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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Bonus question from  5°B Quiz

One goal I have for my classes is to encourage the kids to be more creative and engaged and I also want a way to fairly give all the students a chance to earn extra credit. Sooooo tadaaaa I give them a bonus question at the end of every quiz to draw a picture. Please enjoy my student’s art because they are amazing.

Draw a picture of what you did during your holiday


Teaching Diary: October

  • It’s hilarious how my students randomly clap for me
  • In 5eme I said today is a test review and we are going to have the actual test in 2 days… I got a standing ovation
  • We were learning vocabulary for music and I drew some stick figure drawings… I got a standing ovation
  • A kid lied about their age to me and I said, “it’s false” in french… I got a standing ovation
  • My 5eme class and I have warmed up to each other finally
  • One day in 5eme the kids kept talking when I was talking and a student gave me a very thick branch and told me I must hit them… I didn’t 
  • My kids in 6eme think I will hit them because of how I move my hands to smack their copy books off their desk if they don’t hide their copy books after I tell them to hide their copy books.
  • All my classes like me which is pretty cool and heart warming 
  • In 6eme one time a younger kid got too loud and one of the bigger kids tried to help manage by standing up and violently mushing them in the face… which was nerve racking to me
  • All the teachers (including me) drove 30 mins on motorcycle to visit the principal who still hasn’t been to school because of sickness
  • I know almost all the names of my 5eme class of 41 students
  • I almost cried when the accountant removed students during class because their school fees weren’t paid
  • One time I finished a lesson and we had 10 minutes remaining. Which was too little time to teach something but too much time to leave class without the administration raising their eyebrows at me. So I gave them the option to sing songs or ask me questions. I never had such engaged students asking me questions about English translations and if we ate pate or igname pilee in the USA
  • I gave my class 2 hours of punishment and afterwards they created a mob around me begging them to forgive me so I started shoulder dancing which distracted them long enough for me to exit the classroom during their confusion
  •  6eme gets so excited to learn and participate that everyone tries to get called on even if they don’t know the answer

Teaching Diary: Week two

  • When asking if the students are finished copying the board, if everyone say no but two students say yes there’s a high probability that a verbal battle between yes and no will happen. During that time no students will be copying the board. Any steps you make toward the center of the class or chalkboard will be met with 6eme students yelling no no no not done in french out of sheer panick and the people who said yes getting hit by the no students.
  • Co-teaching 6eme went so smoothly!
  • English department meetings go over a lot of detail… too much detail…
  • The Beninese are really into order and a set way of doing things. Which has both pros and cons. Pro: a lot of detail and labeling easy to see who did what because everything is super transparent. Con: room for creativity decreases, time consuming and time wasting in others,.
  • Don’t let Beninese people look at your notes!! Especially  if you don’t write everything verbatim and don’t have multiple titles on things.
  • I prefer 6eme over 5eme. Week 2 I already know.
  • Co-teaching 5eme was terrible and I realized that in my mind I’ll fight kids. I👏 DON’T👏 CARE👏
  • I love my 6emeA students 

Teaching Diary: First week

Alrighty so my first week went surprisingly smooth. For Preentre, which is the week before, the students come and clean the school and the teachers find out their schedule.

In the picture below I am the A2 on the schedule:

So a simplified version of the schedule with just my info:

Monday: no classes. No students came until the last 20 minutes and I made them clean. I got a lot of fake students… students who were just curious about and tried to pretend like they were my students until they  tooth jfound out I would be putting them to work.
Tuesday:  finally my first classes! The 6eme who know basically 0 English and some don’t really understand French giggled at my accent when I explained who I was and our agenda for the day. Both of my classes 5eme and 6eme were totally taken off guard when I gave them a pre-test. The sheer terror and disbelief in the room was palpable. It was amazing I felt a little guilty but it needed to be done. 1. To see how much English they knew already and who already took this class and 2. To set the tone for class to let them know that BIIA DOESN’T PLAY WITH EDUCATION.

Thursday: gave my class who didn’t  show up Monday their pre-test, class rules and important phases in English. This class is a little more ruckus-y than the last.

Friday: I think I’m too hard and expect my 5eme kids to know too much. I love teaching 6eme, it’s so fun.

Blast of Benin #8

It’s 10:30pm. After spending a couple hours earlier worrying about my house flooding after watching the water seep from under my doorway and slowly fill up my hall. I was able to just leisurely lay in bed reading one piece I got really into it but I started to get sleepy, since tomorrow  is Wednesday  (my free day) I was like hey why stress I should just go to bed. I prepare to go to sleep I see the biggest greenest meanest insect of my life and immediately I felt my life force being drained away from me. I went through all my possible options and eventually decided to walk to my host family’s house and ask for help. I made the 10 second trek through the rain to their house. 

“Ko Ko Ko!” I said to let them know someone was standing in the dark, in the rain, outside of their window.

My brother came out so see me perched on a rock, hands folded like I was praying  covering my nose and mouth. I tried to force a light and breezy smile and asked “are you busy?” 

He smiled and said yes, looking very confused because I’m known for discouraging people from walking around at night and I don’t leave my house when it’s raining.

“Well there is a big big big big big insect in my room and I will die. Can you help me?” -Me 

He goes back in the house to get his shoes and I instantly groan inside because now the whole family will know, which means the concession will know, which means everyone in village will know about tonight.

My mom comes out and asks what is it? What did I see? Her face grows a little concerned when she sees me in my praying hands covering my face stance (That I subconsciously go in apparently when I feel extreme fear or anxiety) which reflecting on makes me look quite serious and withdrawn and probably a little frightening  especially since I’m always laughing and smiling.

“I don’t know. A monster?”- Me 

10 second trek back to my house. 

“Keep your shoes on.”, I say making sure my best line of defense is fully prepared for battle.

I scurry to my hallway so I can just barely see the monster posted on my bedroom wall and I whisper, “There!”

AND EMMANUEL GRABS IT WITH HIS BARE HANDS AND SAYS SEE YOU TOMORROW AND WALKS OUT MY HOUSE LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED!!!

I can’t deal man… 

Blast of Benin #6

I ate fresh peanuts for the first time. I didn’t realize that I’ve never had fresh peanuts before coming to Benin. They’re always dry roasted and lightly salted. I definitely prefer fresh peanuts over the other ones. The roasted ones are always too dry for me and I can’t eat more than like 5. When I first tried it I didn’t know it would be covered in white skin lol

 “ummm do I just peel this white stuff off or do I eat it… Oh why is it damp?”

“You’ve never eaten Peanuts before?!”

A Biia journey doing Biia things in a Biia world