So here it is… After a month in Benin I have now gathered enough information to adequately portray my first impressions of this wonderful country. After a very short two days spent in Philadelphia for a generic orientation to the Peace Corps, most of the next two days were spent in the air and at different airports. When we arrived in Cotonou (the capital of Benin) we were herded off into multiple buses that brought us to an old monastery were more training occurred. Training was what you would expect. A lot of safety and medical information that may be useful down the road. The next few days were fun because we spent a lot of time together (all 67 of us). After training at the monastery we were bused off to the Peace Corps headquarters for more training as well as meeting with our sector directors. I am in the Community Economic Development sector, CED for short. Our language proficiency was also evaluated so they could break us up into smaller groups accordingly.
We spent a few days in Cotonou at Peace Corps headquarters meeting present volunteers, getting more vaccinations, practicing French, learning how to ride a Zemijan and negotiating prices. A Zemijan is a Beninese moto-taxi. We also received our bikes and got a picture of our host family. After spending a few cushy days in Cotonou (at least in African standards), we were off to Porto-Novo to meet our host families who we will be living with for the next couple months.
I have officially passed the two week mark of living with my host family. Before I go on-and-on about how great they are I’ll give you a little insight of my family makeup. I have a mama and papa as well as five siblings. I have three younger brothers, 12, 17, & 26. I also have one younger sister who is 19 and an older brother who is 32. They are a Catholic family so I have been going to mass every Sunday with them and last weekend I actually attended my nephew’s baptism. It was a huge deal and all day Sunday we celebrated at our house. I could not have asked for a better family. They have opened their hearts and home to me as if I was a long lost brother. Today we went out for a family lunch. It was a feast of rabbit (“lapin” in French). I never really knew it but I really enjoy lapin!
I know this post is getting long, so I will quickly give you an idea of how an average day is spent. Monday through Friday we have French class from 8am-5pm with a few breaks in between for lunch and tea. When I get home I usually end up talking to my family until 10pm and then take a bucket shower and go to bed. I have managed to get a few basketball games in after school and on the weekends. Unfortunately, basketball is not a game that a lot of Beninese athletes partake in. As I originally had thought this is definitely a futbol (soccer) country. Well I don’t mean to bore you with my daily itinerary; I just wanted to give those who care kind of an idea of what it is I am doing. I promise my other blogs will be more entertaining and definitely more focused on specific events. In summary, I have no complaints for my first few weeks in Africa, besides the scabs from all my mosquito bites that I cannot help but scratch, but c’est la vie du Afrique!