Monday, October 28, 2013

Perception of Calm

Almost any PC Benin Volunteer is PROBABLY going to think I am crazy when I say this – but I love going to the bank. It is like a sea of calm in the middle of a whole lot of crazy. Now, I am going to add that the branch I go to in Porto is probably the best branch in all of Benin – and none of the branches in Cotonou (or any other city I have been to) fall even close to sea of calm. However, the small branch that I go to in Porto is an exception.

I love going to the bank because they keep a real line.. with chairs.. that the security guard takes very seriously. This branch is small so you rarely wait more than 30 minutes, unless you are silly enough to go during lunch break. The guard also takes very seriously a “no talking on cell phones” rule – which is completely unheard of in Benin. AND he will kick you out if you answer your phone. Which happens often.

For about 30 minutes every month I get to experience a quiet, air conditioned, and organized. AND that isn't even the main reason why I love going to the bank.

Once again I am going to say that this is speaking for the specific branch that I go to – but the reason I love going to the bank is that for this super western 30 minutes a month I find myself in a bubble where everyone is treated the same as everyone else.

Foreigner, Rich Woman, Poor Woman, Poor Man, Village Chief, everyone gets in the same line and follows the same rules. In most banks (or similar establishments) the line is only semi existent. Mostly because whenever someone important walks in they get automatically bumped to the front of the line. Not here in Porto, here you get in your chair and wait like everyone else. In most banks the foreigner (and the poorer women) would constantly get pushed to the back because everyone else thinks we won't notice. Generally this will only work for so long for volunteers before said volunteer would start making a scene and then we too get pushed to the front of the line, this act does not work for locals. At my bank in Porto the whole act of how to get to the front is completely obsolete. Because there is a line. An air conditioned, everyone is equal, and no one is shouting into their cell phone, not hectic, completely peaceful, no pushing, look at how efficient this is, line.

I know it is the westerner in me who finds so much solace in the line, but it is the human in me who finds the joy in the changes this same line has brought about for the customers who go to this bank.


When not sitting in my favorite bank day dreaming about how things work in America – I have been preparing (aka stressing) for my upcoming vacation. It's been a little bumpy. Maybe because I spent all of last week wasting away in the medical unit instead of preparing for vacation.. maybe it is just because I live in a tiny country in West Africa and things just kind of are that way.

I am stressing because:

1. I am not finished acquiring souvenirs for friends and family - blame the shutdown.
2. Dresses that I am having made for home (that should have been done last week) are not ready.
3. I keep having dreams that I forgot to get on the airplane.
4. I'm worried about people in my community thinking I left for good.
5. Trying to finish up Grad School apps from Benin is harder than I thought it would be (even with my parents helping with little tasks from home) – Dear UCSC your transcript ordering system is HORRIBLE. Horrible. Horrible!!!
6. AND OF COURSE – Papaya is currently out of food and so is the grocery store :-/

A friend recently said to me.. when on his way home after a long vacation “I'm clicking my heels!” That is where I am right now... clicking as fast as I can.

Click Click.

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