On Safari in Parc Pendjari
Trip Start Jun 02, 2003
41Trip End Dec 31, 2006
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Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? And it was pretty fun
On our way back to Natitingou, we stopped at Tanougou to swim at the breathtaking waterfalls. Paradise.
If any readers out there are planning on coming to Parc Pendjari and Tanougou, the best take-off point to find a driver is Natitingou. I recommend hiring Marcel as your chauffeur
From Natitingou, before going to the Parc, some of us visited Boukoumbe for a morning. Boukoumbe is a worthwhile visit. The drive, which passes through the Atakora mountains, is gorgeous, and the prime tourist attraction there - the Tata Samba houses - is quite interesting. Long ago, people used to live in these houses that are made out of mud and have funny looking conical, straw tops (imagine a castle with turrets). The houses have more than one story. The ground level is where the animals sleep and various chores, such as pounding and grinding spices, are performed. It is like being in a dark cavern. Go up a short ladder into a separate tiny room that serves as a kitchen. Then up another ladder to the top of the roof. On the roof, there are entrances to claustrophobic sleeping caverns that sort of look like mini, mud igloos; their entrances are small holes (that many large men or women would not even fit through). The tops of the many layered roofs are often used to dry millet, tobacco, or baobab fruit
When we arrived, the Ditamari people who lived there (they actually don't sleep in the Tata Samba houses anymore, preferring a more modern building that is right next door) were in the middle of a ceremony. They were sacrificing something and drinking a lot of chouk, which is a local brew made from millet. If you come visit me, I can take you to a chouk market in Parakou, or we can do the "chouk hut crawl" in N'Dali. Each chouk is different. Some of it tastes similar to cider. I am not a big fan of it, but it is sort of interesting to visit the markets and the huts. And, if you do like to drink, then it is certainly one of the cheapest ways to get drunk that I know. Each hut you enter, you can have a small calabash of chouk for free to decide if you like it enough to want to buy more. Then, you can have half a calabash for 25 CFA and a full one for 50 CFA (less then 25 cents).
Anyway, Boukoumbe is a cool place to visit. You can also find some interesting souvenirs there, such as antelope horn hats and furry pipes.
After the park, I headed back to N'Dali with a couple of visitors who were hoping to be able to milk a cow in a Peuhl camp
Soon, though, it was back to work. I am busy planning a Career Day of professional women with my fellow female teacher Cecile. Also, I am trying to wade through over 150 essays written by girls who hope to attend our first Camp G.L.O.W. in Benin.
G.L.O.W. stands for Girls Leading Our World. It is a camp that first started with Peace Corps volunteers in Romania. Now, we will be having one in Benin. Horray! It will be for five days in Parakou. Fifty-six girls from all over the Bourgou region will be invited. The goals of the camp are to enourage the girls to become active citizens, to gain self-confidence and leadership skills, and to be exposed to various essential issues (HIV/AIDS, Environmental issues, general health, computers, etc.). We are working with a local NGO that was created this past year and is comprised of Beninese university students. Why am I telling you this? Well, of course, I want to let you know a bit about what we are doing, and also, I am hoping that some of you out there might be interested in donating to the cause. In order to fund the camp, we have received numerous donations by different organizations throughout Parakou, and we have also applied for a Peace Corps Partnerships Grant
Also, if you choose to donate to the general fund that goes towards the development of Women and young girls, you will be supporting our Girls' Scholarship Program, which sends over 100 girls to school each year in Benin. To give you an example of one of the girls that may soon (keep your fingers crossed that she'll get it!) benefit from this scholarship program, I will tell you about Tanko.
Tanko is a girl who attends CEG N'Dali
Why does Tanko refuse to enter a forced marriage? What made her want to stay in school? She says that in her community, the women are only servants. They work all day to come home and make dinner for their husbands, who eventually stumble home drunk and beat them. She said that she did not want to become a woman like that. She wanted to go to school so that she could do something more. (NOTE: Not all families are like this, obviously. I have met many husbands who have probably never beaten their wives. Also, wife-beating is punishable by the law here, just as it is in the United States.)
Tanko's parents refused to allow her brother to help her pay for school after sixth grade, so Tanko found a boyfriend who could help her. The next year, she stayed in a girls boarding house at a nunnery, but she was unable to pay the fees for the boarding. The following year, she joined an evangelical church, and the paster has taken her in and been helping her out since then. When Tanko was in elementary school, she was tops in her class. Her good grades continued, but have been slowly dropping each year as she struggles to pay for her school notebooks, food, etc
Tanko is an intelligent girl with a great desire to succeed in life, but her circumstances have made things very difficult. She is one example of a girl who can benefit from the scholarship program.
Okay, I know I have gone on too long now. I will end with great news! Ella, my wonderful calico cat, just became a mother! She gave birth to three adorable kittens on April 19. She made sure that I was present for the whole thing, running out to meow at me as though to say, "Get your butt back in here! I'm in labor!" and then running back to her basket under the coffee table in my bedroom. (She even did this between births when I left her side for 5 minutes to say goodbye to some folks! She's quite the co-dependent cat!) Pictures of the safari, the waterfalls, and the kittens will be forthcoming! Next week! Ganhi festival in Nikki! Horray!