Sunday, September 25, 2011

Welcome to Aklampa

Dear Friends,

I am sorry that I have seriously neglected my only portal of communication to everyone outside of Benin, West Africa. Ever since my last post life in Porto-Novo not only got more routine and regular but also more intense. As I became more of a family member instead of a guest within my host family structure more was expected of me like doing my own washing, pulling my own water, sweeping my room, and going to church. These activities on top of continuing to learn French and balancing time with out trainees doesn't leave much time to yourself. Currently, the training period of my service is finished and as I look back on it now I am very grateful for the this time I have had in Porto-Novo. Not only did I  grow a lot closer to the other trainees especially the one's  in my sector-TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), but also I felt connected to my family, home, and community. It was such a weird sense of excitement and anxiety when I drove off in my bush taxi for my new home in Aklampa.

Aklampa, my home for the next two years is rural farming  village in the mid region of Benin. Located in the Collines area, which is arguably the most beautiful area of Benin, is for sure all bush area. I'm about an hour off the main road and will live without electricity and running water. I live in a cement house with about three rooms and an outside area which my latrine is and a room where I can cook and take a bucket shower. Aklampa, like my house is simple but beautiful. The people of Aklampa are very warm and are all about greetings. A few greetings in my local language which is called Mahi (It is a dialect off of Fon which is one of three dominate languages in Benin): Good morning- A-fongangeeya, Good afternoon- Kudo Weme, Good evening- Kudo Bada. I am looking forward to learning more of this language as well as improving on the French that I learned as well.

Peace Corps regulation for housing now states that all volunteers if able to should live in a concession due to the tragic death of a volunteer in Benin who did not live in a concession. From what I know she lived way outside of village, unlike me who does not live in a concession but I do live in the middle of village. Living in a concession obviously is a good thing for safety reasons but also if you are sick like I was all this week there is always someone who will come and check up on you, as well as for cultural integration it is much easier. Although I do feel safe in my village I think these are just challenges I have to overcome but I have also realized that I am lucky in that I have privacy, I won't always have people watching me, and for the first time in my life I am living on my own. I will however take all the precaustionary measures, don't worry Mom and Dad I lock my doors and do not sleep outside no matter how hot it gets! Actually for me the biggest concern isn't someone breaking into my house but voodun. Voodoo is really big in my village, almost everyone practices and is part of a secret society. It isn't something I am worried about but Aklampa has a distinct precense. Once you enter inside the village the air just changes, it's very eery yet comforting all at the same time. If I have any crazy experiences I will definitely make sure to write them down and share them!

Well, thats it for now. In a couple of weeks I will go to my workstation with my friend Lauren to do banking and hopefully I will be able to update this thing again.

Until then, peace and love.