Archive for the ‘Family and Friends’ Category

Filed Under (Family and Friends, Malian culture) by Rob on 08-01-2010

If you buy a turkey in Africa, beware – you may get more than you bargained for…

Picture it if you will: It’s Christmas morning and Lois takes our supermarket-bought turkey out of the fridge and removes the plastic wrapping to reveal THIS:

Eeek! I know we ordered a ‘whole turkey’, but this is not quite what we wanted to gobble up! Needless to say, Lois vacated the kitchen with some haste and called for reinforcements (ie her husband) who was less frightened by this sight:

After 20 minutes of twisting, dislocating and chopping, Rob managed to make it look like a British supermarket turkey, rather than a meal fit for ‘Santa Claws’. There was actually a reasonable amount of meat on it (though not considering we paid for 2.5kilos of ‘turkey’).

Of course, in Africa folk eat the whole shabang and even crunch the bones with their teeth to suck out the marrow. In fact, when our cook returned after Christmas, he saw the discarded limbs & head in the outside bin and complained “Why didn’t you save them for me?”

Maybe next year…

Filed Under (Family and Friends, Malian culture) by Rob on 07-01-2010

My good friend Clive Rahn visited for Christmas and had a whale of a time!

Here are some of the highlights of his visit (chosen entirely by me!)

(From top left to bottom right in the most logical way:)

1. A New Year’s Day boat trip on the Niger River.
2. Visiting the village of Koura, where Rob was working.
3. Ascending the “Tour d’Afrique” by the stairs (phew!)
4. Yummy gluten-free meringues the the house of friends.
5. The market gardens on the banks of the Niger.
6. Getting close to the locals on a Sotrama.
7. A trip on a Malian train – not bad at all!
8. Driving the Mitsubishi on rough dirt roads to give Rob a break.
9. A visit to the amazing Dogon Country.

Wow – all that and more in just three weeks! Such fun! Clive is a seasoned globe-trotter and also came to Benin for Christmas 3 years ago (proof here) although we know him from England (see here).

Hope you’re enjoying the cooler British weather again now, mate!!

Filed Under (Family and Friends, General) by Rob on 23-12-2008

Every year since 1997, we’ve sent out a Christmas circular, summarizing our year’s events and achievements…

Some of you will have had this year’s through the post recently, but for those who have not (or who’d like to see a colour version you can scroll through) here’s the Bakers’ annual round-up of news from 2008:

The Bakers’ Christmas Letter 2008 in PDF format.


Happy Christmas to you all!

Rob & Lois

Filed Under (Family and Friends, General) by Rob on 14-12-2008


The first was taken at ‘Magicland‘ in Cotonou a few months ago, the second in the Milton Keynes shopping centre, England, just last week. Not that much difference really (especially not in Madelaine’s classic “laid back” approach to merry-go-round riding!)

The main difference is the weather and the amount of electricity being consumed by extra light bulbs in the latter example. Of course, no extra illumination needed when you have bright sunshine every day (boy, do I miss that!)

More on Milton Keynes soon…

Filed Under (Family and Friends) by Rob on 06-09-2008

Have a look at these two photos and spot the differences:

2008, Bedfordshire, UK
2007, Cotonou, Benin

Quite a few to be seen, I should say (not least of all that Micah does not have bare feet in the first!) Yes, this week our three kids started school in the UK; for Micah it was the first time ever that he’d attended school in this country and the experience was just a tad overwhelming to start with. The girls are at middle school, which is new for them, but there are some children they remember from 4 years ago.

The main differences for them at school here will be:

* Larger classes
* A wider range of teachers
* French lessons will be a doddle
* No outdoor swimming
* Having to wear a tie
* The subjects PSHE, RS and DT, none of which they did in Cotonou.

I was trawling through old photos, and here’s their first ever day at school in Benin (2004):


Don’t they look cute?! And here’s start of school 2005,
just after Ruth’s ceiling fan accident:


If you’ve just started a new school or are about to go to university, I wish you the very best – may you settle in quickly and begin enjoying the new adventure!

