Ode to a Toad
I recently shaved my head again (out of choice this time), and as a result was covered in bits of my own hair. “Not a problem” I thought, “it’s as simple as taking a quick shower” (read: bucket bath). As my water pump is currently broken with no indication that it will be fixed anytime soon, I use well water. Skipping all the general preparatory details, I’m enjoying a nice cooling ‘shower’ when I feel something slimy of my face . . . and it’s climbing up . . .
I’ve had my fair share of unexpected surprises here in Benin, but when you’re naked with only a bar of soap as a weapon, and that sensation registers in your brain . . . unpleasantness occurs.
After a lot of arm/face flailing and a hasty retreat from my shower, I grab a towel and my spider killin’ shoe as I switch over to offense. It took me a while to find the culprit, but I was a bit relieved when I found it was only a baby toad the size of a penny.
I have no problem killing insects of any size or species, but I have a soft spot for non-venomous reptiles. It took me about 10 min’s to fish him out of my shower bucket (the little buggers’ quick!), but all’s well that ends well. I just had an extreme urge to rewash my face and will be pre-checking my shower water from now on.
I keep trying to gather random facts and interesting tidbits for my ‘Beninese gee-wiz collection’, and have found one gem worth sharing. As I’ve stated in the past, 9 people is about average for a bush taxi here.
Even this number is excessive, but I have one upped it (or 8 upped it?). On my way back to my post from the workstation the driver managed to fit 17 people ‘in’ a station-wagon as follows: 5 people in the front including the driver, 4 in the middle, 6 in the back, and 1 ON THE FRIGGIN ROOF!
This was not a short trip either, he was up there for an hour and a half. See facebook for the photo.
I know its hard to gain sympathy for this type of story cause 17 is just a number to you. So here is your “live in their shoes” homework assignment for the month;
Call your top 16 friends on XYZ social networking site. Have everyone meet up at the house of the person with a station wagon (warning, most people won’t admit to owning one) and pile in!
1) You must include 5 chickens, OR 1 goat, OR 2 pigs
2) No one is allowed in the trunk (that’s for the animals and luggage), but the roof is fair game for 1 person (size unimportant)
3) Speak in pig Latin to simulate a different linguistic environment and culture
4) Don’t wash yourself for 1 week prior to the meet up, and finally . . .
5) Drive for 65km at 50kph w/o AC. (try not to get pulled over, seat belts are difficult with this arrangement!)
Once finished, write and post a 500 word essay about personal bubbles at the comment section of this blog entry.
Best essay wins* a “La Beninoise” beer t-shirt (cause people will do anything for a t-shirt)
*Disclaimer: you will not receive said t-shirt for 2 years from entry date (shipping to America = cher!)
Postscript: On my next trip I beat the 17 record. I am now up to 19 adult in one station-wagon for a 4 hour trip.
I dropped my motorcycle helmet in fresh cow shit today.
That is all
Things Going Thump in the Night
1) Lizards? Scurrying across my platform ceiling
2) Goats head butting my porch gate
3) Bats running into my screen windows
4) Me, chasing all of the above with my spider killin’ shoe
After a particularly productive day, I was treated to a nightcap at the local bouvette by the mayor. He’s a talkative guy so I ended up staying well into the night. By the time I headed home the dark was palpable. On the way home I saw some kids randomly throwing sticks and stones into a nearby tree.
When asked what they were doing, they replied,”Knocking the bats out of the trees so we can eat them for their sorcery”. I am now officially intrigued. Despite the fact that bats are basically disease carrying sacks with wings, I couldn’t help but think, “What would be the protein content and nutritional index of a bat?” Hey, malnutrition is an issue here, don't judge me. I'm thinking outside the box (for those of you with thick heads, yes I'm kidding).
It was recently Halloween in America. This is a difficult subject to broach with the Beninese as they are legitimately afraid of sorcery, bats, owls, and dark magic. These are things we make light of in the States, and I wanted to explain a little bit of the holiday to my neighbors.
My idea was to put on a skit about sleepy hollow. The Beninese students love skits! What could possibly go wrong?
Well, my problem didn't end up being with the students so much as with the dude who owns the donkeys in the village. I wanted to borrow one for the skit and have someone ride it with a watermelon head. One problem with this; language barrier.
He speaks less French than I do, so I relied on hand gestures. After about five minuets, he was convinced that I wanted to chop the head off of his donkey. As a result, he ran around town collecting all of his donkeys (they're normally free to roam and eat whatever) and tied them up at his house.
I felt really bad and had to find someone to translate French to Bariba for me and invited him to the skit. Luckily it all ended well and he let his donkeys go, but now I know that hand gestures are open to interpretation.