Thursday, December 18, 2008

A little sad

One of my favorite photos.

Okay. So I'm beginning to feel a little homesick. I think it's because of the Christmas holiday. A lot of volunteers made trips back home to visit family, plus many parents are coming here to visit. On another note, I'm pretty exhausted after IST (In Service Training) and hanging out with my friends. Lots of information was jam paked into two weeks. My lugguge bags are full to the max and I regret bringing so many clothes to the training. I wanted to show off all my cool clothes. Now it's kicking my butt. Imagine riding a moto through the bush with a huge luggage bag on the front, a backpack that's about to tip you off the back of the moto, and two bags of Xmas gifts and groceries. This will be interesting in the next couple of hours. But i'll get back to post and be happy to see everyone in my village again.

I really am happy to see everybody in my health sector again. Some came ALL the way from up north. I'm happy to hear that everybody is doing great and loving their posts. In my training, I have learned how to start a latrine building project, and I also have some information for who to contact for small grants. I am very excited about really getting to work on some projects. It was kind of depressing to look in my mailbox and find little mail. Especially around the holidays. Most of my friends were getting lots of Christmas, I miss you, and thinking about you packages. So I have been a little sad about it. Okay really sad. But not ungrateful because I have received a few packages from friends earlier. But it sucks to not hear from family. I think that is what is beginning to get to me. I have become a vulture standing around people who get packages in hopes that they will share whatever they may have. What kind of sicko have I become???

On another note, I saw my host family during IST and they were very surprised. My friend who volunteers up north gave me some Wagasi (cheese), and I gave it to my family. They were very happy about it. Wagasi is GREAT cheese!! Some great things I got to do over the last two weeks during training and being with friends included clubbing, CHEESEBURGERS, ICE, Indian food, tailored clothes, and Northen Wagasi!! I had a blast! Maybe that's also why I'm a little sad. Everyone is leaving back to post today. I don't really have too much else to say other than I miss my friends, I'm a little disappointed about my mail situation, but thanks to everyone that kicked in because it meant a lot to me, and that I'm doing okay.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I finally am WORKING!!

I think it's time for an update. So WORK has finally started in my village. I am very excited about it. Vaccinations have started and although I'm not allowed to give the shots, I was able to give vitamin A supplements, anti malaria medication, and medication for stomach worms. I strongly believe that because I have focused on integrating into my community first, the village recieved my first presentation very well. They wanted me to speak Fon and I did, they new my name, and are willing to help me in anyway possible towards future projects.

I am lucky to actually be able to use some of the tools we learned in training such as community mapping. It isn't very efficient if you live in a large populated area. My village is FAR from that. In fact, there wasn't too much to even put on the map. It's a great community building tool to not only bring the village together, but to see what their priorities are in terms of what resources are needed that are lacking. Ever since I got to my village, I wanted to build a well or two. Yet while using the community mapping project, I have found that there are water sources I didn't even know about. Including a hidden well. Very exciting. They really know their village. Also, the village wanted to draw in a cemetary and did not want to put exactly where the traditional healers lived because of tradition. Once we finished with the map, they came together and decided that they need latrines. Everyone goes into the bush and when it rains, Lord knows WHAT flows through the village. My village considered this a health problem and made it a priority. Not the well. They sure showed me. At first people were reluctant to say "I will work for free" in terms of digging, and building the latrines, but after explaining that this is their village, their children, and their lives who are going to suffer, they ALL stepped up. Even I'm going to dig too and they were very excited about it. They were all proud to take ownership of the project.

Last week, me and some other volunteers helped with eye screenings for over 200 children too. The children who failed the eye chart reading will be sent to Cotonou to see an eye doctor. Hopefully, we can get them some free glasses. They are getting free official exams and lense measurements. Things are awesome. I got packages too!! Thank you friends!! I really needed the love.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Learned some cool tricks!

Me WALKING with balancing at the same time. Yeah, I rock I know!
Yeah that's me. Getting my integration on. Hot right?!

Monday, October 27, 2008

My new look...

