Archive for September, 2007

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 29-09-2007


Any ideas? It’s actually a pick-up truck carrying way too many palm branches! We see many ‘excitingly’ overloaded vehicles here in West Africa, like this one:


…or this one:

(NB Just returned from workshop, and so have changed the last two photos to even better examples I saw!)

Alas, this phenomenon is not limited to cars and trucks – here’s a motorcylce with half a dozen bikes on the back. I suppose if he breaks down, at least he’s got alternative transport at hand:


And one more favourite. There are two people on this motorcycle, and the person on the back (I hope!) is somehow holding 6 or 7 large plastic jerrycans (empty, I imagine). Watch out for that lorry, guys!!


Filed Under (General) by Rob on 25-09-2007


You should, but something has changed. You see, whilst the Woods were visiting a few weeks ago, Rachel was let loose on Lois with her hair straightening tongues. Here she is, getting stuck into the task at hand:


We think Lois looks a bit like Zoë Wannamaker with her hair straight (so, for those who’ve been reading the blog since this post back in March, we could now make a nice couple of Peter Kay and Zoë Wannamaker!!!)

Of course, Micah didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so in the end they both had their hair straightened. Have a look at this:


(Micah thought he was a pop star with hair like this!!)

Other News…

*Mads has recovered from her recent chest infection and is doing nicely.

*The mobile phones are finally working again, which is a HUGE relief.

*As you read this, Rob will be in full flow doing a song-writing workshop in northern Benin, with the Ditammari people.

*Our kids are so famous, they’ve made it onto another blog!! Click here to see Lauren’s blog, with our kids dancing!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 23-09-2007

…but somehow we’ve missed it in Benin!


(This is the BBC’s picture of the worst-affected countries. Click here for the full report). It’s quite bizarre, when you look at the map, that every country surrounding Benin has suffered from flooding, but not Benin itself! Mind you, I went over the lagoon this morning…


(click to view gallery enlargement).

…and the water here was much higher than I’ve ever seen it. I think that, for the time being, we’re okay here, but our thoughts and prayers go out to those in the surrounding countries who are suffering from floods.

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 20-09-2007

In northern Benin, they eat dog. Yes, it’s true. But apparently only every four years in some cases. I found this out from a fantastic National Geographic video on YouTube. It’s quite long and will take a few minutes to download, so to spare those with slower connections, I’ll not embed it on the blog. However, do click here to see the video, and let me know what you think. (NB probably not suitable to show the kids!)

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 18-09-2007

Millet beer, or choukachou is a local drink, served in half a gourd (or calabash) also mentioned in this post. Interesting taste – closer to Scrumpy Jack cider than traditional beer. There are usually bubbles rising quickly to the surface as you drink, and you have to throw out the last inch as there are plenty of dregs. The taste does take some getting used to, as you’ll see below:

STAGE ONE – Filling the gourds:


STAGE TWO – Having a swig!


STAGE THREE – ‘Enjoying’ the after taste…


There you go! Not sure this post will encourage any of those newly-arrived Peace Corps volunteers to rush out and try some! Stick with the chwarmas, eh – mmmm!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 15-09-2007

Today, Rob, Ruth and some other friends went on the whale-watching boat trip from Cotonou. It was a very eventful journey, but not in the ways we had expected…


This is the boat we went on, which is actually a small war ship (see the guns on the front?!). Decent enough boat, though, and a nice upper deck for viewing. Before leaving, we were all given travel-sickness pills – just in case – and the kids were all given life jackets, and enjoyed playing with the whistles:

We set off and enjoyed the view of the Cotonou shoreline as it got smaller and smaller. However, it soon became clear that the sea was a tad choppy – either that or the boat was not very stable (or probably both). Here are Rob & Ruth on the upper deck with our friend, Joanna from Scotland (this photo is also for her Mum, who is now a regular visitor to the blog – hello Joanna’s Mum!)


