Peace Corps Benin: Tips, Quotes, Revelations, and Questions

Tips

1. Drink water… all the water always… you can never have enough water because you sweat so much that your body is no longer 70% water. It’s more like 40% water

2. Bring snacks… Hella snacks. Snacks have the power to make make everything better, to comfort you when you need something from home and can easily forge new friendships without a lot of effort.

3. Don’t trust your intestines… sometimes you will have extreme intestinal pain and rush to the bathroom and only fart. Other times you will feel gassy and have to fart but it’s not a fart…

4. Don’t worry about the future too much… a lot of the other Peace Corps volunteers seem to be stressing too much. Just go with the flow if you get all the answers, plans, and future details and work right now you would explode literally it would be an extreme sensory overload you will have too much information and spiral out of control.

5. Stay away from the Haters… no really there will always be a group of people who like to complain and be negative. They will make the energy around you icky and make everything a drag. So either distance yourself or shut down their negativity. 

6. Buy all the tissu… You can never have too much tissu and also integration is also goal number one right now and finally when will you ever be able to get custom-made clothes at this price!!!

7. Tin roof living is kinda Scary… you hear everything! All the birds moving and landing on it, the lizards chasing each other, rain pretending that it’s a hurricane… and no one thinks to warn you about this when you are sleeping in your brand new house, on the very first night in a new city (AND COUNTRY) by yourself. My first night was petrifying…. I’m kinda use to it now tho sometimes I wake up and jump out of bed thinking that it’s raining in my house, an animal is trying to burrow through my ceiling or someone broke in…

8. Ignore the pleas for help…  at night or really whenever you may here someone yelling Help! Help! Heeellppp! Have no fear it’s just a goat yelling for fun. You can also remind yourself that people who speak French have a hard time saying their Hs so no worries.

Quotes:

1. Don’t worry everything will become normal for you… taking your malaria pills everyday… checking your tissu for scorpions 

– said during our first orientation in Benin

2. I love a lot of things but I love myself the most

my response to when I was asked basically if I loved to eat Ice Cream the most in the world why wouldn’t I choose death over never having ice cream again.

3. A happy Veronica is a happy Peace Corps experience

after hearing Veronica’s passionate speech about fritos and why they make her happy and how if she is happy everyone else will be happy

4. I agree not to… create, download, view, store, copy, or transmit sexually explicit or sexually oriented  materials for non-business purposes 

– computer use contact we all had to sign

5. Biia that’s a POC issue so they wouldn’t get that

– said to me by another POC after all the non-POC disagreed with me on the importance of learning how to apply to college and scholarships while in High school

6. Oh! No thank you! 

Me handing back the paper my instructor gave me to work on. They were very confused and so surprised by my response that actually took it back for a sec🤗

7. My diary makes me look crazy. I thought about getting help but I also wanted to join the PC…

– joking about how serious PC takes health

8. You are not here to change the world… you are here to participate… to improve your communities…

– during technical training

9. We have time. You have a watch

– Noel explaining African Time to us.

Revelations: 
1. I’m a bag lady in the USA and I’m still a bag lady in Benin. I didn’t realize that I was carrying on my bag lady ways until I realized that I seemed to have way more stuff than everyone else and during bike training I realized I didn’t have any of my tools for fixing my bike because I took everything out to fit my bags 😣😣

2. It’s funny how much African Time isn’t a joke.  Outside of work there is no “time”. There is no “schedule”. All I know is that later, tonight,  tomorrow,  next week, 18:30, and after class/ eating means not today.  Also it’s always time to greet someone one. It’s never too late for the family to have visitors. Luckily I haven’t had any real issues with this but it still it can be frustrating. 

3. I’m so happy that I have my background and upbringing. And I get more and more amazed by it everyday.

4. I’m in Africa… that’s crazy… it took over a month for it to sink… I’m also here for two years that’s lowkey a long time omg lol

5. My ethnicity is fluid here. Apparently I rotate between Black, African and White. I’m African when I’m dressed cute, say an idiom, common expression or joke really well. I’m white to little kids and also when it comes to American attitude/ideal questions basically any question about life in the  US. I’m black when I do something surprisingly good that they don’t think white people/Americans would be able to do good. Example: dance, eat all my food, get along with everyone easily, point out similarities about my life here and in the USA, get super inquisitive about something

FAQ In My Head: 

1. Why is it so hot?

2. How come when I’m not hot I’m still sweating?

3. Why does everyone think after being at site for 3 days I can suddenly speak Bariba (local language) fluently? I’ve only had one language class…

4. Why isn’t grubhub here?

5. If someone actually broke into my house could I successfully immoblize them?

6. How come I have to be super careful all the time with the way I act otherwise it will be considered an invitation for men to make advances at me?

7. It’s soooo beautiful here. How is it possible that there is so much sky?

8. What do you mean my download expired? What type of games are you playing Netflix?

9. What are you saying? 

10. What language am I speaking right now?

11. Oh God I forgot to say hello to that stranger… should I go back to say hi? What will they tell the rest of the community about me?

