Q & A

by evanrosefowler

Here are some questions you may not have asked me but I think you will be interested in knowing the answers:

  • What is the biggest nail trend in Benin right now?
    • The biggest nail trend is plastic metallic toe nails that are pointy at the ends. Think of dragon claws. Often but not always accompanied by one hand of long, pointy, metallic fingernails. The other hand has normal nails because at least one hand has to be able to do practical things. After much consideration, I will not be participating in this trend.

  • I’ve heard you were a vegetarian for about 9 years before going to Benin. Has being their changed your dietary habits?
    • Well, a little bit. Sauces that are cooked with meat and bullion I eat all the time. Sauces cooked with fish I also eat but try to avoid because I do not like fish and the fish here is FISHY. To test the waters and make sure I do not throw up/make a big deal if someone kindly offers me meat at their house and I want to be polite and accept it I have eaten… 1 mini meat pie (very little meat, some kind of sausage) 3 bites of a drumstick (unfortunately dry, tasted just like chicken) and one rabbit lung. RABBIT LUNG?! I was at a rabbit restaurant with a group, asked a kind Beninese person to help me choose a morsel to taste as there was an entire rabbit there and I didn’t want to end up with something intimidating. He handed me a lung (it looked exactly like a tiny lung) saying it was the easiest part to digest—“perfect for people just beginning to eat meat.” So I ate it and it was bearably terrible and I didn’t throw up but I think I will be avoiding organ meat from now on.

  • What do you do with your trash?
    • With biodegradable trash, I toss it over the wall in my little back courtyard. This is harder than it sounds. I actually have to toss it pretty high and if it is something little and light (think onion peelings) it usually just blows back in my face. Once it is over the wall, it falls into the pile of biodegradable (mostly) waste that everyone throws there. Would make a good compost pile, but am too afraid of stumbling upon a razor blade or something while trying to turn it. May start a compost bin at my house as a handy alternative. If the trash is plastic or paper or not-fit-to-be-thrown-over-the-wall, I stuff it in a bag that I keep outside and wait until it is full. And then I burn it while trying not to breathe any of the fumes. Would I pay for garbage pick-up if it existed in my town? Yes. Does it exist? No.

  • What does your French sound like?
    • Well, I surely have an American accent, but I sound more like a Beninese person than a French person. Beninese people don’t have a nasally-sounding accent and their r’s are pronounced in a different way than the French as well. I prefer the accent here—no one sounds like they have a clothespin on their nose. I have also picked up on many of the sounds that people here use (Ahammm. Eh?! Ah! Etc.) My mom heard me speaking French while I was on the phone with her and thought I was speaking a local language because it didn’t really sound like French. I look forward to the day that I go to France and speak West-African French and confuse everyone.

  • Evan, do you have any pets?
    • Apart from the spiders, little lizards, mice and rats… Yes! I just bought a tiny kitten named KuliKuli (which is also the name of a snack here made out of the part of the peanut that is left after you press peanut oil out—delicious. The wisdom of naming my cat after a protein-rich food in a place where cats have been known to be consumed is tenuous at best but I really liked the name.) I’ve never had a cat before, but I’m hoping he will be a great hunter. Right now I am afraid that some of the rats I’ve seen could kill the kitten if they got in a fight, so hopefully they leave each other alone for now and the cat grows fast. KuliKuli is extremely cuddly and lays on his back to let me pet his stomach a lot—we’re going to be great buddies.
    • I also have a 5-foot-long monitor lizard that sometimes lives in my ceiling. I call him Clyde. He sometimes crawls around on the wood panels that make up my ceiling and sounds like a monster, but I think he eats mice and rats so I leave him alone. There are drips of something that looks very much like rat blood all down the walls next to his favorite area in the ceiling. GROSS! I tried to wash it off and all of the paint came off with it, so I guess I’ll just live with it until I repaint. My neighbors would like to kill Clyde and eat him but I won’t allow it. I made eye contact with a smaller monitor lizard once while he was outside on top of my roof and his slitted yellow eyes haunt my dreams. I don’t even like to imagine what Clyde’s glare looks like.

  • Have you used any fancy medical devices since you arrived?
    • Well, I have, in fact. Recently ill with a fever, I was directed to administer my do-it-yourself malaria test. This probably would have seemed like a very cool science experiment if I had been feeling well, but instead it was like mini-torture. The finger-prick device that it came with was basically a pushpin and did not pop out when you squeeze it like when you have gone and had your finger pricked at the doctor. So imagine, you have a 102 degree fever and you are just trying to get enough blood out of your finger to fill a little cup. But your only tool is a pushpin. So you are trying to drill this pushpin into your finger and you have to do it 5 different times before you have enough blood. After that, you fill up the space for blood, administer 5 drops of “buffer fluid” and wait 15 minutes to read your results. I used BUFFER FLUID and I was too sick to even feel like an accomplished lab technician. (Side note: I am getting better and I did not have malaria.)