Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hey Everyone,

I hope all is well at home. I have an urgent that one of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers asked of me. She is working on a Girls Camp here and I have seen first hand how hard they have been working on this project. I even sold them mosquito nets for the girls so they don't get torn up overnight during the camp and to protect them from malaria :-) If you have ANY money, 10 bucks, 100 bucks, whatever to give towards this project, please go to the link below and donate something ASAP. The link provides more information about the camp. I can tell you first hand that the girls are very excited about the camp and take all the sessions seriously. Gender empowernment here is VERY needed and oppourtunities like this only come once in a lifetime for these girls here. Please give what you can. You will feel so AWESOME about yourself when you do. Trust me. Encourage others as well. Thanks everybody!


Monday, February 7, 2011

For New Years I went to Penjari Safari. It was amazing!!! I saw a juvenile male lion lay in the middle of the road. When we rode up on him, he looked into the tall grass. I heard some cubs in the grass. Ten seconds later, I swear, a herd of elephant busted through the grass freaking out, scaring the lion and cubs away....then they saw the car. They had a baby elephant that was so small you could barely see him through the tall grass. The chaffeur wanted to bang against the car to fix the dent in the roof because we were sitting on it. GREAT IDEA!!!! Elephants HATE cars which I have repeatedly heard from friends and TV. So guess what? The elephants were pissed and tried to CHARGE THE CAR!!! We shouted at the driver to get moving and we quickly pulled off before he got to us. That was SCARY....BUT AWESOME ACTION!!!! It was like a movie. I also saw baboons, warthogs, tons of antelope, beautiful birds, vultures, and a lioness watching her cubs hunt. We couldn't see the cubs because they were so hidden in the grass but it was great watching the mom do her thing.

Work is okay. I sold out all my mosquito nets. Now I'm working on translating documents, and small reports during my free time. It's still work so I'm not complaining. I enjoy working in Cotonou. I have access to everything, and I even have air conditioning. We came from a week long tour checking out mosquito net places of sale throughout Benin. We also checked out a couple of volunteer's post to see how they collaborate with their work partners on the distribution of the nets. It was nice traveling the country, seeing volunteers at their sites, and working at the same time. World Malaria Day is April 25th so check out some sites to find out what you can do that day. Could someone send me some Essence Magazines, and some good trailmix please???? I know I'm begging on here but I have no choice. I need it. I know somebody out there cares. It'll give me energy to study for the GRE :-) Thanks for reading. Until next time...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back in Benin

Hello everyone. As you can see it's been quite some time since I have last written. The new Peace Corps Volunteers sworn in September and then a few days later, I left for the states. I spent about 10 days home then I left for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for about two weeks. I wanted to stay longer but things weren't planned the way I hoped them to go. Home was good. Home was home. It was rather cold so I found myself staying home most of the time. I should have spent more time with my friends. I didn't even go out to eat too much. I didn't have any serious cravings. I did eat some sushi, Subway, Ruby Tuesdays, drank margaritas, caribbean and chinese food, and a ceasar salad. Those were my biggest cravings. I got to watch some American football. Now THAT was nice. Let's see how far those RAVENS go this year....I went to Walmart to stock up on food items that NO ONE cares to really send me during my toughest times over here....I bought some Nature Valley trailmix bars. They are DELICIOUS!! I ate a whole box before they even got back to Benin. I have come to realize that NutriGrain bars aren't very good anymore. WAY to sweet for me. Too processed... I REALLY need an IPOD. I regret not buying the small pink one I saw when I was home. I want to use it to work out at the gym. Maybe I'll get a surprise in the mail.....just maybe..... I also was able to make it to uncle's fiance's bridal shower. It was beautiful. They got married after I got back to Benin though. I really wanted to make it to the wedding. At least I got to spend some time with them and to catch up before I left. I wish them well.

Brazil was AMAZING!! I wish I spent time outside of Rio. I had so much to do in Rio that I was okay. It's soooo beautiful there. The beaches, the people, the landscapes....everything. And yes the bikinis ARE quite small. The food was delicious. The portions were huge!!! I didn't speak any Portuguese but the people were really helpful. It was also different being in a place where to be black was somewhat exotic. The Brazilian look is very diverse. Their complexions range from cream to dark chocolate. There hair ranges from straight to thick and curly. I was often mistaken as Brazilian!!! Can you believe that?! It was quite beautiful seeing that and I would love to make it back there again. I am even considering moving there for awhile one day in my life. We'll see. Here's a link to a nice photo I took while I was in Brazil. Check it out!


