The Concrete Jungle

It has nothing to do with the canyons of NYC, or the movie, band or clothing company of that name.  Instead, it has to do with building practices in Benin.  Every (major) building project is done with (somewhat) reinforced concrete, even homes.  This is unlike the U.S., where most homebuilding is done with 2x4s and wallboard.  I’m not sure why this is true, but I’d guess it is because of a shortage of wood in Benin.  When I visited Genvie (see an earlier article about that trip, with photos) they told us any large logs (for example, those used for dugout canoes) had to come from Nigeria.


Unlike this building, most construction seems to be long term projects on which progress depends on funding.  You might see a rush for a month or so, then no progress for the next six months.  It’s not unusual for additional stories to be placed on houses that look “finished”,  whether or not the foundation was built to support it.  There’s a third story being put on the house across the street from mine I’ve been watching them construct since I moved in.

The result is homes with the strengths and weaknesses of concrete.  Usually pretty well insulated (but the gaps in the doorways and window sills make up for that) , pretty soundproof (ibid), but impossible to hang a picture inside without concrete nails or an impact drill.  You also hope they used enough rebar when they put up the walls. 

A couple of final, unrelated notes. 

  • I got the rest of my slipcovers from Ikea so I don’t have to look at any more green and gold granny furniture.  Dark blue in the living room (you saw the picture) and tan for the TV room to match the rug.
  • My “help” tried to plug the power strip for all my electronics into the 220V socket on the power conditioner, after he had removed it to use the vacuum.  Fortunately it just blew the fuse in the power conditioner and the entire power strip, but none of the $1500 worth of TVs, VCRs, DVD’s etc.  There is now a big piece of duct tape across the 220 V socket!
  • My first trip home is going to be the first week of April.  This isn’t my R&R, I plan to do that in October, just a week back in the States with family, friends and food.  Before then, I’ll be spending a week in Lagos, Nigeria to see how a large consular post does it.  I’ll report when I get back.

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