I know you've been dying to see my new hair...or lack! Do you like it? I know I do!! Feels great!! My new hair is so much easier to deal with. Feels a lot cooler (can FINALLY feel a breeze on my neck), I save a huge amount of shampoo (you have no idea how much shampoo AND water was used to wash my locks), less maintenance, all i gotta do is just brush it and get up and go, and last but not least, i still look pretty! LOL! At least I think so. Sorry if I disappointed anyone but sleeping at night and walking around with a WOOL like sweater on your head 24/7 in Africa was no longer my idea of fun....should've cut my hair during training with the other girls. I had chickened out. So glad I'm on the team now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Still alive and kicking. Havent been sick surprisingly. It is hot here. Not as hot in the north though. Had a snake in my backyard that ate y neighbor's baby chickens. His bite also killed the mother. Dont know what kind of snake it was although I was told that he was long and black. Hope it wasnt the Black Mamba.... Yesterday I rode my bike for that first time in my villlage. It was awesome! The sand the other way made the route difficult so i refused to try. I was bored and needed something to do. Playing solitaire became obsessive so I needed to get out and do something. So I took a bike ride. I totally loved it. Didnt know exactly where I was going but I was going. Just felt like going...Like Forest Gump. Next time I will go further. Managed to run into a school. Not literally, but found one. I did run into a lot of puddles and was very muddy. Wont ride my bike after a rain again. That was smart. So I spoke to the teacher at the school and to the children in my limited Fon. They just loved that. Explained why I am here and what I am doing. Great integration! I was nervous because no one was with me to help me translate but I figured I would be okay...and I was. I knew more French than I thought I did. I did find out that there are a few people in my village who speak French. Mostly they are men and children who have started school. But they are rare. If anything, they know greetings and that's it.

During my free time....which I have a huge amount of, I read, read, read, cook new stuff so people can try it...I made cornbread and they LOVED it. Even gave a cornbread making class. So in a way I was working...Exchanging some American culture. Also I listen to BBC on my shortwave radio religiously, write letters, write in my journal, and talk on my cellphone with other volunteers and family from home when I have the phone credit. Speaking of BBC, can I hear just ONE positive thing on the radio?? I mean just one. Things here in Benin are looking better and better...Yesterday, opened my door and a lizard fell on my arm...I am telling you those lizards love me!!LOL! So now I have been better able to store foods. Only buy what you will eat in two to three days. Smoked fish lasts pretty long if you fry it a little eat day. Up to three days without a fridge. Eggs can last for a couple of weeks. The pavilion is almost completed so I will start giving sensibilizations soon. Looking forward to starting work. Malaria is common here as well as malnutrition.

So here is a unique experience for me. Three or four days ago marks the FIRST day children have started staring, following, stalking me at my house. They watch me do EVERYTHING. Cook, sweep, talk on the phone, eat....I feel like a caged animal in the zoo. Interesting because in the beginning I was always mistaken as Beninese. Word must have got out.... Now I understand and feel sorry for the other volunteers. It's totally weird to be watched all the time. But I will get used to it, or even better will become boring with further integration.

I miss the other volunteers...A lot...Hope they are doing okay. I miss home too. I miss my mom. She's hilarious. I also miss ice. God, I love ice. I love Benin. I see or learn something new EVERYDAY. Like today I learned how to say, I am going to the market in Fon. N nanyi ahime bowa. Exciting! Everything is Gunji Gunji (great). I cant wait till mango season hits again. We got here the last two weeks it was here. Mangoes are sooo good. Got a mango tree in front of my house. Although I have solar electric at night. It hasnt been on the past few days. And I havent died so things are okay. The lamp and candles do just fine. Since my house is small with two rooms, I dont need much light. I am not as afraid of spiders anymore. I have seen probably three hundred plus since I have been here so they have become less scary with acquaintances. I hate those damn crickets though. They are in my ceiling which prevents me from getting to them and KILLING them. So they sing all night. That's when I wish a spider will just EAT them. But each night I am disappointed. Where is a spider when you need one huh? Killed my own chickens and have just bought a male and female so I can raise a couple at my neighbor's house. Cheaper that way. Life in Benin so far is going and going pretty good. Thanks to those who have sent me packages!! Hopefully I will be getting them in my hands this week....I will keep my fingers crossed....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I cut my hair!! I will provide photos soon. It was just too hot for me to keep my locks. I absolutely LOVE it! So I have spent three weeks at post....AND LOVE IT!! The people here are awesome, yet there isnt much for me to do. I do enjoy cooking. I also enjoy reading, writing in my journal, and talking on the phone with my postmate. You really have to find things to do when you are in the middle of nowhere. Okay, so I will talk about a couple of weird/new/funny things I have experienced here so far since I have been at my post. Again, my stories do not reflect Benin generally but I must tell you a couple of stories because they made me smile. Dont take anything I say personally.

