I know. My blog looks a little different. I had nothing to do with it (well, not originally). I use wordpress.com for my blogging, and up until now have used a theme called “cutline” for the “look and feel”. Well, they (don’t ask me who “they” are) decided to replace cutline with another theme without asking the users. I didn’t like the replacement, so after a quick search found a third theme I like more. I still don’t have everything exactly the way I’d like it, but it’ll get there. One bad thing that happened is all my embedded HTML went away, so I’m having to recreate it (a little warning would have been nice!). This did allow me to replace my list of languages with little flags for autotranslation, but right now there’s only French.
I don’t get out of Cotonou often enough, but this week I got the opportunity to go up to Porto Novo, the capital of Benin. Yeah, I bet you thought Cotonou was the capital. The embassies are all here. So is the President. But the legislature and judiciary are in Porto Novo which remains the official capital. I didn’t have enough time to do any touring, I was there on business, but plan to return soon.
On the road to Porto Novo I saw something I haven’t seen before in Benin – a working train! Okay, it wasn’t moving, but it was actively in the act of being loaded and had a diesel locomotive attached. Up until now, all I had seen was unused (and often overgrown) tracks. One of the legacies of European colonization here are the railroads, but for the most part they only run from the coast to the interior. They were built to make it easy to extract resources and being them to the coast for shipment. As such, they’ve mostly fallen into disuse. A rail line that ran along the southwest coast of Africa from Cote D’Ivoire to Nigeria would be a huge boon to commerce, and if it included passenger service, to local tourism as well, but I haven’t heard any noises that anyone is thinking that way. Even the road on that route, which is promoted as a trade corridor, is in terrible shape along much of its path. Actually, based on my trips through Benin, this country’s section is among the best. “Interstate” highway along that route could drop travel times for people and cargo in half (not counting the time spent at border crossings).
We had some visitors this week looking at what we need in our new embassy. We’re now on the stand-by list for a 2012 start (we get to go if someone else isn’t ready…Yay!) and a team was here to assess exactly how to tweak one of the standard designs. I’ll be long gone by the time they even break ground, but I hope one of my successors as consular officer here appreciates my suggestions.
Now, I’m going to go make a salad. The guy I usually share veggies with is out of town this week, so I have twice as much to eat!
Finally, welcome to the new people arriving! We have work waiting for you :-).