Development, Life in Benin, Peace Corps

On misunderstood directions

Traffic around Cotonou, Benin port
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.
Zem: No problem! We’ll cross in just a minute.
Me: Are you *sure* this is the quickest way to the airport?
Zem: No problem! No problem!

We reach the highway, and we’re definitely not getting any closer to the airport. In fact, a suspicion dawns on me as we approach the Mosquée Centrale.

Me: The airport’s on the other side of town! Where are we going?
Zem: What are you talking about? We’re almost there.
Me: What?!?! (I realize what’s going on.) AIRPORT. With PLANES. Not PORT with BOATS.
Zem: Planes?
Me: Planes that fly not boats that float. I want to go where planes land and take off.
Zem: Not boats?
The AIRport, not the REGULAR port.
Zem: Planes are at the airport?
Me: You don’t speak French, do you?
Zem: No problem!
Me: Do you speak Fon? (Fon is the predominant language in the South, particularly Cotonou.)
Zem: No problem!
Me: The airport is THAT way. Let’s go.
Zem: You know airport with planes?
Me: Just go where I tell you.
Zem: No problem! On y va!

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