Looking down from my balcony in Cadjehoun, Cotonou, Benin

Excerpts from my diary: Sunday, July 25, 2010, Benin, West Africa

This morning began early, much too early for my liking. I was sleeping (fitfully but as soundly as possible over here) when I heard sounds from the Italian restaurant downstairs. As far as I could tell it was the owner who had come in. It was around 5:30 or so. The music got louder, voices got louder, and I started to wonder if I was going to be able to sleep again. I turned on a Battlestar Galactica podcast and placed the iPod touch near my head as I pulled my sarong closer in around me, hoping the podcast would lull me back to sleep. I could not get comfortable for the life of me, which is typical when I have malaria. I tossed and turned for an hour or so, and eventually gave up after hearing a group of athletes running by with their drums and music. No sleeping in today, no matter how hard I tried!

Me making coffee, photo taken by my husband on one of his visits.

As I got up to make my coffee and clean the kitchen a little, I heard the night guard Keface (pronounced K-fahs) downstairs. I figured it would be nice to say hi to him and wish him a “bonne dimanche” (happy sunday) so I pulled on a sweater and ran down. We talked for a minute about my health, and about the medicine I was supposed to be taking for my current bout of malaria. I promised I’d take my medicine after I ate. Keface might not have believed me, because he then said he’d take me to go get bwii (a kind of porridge — the spelling is completely off there but I cannot for the life of me figure out the proper spelling!). I ran upstairs to change my clothes and headed out with him.

Keface (center) with two of the other night guards from next door

Keface and I hopped on his motorcycle, and as we were leaving a girl and two guys were exiting the restaurant. They were being seen off by the owner. They all looked a bit worse for wear, and I am pretty sure they had been out all night. Keface and I had a little chuckle at that.

The pink Range Rover that belongs to the owner of the Italian Restaurant on the ground floor of my building.

As we pulled out I saw that the street sweepers were out again. These ones were not doing the median, as they had last week, but the side of the road. We turned right onto the Bon Pasteur Road and I saw hundreds of people exiting the church. Apparently the early morning service is very popular!

Looking in to Bon Pasteur

I then saw that there are market people who profit from this mass exodus and were selling tomatoes, peppers, legume, citron, gari and other random bits. There were also sellers of donuts and bwii along the way. Keface dropped me off and I managed to buy 100 cfa (~25 cents) worth of bwii, even though I had no intention of eating it. It was just nice of him to do, and he had mentioned yesterday that it is best to take medicine after eating bwii.

Tata Chemise and Tata Tapioca, two of my friends who have stands in the median across from my apartment.

I walked back and thought about all of the different things that go on in this city in the early morning, especially on a weekend morning. For some, the night has stretched into the early morning and the day will be spent sleeping off the drinks from the night before. For others, the day begins very early as they wash and groom and prepare for early morning church service. And for still others, their day may begin even earlier so that they have all of their products ready to be placed in little bundles of 100 cfa or 250 cfa, or the night before making the batter for their donuts to fry in the early morning coolness. And yet for still others, the morning is spent lacing up running shoes, doing a few stretches before meeting up with other athletes for the weekly “faire du sport.” And typically, I am sleeping through all of this, enjoying that time of the early morning when I can wrap myself up in my sarong like a pig in a blanket and try to squeeze a few more minutes of sleep out of the night.

My room in Cotonou.