Archive for August, 2007

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General, Sound Clips) by Rob on 30-08-2007

Last night’s veillée continued until the early hours. The ‘service’ part ended around 11:00pm, then some folk left and others sat around in small groups up and down the road, chatting. The live band stopped at this point, and was replaced by canned music – Catholic chant sort of stuff, of a vaguely Taizé-esque nature. This music continued until about 4:00am. Then, at 6:00am, we woke with a start as a brass band was playing outside our door!!! The herse was here and the band was heralding its arrival (couldn’t it have arrived late like many things here do?!?) Interesting music, though, of Cuban influence, I’m told (a throw back to Benin’s communist days). There were renditions of ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, ‘Nearer my God to thee’ and other similar tunes. (NB I was hoping to add YouTube video of this, but dial-up internet too slow at the moment!) Music of various kinds continued all day, and the brass band returned early evening. Here’s what they sounded like:

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Whilst I realize it is a privilege to be so closely associated with the riches of African culture, I’d feel better with a few more hours undisturbed kip! Not to worry – after all T.I.A.

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 29-08-2007

I walked out of my front gate and found a church service quite literally on my doorstep:


(Yes, that’s our wall on the RHS!)

So, what were around 100 people doing in our street, singing, dancing and praying? Not due to our spiritual influence, I’m afraid!! The old man next door died last week, so this is what is locally known as a veillé or night vigil. It’s running every evening at the moment for several nights, as a lead up to the funeral ceremony. It’s quite normal in Africa to take over the whole street on such occasions. The music starts early evening and goes on until around 10:00pm. Still, we get free music piped in through all windows (whether we want it or not!) and there’s no need to put any of our outside lights on. Also, we can walk down the street in the rain without getting wet!

Tonight, we went out to see some friends and when we came back, we couldn’t park our car! There was a ‘no entry’ sign at the end of our street and a parking attendant with a torch! So, we went round the block and managed to park a block away! Furthermore, there were easily double the number of people tonight – maybe as many as 300! Here’s the view looking up the street this time; what you can see is about a third of the people:


Filed Under (General) by Rob on 27-08-2007


It was GREAT having you all here and we’re missing you already!

Thanks for coming. Who’s next for a visit? (NB You may have to bring Rachel with you!!)

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 26-08-2007


After three car-less weeks, the Land Rover is finally up and running once again. HOORAY!

I picked it up last Thursday, just three days before our visitors leave (so at least they’ve had a few rides in it!) The main reason for the delay was the availablity of Land Rover parts. It needed a new gearbox shaft and a cog thingy which looks like this:


In the end, I phoned Amazon 4×4, an excellent supplier of second hand and new LR parts with a very efficient service – to be recommended (take note, Caroline H – they could come in handy one day!) So, blokey there DHL-ed two brand new parts out to Benin, which actually worked out cheaper than what we could find here, even after postage. Here I am, happy to be holding the parts others could not reach:


Other news…

*The Wood family leave this evening (Sunday 26th). It will be sad to see them go.

*After a few days of fever, Micah and Mads are cool again!

*Rob’s planning to work with two different groups of Bago people in October, to encourage the usage of traditional song genres.

*Internet is only partially working and we don’t know why! We can send and receive e-mail and the BBC site (our default home page) works. However, the blog and most other sites do not – unless we dial up! Any suggestions from computer bods out there??

*Last school year, Rob took his GCSE Dutch at the school, just for fun. He got his result last week – an ‘A’!!!

*School starts back in just over a week’s time. Lois is probably teaching Years 1 & 2, but it’s not certain yet.

*Still no change on the mobile phone situation. We will have to buy a SIM card for a different network if this persists, but the other networks seem overloaded already.

*Rob’s planning to start his masters research in September, on ‘The reclamation of Voodoo song genres for Christian worship’, a current phenomenon in Southern Benin, and one which needs studying. Still looking for a university to supervise, but a possible lead in Germany!

And finally…Ruth and Annie had their hair done African style the other day. Here they are enduring the pain:



…and here’s the end result:


It took about an hour per child and cost £2.50 each! Rachel had hers done in a different style, but didn’t like it so pulled out all the plaits the same night! Melissa had hers done the next day in a similar style. Still trying to persuade Lois to take the plunge…

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. Hopefully we’ll get the internet sorted soon!

Bye for now!

PS Have you looked at our YouTube videos yet? (filed under ‘robenin’). More coming soon too!

