It’s been awhile, but I was thinking about you all the whole time and wrote this lovely blog post during my first few days here:
Bonjour tout le monde!
I am currently laying in bed at my homestay house! I will get to details about them later, but first, let me catch y’all up;) Heads up: this post has some Franglais (French and English)!
Saturday, June 23rd: Fly to Philidelphia for staging at 8am. Flight was delayed 3 hours due to the flight staff. I was a bit nervous because I was supposed to meet 2 autre volunteers at my baggage claim, mais neither one of them had a cell phone for me to tell them I was being delayed. Regardless, they were there when I got in and we were also joined by 3 other volunteers. We had awesome philly cheesestakes for dinner. Yum.
Sunday, June 24th: Stage begins at noon. I decided I needed one last pampering before I embarked on Africa, so I got up early and got a pedicure (SO worth it. My feet will never be that clean here!). Stage was great, all the other volunteers and staff were so welcoming and nice.
Monday, June 25th: Drive to JFK from Philly and board the first of 2 flights. Seeing NYC one last time was nice. In a way it was a reassuring few moments like, heres-what-you’ve-conquered-already-so-you-can-do-this moments – and a much needed one at that. The first flight was 8 hours, but we were on the tarmac for about 2, followed by a 3-5 hour (I was delirious at this point so I had no concept of time) layover once we got to Brussels. THEN another 6+ hour (again the delirium thing) flight before finally landing in Cotonou, Benin!
Tuesday, June 26th: We have arrived au Benin! We were welcomed by some awesome current PCVs at the airport, got our luggage then took care of some other logistics before getting on three 20 seater buses to go to our hotel. When we got to the hotel we had dinner and took our bags to our rooms. My room was through something like 500 meters of sand pit in the farthest building on the top floor (3) – So picture me in 80+ humid weather dragging my two 50 lbs bags all the way to my room. Sweating is a severe understatement.
Wednesday, June 27th: Lots of information sessions. We got debriefed on PC/Benin staff and their roles, Safety & Security, IT, Health (My medical record has no immunizations on it so I am so lucky to be getting 1 shot a week for the next 6 weeks.) and two presentations from the current volunteers. One of which included a detailed explanation of how to properly pee on the side of a public road – like when we’re on a long bus and the driver pulls over for a bathroom break in the middle of nowhere.
Thursday, June 28th: More classes, but this time at the PCV workstation in Cotonou. This day was filled with many firsts.
first time being interviewed in French.
- First time meeting APCD aka my boss for the next two years (who actually has my blog address, so hi Yves!)
- first time meeting with my doctor to talk about things including what malaria prophylaxis I will be taking everyday for the next two years!
- First time riding a zemi! I have a video of them, but it wont upload so google “Zemidjan in Benin” and hopefully you see what it’s like!
- First time eating (well, trying to eat) a fried fish head, eyes and all. I didn’t end up eating it because there were too many bones for me to pick out…
Friday, June 29th: Last day in Cotonou for staging then off to Porto Novo to meet my host family! We got pictures of them and they got pictures of us before so that when we got to dinner we could find each other. I got a family with 5 sisters (15, 18, 20, 23 and 27) and une mama! It’s crazy how I have 5 sisters at home and 1 awesome mom and I got a host family with the same:)
Saturday, June 30th: Start training; Day 1 officially! I was a little late to my first French lesson as I was not quite used to the morning situation (read: taking a bucket bath and actually sitting and eating breakfast*), but it was okay and the lesson went well. We take our French lessons in small groups with people who are at a similar level and for ours we study at each others houses. Apres, mon Francais Lecon ma sour et moi joue scrabble! One of my sisters is learning English so she playes en anglais et I played en Francais! It took a VERY long time and there was a lot of “Is this a word? No. Okay, Is this a word? No. Okay…” haha:)
*In Benin it is not okay to eat and walk anywhere.
Sunday, July 1st: I can’t believe its JULY! It feels like time is flying by. After a long morning of calling the doctors and scaring my mama (I wont go into details, lets just say I was VERY dehydrated.) I was feeling better and my sister and I went to what I think they called the African Championship(?) not quite sure if that’s what it was. It looked like an Olympic trial for Africa in some running distances and javelin. The most interesting part was how the people interacted with the police. It is very different than in the US. I got to see some other volunteers too!
Monday, July 2nd: Happy Birthday Kate! I got to go on my sisters laptop and use the Internet but it was very slow. It’s crazy to think about how attached I was to my cell phone and laptop at home and how I have gone without them here and survived;) It’s nice – you should try it Andrew! 🙂 We had our first full language class at chez moi today 8-5. I didn’t know how a full day was going to go, but it wasn’t that bad. I’m excited about learning though.
I LOVE BENIN! This country is so beautiful and everyone is warm and inviting – and they laugh all the time, you all know how much I love that:) I haven’t even cried yet! WINNING.
OK, I’m exhaused.
Bon nuit mes amis. Je t’aime boucoup!