Next stop Benin

Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
Trip End Mar 14, 2011

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Flag of Benin  ,
Sunday, February 20, 2011

This morning I woke before 05:00 at the time the Muslim call to prayer was played over loud-speakers. Sometimes the muezzin's song is not evocative and romantic; it's rather unpleasant….

At 9:00 the three congregational leaders came to the hotel for a round up discussion. We sat up on the first-floor terrace in the pleasant morning breeze before the heat of the day. They thanked me again for coming all this way just to be available to them, and without any assurance of what they would decide. They said the Q&A the day before had been very helpful. It’s one thing to read documents; it’s another to be able to follow a line of thought interactively. They thanked me for my example of calm and patience, and said that would try to set the same example.

They said they would keep in touch; ask more questions if they had any, and ultimately let me know what they would decide to do, collectively if possible, individually if not. Pierre Kloutsé let me know that his father-in-law in Cotonou wished to talk to me and that I should give him a call when I arrived.

I thanked them for their warm welcome and encouraged them again to pray for discernment and for God’s guidance as they work their way through this present distress.

As we wrapped up, I just had time to close my suitcase and pay the hotel bill before Alidou showed up in his 23 year-old BMW. It was not a collector’s item, but it appeared a sturdy, well maintained car, except for the missing driver-side side mirror, and a few other issues.... We started right on time at 10:30 as planned, and met and passed all the colorful vehicles and people one sees on the roads here. There are always a number of broken-down vehicles and others that appear ridiculously, sometimes dangerously overloaded.

About an hour after we left we arrived at Aneho, the border-crossing point. I had told Alidou that I wanted to stop at l’Oasis for lunch, so we stopped there, just short of the border crossing. I first came to this little riverside restaurant with Mr. Bernard Andrist about 15 years ago. He loved to stop here and so do I when I make the road-trip between Lomé and Cotonou.

It has several things in its favor. It’s owned by a Frenchman which is a good indication that the food will be very well done. There is always freshly caught fish on the menu. During the meal, one can watch the waters of a freshwater lake run through a passage into the ocean. This passage usually has several fishermen throwing nets during the day, and it’s always interesting to watch their technique and what they catch. Finally they keep a live crocodile (a small one) on the premises, which is always worth a look.

I ordered a whole bass, fresh grilled with ginger. It was delicious. Several groups of French expats showed up for lunch too; it’s a nice way to spend part of a Sunday.

After lunch we drove the short distance to the rather laid-back border crossing. Some borders are tough and tricky and require one to stay alert to everything; a few are easy, like this one. I went through the Togolese formalities first, received an exit stamp in my passport and had it checked several times. They didn’t bother going through my bags. I then rejoined the taxi for the 100 meter drive to the Benin officials. I had to fill out a form, and pay 10,000 CFA Francs, but since I was only requesting a transit visa, things went pretty quickly. I had a visa in twenty minutes and customs waved us through in the car.

Once in Benin the road didn't really change very much. Again there were breakdowns and  interestingly loaded vehicles, and colorful makeshift markets along the side.

The road between the two cities has been greatly improved with the exception of the last stretch of road just before Cotonou. It’s good that the road has been improved; the downside is that now there are tolls to pay, about a dollar, two or three times. At one toll booth the attendant was out of change. Alidou gave him a 2000 Franc note, so the attendant told us to pull over to the side of the road until he could make change. It took about 10 minutes.

As we neared Cotonou we passed the town of Ouidah, the cradle and center of Voodoo worship. Practitioners of this religion try to get themselves possessed by a familiar spirit, and it often works. The slaves that were taken from this coast to the Americas and the Caribbean (many more slaves went to South America and the Caribbean than to North America) brought their religion with them and it is still widely practiced in Haiti among other places. We didn’t stop.

Driving into Cotonou is quite an experience. I think of Benin as the land of the motorcycle; it seems there is one per person in the whole country and more than that in Cotonou. Making allowances for slower moving motorcycles on the right, cars can’t keep to their full lane, and slide back and forth. This makes for a very chaotic situation where lane markings mean very little and vehicles often come within inches of each other as they try to get ahead. I was very glad I wasn’t driving.

We finally arrived at the Hotel du Lac. I paid Alidou and thanked him and checked into my room. As Pierre had asked me to do, I called his father-in-law to let him know I had arrived, and that I’d be happy to see him if he wished to stop by. He had apparently changed his mind from when he spoke to Pierre. He said he didn’t need to talk to me, that he didn’t know what was going on with the association and he didn’t really want to know, but he was sure it wasn't really serious. I replied that I wished him and his family well, and that I would be happy to help later on if he changed his mind. He thanked me for that and wished me well too.

Tomorrow morning, if all goes as planned I will catch my ongoing flight and start the long trip toward Rwanda.
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Margaret Villaescusa on

I eagerly look forward to reading your blog and hearing news of brothers and sisters around the world. I am praying for your safely and that your visit will be helpful to all who meet with you,

Rosie Seltzer on

Just checking this evening for your update from Rwanda.
Praying that all goes well for your safety and protection.

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