punt (for those British folks!) or a gondola. There are very few motor boats. Even 5-year-old kids navigate pirogues through the tight channels of the stilt villages. Some will do tricks, such as balancing on their heads in the boat, for passing tourists in order to make some money, according to the guides, but I didn't see this that day.

Fishing is the main livelihood of these towns, and their techniques are very interesting. They build enormous traps that are basically gates made out of nets and a type of bambooish plant that acts as a fence. They start them out HUGE, and the bamboo-like plant attracts all the fish. They gradually rein in (or reduce the area of) the nets so that eventually they have a small area chock full of fish that they can catch with their nets. We saw these fishing areas spread out like and marked off like agriculture fields throughout the lake and along the wider areas of the river. The lake was fished so much in this way that the fields have created little channels where the boats can go. We saw marche mamas wearing ENORMOUS palm leaf hats guiding their fish-filled pirogues off to the markets.

The tour was very cool and relaxing. For those who may visit Benin one day, I recommend beginning a tour in So-Ava. Make sure to reserve a day for it, and if you don't speak French or Fon, bring along a translator. The guides may not say a lot, but if you ask a lot of questions, they will provide interesting answers.

Before I finish for today, and I should soon (Model school begins next week! Much homework and planning to do!), I will tell you a bit about the food. I'm sure people who know me are eager to find out how I am surviving in this area. :) So, let's see...the main dish of Benin is pate. There are several different kinds of pate, which is generally made from either corn, manioc, or yams. The main pate is white pate, which is made from corn. It doesn't have much taste and isn't too bad, though it isn't too exciting either. Pate is always served with a sauce. Most sauces contain some sort of meat or fish; therefore, I haven't tried them, as I am sort of a vegetarian (i told my host mom I would eat chicken if necessary). I did try once in Cotonou one of the leaf sauces that a volunteer renamed "Snot Sauce" because it is sort of green and slimy, like snot. Before I heard this, I tasted a bit, and it wasn't so horrible. It had a lot of sesame taste, but after I heard about this nickname, I lost my appetite, and I can't say I have had a hankering to try this sauce again. We'll see. The opportunity hasn't shown itself again. Pate rouge tends to be the favorite amongst most volunteers because it has the most spices and is usually made with chicken and chicken broth. I haven't tasted this, yet. My host mom doesn't ever make it, that I know of, though she has served me chicken twice. The chickens here must get a lot more exercise than our cage-bred chickens at home because they are a lot skinnier, and their meat, what there is of it, is a lot tougher. I have to say, I didn't eat much of the chicken that was served to me. I had a hard time getting what little meat there was off the bones because it was so tough. The Beninois just stick the bones in their mouths and suck off or chew off the meat. I think they even eat the little bones (in fish, at least). I haven't quite mastered this technique, and forks and even my fingers don't seem to work as well. For the most part, I have been eating a lot of omelettes, potatoes, pasta, and wagassi. Wagassi is wonderful! It is a type of cheese that they make in the north. It cooks much like tofu, though. It doesn't melt when heated. The sauce they give me for these various dishes is usually oil, onions, and tomatoes. They cook with a LOT of oil here, which is a little frustrating sometimes (probably one of the biggest complaints out of all the stagiaires), but this has improved. Our Peace Corps doctor, who has eagerly utilized his meetings with our host families to provide mini lessons on nutrition, met with the families and asked them not to use so much. I heard from my host mom that he even drew a picture of the heart's arteries on the blackboard and told them that oil isn't absorbed into the blood, that if there is too much build up, they have to do a bypass. Apparently he drew a picture of this, and my mama made a joke that this was like a deviation, or a road detour. My host mom just died laughing when she told me this story. She is quite cool, though, especially on the food issue. She really appreciates it when I tell her what I like and don't like, thank goodness. If I tell her I don't really like something (like this strange fruit I tasted today--rare for me not to like a fruit), she gets very excited that I feel comfortable enough with her to be honest and direct; then she goes on about how wonderful I am because I am so direct and communicative about everything (she is great for my ego!). She is also direct and communicative with me, though, and will honestly tell me that it bothers her that I am vegetarian simply because she wants to share her foods with me, not because it is too much trouble or too difficult to prepare something else. I try to complement and go on and on about how delicious foods are that I do like, and I think she appreciates that.

