If you tried to watch the 20/20 segment I wrote about last time, you probably noticed it didn’t happen. Our country director tells us that 20/20 told him that it will air some time in January. For real. We think.
I spent Christmas in my village. On Christmas Eve my villagers decided to burn every blade of grass in sight. This involved torching both of the hills overlooking the village, which looked cool at night but caused an unpleasant Yuletide rain of ash. The villagers told me that they were killing the mice and snakes. They assured me that Christmas Eve was the ideal time to do this, though I never figured out why. They, in turn, never understood my position that killing all the snakes might increase the mouse population. This is a village that has already hosted three Peace Corps volunteers in the Environmental Action sector.
The non-incindiery festivities included eating and drinking until the midnight church services on Christmas Eve, followed by eating and drinking all day on Christmas. I considered going to church, but it is incredibly hard to stay up till midnight in a place that doesn’t have electricity.
Around 5:30 Christmas morning, I woke up to bumping music. No way, I thought. Assuming that the midnight church service started on time and lasted for only an hour — which is like saying “assuming that George W. Bush is familiar with the tragedies of Euripides and has read them all” — church had ended four and a half hours before this. I got up to look, and yes, everyone was up and partying already. I don’t know how these people do it.
I spent most of the morning stuck in a neighboring village with some Nigerians to whom another English teacher at my school is related somehow. They were watching Nigerian soap operas. Nigerian soap operas make “Transformers” look like an erudite commentary on the human condition. I went back to Kemon intending to visit various friends, but instead laid down on a bench in my house. I didn’t get up until the next morning, when I dragged my semicomatose body onto a motorcycle and then a bus and went to Cotonou to see the doctor. This is where I am now.
The doctors still don’t know what I have, but antibiotics and Tylenol appear to have brought my temperature down before it could reach levels high enough to cause brain damage.
In unrelated news, this morning I was watching Glenn Beck on Youtube and found myself thinking, “You know, this fellow makes a lot of sense.”
So that was my Christmas.
At least I can take showers and eat good (and overpriced) food while here. There was a carnival in Cotonou last time I was here, in early October, but back then it was in the process of closing down. Now it’s back and appears to be the exact same thing except that it’s now called “Christmas Village.” (It wasn’t called anything last time, as far as I know, though volunteers dubbed it “Beninland.”) The odd thing about carnivals is that they have rides and a ferris wheel and stuff, but no one rides them. The rides just sit there, not moving, while people walk around inside the boundaries of the carnival and have fun, or something.
Elections, always an interesting occasion in Africa, are scheduled for early March. There’s a large wheeled statue of Yayi Boni, the incumbent president, that some people are pushing around the streets of Cotonou. A sign on the statue says, “Mr. Yayi Boni wishes you a Merry Christmas.”
I wish everyone at home a Merry Christmas too. And I don’t even want you to vote for me.