You know, Africa. You saw it in National Geographic as a kid. Mud huts. Shelters of palm fronds, bare breasted women nursing babies…
You need to get out of Cotonou to see that. So, accompanied my our Desk Officer for Benin and Togo, Ashley, I headed north to visit some Peace Corps volunteers.
Saturday’s trip was a little closer and a little more developed. Kim, the Peace Corps volunteer there showed us her first project – organizing the women in the market as a cleaning crew to clean the marketspace and keep it more sanitary. We arrived the day matching shirts for the crew were distributed and I think it was a good sign Kim got one. It shows they saw her as part of the team.
Sunday we headed out to an even more remote part of the country to visit Satin, the Peace Corps volunteer there. No photos, I forgot my camera. Satin’s working in an area where they don’t only not speak English, they don’t speak French, just a local language called Fon. She’s working with a local medical team on basic nutrition, hydration and cleanliness. She pointed out a plant that grows locally in the wild which is just full of nutrition and can be mixed with local foods. This was the area that’s like National Geographic. This is really Africa. Satin said she asked for a village far from any other Peace Corps volunteers, and who had never seen a Peace Corps volunteer before. She got it!
The Peace Corps volunteers live in housing that is luxurious by local standards, but quite basic by ours. Three rooms: a “public” room with table and chairs, a bedroom, and a room for cooking. There’s a latrine out back. Water must be boiled and filtered. Sometimes there’s electricity, but often there’s not. They’re doing great work, for almost no pay, in conditions what make poor areas of the US look like luxury.
A final unrelated note. On my way home from work today I decided to rush around a U-turn I need to make to get home. The moped caught some sand and skidded. It went down, along with the driver. Fortunately, neither was hurt seriously (I wasn’t hurt at all). The lesson – don’t hurry, you’ll get there!