Benin Blog 3

by evanrosefowler

Now I am here in Bante—here where I will be for the next two years, here where my new home is. Bante is big enough to be considered a small city and it is on one of the two main north-south highways in the country. There are enough people here that I will not know everyone in my town in the next two years, but small enough that I can bike from one end to the other in about 15 minutes.

Everything is so new that it is a little overwhelming. I spent an entire day cleaning and still feel like my house is dirty. I am not that good at cleaning anyway, but when you take away things like a vacuum, Lysol wipes, and spray all-purpose cleaner, I get less effective. Simple things like “where can I buy matches to light my stove?” can seem like a huge problem to solve. In my best moments I step back and realize that

  1. I can ask anyone on the street to help me find anything and they generally will
  2. You can buy matches literally everywhere

So there will be an adjustment period, but it will be good. I have been riding around on my bike, stopping to talk to people whenever I feel like it or need to, and going to the important places in Bante to “saluer” or greet everyone. This involves walking into an important place like the mayor’s office, hoping that I am not looking as out of place as I feel. (I do look out of place; I am white, sweaty from biking, and also wearing capris, which no one here wears but make biking infinitely less of a hassle.) Then, even though I’m feeling awkward, I smile and make eye contact with someone and say “I am the new volunteer with the Peace Corps, and I’m here just to introduce myself and say hi!” And then everyone is friendly and I get sent to the people I should talk to, and people say things like “I will have you over to dinner soon!” Or “I will come to your house to saluer you soon!” Sometimes I get brought to the personal house of someone I’ve just met to say hi to the rest of the family. And it is really nice.

Tonight the stars are out. Not a few stars. Not even stars like you will see if you go camping an hour away from a city in the US. I am talking about stars that I thought might only exist in pictures in science books. Stars that are grand and plentiful. I can actually see the Milky Way with no problem even if I don’t have my glasses on.

This is just the beginning but it is seeming good.