Trip Start Sep 22, 2003
62Trip End Dec 13, 2005
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Thanks to everyone for the terrific replies. They are a lot of fun to read. We'll do our best to answer some of your questions. The town of Comé is in the south west, about 30 miles from the ocean and Togo border. The climate is hot and humid, but there are lots of trees. I wouldn't call it lush, but a 2 minute bike ride from the main roqd will get you into the "bush" where there is nothing but dirt roads, trees, and some manioc farms. The trees are cocnut, palm, eucalyptus, mango, papaya, and banana. (Jason just had a tree identification class as part of technical training, so now we know what they are.) As far as the water, our family has a faucet outside by the gate that we use. If we're using it for drinking wateer, we put it through our Peace Corps proided filtering system and then boil it on our PC provided propane stoe for about 5 min. We're lucky beause our family has a refrigerator that we put our water in, so thats very nice (other trainees are jealous). We also use the faucet for water for our daily bucket showers and for doing laundry. The bucket showers are very refreshing since its so hot. Its in a small cement stall out in the yard thats open to the stars. Its very nice and a faorite part of the day. We thought we would miss a hot shower the most, but a hot shower is the last thing on our minds right now. Theres rarely a moment that we are not sweating.
This week we continued language classes, as well as so,e technical training. Rebecca's techincal included a isit to the local hospital as well as the local health center to begin learning about the health system structure in Benin. Jasons included building a fuel efficient mud stove out of clay and straw. This involved mixing the clay with their feet and is probably similar to the way mud houses are built here, and throughout the deeloping world. Along with the tree identifiation, Jason learned how these trees are used locally (ie, for medicinal purposes, construction, food, and decoration.) As part of cross culture training, we had a fashion show. We borrowed clothes from our host families and our facilitator talked about the characteristics of each style of dress. As part of language class, we went to the market and practiced bargaining for items, and went to the taylor to pratice asking her to make us clothing. Many people have already bought fabric for clothes, but we're still searching for just the right patterns.
We talked with our program director and we are hoping to be placed in a smaller village, and she seems open to this idea. We're very excited about this, and she talks like the possible sites are mostly up north on the border of either Niger or Burkina Faso. We'll keep you posted on this.
One cool thing that Jason got to see on his way to his training village was the Zambetto. And no... it has nothing to do with Ice-Hockey. The Zambetto are a local secret society in southern Comé and they kind of act like city protector/ spiritual guide. The Zambetto actually looks like a haystack pyramid (painted red (vodoo color)) that a person crawls into and it walks around. He saw it riding on the back of the zimmyjohn so unfortunately no pictures were taken and I didn't get a real good look at it. There was a procession following two of these Zambetto and a small group of drummers were in the back of the crowd. Very Cool!!! because they only come out for very special occasions. They also can be used to guard a village so at a given time (usually after 9 or 10pm) they will attack anyone caught out at that time of night. Sometime this is done for fun in the cities local festivals but other times its taken very seriously. I think out of all the volunteers in our group I'm the only one to have seen one so far. I asked my teacher about it and he guesses that it was probably a funeral procession or something like that.
This weekend all the volunteers ent to the beach. We went to Grand Popo, the touristy part right by the Togo border. It was beatiful and completely undeveloped. The hotel we stayed at was not right on the beach. There were palm trees everywhere, and a local fishing village right next to us pulling the nets in this morning. We swam a little in the beautiful green/blue water and sat under the palm/bamboo umbrellas. Some people slept on the beach, but we rented a tent since we didn't bring out mosquito net. It was a great time. It was a full moon that reflected off the ocean. The clouds were transluent to the moonlight and the stars peeked out from behind. It was really amazing. Maybe its where we can bring those who come to visit us from the US. As we were leaving, we ran into three PCV's on vacation from Niger and they were jealous that we were training only 30 miles from there.
Well we look forward to this week and being able to give you more stories. (cooking with the family is one we forgot, we'll include it next time.)
Nancy wins the grand prize (yet to be determined) for Sept. letter writing contest. We've also received mail from Rebeccas Mom (thanks mom!) so get your letters in soon to be included in the Oct. drawing... Its taking about 2 weeks for air mail to get here.
Take care, hope everyones doing well.
Rebecca and Jason