My first trip to Cotonou-ALONE!
Trip Start Jul 05, 2005
178Trip End Ongoing
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Arrived in Cotonou around Noon. Got out of the taxi at a roundpoint called Etoile Rouge. There is a huge statue set on top of a large red star in the center of the roundpoint. It reminds me of the "Arc de Triumph" in Paris, kind of.
After descending from the taxi, I was bombarded by zemidjan drivers asking me where I wanted to go. I just picked a random driver and said, "Je voudrais aller le bureau de la corps de la paix." Discussed a price (150cfa or 30 cents), and thne we were on our way to the PC office. My first time arriving in Cotonou alone, and everything went smoothly...nice.
At the office, I stopped by the mailroom to pick up any mail that was there for me and I also asked if they could tell me how much it'd cost me to mail my photo CD. The worker told me it would be around 6,000cfa ($12-yikes! When you only make $5 a day, that's a large chunk.), and including the cost to buy a different envelope. That was close to what the PO lady in Houègbo said. The worker at the PC office said he'd mail it for me if I gave him the money. No arguing that, I handed him money.
For lunch, I went to a restaurant that the PCV's have named "Secret Schwarma". Found 3 other Volunteers eating there as well. Why didn't I know about this food called a schwarma (spelling?) earlier in life?? They are very good!
Schwarmas look like burritos, but made with random stuff such as hummus, French fries, parsly, onion, piment, and your choice of meat. I had a beef filled one, but they also offer vegetarian, chicken, and "viande" (meat that I think is mutton).
After lunch, we went to the bank and then back to the PC office. There was a VAC meeting today. I forget what the acronym stands for (I think it's Volunteer Advisory Counsel). It's a meeting where you can bring up concerns and ideas you have. Since most of us are new Volunteers, we didn't have much to discuss at this meeting.
After the meeting, I went with some people to a VERY large market called Dantokpa or Missébo. I think it has 2 names... It's "the mall" of Benin...if you want to call it that. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people with huts set up selling old hand-me-downs and Salvation Army stuff. Most of them are Nigerians, so they speak English.
I'm not a big fan of this "mall". It's really overwhelming...very crowded, people yelling at you to come and look or to buy their stuff, they grab you and pull you into their huts. It's really dirty, and located along a dirty river. The ground is sand, so it's hard to walk. Not fun.
We walked back to the PC office instead of taking a zemi since we had time to waste before meeting people for dinner. On the walk back I bought a bag of apples! I ate one of them right away-it was DELICIOUS.
We decided to stop at a bar on the walk back to get a drink. That bar was WAY to expensive, so we got up and left-I think they raised the prices because we are white. We went to the bar next door instead.
After we had our drink and had walked 2 blocks, I realized I had left my bag of apples at the first bar-the expensive one. So, I went back to get them. Ggrrr...the Tantie (waitress) said she hadn't seen them. I KNOW she's lying. I remember putting them on the table and then putting my moto helmet on top of them. When I got up to leave, I just grabbed the helmet. She's probably eating them in revenge of us leaving the bar....
Went to dinner at a place the PCV's have dubbed "Classy Bar". It is a nice place, but not expensive. I had beef brochettes with rice and a Smirnoff. Learned that the Smirnoff I had on Meredith's birthday was WAY over priced-I paid 1,500cfa. Here, they are only 600cfa!
Instead of staying at a hotel, I stayed at Theresa's house. It was my first time going to her house, so I didn't know the route. On the way there, my zemi got a flat tire. I thought I'd never be able to find her again, as my zemi was following her zemi. My driver flagged down another driver. They split the rate I had agreed upon and I was on my way again...to who knows where. Luckily, Theresa's zemi pulled over a few blocks up b/c they noticed we were missing. All was well again. We made it to her house.