Saturday, July 4, 2015

The 4th in Benin

We kicked off our Fourth of July celebrations last night here in Lokossa with a big acoustic song-a-long of as many patriotic songs we could all remember. We hit rock bottom with "Party in the USA," but had a great time struggling our way through the classics. I'm thankful a couple volunteers brought their guitar, mandolin and ukulele!

This morning we woke up for a quick breakfast of coffee, omelettes and bread. There is peanut butter, jam and Nutella here in Lokossa, which has been a treat. After breakfast, we met in our language groups for two hours. Currently, my class is working on irregular conjugations in the futur tense. It's been a great review and my teacher, Marie Josee, is fabulous!

Since we arrived in Benin, our programming manager, Giselle, has been talking to us about the feast that we were responsible for preparing today. We tried to come up with a menu for 100 people  without really understanding what was available in the market. By 10:30, there was a huge table d ingredients and the food prep teams got to work. 

Mark, Jake and I were assigned to a fish entree. We received a big bucket of whole fish, complete with eyes and everything!  They were partially frozen so we added some water to the bucket and hoped for the best. With some help from our facilitators, we learned how to properly gut and fillet a fish. We pan sautéed the fish over a propane stove and served it with a pineapple garlic salsa and pineapple fried rice. Once it was plated, I help Rachel make stovetop apple crisp with an oat crumble , which was a real hit! 

The ceremony started around 1:30 with a dance presentation by a group of local musicians and dancers.  Emma and I had been asked to prepare a few words about the history of the holiday and about how Americans celebrate it in the USA for the local officials and PC staff who joined us. Samara was willing to video the welcome speech for you!!

There was enough food to feed a small army: hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, a whole goat (Benin BBQ), potato salad, Mac and cheese, mango salsa, fruit salad, deviled eggs and more!! Everything was delicious!!

After the meal, we headed off the the local university for games of volleyball, basketball, handball and soccer against the university students. Everyone did a great job.  I volunteered for the cheer squad and we walked around to each game boosting morale in the African heat. 

We will be spending the night in Lokossa before heading back to Sé tomorrow for more language and RCH classes. I miss my host family, Edi's mischievous smile and carrying Jean-Eudes on my back. 

Hope you're having a fabulous 4th!!

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