Adventure in Benin – Day 5

We had another wonderfullly chilly night and Wednesday morning we were ready for more beach. Not really sure how long it would take for us all to get our fill…or if that was possible. We let the kids eat the standard restaurant breakfast for a change, while Neal and I enjoyed my trusty granola. Today is the day we were heading back into Cotonou for the start of the meetings that actually brought us to Benin in the first place.

We packed up our load – everything except what we’d be changing into – and loaded it into the car. Then it was off to the beach for more sun and surf. We decided up front that we had to be driving out by 12pm so everyone had to plan accordingly.

When making our plans to come to Benin, we looked into a few different options as to where we could stay, based on what other missionaries had told us. There was another option – a very nice resort about 25 miles from where we were staying. Casa del Papa, in the town of Ouidah. We opted not to stay there, as it was about 3X the price. But we did want to see the place, so we planned to eat lunch there today, on our way back to Cotonou. It was a grand place! Three swimming pools, close to the beach, tons of activities (for a fee!) and a nice restaurant. The place was huge. We had pizza for lunch and it was enjoyed by all. We discussed it while waiting for our food and decided that we would much rather stay where we were for 3 days, then to stay in this place for 1. It was a no-brainer. It was nice, but since we all love to hang out on the beach, all we really need is a clean room with cold AC. Did I say cold AC? And the fact is, if we wanted any of those activities, we could come and do them. You have to pay for them whether you are staying there or not. We were pleased with our choice!

On to Cotonou. Casa del Papa was pretty hidden so we had to have a taxi driver lead us to it. We would have never found it on our own – driving through the narrow streets of Ouidah. Leaving however, we felt confident we knew what we were doing. How wrong we were. We may have been ok if there hadn’t have been ‘road construction’ at every turn. We knew the general direction we needed to go to get to the main road that leads to Cotonou, and we are very good at stopping to ask directions. It would have been helpful if we were actually able to speak to the people in their language. Again, Trae came to our rescue. He had been pretty valuable up to this point with important things like ordering food. Sure glad we brought him along. With Trae’s French and some sign language, we turned our vehicle around (this wasn’t easy on the narrow dirt path – not to mention the crowd of onlookers that had gathered). As suggested, we went left then right and were at yet another impasse. Either we got wrong directions, or we missed something in the the translation. Nonetheless, we were getting good at asking for help. Which we did, but we were told to turn around and go right, then left. Ummm, thanks, but that’s exactly where we just came from, and I’m sure the crowd we gathered at that location is just starting to disperse. Obviously, we made it out of the maze – I would have loved to seen an aerial view of the place – because it really did feel like a maze. Now the road that connects Benin Republic to Togo is a 2-lane ‘throughway’. Not really. Suffice it to say that it took us – on account of overloaded trucks that were nearly impossible to pass, potholes, and construction – 2 hours to travel about 35 miles.

Upon arrival in Cotonou our instructions were to call Pastor Joseph and he would meet us somewhere. That meant finding a phone center. We did that without too much trouble and he gave us directions as to the best place to meet. We arrived first so we called him again. He was still 30 minutes away. We were thirsty and hot. Trae stayed with the car while the remaining 4 of us walked down the traffice laden streets (yes, again, we were a sight) to find ourselves a coke. We had victory and walked back to the car and Trae took his turn at finding a coke. Soon Pastor Joseph showed up so Trae jumped in the car with him and we followed them to our hotel. We were very pleasantly surprised at our accomodations and were so blessed to find that again, we were going to have AC! Up to that point, we had no idea.

Let me explain how we came to be here. In October 2006, Neal was invited to speak at a Four Square nation wide conference in Benin. He met several pastors at the conference and was invited to come back. Pastor Joseph, a conference attendee, and his family are Nigerian’s and God called them to start a church in Benin. He invited Neal last year again, but he wasn’t able to make it. He was persistant, and this year it worked out for all of us to go. So except for Neal, our gathering on the busy streets of Cotonou was the first time we met him. What a joy it was to get to know Pastor Joseph, his wife Joy, and their 4 sweet and talented kids. And they were both of those things – sweet, and talented.

