It’s been a while! I know I said I would try to do a better job of keeping my blog updated, but it makes it hard when you do not have internet access. The past month has been full of surprises and excitement. Last time I posted we were still working on language training. Since then, I visited my village and learned where I will be living for the next two years. I spent two weeks in my village, Djidja, and returned to Porto-Novo after for another month of technical training. I have finished technical training and was sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer last Friday at the U.S. Ambassador’s house in Cotonou. I now am back in Djidja setting up my house and adapting to village life again.
My two weeks spent in village were definitely interesting. I got my first taste of what the next two years of my life will be like. The name of my village is Djidja. It is what the people here refer to as a “grose village” (this translates literally in French to fat village). It does not mean that the people are fat, but that the village is just not an extremely small village. I really could not get a straight answer from anyone on the actual population of my village, but I have estimated it to be around 5000 people. The people are extremely friendly and I am the only foreigner in the village so I definitely am noticed. My house is comfortable, but completely unfurnished at the moment. I will post more on my house when I get time to buy furniture and take some photos.
Djidja is an agriculture village and most of the economy revolves around this sector of business. Those of you in Nebraska will be happy to know that I am surrounded by corn and soy fields. It is funny that I came to the opposite side of the globe only to be placed in a rural village that reminds me a lot of the small towns that much of my relatives come from. It’s great, I feel right at home! My job (which may possibly change) is working with the Union of Communal Producers (of Cotton). I put cotton in parenthesis because cotton is the biggest cash crop in our region and my organization works a lot with cotton cultivators. I however, will probably be focusing in on other plants such as the karité tree. This is the tree that is used to produce the nuts to make shea butter. The Peace Corps wants volunteers in West Africa to educate the farmers on the importance of this tree and why they should not cut it down.
Karité is an important and profitable tree that many farmers are cutting down before it matures. They use the wood of the tree for making “charbon” (charcoal). I will be giving formations to farmers on the importance of letting these trees to mature so that they can sell the profits off the nuts produced by the trees. This of course will not occupy all my time in village. The Peace Corps asks volunteers to assess the needs of their villages to see what other kind of projects may be feasible. The first three months at post will be primarily spent assessing the needs of my village as well as more local and French language training.
I am looking forward to being done with training and getting to my village. It will be interesting to not interact with other Americans on a regular basis but is essential for me to improve my local language. I bought an internet key in Cotonou after the swearing-in ceremony and have great access in my village. I will now be able to post on my blog more often without any excuses not to.