parents: a top 5 list

A week with my parents and we were able to explore Benin from the south to the north, from the east to the west. Much could be said about this week, so I have reduced it to a top 5 list. Thanks Mom & Dad for coming!

1 – Meeting the Team
My parent’s first night in Benin was spent relaxing in Cotonou meeting this year’s team (minus CR who had stayed in village). When we entered the section of the hotel where our rooms were I heard several squeals as the girls busted out of their rooms. Even though it made her uncomfortable, RC managed to use my parents first names. Later in the trip mom made the following comment, “I knew it would be wonderful to get to know your village, but I had no idea how wonderful it would be to meet your girls.” Yeah, I love them too. (Picture: the village team.)

2 – Village Life
The morning after they arrived we tackled the visa situation and then headed north to village. During our 45 hrs in village we got to go to market, greet a ton of people, eat my favorite village foods, listen to a big rainstorm early one morning, work with a couple people from another village to finish training on one of the water quality monitoring instruments, go for a walk, deliver gifts, take outdoor showers, get bit by mosquitoes in the latrine, sleep under mosquito nets, and say goodbye. It was packed, but it was perfect. I do not think I could have asked for anything more. (Picture: Me and Dad in front of some of the beautiful rocks & trees near my house in village. Our clothes were made locally with fabric bought at market during previous trips.)

3 – Beautiful Land
Benin is beautiful. As the country is not large, we were able to drive most of the way north and almost east to west as well. I think the most beautiful regions are where I live…the beautiful hills that give the Colline Department its name are fantastic, and at the north (north of Natitingou) where there is a stunning mountain pass. This was my first trip north, so it was exciting to see how the land, villages, and people changed. (Picture 1: Me & mom in front of the lower waterfalls in Tenengou, on the border of one of the national parks in the north. Picture 2: Mom & Dad relaxing.)

4 – Rich History
We stopped in Abomey, the ‘capital’ of the Fon people, which was the largest Kingdom in old Benin, where we toured the palace. Benin’s original name was Dahomey, after this kingdom. In the south we spent some time in Ouidah where we saw a Portugese slave trader’s home and did a tour of the slave route. In the US of A the history books seem to start on the slave boats, but the story began long before that with a rather dehumanizing process that occurred along the slave route. For me, these pieces of history are important as it creates a framework for both history and the modern culture. (Picture: Monument at the ‘Point of No Return” where the slaves boarded the ships for the Americas.)

5 – Cassa del Papa

The second to last night was spent at a nice, European / American style hotel. Only 7km from Ouidah, the hotel was located on the beach, had several pools, various other forms of entertainment, hot water, big towels, and great food. It was perfect after nearly a month in Benin for me and a week for my parents. We were able to be lazy around the pools (there is dangerous undertow along the beaches in Benin, so we enjoyed the pools while listening & watching the surf crash), play some speed scrabble, and just relax. Oh…and my first big breakfast in a month was eaten in the morning. It was luxurious. (Picture: View from our balcony of the storm rolling in just before sunset.)

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