I lived like an ex-pat for a day (and I liked it)
Let me list some things that I did last Sunday. I was in Cotonou (the biggest city in Benin) and had some time, some money, and was not sick.
- Slept in. Was not woken up by goats or children, rather was woken up by my body saying “Enough sleep! Time to start the day!” was therefore predisposed to be in a good mood.
- Ate pizza, which was delivered to me, and had real mozzarella, while watching “The Wedding Singer.” “The Wedding Singer” feels like AMERICA
- Went to a fancy-schmancy grocery store. Could afford nothing, but bought cat food and sour gummies anyway. And chips with powdered goat-cheese flavoring. It is unclear to me how it is in any way just that I live in a country with a million goats and no goat cheese. Was definitely the scruffiest person in the store and was treated politely anyway.
- Visited a friend who works at a really nice hotel. Although you have to go into a compound that has walls that are high enough that you feel like you are walking into a war-zone to get there, once you are in it is an oasis of contemporary art and tropical flowers. As I sat surrounded by luxury, I drank real espresso which gave me a caffeine buzz that made me have slight heart palpitations. It was worth it.
- I schmoozed with a French guy who works for security at an oil company whose compound is located near the hotel. French guy lives and works in the same building with huge walls around it. Seems suffocating but it is clear that he has access to many things that I don’t—he was not impressed by real coffee, for example. Was told by the French guy that we peace corps volunteers are confusing because we look American and speak French exactly like a Beninese person.
- Go to some different French people’s house. Get in the private pool. Try to pretend that I am not SO EXCITED ABOUT BEING IN A PRIVATE POOL.
- Go to the BEACH! Dip my toes in the water, turn around and see a completely naked man who seemed to be trying to rinse sand out of his swim trunks. Quickly turn away and pretend that it did not happen. Wonder about my grasp on cultural norms about nakedness.
- Play beach volleyball with a bunch of expats and some Beninese people. At first wonder if I can hang as I last seriously played volleyball in 4th Quickly realize that pretty much everyone is terrible and I am only not good. My moment of glory happens when a 20-something year-old, 6 foot tall French man goes for a spike. I jump up to block him. He completely misses the ball. I’m still as intimidating as ever!
- Ride in a real car that I think even has airbags to the house of a member of the Foreign Service. Swim and schmooze with expats. Officiate a water-polo game.
- Eat Indian food until I am too full to eat any more. Watch Bollywood videos and dance in my seat.
- Go back to the Foreign Service officer’s house where the party is still going. No one else from the peace corps went with me, so had some time to be with Americans who I haven’t already seen for hundreds of hours.
- Took a shower with hot water and went to bed. Expat life is pretty sweet.