The first couple of days, I was trying to figure out how to comfortably use my latrine. I dont sit butI stand on it. First, I stamp a few times so if there are bugs there, they will get lost. So after I did that, I stood on it and began to urinate. Immediately, a gecko jumped out and landed right on my ass!!!! I fell off the larine and ran out with my pants down! LOL! I freaked out and busted out laughing. Never new I would get intimate with a lizard so soon.

So a sage femme (midwife) who i work with along with my other work partner who is a male helped me move in my place. Remember that I am REALLY in the bush and people dont have much access to anything here. So while they were helping me move my stuff around, my tampons fell out of one of the boxes. I was very embarrassed. The guy says, "Are these cigarettes?" And the midwife says, "Yes they are. I didnt know you smoked Satin!!"

Have you ever seen a person put out a cigarette...with his barefeet? I did and was totally shocked. He tells me thats because he is African. And I say "No, Thats not African! Thats bush!!" And he cracked up laughing!

So here are a couple of things I have experienced so far and cant wait to experience many more interesting things. Dont have much internet access so I will try to write again soon. Still waiting on a package.....Does anyone love me??

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Final pics before I head to post...

That's me at the beach. Grand Popo is the name. Great spot to just relax, eat ICE CREAM, and enjoy the sun. Bubbles from the water is what is on my ankle if you wanted to know.
This is my favorite outfit I got made. Love the colors.
This is my awesome host family. This was at the swearing in ceremony. This year is the 40th anniversary for Peace Corps in Benin. If you look closely you can see the custom made design on my outfit. We all swore in with style! Now I am an official Peace Corps Volunteer!! In the pic is my host uncle, his wife and my house sister. Host mama giving me a congratulations kiss as you can see. You want to know something nice? My mother from the states gave me the same kiss on a pic when I graduated from college. See, we're not as different as we may think we are. I will miss them dearly.
Some cultural visuals for you. Voodoo. It was a nice event. They can dance pretty good actually. This was at my house.

So this is my last post before I move to village. In host family closing, I could not be more happier with the family I had. I learned so much, I ate so much, and I was loved so much! Host families are the best way to integrate into a new culture and I am truly blessed to have gotten that opportunity. I do plan to visit them diuring my time here. Training was intense and I am glad it is over but I am sad at the same time because I really bonded with a lot of the volunteers. I will really miss our times together. As a new volunteer reflecting on everything, I couldn't be more happy with what I am doing. I am so nervous and excited for tomorrow. I had to buy so much stuff for my new place since I am a new volunteer and not replacing another one. Life in Benin has truly been a ride alright!!! Can't wait to talk about what will happen next! A la prochaine (until next time)!

Who wants to be the first one to send me a package??? Dont all rush at once : )

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More pics and my village!!!

My house is on the right. There isnt a powerline in the sky for miles yet I have electricity and cellphone coverage. SolarPower baby!! Nice to be friendly to the environment. My village is gorgeous! So I am very happy with my boss placing me here.
This is the baby I helped to deliver...well not exactly deliver but I got to pass some stuff to the nurses and help out momma at 5: 54 am so you can say I kinda did something lol. He is about three hours old here. You can see that he isn't very happy with me lol. He was a first born too and the mother took it like a champ!
This is the health center I will be working at as well as a monestary about six km away. They are building this pavillion so I can give health education sessions. They are so kind. I didn't even ask for this.
This is the first outfit I had made. How do I look?? I did the headwrap myself!
This was on the way to my village. I was so nervous to find out where my spot was. As you can see the road is really eroded and I am REALLY in the bush!! But I love it!! Cars cant even get through this.
Chez moi!! Weh che bea dieh (my house is here)! I have a living room and a really large bedroom which will also be my kitchen area. Simple and just fine for me. I have a mango tree about 25 steps away from my front door : ) and I have two latrines....I dont know why but I do. I have my own backyard area with my own douche (shower) area. I also have a chicken coupe. Yes I just might use it.
This is my village about 1km away (6-7blocks) This is the entrance that I will be walking through each day. Isn't it beautiful!? Most of the people in the village live here. I live in a concession across from the health center I will be working at because this place here doesnt have a water source and they have to get their water from a stream. So I wasn't allowed to live directly in this area but I am VERY close. I think I will be starting a well project sometime soon.
This was the big ass spider I found in my room. Glad I saw him before I went to bed huh? Dont worry. I have a mosquito net so he wouldnt have eaten me alive in my sleep.