At our hotel, Pastor Joseph had booked 3 rooms for our family. That was huge for us, as we are usually crammed into one! It was close to 5pm and he informed us that the service started at 6. He was going home to get our food. More food? It had only been about 3 hours since our pizza, but somehow I knew that we were going to be presented with some Nigerian food that would demand an appetite. I was right. Rice and stew and pieces of fried chicken. We enjoyed, and decided we better hurry up and get ready for the service. I took a shower, but wondered why I bothered. I was already wet again before Pastor came back to the hotel to pick us up for service. Guess it’s the thought that counts?

We didn’t know what a treat we were in for. The music at this church (Kingdom Life Glory Mission) was incredible. All of us thoroughly enjoyed it. And we knew that this is exactly what we are needing/wanting in our churches in Niger. We know the power of music to draw people to the church and to Jesus, and we want to develop it in Niamey. It’s always good to get away to renew prespective, and get new ideas. Then the preacher got up (my gifted husband) and the house nearly came down. The majority of the church is made up of Nigerians so when Neal started speaking the Pidgen English he learned as a boy, the roof nearly came in. It was a great way to get their attention before he began to preach – about being an influence. By the time he was finished, there was not a dry spot on him. His clothes were literally wringing wet. The humidity here is just not something we’re used to. The service ended with invitations to bring more people the next night. We really had fun.

Back to the hotel we went, where we were told that our food would be coming. More food?! It was 9:30 for goodness sake! But we somehow, with no difficulty at all, managed to eat the food when it arrived. It was wonderful. Pastor Joseph said goodnight and went home. Then the electricity went out. The generator came on. Then it went out. Once again, we were sweating in the dark. A few minutes later Pastor Joseph knocked on our door. He was so apologetic and feeling so bad. He didn’t know what was going on, but would find out. We kept reminding him that we lived in Africa, and that we understood! A bit later he returned to tell us that they had run out of gas for the generator. Were they planning on getting more? No… at least not until he showed up! Talk about influence! Not too much later we were back in generator business. No matter that they called our rooms and asked us to turn off the AC, that the generator could not run them. No problem. (Well, to be honest, it was a little problem but I’m trying to count my blessings with a fan). Praise God from whom all blessings flow the ‘real’ electricity came back on before we even got to sleep. So it was a good night sleep for us all. Another wonderful day!

Adventure in Benin – Day 4

Tuesday morning we woke up snuggled in a blanket.  It was crispy cold!  Now that’s what I call AC!  Our room was part of a 2-story building – on each floor there were 5 rooms facing the ocean, both floors having their own common balcony.  We were on the 2nd floor.  I got up and went outside to warm up.  There were chairs and small tables outside of each room on the balcony.  I brought homeade granola from home for breakfast.  My plan worked pretty well.  I had disposable cups and spoons and powdered milk (all we use is powdered milk).  Each person poured the of water he/she wanted that would eventually become milk for the granola.  This sounds easy but one has to consider that milk powder has mass, as does the granola.  Pouring too much water to start could have undesired consequences.  We got the process down pretty well and enjoyed granola out of a cup each morning.  I’ve never really been able to enjoy cereal with warm milk, but at the beach somehow it was doable.  I might add though, that the bottled water in our air conditioned rooms was close to chilled.  The previous morning, in our steamy rooms, it was downright warm. 

With breakfast out of the way, we hit the beach for some family devos, and then made our way to the waves.  What a day it was!  This beach wasn’t at all rocky, but very steep.  We were able to go out some when the tide was out.  Other than that, we stayed near the shore and played frisbee, football, and games like ‘let’s see who can stand best under the force of a crashing wave’.  There were too many wipeouts to count, so I’m not sure who won.  Tanika, Tobi and I took a walk down the beach.  There were fishing boats on either end of the hotel property.  African fishing boats.  Large dugout canoe type things that actually went out into the ocean.  We’d see them out there early in the morning.  They fish with nets.  Just like the disciples.  At this point they had already come in for the day.  We stopped along the way to pick up shells or to play ‘see how close you can get to the wave without it touching you’.  At one point, I’m not sure why we weren’t paying attention, we got hammered.  It all happened so fast I can’t really put it all back together.  I was standing in one spot, Tobi in front of me a few steps, and Tanika in front and to the left I think.  When this wave hit, it was like someone pulled both of my feet out from under me at the same time.  I dropped straight down while Tobi and Tanika were both slammed back into me.  We’re not sure who hit what, or what hit who, but Tanika had a big scrape/bruise behind her knee and I got pummled with something on the back of my neck.  It may have been Tobi’s head.  As we were trying to figure out what happened we started to get pulled back out because of the steepness and force of the water.  We grabbed onto each other and the sand and waited for the wave to wash back over us.  Tobi jumped up and started saying “I’m sorry Mom, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  Are you ok?  I’m sorry.”  As if it was his fault.  We’re moaning and groaning as I’m telling him we’re fine.  I wasn’t sure at that point, considering the instant headache, but I wanted to reassure him.   We stood still for a couple of minutes to regroup, then I guess all was well, because Tobi wanted to race.  This attempt at running was a reality check as to how out of shape I am.  (In my defense I was running in thick sand on a very steep plane). 

