A Travellerspoint blog

Benin

TELLS US WHAT YOU WANT, WHAT YOU REALLY REALLY WANT

AND WE WILL GIVE YOU WHAT WE WANT WHAT WE REALLY REALLY WANT

semi-overcast 38 °C
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It was a quieter day but we enjoyed it very much. We started the day with our typical breakfast, eggs, instant coffee and French bread only today we were offered a choice of 3 different omelets or a cooked egg. We have learned it is always better if we have the same things so we all picked the egg for a change. And in true Benin fashion, it matters not what is offered, nor what you asked for, you get what they want you to have so we all enjoyed our tomato and onion omelet with a chuckle. Honestly, this shit happens every day. Meals can be a challenge but all part of the experience and has been a wonderful source of humour for us.

We took a boat to visit a couple of nearby villages. The villages seemed more developed but there was no electricity so still simple living. They were both located on a small strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and a river and we are told they floods annually. I was very impressed with the dug out canoes. They make them in a week with many hands helping. Beautiful craftsmanship.

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No matter we go, we engage with this game with the kids where they chase us like they want to be photographed and run when you pick up the camera. Today it was the kids who were out on school lunch break.

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The role of voodoo was really prevalent in these villages. In fact, we learn our boat driver is a voodoo priest and an oracle. We are trying to understand this recognized religion which is practiced by both Muslims and Christians but it is not easy. What we have decided it that it is ever present and the superstition is strong. It is certainly not what we thought before we arrived. These protectors of the villages are everywhere.

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The importance of the twins is really obvious too. They are fed a special meal on Fridays and there is some ceremony. These statues represent twins. Sometimes dead, sometimes alive. I can’t quite get it. I have so much to research when I get home.

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We took the afternoon off to relax before walking the beach and through a couple of smaller villages this evening.

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We first met this lady who was peeling straw for use in mats and brooms. She also had this bowl of twins that she was babysitting for the village. The fabric on top is where she laid their food. Ok…some of this is a little crazy.

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A beautiful evening finished with a drink on the beach.

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We head for Togo in the morning and I will likely be without cell or wifi for 24 hours. I have absolutely loved Benin and am sad to leave but am excited to see what is next.

Posted by curlygirl 13:35 Archived in Benin Comments (1)

ZANGBETO CEREMONY

LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE VOODOO CULTURE

sunny 38 °C
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This morning was incredibly special. We went to see the Zangbeto voodoo ceremony. I had seen pictures and videos and thought it would be ok. We thought it would be like watching cousin IT ( for the Adam’s family fans) running around but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was spectacular. The energy, the music, the joy, and the cultural experience….amazing.

Our guide Jacques had worked with this voodoo priest before but he was surprise he was taking us so far down a dirt road. We drove forever before descending on a village in a full Zangbeto ceremony.

Zangbeto are the traditional voodoo guardians of the night in Benin, Togo and Nigeria which are known as the "Nightwatchmen". They are highly revered and act as an unofficial police force patrolling the streets, watching over people and tracking down criminals and presenting them to the community to punish. Originally created to scare the enemy away, Zangbeto will wander around the streets to detect thieves and witches, and to provide law and order.

It was difficult to photograph the dancers and singers because they were not performing for us, they were doing their thing and performing for each other. We did, however, get sprayed with an oil during the ceremony….everyone did.

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We have decided to take the afternoon off because it is terribly hot and we are exhausted from our very busy schedule. It was great.

In the evening we went to visit our guides village, which is much more developed and we stopped at some other villages along the way. Including this tiny one that produces palm oil.

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Benin has the highest rate of twins in the world. The global average being 13.1 twins in every thousand. Benin has 27.9 twin births in a thousand. We have seen many!

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And some more shots of village life. No matter the village as soon as the kids see us, the follow and the crowd gets larger and larger. When you try and photograph them, the love to run and tease you. If is a fun game.

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Here, when I decide to squat to take a picture, they all roared with laughter. I thought I looked graceful.

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And some more..

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Posted by curlygirl 05:23 Archived in Benin Tagged africa west benin zangbeto Comments (2)

FULANI AND FON

YOU LOOK LIKE A MAN…AND CAN I HAVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER

sunny 38 °C
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It has been another brilliant day visiting tribes.

The morning was spent near Savalou visiting 2 different Fulani tribes both quite large and both very different. Just when you think you can identify some of the markings, you are thrown off by some specific family or unique tribal traits. Even physically, there were differences in the tribes. In the second, the people seem taller and thinner.

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Twins are extremely prevalent here and are a sign of very good luck. Twins get special privileges and are fed food that others are not. These two babies were the sweetest.

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I used my little printer here a couple of time and once because the local guides wanted a picture with us. When we gave them the picture and one guy look at Nikki pointing to her picture and says, “ha, you look like a man” and then he approached me and politely asked for my phone number. No sure where he thought that was going to go but I can assure you Nikki looks nothing like a man, and I wasn’t giving out my number.

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After this, we drove towards Abomey and this time we actually arrived (we were going two other days when plans changed). Along the way, we saw many roadside peddlers selling rats, mice, lizards and beautiful fresh oranges. Here is a close up of the mice. We decided to only try the oranges.

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This third tribe was known as the Fon, and the tribe of our driver. We had so much fun. It is a shame really that the pictures don’t reflect the laughter we hear in the villages. This tribe specializes in trading pottery and even the kids participate in the shaping while the ladies perfect the final product.

