recent silence

I’m sorry if you have been checking the blog and have been disappointed
due to the general lack of substance that has been posted. Life has been
busy and exhausting here. That does not mean not good, just that the
last thing I want to do at the end of any day is sit back and reflect on
all that is going on beyond the processing necessary to prepare for the
next day. So today is Thursday, the day I have designated as the day of
rest this trip, so that is what I am doing.

What does that mean? It means lounging in my pj’s all morning. It means
sitting in Martine’s kitchen talking and playing with the twins. It
means doing laundry. It means listening to the girls sing random songs
from musicals. It might even mean taking a nap this afternoon. Maybe a
long walk before the sun sets. Today it also means a blog update.

Since I have arrived I have met with all organizations involved in my
project, had initial meetings in 4 villages who I started working with
last year, and then met with 3 of those villages for their final
debriefing. In 2 of those villages I closed out the project, something
that I will do in a third tomorrow. This is a task I wish I could avoid,
but with the work done and my PhD near its end, it is unavoidable.
Thankfully, this has been easier than anticipated, though no less

The project is continuing in two villages–one of the four from last
year and the village that it started in, where I live. Due to a new well
being drilled in the other village and a few other individuals leaving
due to jobs in other villages or towns, this is requiring doing a
training like I have done in the past. Trainings are normally 2.5 days
long. As time is limited, the training will take place in 1 day this
Saturday. It is always sweet to watch people as the grasp new concepts
and become scientists with their own little ‘field lab’, so this should
be another good, though hectic day.

On Monday we will head to Cotonou. Tuesday night my parents arrive.
Wednesday I will head north with my parents and everyone else will board
the plane for elsewhere. This trip is flying by.

random conversations

RC: My feet do not get clean until I return to the States.
PC: Do you use your lofa on them when you shower?
RC: Ewww. It touches the rest of my body. Why would I do that?
PC: Because it has soap on it.
LS: It tastes like sweat. (Of oral rehydration salts.)
SR: Good ting I have low rise pants on. ( Due to the effects of dinner
expanding in her stomach after drinking some water…)
Of cheese just boiled, that had previously been sitting on the ‘kitchen’
LS: And then it will go back to being unrefridgerated?
RC: No….then we will get electricity and a fridge.
Describing her junior high crush…..
SR: He was sooo popular… and once he gave me a Milky Way!
While reviewing some data….
PC: I bet you didn’t know you could have a pH of a 100.
LS: What is the difference between ‘por favor’ and ‘s’il vous plait’?
RC: Ummm…..’por favor’ is Spanish?

ode to mosquito coils

Written by ‘my girls.’ To the tune of “God Bless America”

God bless mosquito coils
spirals that we love.
Stay lighted all nighted,
till the sun rises high up above.
From the kitchen
to the bedroom,
protect us from itchy bites.
God bless mosquito coils
Guarding our home sweet home.

market day exhaustion

Sometime you will get to hear more about the joys of market day, but a
morning of work and an afternoon at market means that I am exhausted.

Some days I wish I was like one of the babies here and could fall asleep
on my mother’s back without a care in the world.

Some where someone is already sleeping…

relationships of resistance

Each relationship is unique and expresses itself differently. A few
things seen recently:

-RC reads letters from her man each morning speaking of his love for
her. Her heart has influenced his such that he now wants to visit Africa
with her to know her heart more.
-Martine sitting in the kitchen, one of the twins on her lap, the other
next to her, patiently feeding them though they could easily feed
themselves by now.
-LS knowing that when she calls home from school worried about time to
do the shopping that ‘Mommy will fix it’ by getting some of it done for her.
-A child calmed by resting on his mother’s back as she walks around the
– RC and SR walking back to the house, their body language screaming to
all around that they are sisters at heart and spirit. As LS has joined
the dishes, breakfast, and evening preparations of our village life, I
have confidence it will soon be a threesome as surviving the foreign,
and making it habits created deep bonds.

These are all good, healthy relationships. But, the relationship of
interest today is none of those. Rather, it is a relationship that,
while containing love, is a relationship of resistance. My little
Felicite. Sunday morning, our first full day in village, she would not
come and greet me though all the children were telling her to come. But
then, as she saw us preparing to head to mass, she grabbed a bucket of
water and soap and marched off to the shower (of course ignoring me on
the way). When she arrived at mass in her beautiful dress, she would not
come near by, but sat slightly in front of me so that I could see her.
As we headed out, without a word, I gave her my Bible, a part of our
past routine, to carry home. She would walk beside or in front of me,
but no hand held out like other children to greet or to hold. At home
she gave me my Bible and off she went to change to her play clothes.
Upon returning, she silently joined the crowd on the porch. A little
later I grabbed her and flipped her upside for she is gymnast at heart.
It was then that her serious face broke. And her dimples slowly appeared
as smile crept across her face.

