What I’ll Miss About Benin

So apparently this blog has also been linked to the Peace Corps journals blog site (how the heck do they find us?) so probably anyone who reads my official Peace Corps blog, elainainafrica, has already seen these lists. But anyway, I thought I’d just post them here, too, for posterity or whatevs.

Things I’ll miss about Benin:

-the sound of women pounding yams at dusk
-the five times per day call to prayer at the mosques around Djougou
-the sound of the rain on my tin roof while I’m laying in bed
-riding on the back of a zem at night with the cool air rushing by
-seeing and wearing colorful fabric and fun outfits everywhere
-women carrying baskets of whatever on their heads
-cute, free roaming, bratty Beninese kids (even though they annoy me, too!)
-adorable baby goats and chickens running around
-yam pilee…sooooo delicious
-wagasi…there are no words for how awesome and unique this food is
-a cold, refreshing beer after a crazy hot day, especially with other PCVs
-hanging out and venting with other volunteers
-the excitement of making American food and drinks with other volunteers
-watching movies at the Nati workstation
-ordering fries at the Nati workstation
-hanging out with my Beninese friends, just sitting or making small talk
-teaching sexual health and seeing the look of understanding in people’s eyes
-greeting strangers on the street
-French, especially Franglais, the combination of French and English
-random sayings like ‘bon assise, bon travail, bon douche.’ It’s just so friendly!
-constant sunshine and feeling like summer (although Chaleur sucks)
-Zaari and cuddling with her…omg, I can’t even think about her, too sad!
-sitting out in my back porch at night smoking a cigarette and looking up at the stars in total silence, feeling small and awed by the world and my place in it
-long runs in the African bush, the red dirt dusting my shoes
-mango season
-joking around with my work partners
-the camaraderie between volunteers and shared experience of living in Africa
-being the center of attention, someone always interesting and worth talking to
-inexpensive and simple living
-lizards running around like squirrels
-the colorful craziness of the market place
-the awesome tan lines on my feet from my Chacos
-the simple joy of eating a good meal and watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother
-the excitement of others when I speak Dendi, the local language
-not having to shave and just being a dirty hippie
-Harmattan, the windy season, and the fires late into the night, burning on the horizon
-the poignancy of the first, cooling rain of the season
-feeling like I’m making a difference in people’s lives, sometimes in unintended ways
-crazy, unexpected setbacks and the lessons learned (although it is very frustrating, too!)
-feeling like I’m part of something bigger than myself

Things I won’t miss about Benin:

-13 hour bus rides in the heat surrounded by BO and noisy chickens and babies
-constant sexual harassment
-extreme pollution and trash everywhere
-Chaleur, the hot season
-frequent power outages and water being cut
-screaming babies and children
-seeing kids get beat and generally abused
-seeing malnutrition and poverty related illness
-feeling ultimately useless in the big picture of development
-waking up hot and sweaty and gross
-always feeling dirty, never perfectly clean all over
-not being able to cool off or stop sweating after a run even hours after a cold shower
-having my privacy constantly invaded by neighbors and kids
-never being able to be anonymous or walk around without getting called out
-YOVO, YOVO, BONSOIR, CA VA BIEN, MERCI!
-getting called “yovo”, “batoure”, “anasara”, “blanche”, “blondie”, or “mademoiselle”
-pretty much everything in Cotonou except for the good food and workstation internet
-the subtle pressure from some other volunteers to drink and party heavily
-feeling inadequate as a volunteer and aid worker
-boring and carb heavy food options
-constant sickness and diarrhea and constipation
-having to filter water and always be conscious of how safe the water is
-bleaching vegetables to have a fresh salad
-doing laundry by hand
-bugs and spiders and having to spray and kill them
-mosquitoes and weekly malaria prophylaxis
-constant boredom
-missing friends and family and feeling guilty for being so far away
-LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP and all the crappiness that goes with it
-getting physically grabbed at the market place
-the bureaucracy of the Peace Corps
-feeling stranded at post or frustrated with outside communication or internet
-casual cruelty to animals
-the informal attitude toward time and keeping appointments
-hearing creepy rustling sounds at night and freaking out about what it could be
-sunburns and worrying about getting skin cancer
-gross, always dirty and cracked feet
-fearing for my safety on crazy taxi rides
-being frustrated at the slow pace of life (although I’ve learned a lot, too!)
-having to discuter for prices
-feeling lonely and homesick
-being constantly asked for gifts and money and to be taken to America
-Nescafe. That stuff is nasty. I don’t care how desperate you are. Just say no.

So there ya go. I have just under 24 hours left in Benin as a Peace Corps Volunteer and then it’s back to the big, scary, America world where I’m looking for a job and living at home until medical school starts in July. Well, I’ll probably get an apartment with C before that, sometime in May or June. Sigh. I’m gonna miss this place, though, despite everything. I think I’m in a very similar mindset to what I’d be feeling in four months anyway, though. I guess an ET is an ET and four months doesn’t make too much of a difference. It’s still a weird feeling, though. At least I’ll have lots of wedding planning to occupy myself! And also that whole NO MORE LDR thing. I’m definitely looking forward to being able to be together without ever having to say a long, permanent good-bye again. Won’t that be something?

Benin, it’s been real; America, here I come!

-E

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