Mr. Blyth

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost-
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I forgot to mention Ouida, which we had the chance to visit when we were still in Cotonou. Ouida is the location of the slave trade in Benin and was home to the place they called “ Gates of no return” it was amazing to see the last thing that for many people was the last they saw of their country… eye opening to see for sure. Ouida is also the place where the first missionaries came to Benin and that is the photo of Sarah and I in the monument for the missionaries in the first post. It was over all a great trip to the coast and worth the trip.

Now back to village life… so Sarah and I had gone into the closest village to have some outfits made for church on Sundays. See here in Benin it is custom for families to dress in all the same fabric and as a couple we did not want to offend anyone so off to the tailor we went. The outfits came out amazing and needless to say we get told all the time that we look great and I have to agree… ha ha ha amazing to see all the fabric at once and I am sorry if the photo is hard to look at due to the color… ha ha ha. How ever my tailor was amazing and I am now sporting some new shorts and think I am going to start a trend in the south bay with bold prints and white t’s!!! I now have 4 pairs of custom shorts and they only cost $4 for the fabric and $2 to have made so $6 dollars for custom shorts is amazing!!!

So I know that I have touched on the word Yovo(White person) but I think I need to express that you hear it all the time, in the village, out in the street, when you are walking… everywhere! The people in Benin have a saying “Yovo Yovo Cado” which means white person, white person, gift. So in response you say Mawi, Mawi, Cado which translates to Dark, Dark, Gift they always laugh and continue to beg and say Yovo. At first this made me super uncomfortable as I was taught that it is bad to call someone dark however it is normal and what they even call themselves so really it turns into a fun game of cat calling back and forth till normally I get sick of saying it and stop. The other thing with this Yovo Cado(White, Gift) is that it seams to be the answer to any problem or how to get things done when people are talking to us. For example last week after church the pastor was talking about how he needs a new church and that we should pay for one. When we said that Buildabetterbenin was not focused on building churches and our money was being used elsewhere then we said how another nearby branch of his church could partner and help we were told that that is not how things work in Benin and that we should give all the money. Even the old people have a form of Yovo, Cado and apparently it is the answer on how to fix any problem…

So this week will be the finishing touches on a chicken coop that I have constructed for Sarah, as she wants to raise chickens for eggs and let me be the first to say it is amazing. It is really amazing how with simple tools, sticks, and some chicken wire the architectural masterpiece that we built which we now call “ Maison kokolo” (which is a mix of French and Fon and means “Chicken House”). The best part of construction was how I underestimated the size of chickens here in Africa and made the sticks to far apart. I was convinced that it would be fine however Sarah was not. Needless to say that the first chicken that walked in was seen by us as a test so when I came at it from the other way to see if my work would hold let’s just say it was no great wall of china and the chicken hopped right through and ran away… I was first amazed and then started to laugh, Sarah on the other hand was crying laughing and almost in tears because I had said time and time again during construction that it would be fine however I was proved very wrong!!! For the record I now know the size difference between an Africa chicken and a Tyson chicken and also think that if the chikens had a military Africa’s force would all be special opps and navy seals! More soon…

As I sit looking out the window of our room at the health clinic in Hlagba OuassaI am very thankful… even though I did just receive a warning about how we should be leaving the village for the weekend due to a Voodoo ceremony that will be taking place this weekend and how they think the Yovo’s (white people) want to know all. Alas don’t fear we have been reassured as long as we stay in the house from Sunday night to Tuesday morning all will be fine and we will still have our “Yovo” lives for a long time! So don’t worry mom I’ll be fine and call you after it is all done!

 In case you have no idea why my post is talking about Voodoo doctors, staying inside for safety, and living at a health clinic there is one simple answer and that is I’m Crazy!…. Crazy in love and I followed the girl of my dreams to a remote village in Benin, West Africa. I’m not talking forever or even a longtime but I am in 2 ½ weeks and have about 2 weeks to go and everyday I think how amazing this place is and so happy that I have gotten the chance to see it and thankful for Sarah for making me promise her I would come to visit if she ever was to go and stay for a long period of time and for the record I kept my word…

To be honest there is nowhere I would rather be but by the side of the woman that I love ad see my life with and so that answers the question “why Benin?”

