I was lucky to get both a window seat and a great plane buddy so the trip went pretty fast. By the time we were ready to land in Cotonou I was both exhausted and thrilled. I wasn't the only one: since they had announced the final descent there had been a steady hum of excitement. It built as we pushed and leaned to catch our first glimpse of Africa and finally culminated in raucous applause when we touched down.
Nearly 2 hours later, after fighting our way through immigration, baggage claim, and customs we emerged, laden yet again with too many bags, to the welcoming cheers and smiles of Peace Corps Benin. Even though our plane had been delayed and it was now pretty late there were probably 20 or more staff and current volunteers there to greet us.
The drive from the airport can only be described as dream-like. I was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells of an African urban center: hundreds of mopeds zipping by with all combinations of passengers (2 men, a woman with a baby strapped on her back, a full family of 4), vendors on the side of the road illuminated by kerosene candles (like lanterns leading the way), women with huge baskets balanced effortlessly on their heads, etc, etc
After some time, we finally turned into our compound, a Catholic oasis if you will, called St. Jean Eudes. Pulling in, we were met by many more cheering volunteers banging on the windows and calling out names to show us to our rooms. Before we could sort through the chaos of bags and people, the skies opened and it began to pour;
my first African rain (but certainly not my last).