Within half an hour of leaving Rob, Ruth and basically half the boat were all throwing up due to all the rocking – a most unpleasant experience! As the round trip was about 4 hours long, that’s a lot of time spent being sick! We found the best solution was to lie down, so Ruth and I lay down on a ring of rope on deck and had a kip, waking only when prompted by nature for further overboard evacuations . Here’s Ruth looking extremely sea-sick:


(NB I have not modified the colours on this photo – she really was that pale).

Now, one might tolerate being incessantly sick on a whale-watching trip in exchange for seeing a few whales. However, today they were nowhere to be seen. At one point, one of the crew frantically started shouting out Baleine, baleine, baleine! and pointing into the distance off the port side. We looked and saw what could have been a spray of rising water, but as it was so far away and was all over in a couple of nanoseconds, it was hard to tell.

Well, we made it back, but very jaded (almost literally colour-wise). The whole event made me think of Jonah and his adventures – he may have had a tough time for disobeying the Lord, but at least he got to see a whale – and extremely close up too! Also, it was the whale that did the spewing, not him! (Jonah 2:10)

Nevertheless, if you’re not prone to (or bothered by) travel sickness and think you may be more lucky than us (NB we have a friend who did see a whale on a previous trip) then click here then click on Baleines (whales) for more information (and there’s even a photo of whales to be seen!)

Thanks for visiting!

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 13-09-2007

Lastnight, Rob had the privilege of meeting Angélique Kidjo, the world-famous singer and musician, who is from Benin. It was at a gathering at the Marina Hotel, Cotonou, and Rob got to go along with a friend who had been invited.

“I greeted her in Fon, which she liked!” says Rob. “Later we chatted a bit about my ethnomusicology work in Benin, which she was interested in. Lovely lady, and she does a lot to support development work in the country. She was a bit shorter than I’d expected, but it was great talking to her.”

As well as being an international star, Angelique Kidjo is involved in much charity work, including being a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and is also on the board of directors of the the Batonga Foundation which works to improve and assist eduction.

Click here to see (and buy!?) her CD’s.

Thanks for coming back to Benin, Angélique – Kud’ azɔ̌!

Other News…

*School is back in full flow. Lois is busy and very tired, but enjoying it (most of the time!)
*Rob’s next workshop is with the Ditammari in northern Benin during the last week of September.
*We’re all in good health at the moment.
*One of the mobile phone networks, Moov, has been reactivated. However, Areeba (who we use) is still not back.
*Internet is back up and running chez nous, which is great, as the cyber café round the corner is a tad pricey!
*This blog is now averaging 1321 hits per day and 52 actual visits. Thanks for yours!
*Rob, Ruth and some others are hoping to go whale-watching on Saturday.
*No more definite visitors for the coming year – would you like to visit??

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 11-09-2007

Here’s what Rob and Micah were doing last Saturday morning, just for fun:

[youtube DQ8D7z8aVcU]

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 10-09-2007

What are the roads like in Benin and Togo? Well, see for yourselves…

(Descending a mountain pass in northern Togo)

(near Possotomè, on Lake Aheme, Benin)

(the Faille d’Alledjo, Togo)

(next to Dantokpa Market, Central Cotonou)

(near Dassa, Benin)

(Gando, a remote part of Togo)

(Descending the West side of the Danii Plane, central Togo)

That’s all folks! Remember, there are loads more pics of Togo and Benin in the gallery

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 06-09-2007

Amongst ex-pats, there is an above average number of such people, I’m convinced!


This is Frank, who arrived in Benin a few weeks ago, having driven his BMW motorcycle all the way from England to here! Fascinating – he shared some great stories with me over a beer recently. He’s now left Benin, and is hoping to make it all the way to South Africa! I’ve added Frank to my blogroll on the right, but you can just click here to read about his adventures! Reminds me of another crazy friend of mine who hitch-hiked from Japan to Cambridge (wonder who that could be?!?)

That’s all for now!