Happy holidays! I am writing this in Parakou, the first stop on my trip down to Cotonou to pick up Casey and Matt (my sister and brother in law). I am so excited to see them and show them around my African home. We have a circuit of Benin planned, with visits to my village, Pehunco, Parakou, Natitingou, and finally Parc Pendjari to see elephants and lions. I can't wait to introduce them to Beninese food, tissu clothes, crazy taxis, Bariba, and my Beninese friends. For them and for me, I know this will be a Christmas to remember.
I have been keeping busy and enjoying the cool season (harmattan). It is now COLD (well ok, maybe in the high 60s?) at night, and comfortable during the day. A few weeks ago my postmate Dave and I did a trial run of the route we will use for our bike tour at the end of January. We checked out the route, stopped in all of the villages we'll stop in, and found places to stay and people who will cook for us. During the four day tour, a group of volunteers will bike from village to village giving sensibilisations (training sessions) at each stop on proper nutrition and Moringa, a drought tolerant tree with nutrient rich leaves that can be used in sauces. We're really excited about it and had a ton of volunteers sign up, so many that we had to turn a few people down. Outside of that, I have been getting an English club started, applying for Peace Corps funding for a shower-water drainage project, and watching Lost (having electricity has made TV shows and movies a bigger part of my life).
I am primarily writing this because I have a few BIG thank yous to send out. I recently got some early Christmas packages (even if they were sent in August and just got here, I’m counting them as Christmas presents) and was thrilled! Unfortunately my lack of self-control led me to open them before Christmas day, but I think it’s fair to be a little lax on that rule while I’m in Benin. Thank you so much, merci beaucoup, and na siara to my Aunt Kathy in Kentucky, my friends Mary and Charlie in Florida, and the HPAG/NCEA team in North Carolina! Also to all of my friends and family for the letters and emails that I love reading. It was so exciting to get a text saying ‘you have a package in Parakou’ and then coming into three! Your packages and letters are more than appreciated and I am so grateful for the support you have all continued to give me. Peace Corps has been and continues to be a crazy adventure and one that I can confidently say I could not survive without all of you. It's amazing how much a letter or a soup mix can do to fix a bad day. I know it's difficult, not to mention expensive, to send packages all the way out here, and I wanted to make sure you know how much it means to me that you do. I am now chock full of American goodies and couldn't be happier. Thank you!! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas full of hot chocolate, cookies, family, and friends.
|With Peuhl girls at a whipping fete near Gnemasson|