Yesterday (as I right this) was my one year anniversary in the Foreign Service. Happy Anniversary to all my classmates!
I thought I’d write a little bit on different topics about Cotonou, and how it differs from the U.S. Today’s topic is roads.
We’re really spoiled when it comes to roads. For all the potholes and traffic, 99.9 percent are paved, and even the dirt ones are, for the most part, pretty well graded. Not so here. In Benin, only a few main highways and roads in cities are paved. They ones which are paved seem to be in pretty good condition (without the freeze-thaw cycle which causes potholes). Paving stones are very popular, but there’s a lot of blacktop as well. The problem is when you get back in the local neighborhoods or out of the city. There, you’ll find dirt roads rutted, with huge holes and piles of large loose stones and debris which they tried to use to fill the holes. Remember the TV of them driving the rover on the moon? Kinda like that. It’s why I think it’s a good idea to have a vehicle with high clearance here, even if you’re not planning to go off-road. The roads are bad enough.
The motorcycle and moped drivers have gotten very good at weaving back and forth to find the smooth rides through all of this, but the result is if you are in a car, you have to be careful not to hit one as he swerves in front of you!
Also, all the shorthand you’ve learned in the U.S. for distances (the supermarket is five minutes away) has to go out the window. A short drive can take a long time, or a short time, depending on the roads.
Benin is a poor country, and keeping all the roads in great condition isn’t a top priority, nor should it be. It’s just one of the little things you have to get used to here.