Some cultural exchange going on. This was one of my first photos in a Benin and I think one of my favorites. Gloria was the first child I played with in Benin. I taught her a hand game I used to play as a child and she learned it in about five minutes flat! Apparently hand games are many little girls' favorite pastime in Africa. She was so adorable.

My village was just what I wished it to be. Welcoming, beautiful, quiet, and a place where I could be of service. It is sooo peaceful there. Plenty of time to think and reflect about a lot of things during my two years. I already am learning Fon, and the village chief can speak English!! How crazy is that!! I was struggling with my french and he just busted out talking in English and we just laughed and laughed. In response to me being worried about French, not too many people speak it in the village anyway so I guess that makes me feel better. Each thing I said in Fon just made their glow up!! Everyone loves me already and cant wait for me to get back. I helped out with a birth at the health center already (these women are hardcore without the painkillers!! They dont make ANY noise of pain), I also met the with the nurses I will be working with, and Chief of police and the doctor of a neighboring town (my village is just too small for all of that). I just cant get over how beautiful my village is an how friendly the people are. I cant wait to swear in and start my work. I am sorry for the late picutes and I hope these will suffice until another time. Please comment, email, and write me sometime.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Day Before Seeing Her Village.....

Okay. So I have met my work partner and am very happy with meeting her so far. I found out that the director of the NGO I will be working for was a Peace Corps facilitator. He was a french language trainer. Crazy cool huh?!! From what I hear they have been waiting on a volunteer for quite sometime and they are really excited to have me!! I will be the first volunteer here and my home is newly built for me so I'm happy about that. And I see my village tomorrow....I just don't know what to expect and I am really nervous about it. I am only staying for four days but this is the time to gt a feel for our work partners and communites. My work partner wants to help me order my furniture from the carpenters and bargain. Im excited about that. Visuals always work with limited french. She told me that I will meet the mayor, village chief, and a bunch of other people waiting for me. Can you say "nervous"???

Again I heard that my village is beuatiful with palm trees all over the place. And I am in anana (pineapple) paradise!!!! Nice!!! She says, I will be living in a village with 500-700 people actually. I thought it was 1500. I'm very excited about it because I wanted a very small close knit community. She said I was lucky about getting what I wanted and my facitator said I was lucky to be working with the director who already knows the mission of Peace Corps. Yay!!!! french SUCKS!! I am getting discouraged but I continue to try every chance I get. I know I will get better like anyone else who learns a language but I feel that I really SUCK!!! However I have been told that I'm doing fine. I plan on getting a tutor. So now I have put my focus on learning Fon because only about three or four people in the village speak French. Great huh? Oh yeah!! I got my first Beninese outfit made and I am very happy about it. I blend right in which is good and bad. I even fooled one or two volunteers who glanced right at me and thought I was Beninese. Nice. I still havent packed so I should probably get started on that. Wish me luck!! I hope I like the place I will be living in for two years.

Thoughts crossing my mind...
How will the ride there be?
What does my village really look like?
What does my house look like?
How will I react?
Hope my village isn't mad that I'm not white
Will they believe that I'm American?
What will they think of my French?
How much will my furniture cost??
How friendly are the people?
What do they expect from me??

I will soon find out.....

