Slices of Life

Here are some random notes that, on their own, I can’t make into a full blog post, but together form a nice little list.

  1. If a Beninese person ever tells you it’s going to rain, listen to them. 9 times out of 10, they will be right—even in seasons where rain is not supposed to fall, like right now. I was told by 3 people yesterday that it would rain sometime during the night. Even though we’re getting into chaleur and it’s not supposed to rain until May, I immediately set out my buckets. By 9pm the wind was blowing, thunder and lightning were crashing, and this morning I had full buckets of water. Granted, they were full of dust because of Harmattan and thus unusable, but that’s beside the point.
  2. My last Harmattan is now over and my last chaleur has started. The seasons here kind of sneak up on you; little by little you notice how much less dusty your house has become and how much more you sweat at night. This would make for a miserable time, but thank god I have electricity and a fan.
  3. The only good thing about chaleur is the mangoes are ripe and ready to eat. A ripe mango is one of the most delicious things in this entire world. Unfortunately, as of right now in the Donga, the mangoes haven’t completely ripened. This is very sad.
  4. However, other fruits are out in full force. Oranges have returned, and in the south, pineapples have come back and are getting imported to the north! Did you know pineapples don’t grow on trees? I had no idea until John and I went to Togo last April and visited a coffee/pineapple plantation. When our guides saw some pineapples and pointed them out to us, we immediately looked up for the tree and the rest of the crop. The guides couldn’t figure out why we were looking up; I explained we were looking for the pineapple tree. After they finished laughing, they explained pineapples grew out of bushes, and then pointed out several examples on the ground within a 5-foot radius. John and I felt pretty dumb, but in our defense, neither of us grew up in pineapple-growing country.
  5. On my walks with Pete, I have seen this reddish fruit hanging from trees; it has a very distinct smell, kind of like a really ripe melon/strawberry combination. I learned from Henry that cashew trees, which produce the nut we all love, also produce a fruit as well—the cashew apple. They’re safe to eat right from the tree, though you probably want to wipe them off first because they have a waxy surface, and they are quite tasty. They are also the only fruit I can say with complete honesty that tastes exactly as it smells. If you look at a cashew tree, the nut hangs off the bottom of the fruit; I’m not sure what the ratio from ripe fruit to ripe nut is, but it’s very interesting to see.
  6. Pete’s best canine friend was named Patience who lived behind us with a pastor and his family. Every morning, Pete would run outside, find Patience (or vice versa), and the two of them would get into all sorts of doggie adventures. Around mid-morning, Pete would return to the house for his nap and snooze until 5:30pm, when he and I would take our evening run, usually joined by Patience. The two of them would race after birds, chase each other, get tired out, and have a wonderful time. Then three days ago, the pastor sold Patience to some men from the Atacora region (the northwest of Benin). The Atacora is known for eating dogs. Good-bye Patience!
  7. Patience was a decently sized young dog; Pete is one of the biggest dogs in my village and probably the entire country of Benin. Fortunately, the Donga isn’t a dog-consuming region, but I was still slightly worried when I first got Pete that he would get dog-napped and eaten. So I put a collar on him to make him stand out, and made a point of taking him everywhere with me, even to school, so he would become more well-known. This has worked out a little too well. Pretty much everyone in the village knows Pete by name; they will call out to me, “Oyvo, ca va? Où est Pete?” (“White person, how are you? Where’s Pete?”) In fact, it’s gotten a bit ridiculous; the toddler who lives next door has a vocabulary of maybe 5 words, including Mama, Papa, and Pete.

One thought on “Slices of Life

  1. Hi Mary, my name is Nikki and I’m a PCV in Ecuador. I read about the national spelling bee you guys are doing (serena cheung was featured on the PC website) and I was wondering if you could put me in touch with the people who organized it? I would also like to start a spelling bee here in Ecuador. Any help is appreciated. Thank you! Looks like you’re enjoying your service and doing great things. Take care. Nikki (

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