Or maybe I’m there. I thought for a while I would just post at my Facebook page and leave it at that, but there’s a word limit, so I’ll use Facebook for the quick and short stuff, and post some longer reflections here.
I made it to Cotonou, Benin toward the end of August. Cotonou is the administrative capital of Benin, and home of all the Embassies. It’s on the water. It’s my first African city, so I have nothing to compare it to. It’s dirty, the streets are mostly bad and crowded with motorcycles and mopeds. The temperature isn’t bad, and we often have a sea breeze. The road in front of my (temporary) house is one of the worst! Dirt and rocks, huge potholes, and according to locals, it’s worse inthe rainy season.
The good news (about that) is in the next week or two I’ll move into my permanent house, on a well paved road. On the other hand, it’s further from the road with a lot of nice restaurants and small supermarkets. Everything’s a balance, and you go with the flow. Once I have a car, it will be easier to get around. Until then, I’m depending on Embassy drivers and the “kindness of strangers.”
Speaking of food, I’ve found you can find almost anything here if you’re willing to look hard enough. My most recent discovery was Heinz Ketchup, although the French stuff I had already bought elsewhere is fine. According to my fellow FSOs, the new hypermarket, Erevan, which just opened a new months ago has made a big difference, but you still want to visit various places. For example, one small supermarket nearby has a great bakery for cheap (and good) breads. Another has the best fruits and vegetables.
I am the sole consular officer in Embassy Cotonou. I had one week overlap with my predecessor (which I hear is rare) wheich was a great help, but that first week on the line by myself was a challenge. We do everything – NIVs, IVs, ACS, you name it. The building is old, and I’m already looking to tweak a few things which will make operating the section easier. There’s a new Embassy coming, but it won’t be finished until I’m gone. Oh well.
One thing I can really recommend about Cotonou are the restaurants. There are lots of them, all different cuisines, and quite a few are quite good. The only thing I haven’t seen is Mexican (or barbeque).
That’s it for now. Photos after I get into my permanent house, which has the Internet connection.