So now the fun is over and I'm back in burning hot Benin. No complaints though. I love it here. Doing this third and last year in Benin is going to be amazing. I love my new house and neighbors, work is finally picking up since I've been back, and the holidays are coming up so I plan on doing something nice next month. Well here's my update for now. I hope you continue to keep following my stories and comment if you'd like. It's nice to know that somebody out there is reading up on my experiences.

To be continued....

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Malaria, Akon, and Cotonou!!

Hey everybody. Things are still going. I hosted the trainees again this year for a technical visit in my village and it went really well. They seem to really enjoy my site and the work I was involved in. We even got to see a voodoo fetish performance. It was great. There was a lot of dancing. Everything was awesome. The following week was not so awesome. I ended up getting malaria. My fault. I was a week late taking my medication. Because I'm in idiot who didn't think I would actually catch it. It was the worst thing ever. I felt like I was hit by a car, my temperature reached over 103 degrees, dry cough, I couldn't move, and I had serious cold chills. It's almost like the flu but ten times worse. I HONESTLY thought I could die. But I'm okay now!!! Could you imagine if I had NO antimalaria medication in my system. I could have really died. Don't wanna play with that idea again. What else. I went to Akon's concert here in Cotonou, Benin. It was quite an event. First of all, the show started at 4pm, but he didn't get on stage until 1:30am. They played a song called Ashawo which was good, HOWEVER, the girl who was dancing was over the top! She had her legs open dancing on the floor on her back, climbing up the goal post on the field, one guy was dry humping her.....eww. That was really stank. Then there was an extremely long performace about the independance of Benin which was great for the first twenty minutes but after about an hour people were like, "okay now....where is Akon???" Then it started raining and they said they wouldn't bring him out.....people were ready to riot. Then he FINALLY got out on the field in a SUV driving around the stadium. There was soooo much energy. He got on the stage and told everybody to leave their seats and surround the stage on the field.....ummmmm....do you know where you are Akon? We could have a stampede if you didn't know. Because I'm bold, I did manage to get outta my seat leave the building, resulting in getting slightly pepper sprayed, witnessing a police beating of a man who had his ticket trying to get in, my glasses got lost, Akon spraying us with bottled water, getting the chance to actually touch Akon's butt through a bubble, and feel a piece of his shirt, and was crowd surfed on. All in all, it was worth it. At least I think so. I can say that I was there and experienced all of that. Akon did not know how to speak french, therefore, the organizing of people moving to the field was crazy. The security team were not the brightest. But I had a lot of fun and was happy I did it. All for five thousand cfa AKA 10 bucks. For the record, I really did touch Akon's booty. It was quite firm : )

I left my village today. It was really sad to leave them. There were tears involved. Even my boss cried at the going away ceremony on last Friday. They were great. They gave me clothe to make an outfit, the priest gave me a beautiful cross with pictures on it to put up in my new house, and a carving of huts. They didn't have to give me anything but they did. I am so grateful and with take the gifts back with me to the states. People coming to my door every five minutes asking for a gift was a little overwhelming but besides that, everyone was really nice. Bridgette who will be working there seems to really like the place so that's encouraging. She's already speaking a little bit of Fon! I'm sure she'll fit right in. Now I'm in Cotonou and it feels weird to actually be living in a city from the bush. It's so different. So EXPENSIVE! I'll be fine though.

I'm still going to Brazil and home. In two weeks!!!!! Can't wait! I am soooo excited!!!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The ride continues.

So what has been happening. I'm still here in Benin and things are still going well. I constantly feel like my Attention Defecit Disorder only pops up around quarterly report time. It's due tomorrow. So I decided to write on my blog instead:) Work will get done trust me. I mean how long have I been here already? I've done lots of quarterly reports and turned them in. Time in my village in winding down. My home will not be replaced and I'm crushed about it. It's such a beautiful village and it's so peaceful there. Security regulations won't allow me to be replaced because my house is not in a closed in concession with a neighbors house attached. I still have people nearby though. I can fart and they'd yell to ask if i'm okay... It's really unfortunate and my village doesn't know yet. They know I'll still be in Benin for another year but they don't know that they are not getting another health volunteer in my village. My boss is currently looking at other options in the nearby area but it's nothing like what we have now.

I'm going to Brazil! Well I'm almost sure I am if Peace Corps doesn't change their mind and decide they are not going to fly me there for my home leave. I got authorization but I'm nervous that they'll decide "actually, nope..." I plan to go there for about two weeks, fly home from Rio and stay there for three weeks, and do a 5 day layover in France before returning to Benin. France might be pushing it, but we'll see what happens. If I don't go then I'll definitely get there another time. I just feel like doing my own thing. I keep hearing wonderful things about Brazil so I decided, "Why not?" I need to brush up on my Portugease though. Just the stuff that can get me by. I'm pretty good with picking that stuff up. Here's my list of phrases I want to know.