Damn I hate these computers. They are slow and because these are French keyboards make contact even slower. Oh well...I should just thank God I have the internet. I saw a HUGE spider in my room last night!!! I mean freaking huge!! Did I ever tell you that I was terrified of cockroaches and spiders?? Well I am. The spider was about half the size of my shoe!! EEEEEKKKK!!! And guess what....I killed it myself!!!!! There was no way in hell I was gonna run and get somebody so he could hide when I got back! Yay!! I'm a big girl now!! First, there was the flying cockroach, the one I stepped on barefoot (eww, by accident), and now a spider on steroids! I'm so proud of myself for bringing that big ass can of Raid here with me!! I didn't even have to go near the monster. I will provide a picture of him soon. A la Prochaine (until next time)!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Some pics

This was in Ouidah at the Sacred forest. We've been told that trees are the wisest because they have seen so much in their years. If they could talk they'd have a lot to say!! This one is over 300 years old.
This is at the Sacred Temple of the Serpents in Ouidah. I love snakes! If you cant see it, my shirt says "Benin....Right there next to Nigeria" We aren't allowed to go there even though we are soooooo close! It really sucks but rules are rules. News update...I still love BENIN!!! You would too if you ever been in Benin lol!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Hey everyone. Things here are still awesome! I love my placement i'll be getting after traning. Its definitely in the bush. Its a real small community in the south with less than 1500 people. I have solar electricity!!! Way cool!!!! I'll be working in violence againt women, family planning, maternal care and anything else would be too many expectations at least until i get there. I love the volunteers here. i feel we have a great support system. believe it or not, i haven't even been homesick!! the pace here is awesome!! everyone is so chill!! the clothing is absolutly gorgeous!! and training is going pretty well! french is sooooo hard but im forced to use it all day everyday. sometimes i just want to shout out in english what i am thinking to someone but very few people around me speaks english. my host family speaks in goun all day so its even more challenging to learn my french; but i can do it!! pas une probleme (not a problem). man do i miss flaming hot cheetoes right now!!!! So bad i can almost taste them!!! i love benin so much!!! i see a cool thing every single day!!! Just the other day i saw a baby goat being born on the side of the road. Cant get that in Baltimore i tell you that!!! i am soooo happy to be here! Write me!!!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

i need privacy!!

okay so my sense of privacy is totally different here. even right now if you get my drift... it is okay to show your breasts here but you should NEVER show your lower back.......yah i dont get it either. people dont walk around like that in public by they do in their houses sometimes like it isnt a problem at all. when my host auntie talks to me, i get a little side tracked lol!! also i miss just getting in a bed without having to re fix my mosquito net. there are goats and chickens walking around everywhere. yet they have owners. sometimes they just sit right on your steps and just chill. i just wanted to be random. i also hear the muslim calls every morning at 4:30 am....things here are sooo different but soooo awesome....until next time!!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My host family and other things!!

Wow do I have an awesome family. Everyone takes extra care of me. They feed me all day, I sing and play hand games with my host sisters and neighbors which they absolutely LOVE, I dance all day, and pretty much just entertain people with my jokes in french. At least with the little french I know. My family greeted me with open arms and it is surely the best experience I have had thus far. They want me to get fat. I don't mind. The food is great!! I had crabs for lunch the other day. I have fish almost everyday which is one of my favorite foods so things are working out. People here use a lot of hot peppers which isn't bad either. The music is great!! Also, they have black eyed peas!! That's big in southern African American diet along with many other things here such as a similar green sorta like the collard green. They have okra too!! Things are coming together in terms of how African Americans and the people of the Caribbean connect through the slave trade. Even the instruments are the same like in the Caribbean!!

Earlier in my posts I was worried about how I would be viewed by the locals being black. has its good and bad. When I'm with the other volunteers I am not greeted. If I'm greeted, it's second. So in that sense, I don't feel included. Some people even look at me like "Why is she speaking when I was talking to the Yovo (white person, stranger)??"" Also people wonder why I don't know the culture and think I'm Beninese. On the other hand, when I wear the local clothes, I blend in with everyone!....until I ride my bike with my book bag and helmet and then I look like a complete idiot instead of an American. They stare at me like I'm a fish out of the water. It's cool though. I just greet everyone who stares and whomever I pass. I also can talk to them about the similarities that I share with them at home and they love to hear about it!!! In that sense it's nice to be able to show them that all Amerians are not white. My experience is definitely unique and I'm loving every minute of it. I feel at home. I'm so happy to be in the motherland!!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just a few pics to get an idea of where I am at the moment....

This is Cotonou. The city where the Peace Corps Office is located. See the Zemijans! They are EVERYWHERE. Plus I love the sign with the African flags. Those are just a few by the way. Busy place!! My post won't be this populated though.

Go speedracer go!!!! Pray for me!! Zemijan training. How do you negotiate prices, called them over, get on and off with a dress and what not? Very cool experience.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bonjour!!! Je suis en Benin!!

