Thursday, July 2, 2015

Life skills 101

When you join the Peace Corps, you have a vague idea of what you're getting yourself into. You know you're going to live with a host family in a foreign country, learn a new language and meet new people from different cultures and traditions. What you don't know is what types of experiences you will have: the little moments that make bucket baths, distance from family and endless mysterious foods worth it. 

Today started out as just another day in Sé. I woke up, got dressed and sat down for a breakfast omelette and some Nescafé (this still doesn't count as coffee but it'll do the trick). Christiane walked me to school in time for my 8:00 French class. While waiting for class to start, I tried out some of my new Abadja dance moves with the kids, only to embarrass myself terribly. But c'est la vie! 

Mark and Leland are attempting to teach all the kids about Crossfit and decided to give a burpee demo this morning too! Everyone was thoroughly amused. 

Our first French class ended by 10 and we left the school for a field trip to the market. This week the main market day in Sé was Thursday, and our teacher wanted us to have the real market experience.  

I love open markets. The variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, the piles of fabrics and the odd collection of animal heads remind you of the intricate beauty of a new culture. We walked around for over a hour, bartering for our first pieces of tissu (traditional Beninese fabric) and snacking on fresh grape tomatoes. 

Stowing away our goods, we returned to the school, grabbing a quick lunch of avocado and omelette sandwiches en route. 

Unlike most days, when we spend the afternoon participating in general lecture sessions, we spent this afternoon with Papa Velo (his real name is Mustapha), learning everyone you would ever want to know about bikes. 

So, I now know how to replace a tire, fix a chain, check the brakes and repair a leak. Thanks peace corps for these valuable life skills (that I hope I will never have to use!)

As we were getting ready to actually practice riding the bikes, the sky opened up and we had our first major rain storm here in Benin. The rain was so loud on the roof of the school that we couldn't hear the person next to us, so we just stopped and watched the rain fall, and quickly flood the school yard. While most kids would shy away from the mud and pools of murky water, the Beninese students began sliding through the puddles, savoring the opportunity to play in the rain. 

When 5 o'clock rolled around, I decided to brave the storm on my bike. Leland and I headed off towards home, struggling to navigate the mud, sand, pothole, puddles and animals on the dirt path. Needless to say, I may not do that again, but I received a warm welcome from my family when I arrived caked in dirt. They are the best!

Tomorrow we leave for Lokossa at 6 am for more classes and a big 4th of July celebration on Saturday. We are planning a huge American style feast, outdoor games and a fashion show! 

Off to pack and find some red, white and blue!


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