We had been told about another hotel restaurant in the town we were nearby.  We decided to try that for lunch.  It was very enjoyable.  Right on the beach.  We thought we were pretty clever to bring a deck of cards (considering our lunch the day before), but when we sat down we realized it was way to windy to play.  No matter though, the food was ready in short order.  It was quite good.  Fish.  Then we split a fruit kabob for dessert.  Grilled fruit – quite tasty! 

We returned to our part of the beach and we were back at it.  Fighting those wonderful waves.  Neal and Trae developed an interesting game.  “See who can throw the football promptly so it will be caught at the exact time the ‘catchee’ gets pounded with a wave”.  A water version of tackle football, only the other team is the ocean.  The ‘winner’ was the one that got less banged up.  Males!  I spent my time taking pictures & video, reading, collecting shells, walking, and I even did my share of fighting the waves.  I was determined to get out past the breakers to enjoy some rolling waves.  I managed to get out there but the side tow was so strong that even though I was swimming west with all I had, I was still being pulled east.  So as not to end up at the place we had lunch, I decided to exit the water.  Easier said then done.  Getting back through the breakers was not easy.  I had been swimming out there with Trae and told him I needed to get in – I was so tired.  Another reality check as to my cardiovascular fitness – or lack thereof.  From there, we again relocated to the pool for several games of ‘Statue Marco Polo’.  The statue part was for Tobi’s sake.  He was a riot.  We enjoyed the pool right up until the time we had to get ready for dinner.

Dinner again was at 8:30 and we pre-ordered so not a whole lot of waiting would be required.  The previous night I ate baracuda in cream sauce.  It was wonderful.  So much so, that everyone wanted to order it for tonight.  I had an interesting version of beef stroganoff – it  was a yummy version!  Majority rule decided that we all still had enough umphhh left to be able to watch a DVD.  Since we had a king size bed in our room we were all able to pile on it to see the portable DVD player screen.  First, an episode of the Brady Bunch.  Tobi’s vote.  Then it was off to bed for Tobi.  No complaints from him.  He was ready to sleep.  And he had no qualms about being alone in the room next door to us.  What a guy.  We then watched an episode of Lost – 3rd season.   We all managed to stay awake to the end, but were then ready to saw logs.  There’s nothing like the kind of tired you feel when you’ve spent the day on a beautiful beach with people you love! 

Adventure in Benin – Days 2 & 3

Sun/Mon

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!

Adventure in Benin – Day 1

March 22nd 

We packed the car on Friday night.  Due to the fact that we were getting up at 4:30am on Saturday and there was a good chance that something could get left behind at that hour.  Maybe even a kid. 

 We travel with our food and water, as there are no Kwik Trip’s or Taco Bell’s along the way.  That was also prepared on Friday night.  So Saturday morning was quite smooth.  Everyone grabbed what he/she was supposed to, and we were out the door.  The journey had begun. 