So It was great to have so many volunteers greet us off the plane. I felt so included. The first thing I noticed once we loaded all of our luggage and rode the taxi to our hostel was how many Zemejans (get me there fast) motorbikes are around. Just think of New York City and the cars.....replace them with Zemejans. And they drives like nuts. But they are soooo awesome. I rode my first one today. The other day I had my first bucket bath and believe it or not, It wasn't bad at all!! In fact, since it's hot, the cold water actually feels pretty good. Glad I have black soap. It's sooooo cleansing. It's an African soap which for some reason I can't find ANYWHERE. I have five bars so far and in about 3 or 4 months I may need some more. That's what someone told me. I didn't realize how much French I knew! I'm so proud of myself. I've been having nice conversations already with the local people. I can't wait to get better at it. Training is intense but well worth it I'm sure. The other volunteers are soooooo kind. One even gave me a digital camera memory card since I left mine home. People REALLY look out for each other hear and I am ever so thankful for being in Benin and being with such an awesome group!! I love the Beninese people!! They are soooo kind and really try to make an effort to get to know you. At least that's what I'm getting. Then again, I approach everyone. Just wanted to say again that my time in Benin is awesome and I'm even MORE happy that I joined Peace Corps now that I'm here. It's totally me!!!! Yay!!!!!

Monday, June 9, 2008

What lasting memories can I make before I leave??

As time is crunching down with only three weeks left in the states, some intense anxiety along with excitement comes over me. I have come to realization that I won't be going home to visit while in the Peace Corps, unless I get a sponsor from home. So as of right now I'm trying to live my life to the fullest here before I leave. I'll be back before I know it. I leave tomorrow morning to Seattle, Washington to see my aunt who has been my biggest inspiration! She had nothing coming up yet she worked hard for the success she has achieved. She is a vice president at a community college. Although she has a great career, she always had time for her niece. I can't wait to see her! We're supposed to be checking out Canada too! I've never been to Seattle or Canada so I'm hoping to see some nice mountains. Just last night I came from NYC. Don't you just love Time Square at night? I'll be a great dream I'll have in my slumbers while being in Benin.

Right now I'm just trying to cherish the small things you know. Stop to smell a rose. Close my eyes and open my arms to a cool breeze each day. Eat chocolate. Travel. Hug and talk to my grandma. Tell my mom that I love her and will miss her nagging. The great thing about my aunt is that she always believes that I'll be successful. At one time she lost a little faith when I fell behind in college. She is soooooo happy that I'm joining the Peace Corps and she is the ONLY one in my family who understood my reasons for going. She also was the ONLY one in my family who understood my reasons for going to college out of state. To experience new perspectives. The fact that she works at a college not only helps her to understand to my dreams as a graduate student wanting to pursue a masters in student affairs, but my aunt who always had something in common with me. It's been years since I've sat down with her and talked about my future. I'm not a teenager anymore and although it's been years, I want to have a closer bond with her at this critical time in my life. I look forward to her advice about graduate school. Enjoy time with your family at take all the advice you can get. I think those are the best memories.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Almost time.....

So as I relax thinking about my beautiful vacation in the Bahamas this past week, a few minutes later only ends in guilt. Guilt that there are people around the world that could never have the experience I just had. With deep thought, I realize that my love for others should not be at the expense of me loving myself. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I want to share something that I recently grew to understand. I think that guilt for one another who has hardship is nothing but wasted energy. Knowing that we have the power to educate and understand one another while learning from their experiences is a blessing. Do something about the issues, but only if you truly care. If you don't care you won't grow. Learn another language, read about cultures different from yours, be proactive, challenge fears, and LISTEN. History as shown that bad things happen amongst people because they don't listen to one another. Examples include ignoring the devastation slavery has caused, ignoring the discrimination that women have, or ignoring the children who's schools have failed them.

