Monthly Archives: January 2007


I was visiting a new work partner at his cybercafe the other day and noticed an interesting phenomenon. It was full of Nigerians (identified thus because they’re anglophones who refuse to learn French) actively involved in scamming Americans and Canadians. The owner was somewhat embarassed, but unable to refuse the scammers, as they’re his best source of income.

The cybercafe at my primary work partner is also flooded with these scammers from morning to night. They paitently wait outside for us to open, and then our administrator has to hassle them to get them to leave in the evening.

The money’s just that good.

I’m actually not sure how I feel about it. A fair number of the scammers have immigrated from Lagos because it’s cheaper to live in Benin. This immigration has been great for the cybercafe business here in Cotonou. The immigrants are more or less educated, they’ve got good business sense, and they’re comfortable with technology. They’re also completely immoral, scamming those who don’t know any better so that they can have a nice cell phone. No bones about it, these are not the starving and destitute that are scamming. It’s a business, and business is good.

What I’m curious about is the actually effect these scammers have had on development in the ICT sector in the last few years. They’ve clearly driven the spread of cybercafés, and the proliferation has also driven the prices way down. Despite the low prices, these places can be immensely profitable. They push for better maintenance of computers and the latest technologies, and because it’s available and cheap, Beninese youth are also taking advantage of these technologies, which is cool.

Don’t get me wrong, scamming is WRONG WRONG WRONG. It’s a horrible practice. I’m just curious to know how much development has been driven by it here in Cotonou.

Back in action.

After a week of frantic emails, DreamHost has found the problem (they forgot to renew my contract) and put all of my websites back online. Thank goodness.

The most startling thing about all of this was how completely accepting my students were of the hassle and delay that going off-line entailed. They had homework to submit. They were freaked out about their grades. But hey, this is Benin, and nothing ever works right. Everyone took it in stride.

Go figure.aracer

I spent the last week in Parakou, ringing in the New Year with Bertrand and his family. With the exception of a few unnerving comments by Bertrand’s mother (referred to henceforth as “Maman”) about my impending (hah!) conversion to Catholicism so that I can marry her son, the week was comfortable and relaxing. And his father (referred to henceforth as “Papa”) even let me turn the satellite to CNN to get some English language news.

Bertrand and I spent the days before New Year’s Eve visiting all of his old high school friends. You’d think this would be quickly accomplished, but each visit is an hours long occasion to reminisce; drink copious amounts of beer, sodabi, and whiskey; and watch television. Oh yes, and I taught Maman how to make cookies.

The 31st was spent slaughtering a pig (some photographic evidence to be uploaded at a later date), cooking, and getting ready for the night’s party. We got all dressed up and left for church at 21h30 (yes, church!). The service started at 22h00, and wasn’t even closed to finishing when left for home to pray with Bertrand’s family at 23h00. An awful lot of Hail Marys later, we returned to our rooms to get prettied up one last time for the evening’s fetes. At 4h30, we were still going strong, but the realization that the 1st would be a full day sent us scurrying back to our beds within the hour.

The New Year was greeted in style, particularly by a family lunch that included anyone who stopped by (including urchins just looking for money). A table full of pork, beef, chicken, rice, pate, beans, and other deliciousness greeted guests as they wandered in and out of the house all afternoon. And what had happened to the dozens of cookies we’d baked a few days before? Delicious peanut buttery dessert! Too soon, it was time to leave, but only to find more food, visiting other friends as ours had visited us.

Eventually we wound up at the home of Kingsley-the-Nigerian (as I think of him), an old friend of the family. Talk of Beninese politics lead to talk of world politics which lead to talk of Iraq which lead to talk of American politics, which lead to talk of homosexuality and American morality (or lack thereof). Beer is a good thing, folks.

After all of the parting was finished, Maman and Papa drove us back down to Cotonou, where I found my computer freshly arrived from Alabama via DC via Westminster. Thanks to everyone who helped out with that!