Trip Start Jun 02, 2003
Trip End Dec 31, 2006

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Flag of Benin  ,
Sunday, April 17, 2005

The other day I came home from school, walked into my house, and found a chicken bawk-bawking about! It had come in, I assume, through the kitty hole in my back screen door. It certainly made me jump out of my skin when I first discovered it! I shooed it out into my back area and called one of the neighbor kids in to catch it and put it back in the front yard where it belongs.

I suppose I had not fulfilled my scream quotas for the day, though, as Mother Nature had another surprise for me in the latrine. When I opened the door to said latrine, I heard a quick scampering above me and quite stupidly but naturally looked up to see what it was. At that same moment, a gigantesque lizard, in its frenzy to hide, fell on top of my nose and left cheek! I screamed and did the "EEEW!!!" dance - a quick stamping of feet and shaky jazz hands - as I felt its little lizard fingers jump off my face and then run down my body. Ugh. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. That was no ordinary day, but then again, no day is really ordinary here. That is something I will miss about living here.

Even though I have been here for nearly two years, I still get that feeling of awe. I still sometimes blink my eyes and think, wow, I can't believe I actually live here. Sometimes it still doesn't quite feel real, which makes me a little nervous about going back to the states. When I go back, will I lose all I gained here like lost baggage? Pull out my baggage claim tickets in the form of souvenirs and photos to try to remind myself that I actually went on that strange trip, that it wasn't something I dreamed?

The hot season is upon us, nearing the end, I hope, though I am unconvinced. I lasted as long as I could sleeping inside my house, but I finally moved outside for fear that I might drown myself in my own sweat (it only takes two inches of liquid, right?). Now, I fall asleep under the stars (and a green mosquito net). Ella settles down right next to my little cot just after a quick goodnight cuddle. The breezes keep me pleasantly cool, and I even end up pulling the sheet over me in the middle of the night to combat the chill. I wake up to my neighbors cooking noises in the early morning light, take a few stretches, and then climb out of the cot and put it away for the day.

I have been teaching English to my two little neighbor kids, Izzack and Moufti. Izzack just turned five, and Moufti is three. When I enter the concession now, I hear Izzack, the more enthusiastic of the two little students, shouting, "Good MOHning!!! How ah you!? Fiiiiine! My NAME is Izzack!!! See you LAY-TAH!!" or sometimes, "Good AftAH-noon!" One day, Izzack proudly called out, "Je connais anglais!" which means "I know English" only with a couple of errors in the French. Moufti is at the stage where she does everything Izzack does, so I get quite a few "see you lay-tahs" from her as well. It brings a smile to my lips, for sure.

Right now, I am sitting on my front porch enjoying the breezy night air. The sky was a little cloudier and darker today, and I am praying for rain. I am not too faithful, though. Maybe next week. We did have a few good mango rains last month, though. Mango rains are the two or three big rains that come usually toward the beginning of the hot season to help the mangoes ripen. They did their job; now, the mangoes are becoming just ripe enough to eat. The little, yellow, non-grafted and stringy mangoes are everywhere! Spilling out of marché baskets, piled high in basins on people's heads, laid out on tables in neat little tiers and rows. The larger, grafted, green and pink mangoes are slowly appearing. My neighbors have begun to comb through the thickly leaved mango treetops in our concession searching for ripe ones with their long poles made from tree branches. The poles have a little fork at the end to help them get the mangoes down. I have seen some kids use sling-shots to knock the fruit out of the trees. I wish I were more of a mango fan than I am. As bountiful as they are, I should learn to love them. Me, I crave the pineapples and oranges of the south.

Speak of the Devil! Just now, Destin, a sweet 14 or 15 year old boy in my concession, brought me a ripe mango.

Life is churning along at the CEG. Whereas we would normally be near the end of the second semester about now, due to the strikes, we have only just finished the first one. I will be teaching until the end of June. I could finish at the end of May, according to Peace Corps, because technically, I have been teaching the entire time, but I have missed so much school for other reasons that I have decided it would be easier to follow the strike calendar along with the other professors.

Last week, I had an essay competition to select the girls who will attend this years Girls Leadership Camp. First, last year's girls sang the camp song at the school flag raising ceremony. The refrain of the song is: "Without guns, without swords, we zill lead our world. Our world is charged with peace. Young girls, let's give it love and peace. Young girls, let's give it love and peace."

Speaking of Camp GLOW, once again, we are looking for donors. Many of you donated last year, and the girls had a great time, in addition to learning a lot of practical skills that will help them in their growth as young Beninese women. If you would like to donate this year (even a small price), go to the Peace Corps website and click on Donate Now! Go to the region of Africa. Camp GLOW 2005-Parakou should be at the top of the list, and my name in addition to several other names should be on the list of volunteers doing the project. Click on it to learn more before you decide to donate, or email me. I will be happy to answer any questions you might have. You can donate online! Thanks in advance to those who decide to contribute this year!

So, that is that for my hodgepodge. Have a good week!
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