What I Did (Before) This Summer - A Report On My Visit To Benin

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What I Did (Before) This Summer - A Report On My Visit To Benin

What I Did (Before) This Summer - A Report On My Visit To Benin

What I Did (Before) This Summer A Report On My Visit To Benin May 2-9, 1998

The Back Roads The Changes In Lokossa The Construction The Gas Lines The New Peace Corps Hostel The Peace Corps Bureau The Projects That You Never Thought Would Outlast You The Toll Road

The Toll Road

North of Savé there is now a "péage" or toll booth for traffic on the highway which continues to Parakou. It looks a lot like the one right before Grand Popo, but I think the Savé one will affect more volunteers, more often. It does have a few women selling food, but they are required to keep a certain distance. I suspect they'll increase in number soon. And finally, with a flash of insight, the construction crews put up sturdy barriers leading to and from the toll booth so that negligent taxi drivers can't circumvent the booth - unless they want to do more damage to the car than the toll costs.

The Construction

Besides the now completed Savé Toll Booth, which caused detours for about a year, there is now construction under way between Cotonou and Comé. It's causing its share of detours off onto dirt roads in the standard weave-side-to-side pattern. At least the highway construction crews here pave the detour instead of forcing cars onto dirt roads. Unfortunately there are houses and businesses in the way of the detour. Those have big red X's painted on them to indicate that they'll have to be torn down. Either that or I was hallucinating from that wonderful malaria drug, Larium, again.

(You know where.)

The Gas Lines

Once again Benin is suffering for not having a sufficient stockpile of oil reserves. Yep, big-ole lines at the SONACOP stations. Some taxis had resorted to buying "Premium". It was more expensive, but it was available. This nearly caused me to miss my flight home. I had to visit Parakou the day before leaving, and on the drive back we started running low around Abomey-Calavi. I think we spent half an hour there before my chauffeur managed to cut in line and convince the attendant to come serve us. Made it.

The Backroads

GLOBE school visits were part of my duties and led to some backroads I wouldn't have visited even during my service. Two schools each in Cotonou, Porto-Novo and Parakou, and one apiece in Lokossa and Allada. This involved renting out a car and driver, because I went alone from Lokossa to Parakou and then down to Cotonou via Allada. The AID vehicle couldn't go without an AID staffmember. I got to see the backroads of the Mono: Dogbo (where I surprised a teacher), Azové, and all the other piddling towns along the way. And I discovered...More Construction! To avoid the awful detours mentioned above, they were only paving one side at a time. Vehicles had to play chicken on the other side. I think I took a nap at that point. The side being paved had lots of tree limbs spaced about three car lengths apart to discourage people from driving on them too soon.

(You know where.)

The Peace Corps Bureau

So you want the Peace Corps Bureau update. Well you can't have it, not until you wash your feet , change your clothes and put your stuff in a storage bin or in your locker. No showers during office hours and no sleeping in the IRC. Does that bring back too many memories? Let's start with the people. Everyone not in admin is still there. Jacques and Yves are still training officers. Roger retired and was replaced by a Beninoise named Maria. Ray left (2/97) and was replaced by a former Burkinabé named Geremie Sawadogo (6/97). Since Patrick left (1/97ish) Mary has been APCD. And lastly Dan has been replaced by Larry (since spring 98). Do you remember the old red-orange couch that was in the lounge since about forever? It finally fell apart one-too-many times and has been replaced by a grey couch, fluffier but not quite as wide. My feet hung off when I slept on it. The one remaining bedroom (Helen's old room) still has 2 queen size beds. For a final surprise, the building now has an internal phone system! You can pick up the phone on the wall of certain rooms (like the IRC) and "call" down to the reception area , etc. Oh, and Construction. That's right, in front of the bureau. I guess they're planning to put that cobblestone stuff down, but it's taking time, and the rainy season has already started. In related news, the road you had to cross to get to Senegalese where they put medians and then paved one side only ("Now it's two roads! One paved and one not!" - Paul Lavigne) is still that way.


What a surprise!! I hadn't been there since a brief visit to the SBD stage of '95 on a mission of indoctrination in WID principles. Boy has it changed. Renovated Post Office Building! Renovated Taxi Gare! Even the CEG was being renovated! It was painted nice pastel colors and given a SECOND FLOOR! Then there were other buildings that were either new or had been renovated and I just didn't recognize them! It was a schock worthy of multiple and numerous exclamation points!! But the final touch: I saw Belle-Mère. Remember the bien-grossie woman who sold us too much cheap, bad beer in big bottles while we were stagiaires and again when we thought we gotten all cool and grand. She was still at ENI, even though stage is now done out in Ouidah (ed.), Come (SBD), Allada(RCD) and outside of Parakou (For.). I don't know which of us was more surprised to see the other!

(You know where.)

The New Peace Corps Hostel

Hah! There is NO New Peace Corps Hostel! Although there were talks with Mami of Chez Mami in Togo. She was considering expanding her operations.


WID Still going strong. The application process was moved to the end of the school year for the scholarships the following year. Amour & Vie

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