Thursday, 23 May 2013

a different sort of vacation

Well, here we are in Benin, West Africa. A very different place than Rome! We're here for 3 weeks, and then we make our way home.

I've been thinking today about acclimatization. Partly because of the heat/humidity here, and partly because I'm curious how long it takes to feel comfortable in a new place. Rome was easy and felt familiar, not just because it's a Western country, but because we had spent time in France and Italy 3 years ago, and it was fun to see a new part of the country and remember all of the things we loved about it (gelato, pasta, pesto, food in general, the kindness of Italians toward children, gelato, cobblestone streets, gelato). Eden also mentioned that in Rome there are many cute boys. :)

In our family, I am definitely the packer/planner/detail person on the getting ready end. But Derek is the master of figuring out a place when we get there. Maps, public transportation, grocery shopping - he thrives on figuring out all of these things. And I like someone to take me by the hand for a bit until I get my bearings. Which I still don't have, but I guess it's only been one day.

Benin is another world. I'm searching my past experiences: India, Indonesia, Morocco - but none of them are Benin. I'm pleasantly surprised by the traffic here - it's much more controlled than, say, India.

Today we went to visit 2 primary schools in villages near Cotonou, the main city in Benin where we're staying. At the first school, the children were outside for recess and our arrival caused quite a stir. White people are not often seen in these parts, and the children started chanting "yo-vo, yo-vo, yo-vo" which means "white person, white person, white person." Apparently it's not a negative term, just one that identifies us as "other." Just imagine hundreds of little children chanting this and surrounding you and poking you, and you'll know how Zoe and Eden felt. They said afterwards that they felt like movie stars.

our welcoming committee at recess time
We were then taken to each class in the school where the students stood up and introduced their class and responded to some standard greetings (hello, how are you) with responses as a group. The parts of the day I like most are engaging with people that we meet. I talked with the teachers at the first school about educational approaches and the differences between their school and schools in Canada.

It was a good, full morning. We spent the afternoon resting from the heat and from full minds - full of new sights, smells, sounds, friends. Here are some pictures from the day.

families on motorcycles
teachers at the primary school
students who are Zoe's age
students who are Eden's age
drinking coconut water on the way back


  1. These are fabulous pictures! Can't wait to see and read more.

  2. I've been thinking of you a lot, wondering what you are doing at different points in the day.
    I enjoyed reading about your first day in Benin. I chuckled when you said the traffic wasn't as bad as you thought it might be, especially compared to India.

    Eden & Zoe, when you visited the schools, what were some of the things that were the same or different from your school?

    I hope the air conditioning is working in your room(s)!

    Would you believe there were some snowflakes coming down a bit ago? We should exchange some of our cool temp. for your hot ones. :-)

    Blessings, Sue S.

  3. I was wondering how you were making out... I cannot believe that you are in this very different place right now! What a learning experience for you and your kids. I am still in awe of technology too and how fast you can send written messages and photos with the click of a button! I love the photos. My favourites are the baby on the back of a motorcycle, the classroom photos and Zoe drinking her coconut milk in the back of the car!

    I would love to see photos of where you are staying, the kitchen, rooms etc.

    Zoe & Eden - I also want to know what is similar and different about the schools, food, weather, plants.

    Looking forward to hearing more and seeing more photos soon!

    Thinking of you as you settle into your new surroundings and get your bearings. Breath deep and give thanks!


  4. Thanks for the post! Love being able to follow you guys from afar!

  5. Hi Eden, Zoe, Derek and Rebecca!
    Wow...what a fascinating new world you are visiting!
    Love the pictures and captions. How was the coconut water Zoe? Eden, loved your "bath" picture! I'm curious about what your favourite foods might be?
    Great to see you in the school classrooms with new friends!
    Thinking about you, wishing you joy, fun, good health and Blessings from God!
    Love, Grandma and Grandpa