Things I Don’t Understand
- The number of grown Beninese men who have Celine Dion songs set as their ring tones. This seems to diminish neither their coolness nor masculinity in the eyes of Beninese society. I always have to try really hard not to laugh as I don’t know ANYONE in the US who would now admit to having a Celine Dion ringtone even back when she riding the wave of the Titanic craze.
- How many adults try to touch my skin (IT FEELS THE SAME AS YOURS PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH ME WITH YOUR UNWASHED HANDS)
- Related to that, the disbelief in soap’s effectiveness… many people feel like washing your hands with soap is kind of stupid.
- Why everyone loves pate (congealed grits) so much. If you ask children’s favorite food, it is always “pate.” I mean, I love grits, but they always involve milk and/or cheese. This is just cornmeal and water.
- Think of the voice you would use to talk to a baby under one year old or to a pet—that high pitched, terrible voice. People love to use that voice while talking to me. Apparently I sound like that to them. WHY? When this happens, I always ask people if they have a throat problem and need me to take them to the hospital.
- Men commanding me to come say hi to them. Like, they will be lounging with their friends and then they see me and say “White person come here and greet me.” I think this is a method of trying to show off to their buddies. I usually respond by asking if they can’t come and greet me because their legs are too weak, which shuts them up.
- Little children up to the age of about 10 pooping in public and greeting you WHILE POOPING with no shame. Example- child: “Hi! How are you??” me: “Feeling awkward and disgusted because you are in the middle of defecating.” On the other hand, the granite hill behind my house is a very popular pooping place and I can see why. Who doesn’t want to poop with a view?
- Putting dried fish in EVERYTHING. Have a perfectly delicious peanut sauce? Some nutritious wilted greens? A delightful vinaigrette to put on bread? No you don’t, not unless you have pulverized many tiny dead fish and added them to the mixture.
- Racism, sexism, ageism, socioeconomic-status-ism. Of course these are also things that I don’t understand in America (although surely I participate in all of them sometimes without meaning to) but they usually manifest differently here. I’ll write a longer blog post about these soon.
- Finally, how is it possible that all babies here are unbelievably cute? Even though I know that there is a 50/50 chance that any baby will be a urine-soaked, I ALWAYS want to hold them. Will try to do a cute babies post sometime soon so you can be jealous of me and my baby holding. Since the birth rate here is something like 5 children per woman, they are not only adorable, they are also abundant. <3<3<3