Saturday night I was dreaming about the crisp AC I was going to enjoy on Sunday night. Around 2am Neal thought maybe we should go find a hotel with AC, or at least sleep in the car with the AC running. We made it through the sweaty night and couldn’t wait to get up and get to church. At least there I expect to sweat! We enjoyed a good Easter service. We learned that Trae, who was staying with his friend Rufus, slept with an AC!! Ummm, I guess I should be happy for him…
After a quick meal in a restaurant, (which there are tons of in Cotonou), we were ‘off to the beach’! It’s only about a 55 mile trip, but takes close to 2 hours because of the traffic. No worries. We were headed to the beach for 2 1/2 days of, well, beach! And crispy AC. We easily located our destination, and finally got to see Trae’s French in action. He can really get us by. We were in 2 separate huts but we were within shouting distance of each other. The 1st thing I did when going into the room was to turn on the AC. Then I located my bathing suit. Then I noticed that the AC didn’t seem particularly crispy. I mentioned this to my optimist husband who simply said, “Put your hand up there. It’s cold!” Right you are. It’s downright nippy! The kids showed up beach clad and Trae informed us that their AC was not working. Back to the check-in/bar/restaurant place we went. “We’ll get right on it”, we’re told.” We were quite thirsty and had no water. Tap water isn’t an option. We order some cokes. They were $2.50 a bottle! In the small village town where we were located, they were 40 cents/bottle! Now I’m really annoyed. Note to self. Buy a case of bottled water in town. Alrighty then. Trae meets us on his way back from the beach to inform us that we can’t swim here. Excuse me? This is why we have just driven 1100 miles! Where’s that boogy board? Off to the beach we go to investigate. There is a ‘life-guard’ there who tells us that the red flag is up and it’s too rough to swim. What he didn’t know was how determined we were to enjoy some ocean with our beach! It was very steep, and the waves crashed into an almost immediate drop-off, but we had a blast. I think we gave our life-guard a near heart attack though. Especially when Tobi would get slammed down by a wave, disappear for a second or two, and then emerge on the shore. He finally relaxed a bit when he realized that we were not fools, but were pretty confident. At one point however, we were playing frisbee and lost the white frisbee in the white surf. We were all looking for it and he came rushing over to where we were. I think he thought we were looking for Tobi. We found the frisbee, and Tobi wasn’t lost.
After a wonderful time, we made our way back to our rooms, with great hope that they would be cool. I decided at this point that I didn’t even need crispy cool. I opened the door. In this climate when one has to wonder if it’s cooler inside than outside, the AC is not working. Same with the kid’s room. Time for another visit to the check-in ‘desk’. ‘We’re working on it’, we’re told. I think they must not realize that we live in Africa and we don’t believe them. But we will not stop asking! We got ready for dinner and enjoyed a nice meal at the outdoor restaurant. Back to our room we go, holding on to a shred of hope that something was done. Nope. The AC in our room kind of worked. I decided that if I slept perfectly still and had a fan blowing directly on me, that it would be a comfortable night. The kids? They would manage. They’re kids! I think somewhere in the course of discussion I may have reminded Trae that he in fact did enjoy an AC the previous night…
Lights out. No, I don’t mean lights out because it’s bedtime. I mean the power went out. Completely. No worries. This happens all the time. Surely a place like this has a generator. Yep. It started up and we were back in business – at least with fans. At this point, I’m pretty happy if we can just keep that fan running. I’m pretty determined, but at this point I couldn’t think of a single thing that could solve the problem. Five minutes pass as I struggle to stop wiping sweat and get to sleep. Then everything is silent. Not a peep. Now we are in the dark. I mean we have no idea how long the generator might be out, and for that matter, why is it out? It’s the back-up plan. Is there plan C? Guess not. We ‘slept’ all night in silence. Not a palm frond waved. Though I was all about sleeping in, I couldn’t wait to get up. When it was finally light enough to do so, Neal asked the people next door if they know what’s going on. They say they’ve been there several times and this has never happened. They did find out though, that the generator broke. And they had no idea when the real power might returned. To say at this point that I was frustrated would be an understatement. At some point in here, Trae very carefully says something like, ‘C’mon Mom, you need to lighten up’. It was a reality check, and he was right. We headed for the beach. What else could we do? After a few hours, we decided to give the pool a try. It was very nice, and amazingly clean. We enjoyed that, and were trying to decide what to do. One of the employees noticed our frustration (we were trying hard not to ruin our testimony, considering we had ‘Abundant Life Church’ written on our vehicle), and quietly told us that there was another beach hotel about 1/2 kilometer down the road. God bless her! I had no idea, as I had checked the internet and thought I knew about