12. Why am I the only Black person in my stage (volunteer group)?

13. Why are the others complaining all the time?

14. Why do people keep getting upset when kids call them yovo?

15. Why are these bugs outside at the same time that I’m outside?

16. Why won’t my outlet charge my phone but will turn on my fan?

17. Are most stars a part of binary systems?

18. How much does a zemi cost to get from x to you?

19. Why does the Parakou work center library section smell like old people attic?

20. Do I even know how to cook? 

21. Why is it so hot?

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Blast of Benin #2

So I let the kids in my concession play with my tennis ball in my living room but things were getting kinda wild and overwhelming. I wanted to send them outside to play but return the ball afterwards. They weren’t listening so I locked them out the house without the ball. So they go to my window screaming “MAMA!! GIVE US THE BALL!!” Just faces and arms reaching through my window smh I eventually gave them the ball after making them repeat back the ball instructions (don’t throw the ball in Sister Biia’s house. Play outside with the ball. When done playing with the ball give it back.)

I can’t wait to get my screens on my window

Peace Corps Volunteer

August 31st 2017.


Peace Corps Volunteer Oath

“I, Si-Asar Uri-Biia, do solemnly swear, that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

So help me god.”


Peace Corps Volunteer Pledge

“I, Si-Asar Uri-Biia, promise to serve alongside the people of Benin.

I promise to share my culture with an open mind and open heart.

I promise to foster an understanding of the people of Benin, with creativity, cultural sensitivity, and respect.

I will face the challenges of service with patience, humility, and determination.

I will embrace the mission of world peace and friendship for as long as I serve and beyond.

In the proud tradition of Peace Corps legacy, and in the spirit of the Peace Corps family, past, present, past-

I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.”

Picture of me after swearing in:

Picture of the POC volunteers from stage 30A minus one:

Waiting for the ceremony to begin:

Picture of me with the training staff right before leaving for site:

Picture of all the TEFL training staff minus one:

Picture of all the volunteers plus some of the training staff:

Ouidah

During Pre-Service Training, we got to take a trip to Ouidah and it was so great. We got to see 5 things: the sacred forest, python temple, the French fort, the slave route, and finally the door of no return.

Sacred Forest

Super nice. There’s lotsa statues here and there is this tree which is like 300 years old and one day without warning like all the branches and fruit fell off and never grew back. There’s also a tree that fell down and then righted itself back up also. We could not go all the through the forest because it is sacred and they still use some parts of it for initiation.

Python Temple

Exactly what it sounds like…

French Fort

One of the French forts where they use to hold enslaved Africans before they started their long march done the slave route to the door of no return. It is now a museum about some of the history of the fort and slavery. Also the area where they use to hold the enslaved Africans has been changed to a place where one can buy and sell art (locally made art from what I could tell.) We couldn’t take pictures of inside the museum which sucked. BUT one of my favorite exhibits was when they showed the connection between Benin and Brasil through side by side pictures of life and both places. I could barely guess which picture was from where. It was beautiful. It was amazing. It made me appreciate going to Brazil when. I was 7 years old even more. It also made me laugh a bit about how the ancestors guided me to Brasil and are now guiding me through Benin.

Slave Route

We didn’t drive the whole route but it was pretty intense. There was a couple of memorials which I was happy to see along the route. It was intense imagining my ancestors walking and walking and walking to the door off no return. There was a couple of stop points where there was a tree where they had to walk around it backwards a couple to erase their connection to their villages and country and to severe their connection to their history, heritage and culture. It didn’t work.🙃

Door of No Return  (Port de Non Retour)

The beach where enslaved Africans had their final moments in Africa before being forced to leave and never return again.

Surprise Essay (not by me)

So this is a sample essay that was used on this super big test that the kids have to pass. This essay definitely caught me off guard.  But it also made me happy to see this was the essay choice/content. Growing up in the US, I was lucky to have a community and family where I had some exposure to the history and culture of my people.  A lot of African Americans (not even going to take the rest of United States into consideration) never learn about history and culture in Africa and they never learn about their history before slavery. So seeing this essay was so surprising and so refreshing to see that students  have this on their national exam. Also I guess I secretly wondered how deep the tentacles of colonization was in Benin… like would the history between Africans and Europeans be idealized… would they automatically adopt European laws… would they be trapped and forced to agree to things that would hurt the country in the long run because they needed some type of Aid and the Aid came with strings attached…like would they be able to teach using that language  (lol obviously yes). I’ve heard/read a lot of things that has talked about how some countries are stunted in growth because of things they had to agree to inorder to receive international aid so I was kinda curious. After typing out those thoughts I realize I could literally just ask about it instead of trying to be an undercover detective. There’s a few French teachers here who I feel super comfortable with so yeah… anyway here’s the essay 

But I do believe being an undercover detective would be fun…

A Biia journey doing Biia things in a Biia world