O soumin (I’m tired). This pretty much sums up last month, but in a good way (mostly). In the first week of March I went to Parc Pendjari in northern Benin with a group of friends where we had some excellent adventures – swimming under a waterfall, walking around in Burkina Faso (no passport necessary), and getting charged by an angry elephant (don’t worry – we were in a car and drove away very fast).
Upon coming home from Pendjari, I had to scramble with last minute preparations for International Women’s Day. The next time you’re frustrated with logistics for organizing an event, imagine doing so with people who don’t speak the same language you do and who pay no heed to timelines. It was absolutely maddening, but in the end we pulled it together, and the party was a blast. There was traditional music and dancing, but the best part was when several women from the village stood up to give speeches about women’s rights and empowerment. I am so proud of them!
In other news, le chaleur (the heat) arrived. I thought it was hot when I first got to Benin, but they weren’t kidding when they said the real heat comes in March. Average mid-day temperature was at least 105°F, and even at night the temperature rarely got below 90. It’s cooling off a tad now, but I still have heat rash (a.k.a. “prickly heat”) all over my arms and legs. Let’s just say I’m glad the marathon was in February… I did not run in March.
But I did go hiking. I had the opportunity to visit an environmental NGO in the hills with a handful of students from the environment and apiculture clubs. We hired a guide to lead us to the top of one of the biggest hills, where we got a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. It was a wonderful time for the kids who almost never get a chance to travel outside Koko.
For the grand finale of my crazy month, my dog Sami fell deathly ill with African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness – from the bite of a tsetse fly). Because I had been away so much during the month, I did not notice her deterioration until it was almost too late. Easter weekend she took a turn for the worse and probably would have died had it not been for the kindness of a vet who drove over an hour to my village on Easter Sunday to give Sami life-saving medication. Happily my little sunshine is now back to her spunky self.
It’s hard to believe it’s mid-April already, but I’m grateful to see the seasons changing again. The only thing sweeter than the smell of the first rainfall after months of no precipitation is the taste of the first juicy mango after weeks of bananas being the only fruit available. I’ve been patiently watching the mangos ripen on the tree behind my house for a while, and it is so wonderful to finally get to eat them. A ripening mango is the color of the African sun setting over the tree tops – rosy red on top fading to lush green below – and just as beautiful.