Since we were leaving so early, we had almost 2 hours of driving in the dark.  Not fun.  But we did see the sunrise.  That was fun.  It’s about a 3 hour drive to the border between Niger & Benin Republic.  It was about 8am when we arrive there.  We sat on very old benches to fill out our paperwork BYOP-(bring your own pen). Not a computer was in sight.  Each one of us was required to fill out a form with various birth, address, and other unecessary information.  The form was in French so for the parts we couldn’t figure out we had to ask the ‘officials’ in Hausa what it said in French so we could write it in English.  The thing that always strikes me at places like this is not just the primitiveness(it is a national border), but the inconsistencies of how things are done.  The forms we filled out were inconsistent.  When we pointed this out, they had us refill them out.  Our names (at least some of our names) got written in a big ledger where they use a ruler to draw straight lines to divide the names.  I couldn’t quite figure out if they got all our names there or not.  They were giving us a really a hard time with the forms – one official telling us one thing, a different official telling us something completely different.  Neal was starting to get frustrated.  We all were.  Especially when busses full of people pulled up, and came and went while we are still sitting there with our forms – papers that have probably since been used to start cooking fires.  Finally Neal says (in Hausa) “are you treating us like this because we are Americans or because we are Christians?  You’re wasting our time!”  The man started saying ‘No, no, no’.  Then he immediately began to stamp our passports.  They do not like to be accused of favoritism.  Neal said “I’m sorry for getting hot.  We have a long trip.”  The man told us no problem and by the time were on our way, we were laughing together.  We crossed the bridge into Benin and had to fill out similar forms.  But these were written in both English and French.  And these officials even helped us fill out our forms.  That went much quicker.  In all, we spent just over an hour at the borders. 

 We were on our way South.  The road at this point starts out very bad.  Filled with potholes.  Unavoidable potholes.  This and the fact that it is a  1-lane road posing as a 2-lane road and is the main truck route from the port in Cotonou, Benin to Niger, and you may be able to picture it.  Though all the overloaded trucks were a nusciance, we enjoyed the changing scenery from desert to tropics.  And the road did improve.  And then it got bad, then better again.  One thing we were really excited about was the price of fuel.  Right now in Niger, we are paying about $6.64/gallon of diesel fuel.  In Benin, Fuel was only $4.30/gallon!  Now that is a great example of perspective – when one can be excited about fuel costing $4.30/gallon!

The trip was uneventful – as uneventful as can be when traveling on roads as described above.  I might add though, that even though our children are able to sleep on these trips, the average visitor would be white-knuckled right out of the starting gate. 

We arrived in Cotonou some 14 hours after departure.  Our kids are great long distance travelers.  It’s something they’ve grown accustomed to.  Believe it or not, we only stopped to ‘use the bush’ twice in those 14 hours. (Again, no Kwik Trips nearby)   I think we have unknowingly learned to synchronize our bladders for road trips. 

 Traveling with us also, was Rufus.  Rufus is from Benin and he and Trae are good friends.  In fact they were roommates last year when Trae was in boarding school.  Our traveling to Benin was a great opportunity for Rufus to be able to visit his family, and for Trae (and all of us) to meet them.  It made the car more crowded, but we managed. 

The traffic in Cotonou was incredible.  It makes Niamey look like a village.  We dropped Trae and Rufus off at his house, planning to meet the next morning at church.  The rest of us made our way to the SIM Guest House.  SIM is a huge worldwide mission organization.  We were originally ‘signed up’ for the room that had an AC.  We were told 2 days before departure that that room was no longer available for us but that the fans should be sufficient.  Oh how wrong they were.  We are coming from the desert.  Yes, it’s hot (116 when we left) but we are living in probably single digit humidity.  Benin is in the tropics and is just starting it’s rainy season.  At first, it almost felt like we couldn’t breathe.  The air was so thick and heavy.  Temps stayed around 90 – 95, but with the high humidity, I thought we might melt.  The fan didn’t cut it.  We all took showers and slowly (so as not to build up a sweat) got into bed.  We were exhausted after the trip, but sleep wasn’t easy.  We just kept sweating.  Fortunately there were enough beds for us each to have our own.  I think around midnight the electricity went out.  At this point, we would just be thankful for a fan – who needs AC?  (There’s that pesky perspective again!)  But Alas!  I hear a generator starting up.  Alas my foot!  It was from the compound next to us.  Our curtains were open and windows were up – to maximize the use of the non-existent breeze.  The generator was so close it could have been a running lawnmower stationed right outside the window – fumes wafting into our room.  And for some reason, even though it’s the middle of the night, that generator was running all the lights in that house next to us – and they were shining into our room!  I got up and passed out wet wash-cloths to everyone, more of a token, really.  They didn’t do much to cool us.  The lights came back on after about 90 minutes.  I finally gave up trying to sleep and went into the common room to read – something to keep my mind off my sweaty body.  And I began dreaming about the place we would be in the very next night.  A nice beach chalet with crisp cold AC – wonderful after a day at the beach.  That got me through the night. 

This ends Day 1 of our adventure in Benin.