4th Day in Benin

Day 4 was almost more than one Soeur Black from Blanding, Utah could handle. In our District meeting Elder Crooke talked about getting the spirit every day and when I see him next, I am going to tell him when you are in survival mode, the spirit is pretty far from your mind. The first order of the day was to find a taxi driver and have him take us to a place where we could do some shopping so “to market, to market to buy a fat pig” we went. First, one of the guards where we live walked us down the road to the main street. The streets here are nothing like anything in the United States. Everywhere you go there are 100’s of stalls selling everything from food to gasoline sold in old whiskey bottles. There are many people here who sew and have what look like old Singer sewing machines set up in their stalls and will sew anything you want. Most of the women here wear African style clothing made from very colorful fabric made by these tailors. Back to the shopping adventure! Our guard found a very nice taxi, a Toyota with air conditioning. I might add, however, that to use the air conditioning there was an extra charge so we told him that no air conditioning was just fine. He had a big sweat rag and kept wiping off his head. He did speak French with a very heavy Fong accent and had a hard time understanding Pete and Pete had a hard time understanding him. But we did eventually end up at a place where could shop, though. Getting to the shopping market was another experience! He drove with one hand on the wheel and the other one on the horn. All of the time there were 1000′s of scooters buzzing by us on all sides of the car. Before we got to the market, we came upon a long line of semi trucks stopped on our side of the road. I thought we were in for quite a long wait but not with our taxi driver. He just went on the wrong side of the road and proceeded up the street followed by a horde of scooters. There were cars and scooters coming at us but no one seemed to care, They just moved out of the way but I was hanging on for dear life. When he got to the first street, he just turned and took a different route.

The first thing on the agenda was to get money. The ATM machines are locked behind doors and a guard lets you in one at a time. You just have to have faith that he will let you out! When he does, you are immediately swarmed with people selling belts, electronics, phone cards, tablecloths, shirts, purses, etc. You name it, they will sell it to you! All that was before we started to look in the stalls. We had a list of quite a few things that we needed so started walking around the perimeter of the big market looking for a large pot, clothes pins, coat hangers, dish soap, potatoes, carrots, etc. ( We couldn’t even hang our clothes as there were no hangers here. There is no washing machine so the pioneer way is in order. (I sure wish I had Grandma’s wash board!) Soon a young African man tried real hard to sell us a statue of some sort but he soon realized that we were not the average tourist so he offered to take us and show us where everything was located that we needed. The first ladies only sold pots in sets so he took us inside the main market which was a large area covered by some sort of tent material. That’s when the excitement began! It is hard to describe unless you can hear the noise and commotion, smell the pungent odor and see the piles of all the goods. There were little trails between the piles of goods and if you even looked at something they were determined you were going to buy it. They start at a high price and you have to bargain to get it down. Then a lady in the next stall starts yelling that she will sell it cheaper. Somehow or another I ended up with two bunches of carrots when I only wanted one and 5 peppers instead of two. Well, the young man lead us through a maze of stalls where we ended up by a pretty young girl selling household goods. We found our stock pot, some hangers, a bucket for sterilizing food, clothes pins and maybe more but I can’t remember because my head was spinning from the whole scenario. We paid her for the first things we bought and for the second round the young man wanted the money. I shook my head no and started to give it to the woman and he said “ma femme” or my wife and took the money. It happened so fast that I didn’t have much time to think but later I was convinced that he was not her husband and was taking advantage of her. I could be wrong and really hope that I was.

It wasn’t over yet! Our guide left us on our own so we had to get out of there by ourselves so we started to weave our way through all the piles of goods. Before we could even think “home, home again” there was another young man wanting to sell us note cards. Pete told him OK as he thought the price he stated was for all of them but not so, it was only for one. After a little negotiation, we did end up with some hand-painted note cards. All of this transpired standing on the 18 inch wide trail between the goods. We still had a ways to go before getting out of there so we continued on the trail past open buckets of black fish, live chickens, ladies doing dishes, kids playing in the dirt and finally found our way into the street. Much to my surprise, I could see the exchange building where we got our money. Our taxi driver was to be back in one hour and I was praying that he would be there because we were being swarmed by the street vendors. The taxi driver just decided to wait for us and was I ever relieved when I saw that black Toyota. I wanted a table cloth to cover this ugly table and made to mistake of showing some interest in one but by that time all I wanted to do was get out of there. He followed us to the car and the price kept going down and when it got down to about $6.00 Pete took it, shut the door and rolled up the windows! I was sweating like crazy, was about to hyperventilate, have a panic attack and choke all at the same time. The taxi driver wanted to know if we wanted to go anywhere else but you couldn’t have gotten me out of that taxi for anything!

“Home again, home again”, oh, a gig!

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