2009.05.21: May 21, 2009: Headlines: COS - Benin: Examiner: Annika Hipple writes: My family and I had a small taste of fame when we visited my brother Andreas halfway through his stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Benin: Peace Corps Benin : Peace Corps Benin: Newest Stories: 2009.05.21: May 21, 2009: Headlines: COS - Benin: Examiner: Annika Hipple writes: My family and I had a small taste of fame when we visited my brother Andreas halfway through his stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin

By Admin1 (admin) (141.157.40.112) on Saturday, May 23, 2009 - 4:54 pm: Edit Post

Annika Hipple writes: My family and I had a small taste of fame when we visited my brother Andreas halfway through his stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin

Annika Hipple writes: My family and I had a small taste of fame when we visited my brother Andreas halfway through his stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin

For starters, Andreas was something of a celebrity in Banikoara, the town in northern Benin where he was posted. At nearly 6 feet 5 inches, with blazing red hair, he tends to stand out in any crowd. In Benin, he was more obvious than ever. The children of Banikoara had dubbed him dogo bature, or "the white giant" in Bariba, the local language. Andreas had been in Benin for 15 months and was thrilled that the whole family had come to visit. For his Beninese friends, our visit was no less exciting. Accustomed to Peace Corps volunteers, many of them had seen parents, siblings, or friends make the trip from the United States, but for most it was their first opportunity to meet an entire family. We became known, in the local fashion, as Mamá Andreas, Papá Andreas, Grande-Soeur (Big Sister), and Petit-Frčre (Little Brother).

Annika Hipple writes: My family and I had a small taste of fame when we visited my brother Andreas halfway through his stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin

A taste of celebrity in Benin, West Africa

May 21, 5:12 PM · Add a Comment

My family and I had a small taste of fame when we visited my brother Andreas halfway through his stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. For starters, Andreas was something of a celebrity in Banikoara, the town in northern Benin where he was posted. At nearly 6 feet 5 inches, with blazing red hair, he tends to stand out in any crowd. In Benin, he was more obvious than ever. The children of Banikoara had dubbed him dogo bature, or "the white giant" in Bariba, the local language.

Andreas had been in Benin for 15 months and was thrilled that the whole family had come to visit. For his Beninese friends, our visit was no less exciting. Accustomed to Peace Corps volunteers, many of them had seen parents, siblings, or friends make the trip from the United States, but for most it was their first opportunity to meet an entire family. We became known, in the local fashion, as Mamá Andreas, Papá Andreas, Grande-Soeur (Big Sister), and Petit-Frčre (Little Brother).

Though Benin is one of Africa's smallest countries, with an area slightly smaller than that of Pennsylvania, the limited number of paved roads and the poor infrastructure overall make distances seem much greater. From Cotonou, the largest city, located on the Atlantic coast, it was nearly 400 miles to Banikoara, a journey that generally took Andreas two full days by bush taxi. Station wagons or sedans in a fair state of disrepair, bush taxis often resembled clown cars, with more people than would appear possible crammed inside.

After a more roundabout journey to see various sights along the way, we made our final approach to Banikoara along a 140-mile stretch of unpaved road from the town of Natitingou in northwestern Benin. We covered the distance in three hours, crowded into a rickety bush taxi that bumped along at highway speeds. Dust seeped in through the many cracks and covered every exposed inch. For most of the trip I couldn't see a thing through the red dust coating the lenses of my sunglasses. We tied bandannas around our mouths and noses and just endured.

We finally arrived in Banikoara covered in dust and longing for the shower and some rest. But even as we carried our luggage into Andreas's luxurious - by Beninese standards - four-room concrete house, visitors began arriving to check us out. The neighboring children, Eddie (named for Eddie Murphy) and Jordan (named for Michael Jordan), considered Andreas's house an extension of their own and ran in and out whenever the door was open. Teenagers came in and sat in the living rooms, smiling occasionally but not saying much.

Over the walls of the housing compound we could hear the news traveling through the neighborhood. We didn't need to speak the local language. The excited shouts of "Mamá Andreas!" and "Papá Andreas!" said it all. Our arrival was the event of the month in Banikoara.

We spent two weeks in Benin, visiting many of the country's cultural, natural, and historical highlights. Still, the excitement generated by our arrival in Banikoara was one of the most memorable aspects of the trip. Then again, it's not every day the family of a giant comes to visit.




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Story Source: Examiner

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