Hello Friends & Family! My apologies for not posting sooner, I will make this one long to make up for it:)
September 14th 2012: Officially swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteer! In Benin, when there is a big celebration, families will buy matching fabric called tissu and make outfits to wear to the party. So, for our Swear-In ceremony each sector (Community Economic Development [ME!], Rural Community Health, Environmental Action and Teaching English as a Foreign Language) picked their own and our respective staff matched us as well. My host mama and sister were there to celebrate with me too! Saying goodbye to them was way harder than I thought it was going to be!
September 15th 2012: Move to Parakou! Benin is not that big, actually, it’s about the same size as Pennsylvania, but it takes about 8 hours drive from Porto Novo to Parakou because the roads are so bad. On the bright side, you get your own bush taxi for the day (there are only two times that you get your own bush taxi and that’s when you move in and when you move out). I was fortunate enough to get to share a taxi with another PCV for the ride. Our lovely taxi driver packed all of our things and stopped multiple times to find us food and bathrooms.
October 15th 2012: One month at Post! I’ve got most of my house together (still no couch, but working on it!) and am learning [slowly] how to make myself food that I actually enjoy eating. I have French lessons twice a week with a local university student and I am at my ONG’s office/boutique 5 days a week. I thoroughly enjoy all the PCV company who pass through Parakou and am realizing how fortunate I was to be placed in such an awesome city!
Today – November 7th 2012: 4 MORE YEARS! The Parakou ladies (Lisa, Thuy and I are all PCVs posted in Parakou.) organized an election party at a local hotel since we didn’t want to miss a second of the election and this was the only way to make that happen considering they announced just before 6am (and I haven’t slept yet!). I’m so glad we did it too, there were 6 of us who came and it only cost us each 6,000 cfa (about $12 US dollars) for everything – dinner, breakfast, wifi, pool and cable!
Next up on the calendar – Thanksgiving! During our first 3 months at post we are supposed to be learning about our communities and observing our partner organizations so they do not want anyone leaving their Department for this period, except to go to your respective Workstation (Benin is broken up into 12 Departments – Alibori, Atakora, Atlantique, Borgou [ME!], Collines, Donga, Kouffo, Littoral, Mono, Oueme, Plateau & Zou – kind of like counties, each has multiple villages and cities)! So, for thanksgiving we’re making a big dinner at the Parakou Workstation:)
In other news: I think I am adjusting well! I get sick from time to time, but nothing too serious (one malaria scare, but it turned out to be a bad case of food poisoning). I’m homesick more days not, but having my iPhone here has made that SO much better to deal with! If you have an iPhone turn on your iMessage and add my email and African phone number to my contact info (firstname.lastname@example.org, +229-65-07-00-70) and send me a text! The send button should turn blue, if not it will cost you! If you have any other smart phone, download the app Viber and I should pop up as a contact if my info is in your phone already! There is an 8 hour time difference from CA, but call/text anytime, I don’t mind at all!
If you’re feeling extra nice and want to send me a package or letter, please do! The address I’ve given everyone still works – the mail goes to the PC Bureau in Cotonou and is brought to me once a month – but it will get to me faster if you send it to the Parakou Workstation:
Heather Pace, PCV
Corps de la Paix
Afrique de l’Ouest
I’ll be posting pics on FB – easier than WordPress! I hope to hear from you all soon! Miss you and love you<3