A short and amazing stop at the Reading Music Festival ( which was amazing and I will be soon recommending bands that I saw) and I am now in a country where they only speak French or Fon ( the tribal language) and there is no running water for showers and everyday I see a different insect and get to ask if it is poisonous… the answer is always no how ever some I doubt and the food is all good but mostly fried.

The people are amazingly kind and friendly and are very happy to meet me. Some call from their cell phones every morning just to greet Sarah and I and make sure we slept well. Others are so happy when I say good morning in Fon they try to teach me a new phrase or word a day so I am picking up some Fon and some French as the days go on. There is only one place that the kindness of people is greater overall to strange travelers and that is Dublin, Ireland but that is not the point… the point is that I feel like I’m at the home of a relative that is happy to see me and we have not seen each other in awhile.

The first couple of days we spent in Cotonu and let me be the first to say that it is a relief to get out of the city as soon as possible. The airport is a mess and when trying to get your bags a complete cramped mess. The food is ok but the roads, cars, motos, and traffic are enough to drive you to an early grave via heart attack. However we did get the chance to see Ganvie (the Venice of Benin a.k.a homes built on stilts) and even might one day consider a nice vacation home in Ganvie as it would cost about $2,000 for a brand new house and about $5,000 for the land also as if foreigners buying a house in Ganvie is bad enough to the locals our guide told us we would be the first and only white people in Ganvie… so there goes trying to get away with anything… ha ha ha it is amazing to see how people live and work and that most of there day is spent on the basic needs of people food, shelter, ect… its good to see that also because of no electricity people are spending time together as a family and not so distant from one another i.e. not on the computer, watching TV, or wasting time. Don’t get me wrong I love my computer and the TV and use my far share however I think as a whole America has turned away from family time and spending time with real people and that makes me a bit sad… One of my best memories as a child is every night as a family we would sit down at the kitchen and eat dinner as a family, talk about our day, and what is going n in our lives… I can’t tell you the last time I saw this happened and am glad to see it has not been lost in the people of Benin.

Once out of Cotonu it was on our way to the village health center where Sarah lives and I would be spending the majority of my stay. Let me first start by saying there is only one road to the health center and to say that it had some pot holes would be the biggest understatement of the year!!!!! Lets say that if I were to stand in some of them my shin would be about street level hence a 1 ½ hour drive takes 3 and more then likely you will see around 5 broken down cars/trucks/semi’s and at least one tipped over truck. This is the place where Fox racing should test suspension for bikes and team Subaru does not even have to build a test track for rally car they can just drive from Cotonu to  Hlagba Ouassa and see how the car handles. It somehow always makes me laugh to think if I could get Sarah’s brother to come here build a tube dune buggy with big tires and the best suspension how I would drive this road with Unskinny bop by Poison blaring from my radio and really enjoy the drive and running into the city but however this is not the case… I’ll write more soon but for now I have to find Sarah as it is time to bake Cupcakes for the staff…

Coming soon… Lions, Children obsessed with saying “photo,photo,photo,” and a trip up north to see where all the hard work will start from!!!

I’m starting to think Edith’s Restaurant in Cabo would be a great place to celebrate my 33rd year… Happy Monday! All are welcome of course!

Just finished the HBO series John Adams… started good ended good… what I took away from it maybe is true or is not but the relationship between John and his wife can teach you a lot!. I love the fact that he always called her “my friend” it is so wonderful and something I can only hope for one day. When she passed away he is by her side and says ” good bye, my friend” and it was so sad… remember to love the ones you have around you now and tell them daily!
Over all it was a great series and I recommend getting the DVD and watching! Hope all is well and Happy Sunday Funday! 

Just finished the HBO series John Adams… started good ended good… what I took away from it maybe is true or is not but the relationship between John and his wife can teach you a lot!. I love the fact that he always called her “my friend” it is so wonderful and something I can only hope for one day. When she passed away he is by her side and says ” good bye, my friend” and it was so sad… remember to love the ones you have around you now and tell them daily!

Over all it was a great series and I recommend getting the DVD and watching! Hope all is well and Happy Sunday Funday!