I actually had two goodbye parties before I left Benin. If it’s one thing the Beninese love, its a good party – don’t ever try and dissuade them from throwing one. The previous party I wrote about was a personal party hosted by Brownie where I invited whoever I wanted.
It was more of a concert than a party – but I loved it! All the kids were singing and dancing *for* me. My favorite part was when they sang (in Fon) “Cathy cathy what are we going to do without you when you’re gone!?” Aww. Too touching. But I think I’m going to have a replacement soon!
Ah yes, to hold up the microphone since there isn’t a microphone podium. Small details of how the Beninese get around limited resources is perhaps what I miss most, because there is always a solution other than “go and buy one.”
They didn’t really didn’t have to, and they really shouldn’t have because I had luggage space issues, but of course I accepted them with a happy heart and grateful smile. Gift giving at a party is a big show here, where everybody stands up and brings the gift to the person, one after another, in a long line. I’ve noticed this in all the parties I’ve been to. The gifts aren’t opened at the party, but they must be presented from the giver to the recipient during the party. Very unlike American parties where you discreetly put them on a table in the corner with a card and that’s the end. No cards here – looks like there is still a market untouched by Hallmark! But first I think literacy rates need to rise…
I’ll be honest. I had to leave a lot of the presents behind, whether it was at Cotonou or the airport… I travel light and just did not have space. At all. Packing a year’s worth of my life and packing for a month long trip in a cold climate was not easy. Plus my own presents for people in the USA. Space became very valuable, very quickly. So I made an effort to keep anything that was made specifically for me. If it was purchased… sorry… I re-gifted it… Not by choice, but by necessity. So let’s take a peek at what survived! Here is a handmade appliqué wall hanging Brownie had made for me. I’m not sure if I mentioned it before but Benin is famous for it’s traditional appliqué cloth.
Wilfird, CIAMO’s manager, carved a calabash purse for me. I won’t use it as a purse but it’s lovely on my bookshelf. Unfortunately my travels were a bit too rough and it now has a crack on the bottom, but that’s okay since I’m using it as decoration.
The statue in the photo, while I liked it, I left it behind because it was huge!! Also very common and easy to buy since it’s the symbol of Benin – everybody working together to hold up a pot with holes. I also unfortunately left behind my favorite present from Sim, the music teacher… look at my feet and you’ll understand.
They are the most amazing but confusing sandals ever. First off we need to applaud Sim because he made these from a plain flip flop! Ok, let’s talk detail. There’s some sort of warm faux fur plush at the base with pom poms at the toe and on the sides plus gladiator lace up ribbons.
I was a bit confused because the fur makes the sandals very warm, so they’re too hot to wear in hot weather. But then they’re completely open everywhere else so it’s too cold to wear in cold weather. So you say, house shoes, right? But they’re complicated to lace up and take some effort, and at home I just want to slip in and out of shoes… ?? ?? ?? Ideas, anybody?
I left them behind because I knew once back in Texas they’d never leave the closet, and I couldn’t do such a cruel thing to shoes as awesome as these, could I? (Also, space space space.) Better to let them thrive in W. Africa! I wonder what lucky PC Volunteer is wearing them now?