Paillote isn’t a mushroom, but it’s a trip

Made my first trip to the Embassy’s newly rented paillote on the beach here in Cotonou. Paillote roughly translates as “grass hut”, and some of the paillotes here fit the description, but the ones we’re renting has a concrete foundation, stick walls and a grass roof. There’re concrete benches and a table inside and everything faces the ocean. Paillotes aren’t just used by the expats, they are inexpensive to rent and it is common for the Beninese in Cotonou to own or rent one.

When I arrived in Cotonou, I was told “don’t go in the water, the undertow is too dangerous.” One of many warnings that turned out to be wrong. Yes, if you swim out too far you could get caught in an undertow, and there’s a strong current, but body-surfing and boogie boarding is quite safe if you’re careful. I didn’t find it any tougher than Jones Beach on Long Island, where I grew up.

No that’s not me.

While we were there, we saw a group of fishermen (and women) hauling in a huge net. As a coast country, fishing is critical to Benin. Some fish from boats, others from the shore using nets. Dozens of people haul these nets into shore.

Looking at this video, Cotonou looks like a paradise. That’s the story of Africa. Natural beauty, superimposed with piles of trash and abject poverty.



Filed under Foreign Service Stuff

2 responses to “Paillote isn’t a mushroom, but it’s a trip

  1. Terry Jemison

    Benin? Cotonou? Had to look it up, but scanning your pics and seeing a hippo was my first clue. Today I found the old blog bookmark from a long time ago and was checking to see where you ended up — for a spell, anyway. Rich, I know you make us all proud as a great representative of the U.S. What an amazing adventure, and an interesting current assignment. Love the blog. After catching up on your posts, Linda says that if I kick the bucket, she’s going to apply (probably too old). Hey, late nights in Squires with the echo of the AP teletype clatter seems like a lifetime ago, huh?

  2. rkolker

    You’re never too old! No, seriously, if they let me in…
    I was back at Squires for the 60th Anniversary weekend. Did my first airshift in probably 30 years. I can still cue up a record, but who uses records anymore. Had dinner and swapped stories with Hokie Bob and Tom Twine. Bought donuts at Carol Lee (yes it’s still open, although they’ve moved). With the renovation of Squires everything’s in a different place from what we remember.

    Where are you guys now? Still in the DC area? If so, let’s get together while I’m back between posts in the fall.

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