…the beginning of the middle

To badly bastardize Churchill, this is not the beginning of the end, but it may be the beginning of the middle.

Literally, this is the month one year ago that I arrived in Cotonou, so it is literally the beginning of the middle.

After watching the folks who were here leave for their next assignment over the past couple of months, I’m now seeing the people who will still be here after I leave start to arrive.

And some time soon, I will be getting the bid list from which I will choose (well, recommend) my next post.

In A-100, they tell you your first post (and on a lesser level, every post) follows a curve.  First you’re excited and everything is new and exciting, then reality of the difficulties of living overseas kick in and you move toward miserable, and finally you reach a steady state somewhere in the middle, hopefully somewhere above the middle.  I’m not sure where I am on that curve right now, but the beginning of the middle may be a good guess.

So, just to catch everyone up,

I spent about 10 days back in the U.S.  A week of that was a training class on detecting and preventing fraud, an ongoing issue in almost every consular section.  Some parts were more useful that others, just because of the nature of a survey course that has to cover everything from one officer posts to 25 officer posts, from posts who do no H1B’s and lots of DVs to vice versa, but overall well worth the time spent.  I’ve already put some of what I learned into practice as I started to catch up with what was left on my desk when I left.  While I was at FSI, I got the chance to get together with people who had left Cotonou, people who were coming to Cotonou, and even people who still are in Cotonou (which is kind of silly when you think about it!).

As you may remember, I decided this trip to drive to Accra, Ghana and take a non-stop flight to Dulles from there, instead of flying through Paris and changing planes.  The final verdict – flight good:drive bad.  The drive’s 8 hours (it’d be four or less on an Interstate) on bad roads with two international borders.  The flight’s about 11 hours, which is long enough to get some good sleep on, and gets into Washington early in the morning, beating the traffic.  On balance – until they start regular flights between Cotonou and Accra, I won’t be trying this one again.  Since part of my goal is to build up (and use) United frequent flyer miles, I may try Brussels Airlines through Brussels next time, which limits my flying dates, but is a United code share.

Yesterday was one of those rare days I am reminded that even though the government and all the embassies are here, Cotonou is not the official capital of Benin.  Porto Novo is.  August 1st was the 50th anniversary of Beninese independence, and the big show was in Porto Novo.  It has been a busy couple of days on my street (the road that goes to the airport) since everyone coming in for the ceremonies was motorcaded with screaming sirens up and down the road.  To spruce it up they put up the Christmas lights, and painted the curbs.  But, since they waited until the last minute to do so, a lot of the painting took place late at night, so it wasn’t exactly…neat.  Probably, the limo borne African leaders didn’t notice.

Speaking of last minute decisions, or at least announcements, they are the rule in Benin.  So, even though everyone expected Monday to be a holiday (since August 1 fell on a Sunday), it wasn’t officially announced until lat Sunday, at the end of the President’s speech, so nobody could plan.

Rainy season is coming to an end, but the cooler weather seems to be holding on.  Evenings have been really nice, which is a pleasant break, particularly after the 100+ degree days I experienced in Washington.

Finally, today would have been my Dad’s 85th birthday.  I miss him every day, but particularly during “birthday season”, that time of the year when my Mom’s, my Dad’s and my birthdays lined up one week apart.

Happy birthday, Dad!



Filed under Foreign Service Stuff

2 responses to “…the beginning of the middle

  1. Glee

    Hi Rich —

    Well, I certainly hope you aren’t _miserable_ there in Benin. Esp. since you probably never thought the weather in Cotonou would be “refreshing” compared to DC’s? -)

    Hey — since you spent 8 hours in a car driving through a Africa, would you mind spending a few more minutes describing what that was like? For instance, how is Benin different from Togo and Ghana, in terms of vegetation, infrastructure, elevation, scenery, people? Which parts of the drive did you enjoy the most (other than, of course, getting out of the car in Accra!)?

    And was there any relief from the heat/humidity on the East Coast on the Cape?


  2. You made it to the State Blog Roundup. If you don’t want to be on it, then please let me know! Follow this link to reach the roundup:



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