Otherwise, one of the girls in our group eagerly tried snake and declared that it is delicious. Not all of the Beninois eat snake, though, only certain ethnic groups; the other groups wrinkle their noses in disgust when they hear of people eating snake. In certain areas of the country, bush rat is considered a tasty treat. For a fabulous picture of this, check out the pictures on the Fon is Fun website. Do a search on any search engine, and you will find it easily.

Well, my time has run out for today. With the craziness of model school, I don't know when I will next update...hopefully within a couple of weeks at least.

Well, I realize that I have not written in a while, and the updates are probably going to be more and more sporadic because I will soon be living in N'Dali, where there is no electricity and only one telephone at the local post office, although we are supposed to be getting phone service in September. Internet and phones are only 60K away, though, in Parakou.

So many stories, so little time... I won't try to catch up for the moment, though I may backtrack and write little vignettes from stage at a future date. Let me tell you what is happening now.

In less than two weeks, I will be an official Peace Corps volunteer. The Swear In ceremony is on August 22nd. It is quite a big deal. All the trainees and I have purchased matching tissue and are getting outfits made at tailors. We also bought matching tissue for our facilitators. Wearing the same tissue for ceremonies-everything from funerals to baptisms-is the tradition here, and in order to symbolize our integration into Beninese culture, the stagaires each year sport matching outfits. The Swearing In is actually televised on the Beninese national station! I will have to give a speech in Bariba, the local language I am learning. I am a little nervous about this as I have yet to extend my vocabulary beyond 20 minutes of salutations:
" -How did you wake up this morning?
-How is your body holding up?
-Body's doing well.
-And yesterday's fatigue?
-And your house?
-And your children?
-And your husband?
-Good. "
It goes on. You get the picture. I guess it only has to be a 3-5 minute speech, though, so I guess I'm good.

My mama is hiring a photographer to film this special occasion, so I better practice. I also better make sure my room is spotless. I saw the video she made last year (the soundtrack was absolutely fabulous elevator music), and the photographer went into Melanie's room (Melanie was the stagaire last year) and zoomed in on her shampoo bottles and messy tables for more than sufficient amount of time. It was a VERY thorough video, to say the least.

I have mixed feelings about swearing in. Obviously, I am very excited to become a volunteer and move on to N'Dali, which will become my home for the next two years. But, as with any big transition, I can't help but be sad at the same time. My host family has been wonderful. I think I have the best one out of the bunch! Also, N'Dali is pretty far from the majority of my close volunteer/stagaire friends. I am optimistic about my post, though. N'Dali is a nice town, and I have very friendly neighbors, who will hopefully become good friends. My house is also very spacious, which means I can accomodate plenty of visitors! Do capitalize on this opportunity! :)

N'Dali is in the north, so I have been trying to take advantage of being in the south during Stage. The south provides many more opportunities to see voodoo ceremonies, and most of the big tourist destinations are here. Through language classes and group excursions, I have been able to visit -in Ouidah- the Slave Route, the Sacred Forests, and the Temple of the Pythons. I have met and had a question/answer session with the chief of all Voodoo in Benin. My mama took me "au village" near Grand Popo to see a Zangbeto ceremony/dance. I also got my first taste of sodabi that night. I will try to write more about these experiences in the next update.

N Kua Sia for now! Bariba class is waiting...

Wow! Who would have thought that I would be able to update twice in one week! We finished up our last day of model school this morning, and we ended our class early. Et voila! I have enough time to email! I have decided to backtrack a bit and talk about some more touristy things in Benin.

Ouidah (WEEDUH)is a small city on the Beninese coast. It is famous because it is the sight of departure for many African slaves. From Ouidah, ships literally overflowing with slaves would depart for the Americas. They went mostly to the Caribbean and Brazil, I think. The Portuguese had a strong influence in Ouidah. Most of Ouidah's tourist sites are dedicated to recounting this history. The day that we toured these sites was certainly a somber one.

We began at the museum, which is located within a reconstructed Portuguese fort. The museum chronicles all different aspects of the slave trade and also had a new exhibit featuring African women and their influence on commerce in Africa.

