Sunday, July 29, 2007

Touching Down July 20, 2007

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).


Theresa said...

Wow! Your first few days in Benin are a fascinating read! You are so descriptive! It truly is a whole new world. We have been thinking of you as we enjoy the last few days of Summer. We have been swimming with Grandma and she seems to be doing well. Anna goes to YHC in a two weeks- she has been shopping a lot. Chris has been working hard-but still loves it. Dave has been very busy with church work. I start school Monday. Nothing as exciting as your adventures in Benin! I look forward to reading your blog! You are amazing! I love you dearly!

dinda said...

Whooa, they were banging on ya'all's windows! Hey, do you get to welcome people like that the next year? I would love to be welcomed into Benin by someone like you rapping on my windows, especially before my first African rain. Could you be in a white t-shirt, too? Tahahaha ;)