Culture Shock!!!!

Trip Start Jul 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Benin  ,
Sunday, December 24, 2006

Mom wrote...

What a culture shock this morning.  Sometime around 5:00 AM we heard some chant or cry that was very odd but rhythmic.  We later thought it must have been a "call to prayer".  A little later we heard a rooster crow.  Looking out the window was the most quite amazing.  Smoke was coming from several fires in different areas around the neighborhood.  The red sun was almost hidden through hazy air.  Kids were playing with balls on dirt roads.  Woman walked by under the window in African skirts carrying bowls of something on their heads.  Men were walking around chewing on sticks that are used for brushing teeth. Chickens and goats were rumaging through garbage piles.  Houses seemed to be under construction and were missing walls and/or roofs.  Other houses built of were three stories tall, had balconies and were covered with ceremic tiles.  Usually these houses had a wall built around the yard.

Breakfast was brought to our "apartment" by the landlord's wife.  It was powdered milk, gari, and instant coffee.  You mix water with the milk and gari, then add sugar.  It seems you drink everything, including the instant coffee out of the same bowl.

Jen's French teacher, Franck, is going to be our driver while we are here.  He comes over as we finish breakfast.  We will be using the landlord's SUV.  Franck and the landlord talked while we finished breakfast.


Our first stop was the marché in Cotonou. Jen has turned into quite a wise shopper.  She bargains by negotiating a price, they say "no", she walks away, they chase her down and want to make a deal.  This is certainly a different way to shop.

Today was also a good introduction to the history of Benin.  This small country was once the center for European slave traders to come, gather slaves and send them on boats to the Americas.  We visited the museum telling the history of the slave trade, rode along the slave route, saw the ruins of where slaves stayed until they were sent away never to return to their country.  There is a special tree known as "The Remembrance Tree" that descendants of slaves visit to remember the past.

Our hotel is on the beach.  It looks like a picture postcard.  A PCV and his family were also staying at this hotel tonight.  We ate dinner with this Chicago area family and it was an interesting evening eating a smorgasborg of traditional Beninese foods, drinks and entertainment.  (That bushrat left something to be desired though.)  Music and dancing started quietly on the beach while we ate.  It continued throughout the evening.  The crowd of dancers grew and so did the beat of the drum.
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