Erik and I devoted this week to seeing my village and the surrounding areas – this included experiencing the frustrating life of a peace corps volunteer (where work plans are currently being postponed, shuffled around, or just plain canceled).. He experienced the disappointment of watching a school garden die because the water pump is broken, the strange excitement of children (and adults) as they constantly shout at the foreigner walking by, and he got to meet lots of my friends both Host Country Nationals and Peace Corps.
Early in the week we went to Ouando where he got to experience the sites and sounds of a large West African market. We went tissu shopping (and he even bought some fabric from my regular tissu lady).. I showed him lots of different foods.. we walked through the animal section (which is super depressing but necessary to see)... I know from experience that the market can be really overwhelming the first time you see it, so I am hoping that if we go again next week he will be able to take more in..
On Monday we made a point to see Porto Novo's Botanical Gardens.. I had not been here before, but now that I have seen it I highly recommend going. Just as a note! ** The gardens are in fact not open on Monday. Some random guy who may or may not have been associated with the gardens in anyway let us in... and it was really great.. but I can't promise this would happen for everyone. The gardens house what is left of Porto Novo's Sacred Forest and is also the home to a very curious and friendly family of small monkeys (we think they are Mona Monkeys)
Between rain (and failed attempts to bring him with me to do actual work) we went over to Songhai so that Erik could take a tour of Songhai while I had my local language lesson... due to this being West Africa.. the tour didn't start until well after my class was over so I joined him (the tour was only 500cfa a person – not bad) the tour guide was really great. Although I am obviously a little over-dosed on Songhai.. I think that Erik really enjoyed the tour.
We have visited a lot of my neighborhood friends – and even made some new ones. Erik really enjoyed hanging out with my Supervisor, where we ate Igname Frites and helped feed his rabbits. We had a really great time at my landlords house one afternoon talking with their family, taking pictures and he even got some free reflexology from one of their friends (no that isn't normal).. And of course he has gotten to know my tailor, local bread lady, and bar and cafeteria owners.
As far as food is concerned we have done a lot of eating in because.. that is what I am used to doing.. but I have made a point for him to get to taste as much local fair as possible. We went to two restaurants in Porto Novo that are popular with Peace Corps Volunteers. Java Promo is a nice restaurant located near The National Assembly (and the gardens) and Erik tried Igname Pile (with Peanut Sauce) a Benin specialty found more frequently in the North. We enjoyed vegetarian chwarma at a restaurant near Ouando called Esperence Maquis (1500cfa for a chwarma plus soda). Erik enjoyed his meal here so much we even went back a second time. At Songhai we stopped for drinks and sampled locally made soy milk and my personal favorite baobab juice and snacked on (another personal favorite) Voandzu from the Bean lady across the street. We have had all sorts of beignets and fried foods.. Erik now understands my ridiculous addiction to bissap (a popular hibiscus drink). He has sampled sodabe... enjoyed a Peace Corps style taco feast.. tried most of the local beers.. and has eaten spaghetti omelets at my neighboring cafe.
I can't believe how fast his visit here is passing by.
Next week we are going to try to make a few day trips to see more of Benin.
Lots of Love
Answers for April "C'est quoi ça?" post are now available HERE (at the bottom of the post).. and Erik will be bringing home a tub of All Natural Shea Butter for fcrum!!! - - Thank You Everyone for participating <3