I don't know about anyone else, but I feel as an American, we (and I mean we) unfortuately have a dark history as a country of oppression. Although we are viewed as a free country, we are just as equality viewed as imperfect. Capitalism has bled a line of oppression at the expense of others. Today, we still see the aftermath of our past in front of us. My own family doesn't understand why I'm doing FREE work and not pursuing a better line of work. Our society is a materialistic society. Our society is a capitalistic society. Therefore, it isn't hard to see a person in another country to view us as greedy, selfish, and maybe even cruel people. I hope that my raw perspective of the world spoken to a native in Benin could be of benefit to the both of us. We could be windows for each others curious views about one another's experiences. I know for certain that although I won't be wearing flashy diamonds around my neck, or driving a Bentley, they know that my food is processed at the market before I buy it, and that I have clean water coming from the faucet. Some may see that as rich. So although I may see them as poor with nothing to be happy about, they are richer than me in other ways. To know the name of everyone in your community would be considered a popularity thing in America. To them, it's having an extended family who looks out for you. Or to be the one who actually sees the "fruit of their labor" and see the end results and profits of his/her harvest. I've heard so many negatives about me going to Africa but I look forward to so many more positives. It's almost time for me to leave this small part of the world around me and enter a new world for me to live in soon. I'm looking very forward to it. Now back to Rosetta Stone! LOL!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Placement in Benin......reaction???

So now my placement has been changed due to my insecurities with my asthma and Niger's extreme weather conditions. The extreme heat could trigger my asthma. Better safe than sorry. As far as how I feel about the new placement, I COULD NOT BE MORE SATISFIED! You may wonder why I'm so excited about the placement. For a few reasons, some medically and some personally. First of all, the weather is more tolerable which means better breathing for me. Hopefully....but I don't wanna count my chickens before they hatch. They also have decent fruits and that grow there! Pineapple, Mangoes, Oranges, Papaya, and bananas. Other reasons is because I wanted to be in West Coast Africa to learn more about the slave trade areas. Voodoo is a Caribbean tradition that goes back to Benin where it's true origin lives. The culture was sent over seas through the slave trade and we can still see that culture lived today in both places. I find that very interesting.

Nigeria and Ghana are very nice countries from what I've heard so I wouldn't mind checking them out since they aren't too far away. I also would have better access to a seafood diet. I REALLY love seafood! I am from Maryland if you didn't know. And I get the beach!!!! Yay!! Of course I may not be anywhere near it but it's in reach if I want to see it. It's definitely a country I wanted to see before I knew about my placement. Of course speaking from a slightly selfish point of view and from someone who doesn't know too much about the benin, these are a few basic things that I find pleasing about the country. You have to remember that I'll be living amongst extreme these few things hopefully will make my stay a little more bearable. Shout out to Josie who recommended me speaking to Peace Corps about my grievences. It truly made me feel sooooo much better! I'll be a community health advisor and I'm looking very forward to it! I leave July 1st.

I plan on using this website as much as I can and I would love to hear from current volunteers, future volunteers, returned volunteers, or just inquiring minds who want to live vicariously through my writings. Enough of the rambling. I've ALWAYS wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer, even since I was in high school. I have always had a love for culture different than mine. I always wanted to travel and experience what life would be like in another perspective. Without this type of interaction, we cannot truly appreciate the things we have as Americans and what I look forward to most of all is to share life with humanity in a way that seeks to uplift each other through dialouge and compassion. Although I am an African American, I am still an American who has a completely different understanding than the people who live in Benin West Africa. To them, they may still view me as a "white person" which I believe is another word for "privileged". What MY personal goals as an African American woman is to show the Benin people that America isn't filled with people that are born rich. That includes white, black, and brown. It is important for them to know that America wears the faces of different types of people. America doesn't always have a white face or a rich face.

Many people on their blogs express their fears of being called the nasara or white person all the time and the burden of them being viewed negatively and seen as rich all the time. I can understand those fears clearly and I show my empathy. I too have fears from my own brown skin color. Although I may blend in which may be considered a good thing in some cases (won't be stared down to death), I still could be confused as one of them therefore, I could be more oppressed. Being a woman already has its risks. I may not be as respected by the people since I look more like them. This has been told to me in my interview. I may be ignored. Or even confused with being from a particular tribe. Being amongst people that look like me has its ups and down. I'll be able to see people that look like me in high office positions but i'll also see them dying and starving. These experiences can be difficult to bear and I expect tears to fall sooner or later. But I'll also will hear the beautiful music flow through my body from the drums beating, and learn about the precious culture that has been preserved, and develop bonds through a new language, and share skills and information to people. All of these things, good and bad, is what makes the Peace Corps Experience. I look forward to every step of the way!