Sunday, August 26, 2012


I just finished doing my laundry.

Which is really a task here because you have to do it by hand. So I decided for this weeks blog post, I would challenge those of you reading at home.. to do a weeks worth of laundry by hand.

Supplies: A Stool (for sitting), 2 Large Basins, 1 Bar of Soap, A Water Source, A Pile of Laundry, At Least 1 Clean Bucket

First, separate your clothes by color... my mama says to wash the light colors first, but it doesn't really matter since you change the water between each color. Fill(ish) both basins with water and place your first color into one of the basins (3-5 pieces of clothing).

Next you are going to wash the clothes. Each item of clothing gets washed twice.

For the purpose of my description we are going to be washing a T-Shirt. Take your wet shirt in your hands and lather it up with the bar of soap. The first wash is for problem areas and dirt.. So be sure to soap up the collar and the arm pits.. places that get grimier. Work the soap through the shirt with your hands.. and taking bits of fabric in each hand.. rub the cloth together to work out the dirt. This should take a few minutes. Rinse the shirt in the basin... look it over.. and work the soap through some more. Once you are finished place the shirt in the second basin of water. Repeat with the rest of the clothes that are currently being washed (the 3-5 pieces of clothing of similar colors).

These items have now gone through the first wash. All of the visible dirt should be out of them.. and hopefully most if not all of the non-visible dirt. You can dump the first basin of water, and refill it. Once its refilled you can put the next few items of clothes in to start soaking. In the mean time, you are using the second basin, which is now filled with your once washed clothes.. for wash cycle numero 2. Do exactly what you did the first time, lather them up, scrub them using your hands, etc. This water shouldn't look dirty when you are done like the first basin did. (IF it does... you should probably wash a third time). Once you are done with the second wash... you want to ring out as much as the water and soap from the shirt as you can. Place this shirt in your empty clean bucket. Dump the basin and refill it for your next batch.

You are going to do this for all of your clothes, until you have a bucket full of twice washed but not yet rinsed clothing. If you have darker clothes that might run... I would suggest having a separate bucket for them.

Now we rinse. First rinse out the basins... and fill them with clean water.. and now we will rinse the clothes.

*Added Photo In Oct. 12*
Starting again with the lighter clothes, take your first item, and rinse it in the first basin getting ALL of the soap out. Once you think you have all of the soap out of the shirt, place it in the second basin and do it again. Once your shirt is thoroughly rinsed... wring it out to get all of the water out. Hang it on your clothes line!! You will do this with each item of clothes. When the rinsing water gets too soapy.. or starts to take on a color (from the clothing dyes) you want to dump the basin and refill it. You shouldn't have to refill these basins as many times as you did during the washing process.

Once you are finished and all of your clothes are hanging to dry (hope it doesn't rain).. you can go change into some clean/dry clothes, and put some lotion on your raw hands.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Post Visit Week 2

Can't believe how fast that post visit was!!

Firstly... I love my post (even if I have giant shoes to fill)!!

Secondly.. they are still looking for a house for me (but hey that's life in the PC).

A lot of this week was spent learning how life works in Benin (aka waiting around and not getting anything done)... but I got to see more of the groupments.. went to the marche and ate lots of strange Beninese snack foods.. and got to meet some awesome people around Misserete.

That being said... It is stressful jumping around to different houses I am very glad to be back home with my (familiar) host family in Porto Novo... AND ready to commence training so that I actually feel like I know something when I move back to Misserete (into my own home) in September! After these two long weeks, its time to write a report (en francais) and then get some real sleep.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Two Things Benin

1. Pate (pronounced pot) 
One of the staple foods of the south of Benin. Its made of corn meal and water... you (are supposed to) eat it with your hands... and dip it in sauce.

To make pate, boil 2 cups of water. Separately mix together 1 1/2 cups corn meal and 1 1/2 cups (additional) water. Once the water is boiling add the cornmeal mixture and let cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add an additional 1 1/2 cups cornmeal, stir vigorously (really) until really thick this should take another 5-10 minutes. Serve it with sauce. 
Its basically flavorless corn glop and they eat it with everything. Yum. So I know I am adjusting to living here when the other night, as I ate my corn glob with “tomato” sauce, I thought to myself, “Wow this tastes like mashed potatoes!!” But apparently this isn't a normal adjustment, so maybe I just forget what mashed potatoes taste like.

2. Everything Can Wait
Yesterday I saw a birthday cake with candles. Which isn't a normal occurrence here and I quickly discovered why.

I am not sure if I have emphasized this but in Benin everything takes at least ten times longer than it should, and no one is ever actually focused on the task at hand. Its just a fact of life here.

So when the birthday candles were lit... the lighter of the candles then promptly answered her phone. People continued with their small party tasks (refilling drinks, clearing plates, wandering...) and by the time everyone finally was assembled to sing happy birthday... the candles had melted down all the way to the cake. I think it was the sense of urgency that finally brought everyone together. It was actually pretty amazing to watch... and how efficient, no wasted candle!

Love and Kisses

Friday, August 10, 2012

Post Visit Week 1

I've come to realize that the next two years of my life are going to be disorganized and always filled with confusion – and somehow I'm going to have to learn to live with that.

That being said. I have a very strong suspicion that they did not know I was coming.

Right now we are in an experimental – never before attempted – stage of training called the “On-The-Job” Interval.. Which is a silly name. We haven't received any technical training and are not actually supposed to be “on the job.” Our task for the these two weeks is to meet the members of the community, introduce ourselves to our neighbors, the tailor and the boutiques closest to our house, meet the local school directors (who btw are on summer vacation- good thinking PC), and visit the local market and see what is and isn't available. I am spending these two weeks living with my supervisors family.

I am replacing a third year volunteer, she started the project here in Misserete. Which is really great, but CeRPA (who I work for), doesn't have experience receiving a new volunteer. And the Peace Corps has seemed to have forgotten this – hence total confusion. Right now the current volunteer lives in the village of Vakon, between central Misserete and Porto Novo - - and every one assumed that I would be living there too... but Peace Corps had wanted to find me a house closer to the office (and then forgot), which is a good thing, but it means that I don't know what village I will be living in... so much for getting to know my neighbors and local boutique.

Instead, I have been doing my little neighborhood assignments in Vakon where the current volunteer lives, and spending most of my time shadowing her at meetings and when she goes to work with the groupments (groups of people who grow crops and then sell them to the markets). This is what I am going to be doing, both with the groupments she is currently working with and also with some new ones. SO working with her has been very helpful and a lot of fun. A good alternative to getting to know my neighborhood... since I don't know my neighborhood. I even got to plant some trees the other day!!! I am probably learning more about where I live on a greater scale since I am spending a lot of time in neighboring areas where I won't actually be living. AND we made taco salad for lunch the other day with another volunteer who will be leaving at the end of the month. So yes... Things are looking up.

Send me taco seasoning packets :)


Saturday, August 4, 2012

A fɔn ganji ya!

This week I tested out of French and into Goun... Which is the local language of my village, and is also the language that my current host family speaks.

Most of the week this week was preparing for the post visit (that starts tomorrow), So I only had one lesson. Most of it was things that I already was taught by my host family (ie salutations)... but I still can't pronounce any of it. The interesting part of the whole language learning process here, is that they are teaching us Goun in French, which is really bizarre, since I barely speak french functionally. I guess its their way of continuing to work on our french.


Un nɔn yin Zoe.
Un tron Amelica.
Un yin Amelicanu.
Un nɔn nɔn Hɔgbonu din.
Un nɔn nɔn New Jersey dayi.

In the mean time...