the places that were available. I knew about the really expensive one about 30 minutes away and had spent some of the night trying to figure out how we might be able to manage that one – even for one night. This nearby one never popped up on our search. Off we were to check out Hotel Bel Azur. We went to check it out. There was a big beach party going on, but we were told they would all be leaving that evening. It was because of the Easter Holiday. We asked if they had rooms. “Yes.” Do they have AC? “Yes”. Very cold AC? “Yes”. Is your generator working? “Yes”. Is it strong enough to run the AC’s? “Yes”. Can we see for ourselves? “Yes”. They were right. The generator was running the and AC was crispy cold in minutes. These rooms were on a 2nd floor with a balcony from which you could clearly see and hear the ocean. It was heavenly. I’ve not been to heaven yet, but at this point I was thinking that this was pretty close! And the rooms at Bel Azur were cheaper than the rooms we had at Awale Plage – the ‘we’ll get right on it’ hotel. We tried not to sound too excited as we had bargained for the cheaper prices. We calmly (on the outside) told them we’d take the 2 rooms and we quickly rushed back and packed up our things, quietly thanking the Awale Plage employee for the tip, and checked out. They tried to talk us into staying and said they would move us to better huts. But with no electricity to speak of, not an option! In their defense, they discounted our room rates so our bill was less than what we planned for. Back down the road we unloaded our load for the 3rd time in 2 days. We were getting settled into our new rooms and Trae comes next door to tell us that their AC isn’t working. You’ve GOT to be kidding me. I don’t blame the devil for everything, but I’m pretty sure that this is his doing! We marched back down the stairs and politely informed the desk person who immediately came up and moved us to another room. That room was much larger and had a king size bed. I told the kids to hold the phone. Neal and I would be transferring to the King size room, and they would move into our room. While the move was taking place someone checked out the faulty AC. Someone (no names given to protect the guilty) just forgot to turn on some switch. It was working after all. But no problem. They were more than happy to let us keep the bigger room – for the same price! We immediately asked for an extra mattress for the kids room, as we know here in Africa, these things can take time and hoped it would show up by bedtime. They delivered the mattress before we hit the beach. Also, perhaps exclusive to West Africa, hotels usually only offer 1 bath towel per room. I use the term ‘bath’ loosely. It would be a bath towel on Tobi’s body. We have stayed in nice hotels in West Africa, and some not so nice hotels. They all have one thing in common. One ‘bath’ towel per room. Our new paradise hotel also offered one towel, but it was actually full size. I decided to push the envelope and said we’d need a towel for each person – so we’d need 5 in all. In short order they provided not 5, but 6 Neal sized towels! This truly was paradise! AC and a towel for each person!
We were settled in and our hope was to drive into the small village town and find some cheap food for lunch. We found what looked suitable. Suitable for cheap, I mean. There were a few tables and chairs scattered around, partly inside a shelter, and partly outside. They even had menu’s. We sat down and realized we were downwind from a trash heap. But if you could ignore that, and look the other way, there was an incredible ocean view. At this point we are all starving. We decide what we each wanted and the very unenthusiastic ‘waitress’ comes to take our order. Every single thing we asked for on their limited menu was not available. I’m not exaggerating. And we didn’t ask for much. We decided to go at it differently. We handed back the menu and asked what they did have. What we managed to understand was fish, chicken, and spagetti. None of us are picky eaters and we ordered and waited to see what would happen. We flipped bottle caps and played bottle cap football for what could have possibly been the length of a real football game. The food finally came. It wasn’t really what we ordered, but we were so hungry it didn’t matter. And it really was tasty. Just not enough (they missed part of the order) At least the cokes were cheap! On our way back to the beach we stopped in a little shop and bought a few snacks for the beach to tide us over until dinner (which wouldn’t be served until 8:30 that night. They eat late in French countries.) Spent the rest of daylight on the beach and then relocated to the lighted pool. Had a wonderful dinner at the restaurant, and though we planned to play a game or watch a DVD, everyone was too exhausted (a wonderful exhaustion) to consider that. Off to bed we went, into our frigid rooms! We even had to ask for extra blankets!
As I write this, I realize I sound like a pampered, high maintainance female, rather than a missionary living in the hottest, poorest nation in the world. However, I also realize that although I know I can rough it with the best of them, when I set my expectations to a certain level, I expect them to be met. Especially when I’m on vacation! And I will persevere until they are! I can do that because I know God is good and wants good things for me. I have also learned that no matter where I am, there’s no place like home!