Other News…

* Rob’s on an ethnomusicology course with SIL, studying Analysis of non-Western music, a very useful skill to have on the field.
* Lois is planning some French study in the coming months, hopefully in France.
* The kids are looking forward to a trip to Woburn Safari Park today (Sat) to celebrate Grandma Pauline’s birthday.
* Rob heads back to Togo in October to teach a two-week ethnomusicology course.

Thanks for reading!

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 (Family and Friends, General) by Rob on 16-10-2006

Last Thursday, Mads and Ruth went horse-riding!

Yes, I know when you think of Benin, it’s not the first sport likely to come to mind, but there are a couple of places in Cotonou and this one – run by a German lady – is reasonably-priced and well done. Here’s Mads getting familiar with the horse:


And here’s Ruthie being rather daring on horseback!


As our Land Rover was in the garage being repaired, we had to catch a zemidjan there and back. Here are a couple of shots taken on the ride back home:

zem-ride-home.jpg   zem-ride-rob-mads.jpg

(recognise anyone in the mirror???)

Bye for now!

Filed Under (Family and Friends, General) by Reggie on 26-03-2006

Here are some of the photos of Rob’s brief visit to London, taken by Reggie.

The bright red British Phone Booth!

Rob and Ed outside Ed’s Diner, Rupert Street

Ordering the Guinness at Waxy O’Conners

Viewing the photos at Waxy O’Conners

Reggie, Clive, Ed, Will and Rob, seen through the mirror

Rob – the Preacher with a lot of Bottle!

Rob on the Gatwick Express, Victoria Station

That’s all for now folks!

Filed Under (Family and Friends, General) by Rob on 26-02-2006

As many of you will remember, Ruth was Rob’s 28th birthday present, so they have shared their birthday since then.

We had a lovely day, opening presents, then Ruth’s party from 11:00-1:00. In the afternoon, we watched ‘Bednobs and Broomsticks’ on DVD (a present from Grandma and Grandpa B) and going for a meal at the ‘Festival des Glaces’ – one of our favourite places. Here’s Rob with his cake (actually taken a week ago after the curry):


and here’s Ruth with hers:

Picture 28.jpg

As you can see, Ruth was 7 yesterday, so it doesn’t take too much maths to work out Rob’s age (he says he’s exactly half way through his 3 score years and 10 now, but hopes to live longer than that!!!)

Bye for now!

Filed Under (Family and Friends, General) by Rob on 24-02-2006


Rob’s mate, Mike Webb, came for a flying visit last week, arriving at around 11:00pm on Sunday, 12th Feb and leaving around midnight on Saturday 18th.

It was a crazy week by all accounts, but great fun too! Here’s a brief lowdown of the highlights:

Sunday 12th Feb

Mike’s plane arrives one hour early. Rob calls airport at 11:20pm to check that the 11:55 flight is on time. He is told ‘It arrived at 10:55’!!! Quick dash in Land Rover to the airport (fortunately just down the road) to pick up Mike. Here he is in the Land Rover at the airport:

Mike Webb arrives.jpg

After a quick, spontaneaous visit to the ‘Festival des Glaces’ for an icecream, we arrive home at around 11:45pm. Chat until around 2:30am (must be getting old…at uni it was at least 4:00!!!)

Monday 13th Feb

Mike has a bit of a lie-in, followed by a tour of the school and coffee break from 10:00-10:30 then off to SIL to meet the folk. Head along the ‘Route des Pecheurs’ (west of Cotonou) all the way to Ouidah. Here he is at the monument to the first missionaries to Benin (taken by one of the most recent!!)

Mike at Ouidah 5.jpg

From Ouidah, it was only a few minutes to Casa del Papa, a lovely holiday resort by the sea. Had a fab lunch there with Mike. Having left a chilly February in England only a few hours previously, Mike was in his element and would have stayed lounging on the beach for hours! Here he is ‘chilling out’:

Mike on beach 1.jpgFrom Casa del Papa, it was west and then north to the town of Azove. Unfortunately, the air conditioning on the Disco had broken down a couple of days before, so it was ‘windows down, folks’ for a hot and sticky journey, with all the sights, sounds and smells in full force!! In Azove, we visited a couple of SIL families who work there. Great fun, good company and food too. Stayed the night with our friends the Hams before leaving at the crack of dawn on Tuesday…

Tuesday 14th February

Get up at 5:00am. Have a shower, wake Mike at around 5:10am. Load the Land Rover at around 5:15am. Unfortunately, the latch on the tailgate is playing up and the door will not shut. The guard gives us a hand and we get going by 5:25am. Just leaving Azove (still in dark) when we meet a road block. From his Kenyan experiences, Mike thinks it may not be wise to proceed. In the end, we ask a guy who says it’s just an agricultural check point and we drive straight through.

