Published: January 25th 2008January 25th 2008
The little girl did not want her picture taken, though Evariste, on the other side of the car, refused to leave the scene because he so wanted another picture.
I never expected to eat a chicken head, but as I studied the bone structure of my meal in the twilight of the 2nd of January, 2008, I discovered that chicken-head meat is pleasant. I refrained from gnawing on the eye sockets, but everything else went down well.
Since December 25th, 2007, I have more often than not only needed to eat every other day, finished with a cup of coffee for digestion while sitting in a pagne for a bathrobe as waistline relief. On Christmas Day I visited my host family. I was greeted as warmly as ever, given the customary water to drink, and then began eating. Oh, and such good foods- Santa Claus-belly-sized pots of rice with well-spiced sauces and goat meat, beans and fresh bread, and salad with a homemade mayonnaise dressing, all accompanied by aperitifs and digestifs. I napped before going out with ‘Papa’ to greet friends and wish Merry Christmas to the world. We returned to another plate of rice, beans, and goat meat. I slept like a fat snake in the sun.
The following Saturday I cooked with Miminon. We made a peanut sauce and chatted in the kitchen. She tried to
The Mayor of Lokossa's Second Deputy Mayor is from the community of As.P.E.L., so he was invited to cut the ribbon for the party.
stifle her chuckle at me liquefying onions, tomatoes, and hot pepper in her kitchen, but I heard her swallow her giggle. She said that if she had a camera she would take a picture of me because I looked so Beninese. I had to laugh too. She washed the kids while I stirred the sauce and we continued making each other laugh.
On New Year’s Day eve I invited friends and made food for a party. I cleared my front room to make a dance floor and borrowed speakers to make the roof shake. My mistake was to invite people who had to drive to another town to return home after midnite- those people chose not to come. Others did arrive, and we ate and drank and danced a bit anyway.
New Year’s Day began with thunder and heat. I went to church to wish Happy New Year to friends there. It rained on my walk home. Later I went to eat with Mathurin and his family: more salad, more rice, more meat. Mathurin and I had been invited to a nearby village, so I ate again: akassa* with fresh fish and ablo* with a piece of rabbit.
The New Palace
We were only slightly worried about it falling down. Just slightly. It's built out from teak wood, and of course some parts of the palm-nut tree.
I listened to the group of men debate in Mina. Politics. Once returned home, I made a cup of coffee. The rain had brought the cool Harmattan winds full force.
On the second day of 2008, I hosted six wonderfully polite children for five hours. I know Aïchath through Camp GLOW, the girls’ summer camp; she brought her brother and sister and three cousins to play. We had card games: Old Maid, Phase 10, and UNO, we looked at pictures of the United States of America, specifically Kansas, played Frisbee, danced, and ate salad before they left. I left too, for the New Year’s party with As.P.E.L. and surrounding community. Ghislain and friends, and I participated some, built a double-decker paillote called ‘The New Palace.’ We had a generator to produce cold drinks and loud music for the party. We inaugurated the paillote, then climbed up to eat beans with bread and ablo with fish. I said ‘Happy New Year’ as is said in Mina to all my friends, and took pictures of new holiday outfits. I, too, was wearing a new holiday outfit that matched the material of the others. Florent, my co-As.P.E.L.-er, invited me to his home
View from Above
The crowd below.
where I ate akassa and the chicken head, then the second round of pate rouge* and a piece of rabbit. Ghislain and I shared some palm wine, a barely-alcoholic extract from a newly-felled palm nut tree. Once returned home from this party, I didn’t even have room for coffee. I could only make myself more comfortable in a bathrobe-pagne, finishing my book and listening to the neighbor’s music.
I am told the party lasts until 2009. That’s fine with me, since it’s that much less cooking to do, and pagnes always have room for expansion. Happy New Year!
*Corn-flour based; generally corn flour boiled in water with variations to give slightly different tastes and textures.
There are more photos below