Baseball in Benin

First of all – I’m back online from home, from my desktop computer.  What was it?  Somehow (maybe when I installed a printer driver) my Norton antivirus file got corrupted.  That was blocking port 80 (I think).  In any case, a reinstall fixed things.  Thanks to the systems guys at work who made me look at the firewalls again.

One of the nice things about serving overseas is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.  The expatriate community comes together for things like — well, Halloween trick or treating.  After the kids visited my house, I joined the gang as we visited the homes of people from several Embassies and schools here in Cotonou.  It was obvious folks at brought (or ordered) decorations from home and lots of candy for the kids (and their escorts :-)).

Baseball.  I’m a Yankee fan.  Have been my whole life.  Stuck through the terrible years in the 60’s and early 70’s, so don’t lump me in with the front runners who became fans when they started winning.  So, with the Yankees back in the World Series, I want to watch.  Unfortunately, in Benin, that means a post-midnight start time.  The last two days I have slept from 8pm to 2 or 3 am, and then woke up to watch (most of) the game.  I eat some breakfast, blog, and go to work.  The only conversation about the Series I have had in Benin was at the after trick or treating dinner at a local restaurant, with a Brit who spent a lot of time in NYC and married an American!

Let’s talk a little about Cotonou.  For whatever reason, construction here is almost all of concrete and concrete block.  I don’t know if that’s because wood was used for fuel, or rotted, but the typical US “stick built” house doesn’t exist here.  Wood is used for forms for the concrete, and occasionally scaffolding, but that’s it.  If you get on Google Earth and look at my house, you’ll see a huge empty lot next door.  That photo is old.  It’s now a huge, under construction complex of large houses.  Who in Benin can afford those houses, and where did they get their money?  I don’t know, and I don’t ask.  I know there seems to be not enough money to pave any but a few main roads (even outside the large, fancy houses).  I know most Beninese live very simply.  The middle class here is very small, and a lot less middle than we’d see in the US.

Everyone seems to have a cell phone.  That’s in part because wired phones are rare.  We have them in our houses, but even we seem to use our cells to call each other.  Of course, the fact everyone in the embassy’s cell phone numbers are programmed in when we get them may have a lot to do about that!

Tomorrow, I meet more Americans as the new Ambassador holds a Town Hall meeting for AmCits at his residence.  I’ve been organizing this, so hope for the best.  It was on short notice.  Then, wednesday afternoon, I head for Lome, Togo for a conference on fraud, a chance to network with my fellow West African consular officers.

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