Well all good things (or not so good) must come to an end and I am writing this shortly before I leave Benin. If you read any of my previous posts you would know that my time in Benin may have been good and bad at times but certainly memorable. An experience!
I wanted to leave on a positive note and turn my stay here into a treasured memory so I decided to share all that I thought was great about Benin and here it is:
My absolutely No.1 favourite experience of Benin have been the children. They brought a smile to my face and warmth to my heart everytime I saw them frantically waving their little dirty hands at me and I cheer up every time I think of them. They were all so cute and adorable, half naked and dirty, running around and playing in the dirt and every time without fail they would shout excitedly, wave at me and smile! I loved smiling and waving back at them. If that doesn’t make your day, I don’t know what will!
Random Acts of Kindness
Random acts of kindness were not all that abundant in Benin and that’s why when they happened they made a lasting impression and a beautiful memory. I remember this one time I was walking about town on a weekend and I was on my way back from a beach bar when I saw a local woman carrying a tray loaded with pineapples on her head. I walked at a respectful distance behind her in order to be able to observe her a bit better. I was fascinated by the casual, calm, confident way she walked; hips swinging from side to side; I was amazed by the perfect way she balanced the heavy tray on her head; I loved the way she was dressed; and last but not least I thought she was very beautiful; narrow Asian like eyes. perfectly sculpted cheek bones and a smooth, velvet skin.
Even my slowest walk was faster than hers and I passed her by. Not long after that I sensed someone standing very close behind me. I felt my body tense and I turned around. It was the woman. She smiled and I relaxed a bit but still I wished people didn’t sneak up on me like that (it wasn’t the first time it had happened). ‘Vous etes belle‘ she said. I don’t speak French but anyone can understand the word ‘belle‘. I smiled and pointed to her ‘Belle...’ I replied. She smiled widely and shook her head in understanding. I walked further.
Then I reached the road and saw a bench. I’d walked a lot already and my back was aching. I needed a break so I sat down. Next thing I know there is a middle-aged man walking in my direction. At first I wasn’t sure whether he was coming to me but he kept looking at me and there was no one else around so I was fairly certain that he was headed my way. I wasn’t sure whether to run or stay. Eventually manners took over survival instinct and I remained seated.
When he reached the bench he smiled and extended his hand in greeting. I relaxed. He just wanted to say Hello. I said I didn’t speak French and he switched to a very basic English. We exchanged a few words but it quickly became obvious that we weren’t really understanding each other so he wished me a good day and walked away.
That day was made because of two random strangers and their unspoiled kindness.
If you’d seen any of the pictures in previous posts you’d know that Benin is very traditional when it comes to clothing. My absolute favourite were the colorful, bright cotton wraps they used as skirts. The rectangular piece of cloth could be made into a casual skirt of varying lengths or a protective apron used around the house when doing chores. The patterns were countless and so were the color combinations. I spent my time looking for the skirt length and pattern combination I liked most, imagined what it would look like on me and how it could be styled with Western accessories. I seriously considered buying one for myself.
I already mentioned a perfect balance with which women handled various heavy objects on their heads. It never failed to amaze me! They balanced big plastic boxes full of candy, sacks of potatoes, cloth bundles full of merchandise, trays of fruit, metal buckets filled with food and cooking utensils, stacks of clothes, anything and everything!
I even saw a man balancing a door sized piece of glass on the back of a moto taxi at rush hour! That sure is an achievement when there’s 80,000 of them roaming the streets and no traffic rules.
I don’t have to say much about this. Who doesn’t like a country where the sun shines all day every day and you can wear dresses and flip flops and enjoy a bronze coloured skin!
Unlike the UK where cocktails are made with a touch of alcohol, a ton of ice and a it of colour for an often extortionate price, Benin makes cocktails with a ton of alcohol, a bit of ice and a moderate amount of color at a very reasonable price. What’s not to like about a cocktail with a kick to it at a fraction of the price?
Benin you’ve been great! Thank you for all the fish and goodbye!