Thank You-Obrigiado (know that already!)
Where's the bathroom.
Excuse me.
Could you please help me?
red wine/beer/club
Check please.
Where is a good and inexpensive place to (eat, go dancing, ect.)
It's beautiful but no thank you (vendors..)
That's too expensive.
How much?
Good night.
Good morning.
This place is beautiful/fun.
I'm so happy/excited to be here.
You are hot!
You are gorgeous!
I can't. I have a boyfriend. But you are hot/gorgeous :)

Let me know if I forgot anything else really important. I think I can pretty much get by with this.

What else is new? This weekend we had a Fourth of July party at the Ambassadors house. It was AWESOME! The music was great too. I was dancing with the Ambassador's wife. She's really amazing. There were sliders, beef kabobs, quiche, grilled corn, mini pizzas. They even open their house pool to American citizens on Saturdays. 

I've been working out. Like seriously working out. I run or do cardio three times a week, and I've been on a diet. I do crunches everyday. It's soooo hard to diet here though. The food is not very healthy in my village and when I come to Cotonou, there are way too many temptations. Like tonight there is a fourth of July potluck. Yesterday was a dinner over an RPCV's house with her husband, and the day before that was the party at the Ambassadors. I will have gained all the weight I lost BACK from THIS WEEKEND alone. I'm upset about it, but I still want to enjoy myself. When I move to Cotonou it'll be different. I'll have a membership at the gym here and things will be different since I have access to healthy foods to buy and cook at home. Eggplant casserole, soy stir-fry, and stews are a few ideas I have. That's all I have till next time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Time for another update

So a lot has happened since my last update. Let me get all the bad news out first. My grandmother passed away and I was sent home on emergency leave. She was everything to me. A lot of people claim to know what it's like to lose a grandmother but she wasn't the typical grandmother to me.

I lived with her for the majority of my life. My first memory was her giving me a bath. And her HUGE face looking down at me smiling. Not only did I live with her, but I slept in the same bed with her. No one really knows what it was like to get home and go to the bedroom and find everything there just as she left it. My clothes still in my drawer, where she slept the bed was not made, and her favorite shoes on the floor as if she never left. Her Baby Phat jeans next to the bed as if she recently wore them. That was the hardest for me. So I just want to put things in perspective so people can understand. Gloria had style. Gloria was sassy. She had the most beautiful smile. When her picture was taken she would turn her head to the side like a model. She fed anyone that came by and was loved by anyone who got the chance to meet her. A 5'2 woman with enough attitude and PHYSICAL strenght to make anyone listen. She almost knocked ME out before! This woman was a fan of a good cognac (preferably Hennessy), red sequins bras, knee high boots, tight fitting jeans, and flashy cocktail rings. So you can just imagine! She WAS a second mother to me. She never set foot in a nursing home. This woman was independent. She took long walks. She wasn't sick. It was very sudden. A stroke took this angel.

So when I got home from seeing her at the hospital the day before she passed and it was time for me to sleep, the room was surpisingly warm. I'm not joking. Then I heard these weird whimpers in the closet. When I went to check, two very small kittens were in there! They were so adorable. I guess they kept my grandma company. They peeped their heads out and I fell in love with them immediately. I really think they helped me heal. One of their names is Gloria. I think I stayed in the house for a full three or four days. I couldn't eat, I didn't shower, and my eyes pretty much shut closed from so much sobing. I was like a zombie. It was serious depression. My sister even thought I needed to see someone. The mornings and the evenings were the hardest. In the mornings, she always made coffee. Just enough for herself...then ask if you wanted some. You say yes then she's say, "well go boil some water and make yourself some!" lol. At night, it was her getting up in the middle of the night to have a cigarette or use the bathroom. Things are really hard on my mom. We both lived with her. I'm much better now. I managed to come back to Benin.

I also failed the Foreign Service Exam. That's not so bad though. It's pretty common like I mentioned before. I'll take it again when I return to the states. There I should have more resources to study from.

Good news. I am 99.9 percent sure I will be the next Malaria Coordinator. This means I will be extending a third year, and moving to Cotonou, the big city. I'm pretty excited about it. Plus the house I'll be moving in is REALLY sweet. I would have my own rooftop terrace and watch the planes fly over my head to the airport. Some people would be annoyed by that but I LOVE the sound of passing planes. Traveling is in my blood.