8:00am Back in Cotonou and teaching first lesson of the day – Year 7/8 French (my class, great bunch of kids), followed by a full day’s teaching. At 3:00pm, Mike goes to football club with the kids (he just loves sport – why was I never like that???)

4:00pm Off to the German Beer Garden over the bridge for a meal by the beach. Mike loves the mango juice and drinks about 3 pints of the stuff (when in Rome, eh??) Here are the kids just outside the beer garden (taken by Mike):


Wednesday, 15th February

Drop the car off at Barouche et Freres down the road, to get the a/c repaired, then off to the men’s prayer breakfast at 8:00am. Teaching from 9:00-2:45 then off to the Sheraton for a couple of hours beside the pool, then back home for tea, chats, film and bed.

Thursday, 16th Feb

Up reasonably early. Quick pastry from the local patisserie then we hop on a 3 wheeler ‘auto rickshaw’ for a tour of the great metropolis of Cotonou. Real fun travelling in one of those (sorry, no photo yet – will try and add one later). Drop Mike at the ‘Hotel du Lac’ and go back to teach in the afternoon.

The car is still not ready at 4:00pm, but the guy says to come back at 5:30, when it is! Off the the hotel to pick up Mike, who by now looks like a lobster as he fell asleep in the sun. OH MICHAEL!!!

Back home for 6:00-ish, when our mate Josh Ham drops in. Order manakeich & chips from the Terranga (just round the corner) then off at 7:20 to the ADC church at the Etoile Rouge for a recording session with the choir there (and some excellent percussionists). Here I am with the choir (looking a tad dishevelled by now, I think!):


From there to the ‘Festival des Glaces’ for more icecream, then home.

IMG_0368.jpg Friday, 17th February

…and Mike teaches the kids how to play cricket. Many of them had never played before, so it was a new experience, and all in just about one hour! Crazy. In the afternoon, it’s music time and Mike accompanies for a rehearsal of HMS Pinafore by G & S, then home. Phew! We’re not finished yet. 5:00pm – visit to Eddy the best mechanic in Cotonou (in my humble and completely non-mechanical opinion!) Good chat, then off the the Teranga for the end of half term pizzas with the seniors. Then straight on to meet my mate Gabe, who’s son was at the school last year. He always has good stock of cold beverages and this time was no exception. He and Mike got on really well. Home and bed.

Saturday, 18th February

Mike’s last day in Benin. He leaves THIS EVENING!!! Up at 7:30 to catch a train. Why? Because it’s there!

IMG_0421.jpg Here’s Mike arriving at the railway station on a ‘zemidjan’ (the conventional form of transport around here). We catch the train to Allada, just 3 or 4 stops along the way. It takes about 90 mins, but there is only 2nd class now, so we squeeze in and sweat a lot! Chat to 2 great beninese folks on the way, including an old chap called Louie, who tells us he’d like to have 3 wives!!! Taxi back from Allada, to arrive in Cotonou for midday-ish.

In the afternoon, it’s off to the ‘Petit Four’ for a light snack and to pick up my birthday cake. Back home briefly, then back into town for the BIRTHDAY CURRY. There were 20 of us altogether, and the food was excellent (in fact, we still have leftovers in our freezer!) Here are the crowd who came (not too late for the UK side of the birthday curry, which is in a few days’ time…)


Back home for cake, then off to the airport with Mike. His flight leaves around 00:55 hours. Phew! And I have to get up to preach tomorrow morning!!!

That’s all on the Webb visit. Thanks for coming, mate – it was brill to see you again and we crammed so much into 6 days!!!