From there, we moved on toward the slave route. On the way, we saw the Tree of Forgetfulness. The original tree is no longer standing, but another one has begun growing in exactly the same spot, supposedly of its own accord (no one planted it). One of the African kings wanted the slaves to walk around the tree (seven times for men, nine times for women) so that they would forget where they came from, so that they would not miss their homeland too much. The men and women began the long walk down the road to a tiny, enclosed location where they were held for sometimes months as they waited for the ships to arrive. Many died here and were buried in a mass grave that is now a memorial. Just before the last bit of the walk down to the beach, they came upon the Tree of Return, which is still there, and towers overhead with thick, leafy branches and beautiful flowers that dangle down like giant bells. The bark juts out in little bulbs in places around the tree, forming perfect places to put an offering. The slaves walked around the tree of return several times as well to ensure that their spirits would return to their homeland after their deaths. Where the road meets the beach, there is now a huge arch, the Gate of No Return, to serve as a reminder and to memorialize all those who were forced to climb into the ships that transported them to the Americas.

This particular tour of Ouidah was quite depressing and appalling, but important to see. We actually missed some portions of the tour due to time constraints, but what we saw was moving.

On a separate visit to Ouidah, I saw some other tourist sites and even went off the beaten path and met the cheif of all Voudou of Benin (equivalent of Pope, only for Voudou religion). This visit was not quite as emotional. We began the day at the chief's house, which is decorated on the outside with murals depicting various voudou emblems and gods. We entered the house and peaked under curtains into various rooms that supposedly served as houses for different gods/spirits. Then, we took our seats and waited for the chef to come out. When he sat down, we all got down on our knees and touched our foreheads to the ground as a sign of respect. The chief was an old guy, but seemed in good shape. He had clear, amused and curious blue (I think they were blue, which strikes me now as I think about it, but I am pretty sure they were blue) eyes that seemed to penetrate our thoughts. He did not speak French, so our questions had to be translated into Fon. He is quite an active guy. He coordinates with Unicef, or one of the other big aid organizations, has created schools, and still acts as a judge for those practictioners of voudou who break some of the religion's laws. These "criminals" within the religion must meet with him and usually sacrifice something to atone for their mistakes. We did not have a long visit with him, and I don't have my journal or notes with me, or I would tell you more about it. I have already decided that this would be a unique and worthwhile thing to do with folks who visit me, so consider the possibility! Rigobert, our cross-culture facilitator, said that it would be possible for me to arrange a visit.

We visited the Temple of the Pythons next. Pythons are sacred in the voodoo religion, so they are very well treated in Benin. If, for example, people see a python on the street, they will not kill it, and they may even pick it up and deliver it back to the Temple. We got to hold the python around our necks. When I put it around my neck, it sent shivers down through my body. I don't know if it was because the snake was cold or because I was a little bit nervous. I have a picture of me sporting it like a necklace.

Our last visit was the Sacred Forest. But I really must go, so you'll have to wait till next time!

Hope you are all well! By the way, some of you have been concerned about where to write me. The info has not changed. I will always be able to receive mail at the address you can find in my entry on contacting me. Also, if you send a package, I have noticed that those that have "Objets Religeuses" on the outside tend to make it here faster, so ....

Till next time...

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Story Source: Travelpod

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Benin



By Bernadine Mensah ( - on Monday, November 01, 2004 - 4:20 pm: Edit Post

Please email me information about joining the Peace Corps. I am a 52 year old female and live for the day that I can do my ministry work in Africa. Please help set me on the path to my dreams.


God Bless

Minister Bernadine Mensah

By AnonymouslyfromBenin ( on Tuesday, May 20, 2008 - 6:22 pm: Edit Post

Hello Dear Friend.

I am from Benin and I can see that some of the things that you talked about aren't quite true. If you come to Africa to insult Africans by giving some funning descriptions, I will ask you to be careful and mind your business. You people with all your dirty talks just come around to make some useless remarks.

How was your time in Benin? Did the mosquitos eat you up? Did you change perceptions about the people and the country of Benin at the end of your time?
I am sure you did. If not, you don't know what you're after in life. just going around and trying to impress some people(friends) out there.

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