Archive for December, 2007

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 23-12-2007

Yes, here’s photographic proof – I saw Santa Claus the other day, all dressed in red and white.

The only trouble is, the Santa Claus I saw was a Nigerian cargo ship:


Well, there you go! I wonder which came first, the colours or the name? And is it true that Santa is only red and white because of Coca Cola? Anyone know?? Have a good Christmas!


Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 21-12-2007

See for yourself…

(Entrance to the ‘Village de Noël’, Cotonou)

(Outside the ‘Tornade’ supermarket, Cotonou)

(A toy shop in town – how many Santas can you count?!)

(The 10ft inflatable Santa outside the ‘Supermarché du Pont’, down our street)

(one of the many ‘Black Santas’ found all over town)

So, whilst Christmas could almost go unnoticed in some villages, Cotonou has plenty to remind us of the season (though mostly, as you’ve seen, LOTS of Santas, dressed in most inappropriate clothing for the climate!!) So, what is Christmas like in an urban African context?

Well, to start with, we do not have:

* Snow (apart from occasional fake snow on shop windows).
* Log fires (much too warm for that!)
* Holly, mistletoe or real Christmas trees.
* Parsnips or Brussels sprouts (what a shame!!)
* Mince pies (anywhere!)
* Premature decorations – the first signs of Christmas appear in early December, no sooner.
* Nauseating Christmas hits of ‘Slade’ etc. piped into every shop (only been in 1 or 2 shops which had carols playing).

However, we do have:

* Turkey – ordered from the ‘Championne’ supermarket and others
* Christmas pud and Christmas crackers (available at the ‘Mayfair’ supermarket only).
* Some Christmas decorations about town. (Last year, there were even colourful lights on one of the main roads).
* Lots of kids in the street with Christmas scenes made of cardboard boxes, singing “Mon p’tit Papa Noël” for some extra cash.
* Parties and special Christmas meals etc.
* Extra chocolates on sale in the supermarkets (even Ferrero Rocher…)
* A chance to visit Santa:


Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, have a good one and keep in touch when you can.


Filed Under (General) by Rob on 18-12-2007

Hey folks! Watch this and get into a Christmas (and African) mood. Enjoy…

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 13-12-2007

How’s your general knowledge of Benin?

Yesterday, I was feeling a tad under the weather, so decided to create a 10 question quiz on Benin!

Have a go and see how many you get right by clicking here: ROB’S FUN BENIN QUIZ.

The quiz is now in the links on the RHS of this blog too. Also new to the right is the cool A Cotonou site, full of places to go and things to do in the city. I’ve also added links to a couple more friends: Beth and also Max & Wai Ling.

That’s all for now…

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 12-12-2007

(no, not Coca Cola!)

Rob is delighted to have a REAL piano at home now! Here it is:


We bought it from some Nazarene missionaries who are leaving, and for a good price too! Transporting it from their house (half a mile away) to ours was fun. It took 6 men to lift it onto the back of a friend’s pickup, then there was a muddy, bumpy dirt road to navigate. After that, we joined a paved road and it was plain sailing. So much so that I couldn’t resist playing a few tunes on the way! Great fun and when we passed the ‘Livingstones’ restaurant, every head turned to see what was going on! Such fun!

You’ll notice this one is shorter than normal upright pianos; it’s what is known as a spinnet piano. The tone is not bad considering and it’s reasonably in tune! At the end of the day, any acoustic piano is preferable to some electric thing you plug in, and…I can still play during power cuts!!!

I dismantled it the other day and found they are much more tricky to work on than conventional uprights! Here’s what it looks like inside:


Other news…

* Rob is feeling decidedly dodgy today, but tested negative for malaria.

* Madelaine and Ruth are both singing solos in their school shows on Friday.

* Micah was 7 yesterday and Madelaine will be 10 on Friday!!

* I posted the last of the Christmas letters today – sorry if yours is late (or if you don’t even get one!!!)