My you experience and revel in a beautiful relationship today.


Being stuck in Cotonou for an extra day provided a surprise holiday with very little that needed to be accoplished. Put four women together in a city with nothing much that has to get done, and the same thing happens here as happens just about any other place: some quality shopping.

One of my favorite places as of late is a little hole in the wall store about a block from where I normally stay in Cotonou. I discovered it by asking about a little road-side stand that had some shirts made out of beautiful fabric. They said there was more and lead me behind the rusted metal gates, behind a building, and suddenly I found myself in a dirt courtyard where they were dying and hand printing their own fabric to make tablecloths, clothing, scarves, or whatever else you could dream up. No longer confined by the small offerings of a road-side store, I have been able to pick through their color and stamp samples to get what I want. So, a few weeks from now when we return to Cotonou my order will be waiting for me. In case you are not sold on this place, the boss, LS, RC, and SR will all have orders waiting for them as well. Maybe I will post a picture of the beauty when we get it all so that you can share in it.

Then we were off to the ‘Centre des Artisans’ to explore for a short while. Next to the fabric I buy in the market, this is where I do most of my barganning, and today was no exception. I found a necklase at a store that I return to every year… the owner and I have become friends of sorts over the years as we have talked over many a price of various items. Today it was a necklace I mostly liked….but I did not want the bronze pendant, wanted it a bit shorter, and a different clasp. We struck a deal, half the money is down, and I shall be back in June to pick it up. No wonder I often get frustrated jewlery shopping in the US of A. Then, being that it is LS’s second day in Benin, I gladly helped her get a reasonable price on a small, quilted map of Africa.

It is a beautiful thing that I can argue over the price of an item, its design, its utility, and then the price of the item again, and, through this process, gain respect for and respect of the shop owner. And then I insult no-one, but actually add to that respect and subseauent relationship as I repeat the process time and again with the same people.

Ponder this thought the next time you consider using the self-checkout lane at the superstores in town.

arriving and the devaluing dollar

I have often been asked why I have not toured Paris given the number of times that I have transitted through Paris. Thus far, it has simply not worked out. But, my experiences in their airport have not moved me to make any great efforts either. Points of interest different from previous trips this time include having the equivalent of the TSA people being on strike making me spend 30+ minutes waiting in the secruity line even though I was just transiting and waiting to bord the plane to Benin because a student almost did not make the connection. We figured that it would be bad to leave an undergrad who did not speak French in France on her own for a couple of days… I guess the upside would have been two unexpected days in Paris with LS.

But, we are all here. Our luggage should all be here tomorrow night, so this only puts us a little behind schedule. (For the record, my luggage made it, so I have not broken my record of all luggage arrivinj for business trips. Too bad this luck does not roll over to personal travel.)

The devaluing dollar. Yeah. How much do I not appreciate my government every time I travel and get less money when I make the exchange to local currency than I did the previous trip? I will refrain from pages of thought on this given that I am typing away on a French keyboard right now. I guess the upside is that the wad of cash I get when I exchange money is little bit smaller so makes me look less pregnant in my hidden wallets.

on my way

I am sitting in the Atlanta airport, an hour before we will start the flight to Paris. SR, RC, and LS should be at their respective airports getting ready to fly too, so in a few hours I will be meeting up with the ladies that I affectionately call ‘my girls’. If you read this blog last year, you heard some about them, though I created random names for them with each post…. this year you will get to know them by initial as per their request–I believe some of their loved ones are reading the blog this year, and so they will get to know a few stories before the girls have internet again. (One of the joys of my job is that I have the emegency email, so get to check it on the satellite system.)

So…for my first update of my girls, SR gets the prize for not having called me yesterday with any random questions about packing or traveling. She also gets the prize for being the last to register with the Embassy 🙂

In othe rnews, I think I remembered everything originally forgetten in the packing, but time will tell on that one. A shorter trip that requires less equipment, and my bags had so much space in them relative to past trips. Here is a list of the new stuff traveling with me that you might find of interest:
-Orange i-pod shuffle (music–a beautiful escape)
-Lime green fleece (I am tired of being cold on planes)
-Blue (w/disgn) ‘buff’ …. look up ‘ buff’ on REI if you are curious

I think that is all worthy of mention. In case you were curious, the colors are important 😉