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 15-08-2007

As you know, the Wood family is visiting at the moment. Gary is enjoying finding out about the local culture. Here he is learning how to carry something the African way:


On last week’s workshop near Dassa (report to follow soon), we met a local guy breaking up rocks to make gravel, so Gary had a go – much to the amusement of said blokey:


Finally, the name for manioc flour in Benin is Gari (also mentioned in this post). So, when introducing my brother-in-law, it helps the locals pronounce his name if I mention this fact to them! Here’s a photo of Gary and Gari


Other news…

* The Landrover is still out of action, so we’re getting to know plenty of taxi drivers in town!

* The two disconnected mobile phone networks are still off, so we’re having to fall back on old fashioned ways of communication (but haven’t resorted to the talking drum just yet!!

* Rob & Gary have a gig lined up at the Marina Hotel on Friday (jazz round the pool) and are hoping for free nosh…

* The Woods visited the lake village of Ganvié today, which they found interesting, in spite of a leaky boat, which ended up with about 4 inches of water in the bottom by the end.

*Virtually now power cuts and we’re all in good health at the moment.

Bye for now!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 09-08-2007

In my work I travel through lots of villages. The ones in northern Togo have – I think – particularly interesting names…

Here are a few of the villages (and one river) I have travelled through (or over!) in recent months. They’re fun to try and pronounce, so get yer false teeth firmly in and have a go!!









Hope you enjoyed those!

Filed Under (Family and Friends) by Rob on 06-08-2007

The Wood family have made it to Benin! Here they are around midnight shortly after arriving lastnight:


Having a relaxing day, chatting and unloading bags etc. Gary has already ridden on a zemidjan and we’re off to the pool this afternoon.

The Landrover’s in the garage and we’re hoping it’ll be done soon (as Rob has a workshop this Wednesday and will have to catch the bus if not!) Mobile phones still not working, but electricity and water have been quite good lately!

Bye for now.

PS Anyone feel like entering the name that bird competition? (see post on 2nd August below…)

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 04-08-2007

Do you know what this stands for? If not read on…

On Thursday, we made our way back from northern Togo, travelling southwards and slightly eastwards. Crossing the boarder we put our watches forward an hour again, which suddenly makes it seem very late. As usual, we stop off at the ‘Auberge de Dassa’, which does nice meals and has a telly!


We’re about to leave at around 2pm, when some colleagues from Cotonou arrive – heading south too! We say ‘hi’ then head off. A few yards out of the Auberge, the Landrover decides not to go any further, so we push it back in and send for a mechanic.

The mechanic arrives but can’t do anything. We discuss tow ropes with our colleagues (who have a Landcruiser – almost as good as a Landrover but definitely a whole lot better right now!!!) There are no ropes thick enough, and although the mechanic suggests doubling up the rope, it seems a tad dodgy. Another suggestion is a metal bar, but there isn’t one available that would anchor onto the vehicles. Mechanic blokey offers to weld one together for us; when I say we have to leave in half an hour to be back by dark, he says ‘no problem’, but I know what 30 minutes means – remembering T.I.A. and who’s to say a newly-made bar will hold?

To cut a long story short, I flag down a passing coach and Lois and the kids (and a Scottish lass travelling with us) all get on, leaving me to sort out the car. Our colleagues continue their journey and I decide to call Eddie, our favourite mechanic in Cotonou. Of course, mobile phones are still not working (see this post from 17th July) and the phone at the Auberge has no credit, so I walk over the road and find a phone box (more a tin hut with a phone in it and a lady who counts your units and takes your money) and get through. He’ll send a jeep up to pull me back tomorrow.

So that’s what happens. I stay the night at the ‘Auberge’ £11.50 for a basic room (but they agree to charge me £11.00 as they know me and I’ve had a hard day…) For dinner I enjoy my first ever ostrich steak – very tasty. You may remember that this is the place I had ‘crocodile au gingembre’ back in March, but the ostrich is much tastier – looks and feels like beef, but with a different taste.

Next morning, the jeep arrives at around 11:00am and they fix on their sound towbar:


We head off and I’m home by 5:00pm. Phew! Now all we have to do is get the car mended! But, as I said at the start – This Is Africa, and anything can happen!

Filed Under (Benin wildlife, General) by Rob on 02-08-2007

Okay, it’s time for another bird quiz. A carved wooden elephant goes to the first person to reply with the correct name of this bird, which we see almost every day in Kara. If it helps, here are two chicks which fell out of the tree. They seem to have a lot to say!


Bye for now.