First Days in Cotonou…

First off, I apologize for the delay in this post. The internet in Benin is even worse than Ghana, if that’s possible.

My first week in my new home country has been very educational and exciting. I have learned a little about the history and culture here, and a lot about its public transportation.

Benin is similar to its coastal neighbors in that it is a major port city. Historically, like Accra, it was a major hub during the slave trade in the 1600s. Cotonou literally translates to “The mouth of the river of death,” in the local dialect of Fon.  As grim and dark as its meaning may be, I have found the city to be anything but dismal or depressing.

Cotonou, while not the technical capital of Benin, is the heart of much of the government, business, and social activity. It is diverse, and I find it to be romantic (mainly because everyone speaks French and it is near the ocean), though I know some disagree.

On my first full day here, Boris introduced me to his American friend, Nick, who happens to be from Berkeley, California (an hour-ish away from my hometown.) Nick works for Malaria No More, an NGO in Chad. He is also a producer for National Geographic’s  show, Taboo, where different cultural quirks are exploited for entertainment purposes.

Nick took  his daughter-in-law , grandson, granddaughter, and me to a coastal tourist spot called Bab’s Dock. It was a nice little lagoon area where you take a small boat into a lake.

There was a pleasant waterfront restaurant where we had lunch and drank my first glass of legitimate white wine since coming to Africa. After an amazing lunch I had a petite waffle and tiny little coffee.

It would have been a perfectly pleasant afternoon if it hadn’t been for the donkeys. The couple that owned this little restaurant kept them in a little pen next to our tables. There were three donkeys, two males, one female. It was mating season, maybe, or whatever, but the two males were fighting over the female… At one point one male bit the female and started pulling her by his teeth around in circles. I got an awesome video of it, but it won’t load, so you will  have to just look at the picture and use your imagination.

After Bab’s Dock and the horrible donkey experience, we took Nick’s grandson, Constantine to a beach side carnival. Nick described it as the most ghetto fair he had ever been to. I understand this assessment as every ride looked like it was about to fall apart and they played this super explicit rap music reaaalllly loudly. We had a good time regardless.


After the fair, we ventured to a roof top bar in downtown Cotonou that has some great city views!

I had my first good bloody mary of 2012 and later went to dinner with Boris before returning home. When  I got home, I was greeted my this little guy in my shower. He was so tiny! Like the size of a penny. Adorable. :)

I’ll write more soon! xoxo



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  1. ms says:

    LOVE your posts & pix! Makes me want to hop on a plane and come over. xo

  2. Doug says:

    Hey, Sy:

    Now that you are in Francophone West Africa you are totally in my first cousin’s home turf. She worked in this area for 30 years for the U.N., and was in charge of many high-level projects (including having to set up a new judicial system in a more southeasterly direction, after the horrible massacres in Rwanda). If you have any questions or need any insights about Benin just let me know, and I’ll try to connect you two by e-mail.

    I’ve been following your posts (silently) since you left for Africa. Good job, girl!

    With love,


  3. john dunbar says:

    Sy –

    I don’t comment much, and want you to know your posts are one of the lovely bits in my life. I honor what you’re doing and who you’re being. Thank you for making a difference.


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