Category: Travel


I like snails. Eating them, that is.

Allada is famous for its escargot (snails). Every well to do traveler stops there on their way up North. Only an hour outside of Cotonou, it’s an ideal place to buy food for the rest of the trip. Or, if you’re Jean Marc, Helene, Bertrand, and myself, an ideal place to waste an hour drinking beer while eating delicoius snails, snail eggs, and fried cheese.


Cutting the cheese in Benin

Ah, cheese. The one thing every expat in West Africa misses. Luckily, Benin has a local cheese that’s excellent, both as a cheese, fried, and as a tofu subsitute. Known commonly as wagasi, from Dendi, it goes by many names: amo in Fon, wara in Nagot, and gasaru in Bariba. The French simply call it fromage (cheese).


PINK goes to Zagnanado for breast cancer screening

PINK BENIN is a big fan of International Women’s Day. Breast cancer is a marginalized illness in Benin, like many places in the world, because it’s something that primarily affects women. So it’s nice to do work on a day where we don’t have to defend ourselves for primarily working with women (What? We don’t treat prostate cancer? Isn’t that sexist? NO IT IS NOT). This year, Ivy, a Peace...


I’m in love with the idea that the second coming could be a 17-year-old African woman

Six months ago, rumors began circulating about an orphan who could heal, raise the dead, and perform exorcisms. And what better place for a second coming than a region plagued by sorcery, witches, and the devil himself? Thousands of pilgrims came to weekly masses in a tiny village with no water and no electricity, in the heart of the land where Voodoo was born. The young woman spoke of terrible...


On Freedom of the Press in Benin, and the New Lack Thereof

Freedom of the press and the right to say what I want, when I want, is something I take for granted. Despite the many problems that plague American media, our right to free speech is well protected. The press, while beholden to its corporate interests, does not fear jail or sanctions for telling the truth, nor for expressing a negative opinion about the current administration. On November 3, CAPP FM,...


Uh, where is Benin getting all of this money from?

Benin’s going from 12 departments to 29 and is redoing the whole administrative map, from arrondissements to chef lieux. The government doesn’t even have enough money to pay its contractors! We are broke-asses over here! Where on earth do they think they’re going to come up with the cash to build the new infrastructure required to build city halls, prefectures, courts, and all of the other trappings that come with...


Doesn’t anyone get tired of being disenfranchised around here?

The current big political flap in Benin is the LEPI (Liste Electorale Permanente InformatisĂ©e or Permanent Computerized Voter Registry). Benin’s electoral system is fraught with fraud. In a country where less than a third of the population has an ID card, fixing it will be a long hard process. Enter the politicians. After months of debate, last night parliament finally approved a computerized voter registry. In an ideal world, the...


On misunderstood directions

Image via Wikipedia Me: I want to go to the airport. Zem: That’ll be 500 francs. Me: What?!? 300 francs. Zem: No problem! 400! Me: 300 or go away. Zem: No. problem! We take off in a vaguely wrong direction. 5 minutes later, I ask him “Are we going in the right direction?” Zem: Of course! Me: The airport’s in the other direction! We have to cross the highway first....


On holding a press conference here in Benin

A few weeks ago, ONG People Online (my NGO) held its first press conference. To be more precise, one of the newspapers with whom we work held the press conference to launch their new site. First, realize that despite Benin’s high ranking on scales that measure the freedom of their press, the press in Benin is neither free as in libre nor free as in beer. A few days before...


In which t risks being branded a feminist

One of the hardest things about living here in Benin is the complete and utter disregard for women that I experience every day. I don’t talk about it much over here because it’s most often dismissed as the shrill complaints of a silly (white) female who just doesn’t understand how well she’s got it. Today, I left a meeting wanted to tear out my hair, and this oh-so-timely article explains...