Our training manager, Giselle, started the event by reminding us that there is no perfect post: we make the post perfect for ourselves. Her intro was followed by traditional dancing and then she invited our Program Managers to call us up to the entrance to our classroom based on our location in Benin.
They started with the departments closest to our training site and it struck me that there are some people who I will rarely see over the next two years because of our geographical location. When my name was called (right after Emily's) for the Collines department, I was elated!
The Collines are located smack in the middle of Benin and, from what I've heard, are gorgeous! I will be replacing an existing volunteer who is actually staying on for a third year in Cotonou. My village is named Adourékoman and located about 16 km from the nearest "city" of Glazoué, which is actually the site of Benin's third largest market. I've been told that I'll have great access to many fruits and vegetables year round at the market which is open every Wednesday.
My host structure is a Health Center and my Beninese counterpart is a midwife named Daniel. Lindsay, who I will be replacing, has assured me that he is absolutely wonderful!
In terms of my village, it has a population of approximately 2000 and one primary school. The closest secondary school is 5 km away. The next volunteer, Amanda, is in the Environmental Action sector and is about 8 km down the road from me and Cate (also EA) is only another mile away. We already have big plans to see each other regularly and combine some of our food security and malnutrition projects.
While many volunteers have access to some amenities, my village has no electricity, running water, and very limited cell coverage. I don't yet know how frequently I will be able to blog, but fear not, I will keep you updated on life in my new home!
After reading my site placement packet cover to cover, we broke for lunch and came back at 1:30 to meet our local language tutors. The local language I will be learning is Idaasha (pronounced ee-dah-cha). My tutor, Fortune, will also be my host father during my two week site visit that starts next week. In addition to wearing those hats, he is the Village Chief. In fact, his family, the Badjagou's, started the village and make up about 40% of the population. Since they started the village, his father is the town's storyteller and apparently carries on the local oral tradition.
Fortune and I hit it off really well while I tried to get the hang of a few Idaasha salutations. We talked about some potential projects I can start in village and the importance of food security and latrines. Lindsay has already set up hand washing stations and done malaria work in village so it will be great to catch up with her when I'm there next week.
Today we had our second Language Placement Interview (LPI) in French to assess our progress and evaluate our readiness to serve. As we waited for each person to complete their 15 minute discussion, the rest of us chilled around the compound, studied and soaked in the reality that we finally know where we are moving to.
I'm now back in Sé and happy to be "home." It's a relaxing Saturday, I have laundry to do and there's a breeze flowing through my back yard. Tomorrow the girls are planning a quick market trip and I may be joining my grandmother at church. I'll let you know how that goes!
P.S. I received my first pieces of mail today and was one happy camper during mail time. It only took a month for letters to arrive! If you're interested in sending anything, check out my mailing address on the Contact Me link above. I promise to write back!