Back in Benin

by evanrosefowler

It has been about a month since I came back from America, where I spent my time mostly eating and laying on the beach. During my first year in Benin, I forgot how easy everything is in America—need to pee? Go to a public bathroom and use the free toilet paper and soap. Want to interact in a culturally appropriate way with someone? Think back to childhood and ACT THE WAY YOUR MOMMA TAUGHT YOU. The only thing that is more difficult is holding babies, which are hard to find and which people are weirdly possessive of.

Unfortunately during the time that I was gone, KuliKuli ran away. I was holding out hope that he would return, but at this point, I am hoping he is living a happy, feral life somewhere in the marshes skirting Cotonou. I was thinking that since he ran away in the city, his chances of survival might be higher due to more refined tastes, i.e. less cat eating. Recently my new neighbor asked me what had happened to my cat and I said he ran away. She replied “Oh, someone definitely ate him. You know, that’s what people do here. Cats are very good meat.” Well. Here is where I was going to write something about the cosmic beauty of KuliKuli nourishing a child with a protein deficiency, but let’s be real, I’m not at that level of spiritual enlightenment. If you recently ate a friendly cat, it is in your best interest to never mention it to me.

Temporarily, I am living near the national stadium in Cotonou, where I have a little room with a nice cross-breeze and a refrigerator that I get to use for free! (Although it does smell like rotten fish, something I combat with baking soda (ineffective) as well as double-wrapping all of my food and holding my breath when I open the door (more effective.)) I’m still looking for my permanent home, so if you know anyone renting in or around the neighborhood where I work, let me know! (As I have told everyone who I know or have met one time in passing in Cotonou.) House hunting by myself is ineffective for multiple reasons, but mostly because 1) I have no idea what I’m doing and 2) I am white, meaning I will never ever get close to a good price once a landlord has seen my rich-looking face.

In the meantime, I have started work. I am working at a business center aimed at women, and will also be helping out with some Jesuits and a weaving enterprise. I’m mostly teaching English classes (meaning I am trying to GET OVER MYSELF AND LEARN SOME ENGLISH GRAMMAR) and running business clubs. With the weaving operation, I’m trying to help them turn a profit. I may be underqualified for all of this, but hell if I’m not enthusiastic.

This Saturday is Independence Day in Benin. I’m very excited to see everyone celebrate and participate in the general festivities. Not so exciting is the fact that the military has closed a huge stretch of the main road starting Tuesday morning. Word on the street is that they are practicing for a parade. Just imagine the US military closing a large chunk of the Beltway in DC starting June 29th so that the military could practice for a parade on the 4th. The cost of my commute has risen significantly and the likelihood that I will get in a moto crash has increased because everyone is using the same tiny, pothole-y backroads. There are many traffic jams. I am disgruntled, but trying hard not to be a complete humbug. Happy Independence Day!