2nd Day in Benin

The hotel where we stayed last night had a really nice buffet breakfast included in the price of the room. Unfortunately we missed it. Mom and I went to bed a little before midnight. I think I dozed a little around 3 or 4 but I remember Mom up looking out the window and talking about palm trees. That was about 4:00. I was considering getting up and doing some more computer work but laid in bed a while longer. Next thing we knew, the phone rang and it was the Southams telling us that they may be a little late picking us up. We looked at the clock and to our surprise it was 10:30. We got up, took a few pictures around the hotel and waited for the Southams to pick us up and introduce us to our new apartment.

Somewhere between our apartment and the hotel we fell off the end of the earth. Wow what a contrast. The hotel grounds were immaculate and beautiful. The large swimming pools overlook the ocean and are all anyone could want. We thought of taking a picture of Mom lounging by the pool and having Andy or Steve give it to President Redd with a note thanking him for getting us called to Benin. Down the road a ways is a large and very dirty city. Best description I can offer if you haven’t been to Africa or India is that it would make the Navajo Indian Reservation look like Malibu in California. Streets are narrow and dirty. Chickens, goats, pigs and other animals roam freely. The main streets are paved or cobblestone. All others being just basically beach sand – very dirty beach sand. Amid all this in an area that is probably a little more upscale—although that is very relative term—is the apartment which the Southams and Pierre, the local guy who seems to be in charge of such things, had rented for us. By African standards it is probably an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. By Blanding standards, Mom is still crying. There are some plusses. We have an air conditioner that keeps one room a little cool but the ceiling fan seems to work best. Steve will understand that after being in Puerto Rico. We have quite a nice living room, with a sofa and 4 easy chairs. The kitchen has a tile countertop and a single sink with a single faucet. No hot water there. There is a little hotplate on the order of a Coleman stove to cook on. The bathroom is divided into two rooms by a partition that goes almost all the way to the ceiling – one side has a toilet and sink and the other a shower and sink. Maybe a shower is a little bit of a stretch but it does appear that one could shower in the back part of the room. There is a hot water heater there if it can be coaxed to life. We will see in the morning. The only thing you use the local water for is bathing. Everything else has to be from bottled water including washing, tooth brushing etc. as the water supply is not safe. The bedroom has a double bed with mosquito netting around it. All in all it is probably livable. Like Lark says, it’s all relative and it could be worse. Right now I think Mom is thinking that if it weren’t for her relative (in this case her husband) she wouldn’t be here either but I am sure that will pass. The whole thing is located behind a locked gate with a 24 hour guard.

We went over to the Southams apartment also. They have a little nicer place that we will inherit after they leave in June. More on that later. Then we went shopping to get some things to supply our apartment, notably food since we missed breakfast. We went to one small food market which was okay and had some things that even reminded us of home. Then we went down to the street market. Now that is something to behold. All goods are out on the street with people, cars, chickens etc. and the ever present hoards of motorbikes all combined into one giant mess really. Most notable are the piles of pineapples and stocks of bananas. There are no prices so everything is subject to negotiation. I am sure that a white face with a white shirt and tie commands the highest price so Elder Southam taught us how to balk a little and the price usually drops quite rapidly. The mounds of pineapples sell for 100 – 200 CFS each. We ended up buying 5 of them for 500 CFS – just a little more than $1. That included delivery to our vehicle by a cute little African girl. They are only about 1/2 the size of a Hawaiian pineapple but you never tasted anything better. We are suspecting that may turn out to be our mainstay while we are here. Also purchased some small bananas, some avocados, dry beans, eggs etc. Coming home we scrubbed down the kitchen with the Clorox we bought at the store and then soaked everything in some Clorox water and cleaned it thoroughly. You don’t eat anything unless you do that first. Even the Bananas and Pineapples. When we got that done we figured out we had forgotten to get something with which to light the hot plate so our supper consisted of a pineapple that was more than tasty, some bread with vache qui rit cheese on it, a banana and some water. Oh we had some cashews and cookies also. It appears that a great deal of our time is going to be taken up by making things clean. If we can avoid any sickness it will be worth it.

Blacks and Southams“An adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”

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