* The Harmattan was the thickest I’ve seen today (the ‘Moov’ tower being quite faint as a result).

* We went back to ‘DFC’ yesterday and it was a tad less positive than the first time: about 4 of the extra value meals were not available (so I couldn’t have my chicken tikka burger – shame), the bread roll in the burger I did have was a tad stale and they’d started charging 500cfa for children to use the play area even if you eat there (but didn’t tell us that until we got the bill!) T.I.A. Never mind – it’s still the best kids’ play area you’ll find here…

* There have been two cases of bird flu in Benin last week – one near Porto Novo and one in Cotonou (bad news for DFC? Maybe that’s why their menu was limited…). Read more about these outbreaks here. No human cases yet and, in any case, we should look on the bright side – our friends in Uganda are on alert for the ebola virus. Now that is scary…

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 07-12-2007

Here I am yesterday in Cotonou’s newly-opened answer to KFC. It serves a variety of chicken meals, accompanied by the mandatory fries and fizzy drink!


I say it’s Cotonou’s answer to KFC, as it’s actually called ‘DFC’, which is not a central African country, but actually stands for ‘Denny’s Fried Chicken’.
Who Denny is I didn’t dare ask! Here’s Lois admiring the freshly-painted exterior:


So, why is it only almost fast food? Well, probably because it took 20 minutes for our food to arrive! That’s not bad for Africa; once I waited 1 hour 45 minutes for my lunch elsewhere! So maybe it ought to be known as Fast-food on African time, that could work!

The best thing about it is that there’s a FAB kids play area there (arguably the best Benin has to offer). There are climbing bits and slides like this:


…and this:


Then there are a couple of small climbing walls:


…and best of all – for our kids at least – was the ball pool:


It’s well worth a visit, especially if you have kids. The only other ‘western-style’ fast-food place in town is ‘Steers/Debonnaires Pizza’, which is also very good (and does whippy ice-creams!!) but no play area.

The food at Denny’s was good (I had a chicken tikka burger, which was very tasty) and the fries were okay. Plenty of ketchup available and polite staff in matching uniforms (and – of course – baseball caps). For local blog-visitors, here’s how to find it: it’s on the same road as ‘Bangkok Terrace’ and on the same side of the road, and more or less opposite the ‘Pharmacie Camp Guezo’. Here are the Google Earth co-ordinates:


For other information about what’s going on in Cotonou, click here for this informative site.

Other news:

*Micah’s birthday party is tomorrow.
*Madelaine’s birthday party is next Saturday.
*Junior school shows are being performed on Friday.
*End of term, 19th December.
*Micah is off school today with a sore throat.
*Rob’s getting an acoustic piano tonight (first time here) and is really excited!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 05-12-2007

Look at the sun in this picture:


The reason it’s hazy is mostly not due to cloud cover, but because of the Harmattan, a dry, dusty wind which blows south from the Sahara at this time of year.

The change in climate it brings is quite dramatic. Yesterday (Tuesday) at around midday, there was a strong wind – so strong that doors slammed in my house. I thought “I seems like it’s going to rain, but it’s December and it never rains in December.” It was the Harmattan arriving. Within minutes, the humidity levels had dropped and the average temperature was a couple of degrees lower, for which we’re very glad indeed. I was getting through 3-6 shirts a day before this, but a lot less now it’s drier and cooler (only around 26 degrees C in the morning!)

As December progresses, it should get stronger still (and is always much thicker in the north of the country). I’ll post more pics if it gets as strong as it did last January or March. Finally, here’s a view of the Harmattan taken from space. Wow!


(Taken from the ‘Washington University in St Louis’ site. Here’s the home page and here’s the link for the photo above).

That’s all folks!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 01-12-2007

There’s nothing quite like the night sounds of Africa.


Have a listen to this recording I took in northern Benin recently. See what you can hear – there must be almost a dozen different creatures, including a mosquito flying past near the end if you listen carefully. Enjoy!

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