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Our driver's mother

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Tonight we stayed a nice French run hotel. Two outlets, wifi, no lizards, a bat, some black beetles, and cold water. But after a long hot day it was perfect.

We tried some local dishes here and we decided to order two distinctly different fish dishes but as always when you order food, it is incredibly difficult, takes forever, and in the end the dishes were identical. Hilarious. At least at this point, we know to order, go to our room, shower, do laundry, download photos and charge batteries leaving us with only about a 30-minute wait.

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Posted by curlygirl 06:06 Archived in Benin Tagged porto novo benin ketou Comments (2)

COFFEE WITH GOD

KOUANDE

sunny 35 °C
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Before leaving to head back down south, we made our way to another small town named Kouande. Along the way, we passed a small village where people were waving so we stopped. It was so simple but with the light and the haze from the dust and smoke, it was beautiful. We could have spent the day there.

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Arriving in Kouande, we see even more different tribes which are recognized by more unique facial scaring. There is no end to the ethics groups or the facial markings. We meet a man who has one diagonal line on one side of this face. We learn his tribe, Wassangari, descend from the Persians (Iran). The women have the same mark on both sides of their faces. The predominate tribes in Kouande are the Wassangari and Bariba but also the Awuza. The Bariba and Awuza come from Kingdoms in the area now known as Nigeria. The Bariba women can we recognize by three small lines on each side of their face. The Awuza have only one line.

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Once again Jacques had arranged a local dance called the warrior dance which is performed a few times a year. Traditionally it was done, when there was a victory and a kingdom was won. You would almost think this was a tourist thing but there are no tourist and no expectation of any. You have to see it to believe it. People came out to watch and the crowd kept getting bigger.

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After a walk through the town, and a pause to take a picture by the sign, meaning “cafeteria with god”, where this is actually no cafeteria or coffee (but a couple of coiffures), we started to make our way back down south.

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The drives are always interesting but often very, very rough, with hours on dirt roads full of potholes and tons of dust. I have the “luxury’ of the front seat having the largest butt in the group. Sigh, a wee perk. We are constantly honking at goats, dogs and chickens to get out of the way. Along the way today we passed a large group of about a couple of hundred men and dogs on the side of the road so we asked to go back. Our guide and driver always oblige. We learn it is a hunting group. What was interesting was the constant stream of men arriving on motorcycles with dogs on their laps (up to 4) or seated in front of them looking perfectly content. As we drove on, for miles and miles we saw hundreds of more bikes headed to the site.

So, although the drives are long, there are always splashes of local life. We could stop constantly.

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I also learned today that ducks are sacred and can never be killed. This makes me happy:)

Since we left this morning, with a plan to head to Parakou, the itinerary has changed, yet again, and are now in Savalou with hot water, more than one outlet…which matters a lot to photographers who have many electronics to charge and ok wifi.

Posted by curlygirl 14:45 Archived in Benin Tagged porto novo benin ketou Comments (1)

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US

LEARNING ABOUT THE OTAMARI TRIBE

sunny 34 °C
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Facebook was kind enough to remind us that it was 2 year ago today that we met in Myanmar. Three like minded people from three countries, Canada, England and Italy who became instant friends. Alessia, the Italian and I traveled last year in Nepal and will continue on to Cote D’Ivoire after Nikki leaves. I fully expect we will celebrate a 3rd anniversary together and quite possibly in West Africa. We really are loving this.

Today’s focus was the Otamari tribe and we made two trips to the same area, one in the morning and then back in the evening. The community is comprised of many small but spread out villages. This tribe is known for their unique homes. The Tata Soma homes are well constructed with two stories, the lower level houses the animals and the top has a kitchen in the center surrounded by a number of closed living rooms. They are beautiful and absolutely spotless. Jacques tells us a dirty home bring shame.

Otammari are also known as the Batammariba when referred to in the plural.

The faces were very unique. A series of fine lines in small sections, each section perpendicular the other until the entire face is covered. Nikki likens it to a patchwork quilt. It is normally done between the ages of 3-5 by a specialist in the village using a knife. It takes about an hour. We asked a young boy if he remembered it being done and told us he cried. Another lady told us she has no memory. I must admit it is lovely but when we asked (jokingly) if we could try it, we were told our skin is no longer good, aka old.

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We walked through several villages, taking photos. The people were so welcoming. They call us Bature, white person. The name changes depending on the area. Oyivo, Yovo are other names.

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We visited a school and crashed class. The kids sang to us. I loved it.

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It is easy to pass many hours but with the hot sun and harsh light, we returned to the hotel for our first rest since we started.

This evening we returned to the villages for another walk about and then were treated to another special dance by the women. This dance and singing is only performed by the married women and it was simply beautiful. Part way through, the school girls got out and came running to watch. Even that was beautiful. What was not beautiful, was the brief moment when we joined in to try it. You need good calves for that, and coordination. An epic fail on my side.

The short hair is a requirement for school and they all wear it so well.

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art way through, the school girls got out and came running to watch. Even that was beautiful. What was not beautiful, was the brief moment when we joined in to try it. You need good calves for that, and coordination. An epic fail on my side.

The short hair is a requirement for school and they all wear it so well.

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and a few more

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Posted by curlygirl 14:10 Archived in Benin Tagged porto novo benin ketou Comments (2)

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