When I went home, I ate sushi, hung out with my best friends, went to the Cheesecake Factory, and took my God daughter to the Barnum and Bailey Circus. That was AWESOME!! They did some stuff this time that I had NO IDEA how they did it!!! And I had GOOD seats know what the hell I saw!!! If they are in town in your area you MUST go. I didn't do too much because the first week home was just me in the house. Is it wrong to be obsessed with the new RuPaul's Drag Race show??? That show is AWESOME!! I really am upset that I only got to see one episode. It's funny, unique, and there is genuine talent in the art. Check it out. I also brought back a ton of pasta and rice side dishes from Lipton. They are my absolute favorite because they only need usually margarine and milk which I can get. Powdered milk is what I use in village and that works just as good. Maybe I've been here too long because I can't taste a difference.

Coming back to Benin wasn't hard at all. I'm actually looking forward to getting back to my village. For the past week and a half, I've been in Cotonou working. I brought back a lot of candy to share with them. I also brought back some origami books for my art class. I can't wait to get them started on that. Me and my boss will be going up north to lead a training on malnutrition recuperation. We are very excited to be selected for that. I adore my work partner. He's the hardest worker ever!! I really think he should consider working for Peace Corps one day. I don't think I have anything else to add. Thanks to all who were there to comfort me in the hardest time of my life. I really appreciate it. Please continue to follow my blog and keep in touch. Please write me and/ or send me FOOD, FOOD, FOOD! My wishlist is magically displayed on your right. Thanks for reading my update. Until next time.....

Saturday, February 20, 2010


So I decided that I want to complete another year of service in Benin. There are a few positions that I am interested in here. So I'm going to put in my applications and see what happens. I believe that if I want to have a career in the foreign service, staying overseas for a extended period of time would be beneficial. I hope to better my French speaking skills, increase my work load a little more, and gain more health work experience at the NGO level to increase my chances to get into graduate school. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is my first choice and anything that will increase my chances of getting into the program would be a help. I also am looking into Tufts, and The University of Maryland. We'll see what happens. I know I probably upset many people from home, but this is best for me. I enjoy the work that I'm doing so I might as well continue doing the things that I love. As far as I know, nothing has been promised to me at home so I might as well do what I can for myself here.


I was a trainer for the In Service Training last month for the 1st year volunteers. It was really nice getting a chance to see all of the volunteers from health, environment, and small business enterprise. I missed them a lot. We got to catch up on what's happening in our villages and I needed the time to hang out with them. It was refreshing.

I have been studying for the Foreign Service Officer Exam which will be on Feb. 28th. A week earlier than I was expected. I'm extremely nervous because many people don't pass. But I'll still give it a shot. You never know. It is a test on EVERYTHING! Math, economics, world history, U.S. History, computer technology, communications, cultural sensitivity, American Government, U.S. Society and Culture, world politics, geography, and grammar. Damn right? The worst part about it is that we dont have the resources here to study like we could in the states. Tips to do well on this test include reading the New York Times for six months straight.....and where will I find this newspaper here? Watch the news daily....what TV? So just wish me luck....I need it. If I fail it, I won't be too devastated. Apparently 10-40 percent pass....I know, I know. I don't sound very confident. Who would be when everybody, including the Embassy keeps reminding you about the stats?

I was a presenter at the 1st snnual stakeholder's meeting. The meeting showcased Peace Corps and the work we are doing in Benin. It went very well. The US Ambassador of Benin and the Minister of Foreign Affairs was there. So it was pretty high profile. I was very happy to be one selected to give a presentation. My workparter also got a chance to present the benefits of having a volunteer which worked out well in my favor. Good thing I do work in village. I plan on going to the Gender and Development dinner next month. The dinner is really good and I look forward to eating vegetarian lasagne. I ate the steak last year and ended up regretting it. The steak was good but not as good as the lasagne. So I decided to change my order this year.

I got some packages! I recieved an AWESOME package from my friend Kaitlin. She sent me EVERYTHING. Or at least close to it. Granola bars, beef jerky, nutrigrain bars, mac and cheese (Kraft AND Velvetta), ear plugs, Ebony and Essence magazines, a notebook, GOOD pens, gum, peanut butter and cheese crakers, and INDULGENCE trail mix. OMG!!! I think I gained five pounds alone off this package. I couldn't stop eating all of the delicious goodness! I still have some trailmix, granola bars, and my Velvetta left over. I plan to hold onto that as long as I can. The kids LOVED the magazines. They rip out the pages and put them on their walls in their homes. It's so strange to walk around in the bush, enter a mud hut and run into a picture of Beyonce on the wall. I find it to be a very interesting site to see. That's all for now.