R 'n R in Benin
No, not rock 'n roll, not rest 'n recuperation either - but Rooney 'n Ronaldo! After a ridiculously busy week in Benin (still working in my hotel room at 4am one night) I had a Saturday at leisure to enjoy myself, and I managed to find a venue showing the football. Or at least some of it, between blank screens when the generator (or perhaps the satellite?) cut out from time-to-time. Or when I was not being distracted by the adverts running across the screen for matches to be shown later in the day. Everton -v- Bigminham? Middlesbrough -v- Hotspurs? But great as always to watch a game in a room crowded with hundreds of fans.
Back in Dakar now I have also made further attempts to watch the beautiful game, as a very kind man answered my plea for help on the Senegal network of facebook. First he took me to his friend's house to watch a Man Utd Champions League match. All was looking promising until half-an-hour before the game, when the lights went out. A power cut. As he had a laptop I asked him if he had tried Sopcast? We downloaded it and found the United game. Just a tiny screen, and quite a fuzzy picture (Senegal internet speeds are not great) but better than nothing. Until his battery gave out at half time.
Today we tried again - the Premiership game against Blackburn was supposed to be on. But the Canal operators in Senegal had decided not to buy coverage, so all we were faced with was a blank screen. Unfortunately I think I am coming to accept that it is one interest I will have to put to one side whilst I am in Senegal.
Back to Benin - a lovely country, from the little I had time to see. Poor, of course, but without all the hustlers of Dakar, and with some truly great tourist sites. The stilt village on Lake Ganvie is in fact rather a tourist trap, but is no less pretty for it. A whole village built in a shallow lake (originally sited there for safety during one of the old tribal wars), all the houses on stilts, and each family with a number of pirogues to travel in. Even with a cloudy sky it was lovely, helped too by the jewel-coloured little malachite kingfishers flitting around the dock.
I also managed to visit the voodoo Python Temple in Ouidah. I don't know why pythons are quite so important in the voodoo religion, but in this temple there were about fifty of them, stretched out lazily in their 'house' apart from those being brought out for us tourists to drape around our necks. They are let out at 5pm each day, so that they can make their way into another little house where food is put out for them. There is however nothing to stop them leaving the compound at that point, which some have been known to do. The guide said villagers are not afraid if they find one in their house as this is supposed to be a good omen. & in this continent where everyone seems to be absolutely terrified of snakes (I suppose with good reason) that is saying something.
Afterwards, whilst I was queueing to get into Cotonou airport for my flight home, I was approached by a very attractive and well-dressed young woman asking me if I would mind carrying a small bag back for her. Of course I declined, but it reminded me of stories I was told earlier in Togo (next-door to Benin) - of the attractive well-dressed women you see hanging around the airport being part of the drugs trade, either waiting to collect an assignment or waiting to offload one onto a naive passenger. I did wonder if there was something rather more proactive I should have done, like accepting the bag and then handing it to a policeman for its contents to be checked, but if it was drugs then it is quite possible that the police are in on the deal, and that handing over the bag would get one into all sorts of trouble.
Now I am back in Senegal, where the weather has changed in my absence. The wind only blows from two directions into coastal Senegal - either from the south-west, where it picks up moisture from the Atlantic bringing summer rain and humidity, or from the north, where it picks up dust from the Sahara making the rest of the year dusty and hazy. So now the humidity has gone and it is cool enough to sleep at night but we once again have dust everywhere. A plague of insects has also appeared, some quite nice (millions of white butterflies everywhere), some less so (ants over everything, and crickets getting into the house and chirping loudly all night).