I’ll be going to France on May 8, and after a week in Paris I’ll go to Benin until June 5.
Benin. It’s a small country in West Africa. It’s mostly known in history for its sad part in the slave trade as a major departure port. I’ll be spending some time in Cotonou, as well as the capital of Porto-Novo
I’m going through Northeastern University and the Dialogue of Civilizations program. Instead of taking summer classes, I’m doing this. I’ll get the normal summer credit for it (8 credits/two classes) and will be graded and such. It’s like what I did in Egypt, except entirely different. 🙂
French is the official language of Benin, so I’ll be taking some lessons while in Paris and practicing my rather dormant French skills while there. Many people also speak Fon, of which I know nothing, and Yoruba, a language that found its way to Cuba (and modern Cubañol) via the slave trade. The country is considered very safe, but is severely lacking when it comes to infrastructure.
For our safety/for the sake of NU’s lawyers, we aren’t allowed to ride on motorbikes and will only be eating from a select few restaurants. I have malaria pills and got my yellow fever vaccine, whose injection site still kinda hurts. Blast, yellow fever, you’ve done it again! I’m waiting with bated breath for my visa to come back (this seems to be a theme with me…) and already scoping out luggage and drawing up packing lists. Here we go again!
While in Benin, we’ll be meeting up with local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to learn more about the country, such as development, culture and politics. We will each be working with a local NGO for a few weeks, ranging from health care to orphanages to micro-enterprise(!) and lending a hand any way we can. More on this later, since it’s most of the reason I chose this program.
I’ll be living in the Songhai Center in Cotonou. There are several of these throughout the country, and they are used for training Beninese people about agriculture and such. It’s also thoroughly Green with a capital G, with each part of the center helping to fuel another. Which brings up another point: I’ll be taking chilly rain barrel showers for most of the summer. Basically, I’m going to refer you to the video contained in the link below, courtesy of BoingBoingTV, because it does a far better job of explaining than me.