On our front porch with our neighbors and, on the far right, two Peace Corps friends.
After watching in horror as my driver dragged his feet on the ground to stop his motorcycle, I’ve learned to check that the brakes work before getting on a motorbike taxi. Luckily the average speed on local roads is 30 miles per hour or less.
Small motorcycles, dirt bikes and mopeds vastly outnumber cars on Benin’s roads. Roadside mechanics like this keep the bikes running long after they’d be thrown in the junk heap in the US. Safety norms aren’t up to American standards and a vehicle inspection process, if it exists, is not enforced.
I had another manioc adventure a few weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to participate as a cooperative I work with made gari, which is dried, powdered manioc. It’s one of my favorite Beninese foods.
The first step is to have the manioc mashed, which the group paid to have done elsewhere, so I didn’t see that step. We started with large sacks packed full of the smashed manioc, which we broke up into chunks and then sifted through screens.
For eating, gari is sprinkled on beans or rice and mixed in with the sauce. Sometimes it is moistened with a little palm oil first, which makes it extra tasty. Yum!
For our town’s festa day, Adam and I hosted a giant party at our house. We bought a few kilos of freshly butchered pig, mountains of kale, enough beans to feed an army, twice as much booze as seemed advisable, and made as many cakes as time allowed. From 6am to 6pm we were in action prepping, serving and hosting our former language instructors, other volunteers, and friends from town who passed by. In the evening, we headed down the hill to see the live bands. Despite my best efforts to stay awake, I had to throw in the towel at 5am, and I missed seeing Ze Espanhol, who came on stage at about 6am.
It’s festa (party) season in Cape Verde—the time of year when every town holds a giant street party in celebration of itself and its patron saint, and every household opens its doors to friends and family who come from all over the island to visit and celebrate. Every household cooks up a giant pot of food, stocks up on drinks and feeds everyone who passes through. The county government organizes free live music on stage in the middle of town and for the bigger parties, a big tent with a DJ. Plus, community organizations hold parties in other locations throughout town. The revelry lasts for several days without end: high schoolers stay up all night with their parents listening to the music, men young and old think nothing of going 36 or 48 hours without sleeping, and women cook up batch after batch of pork and beans and katxupa around the clock. Festa bedju literally means “old party,” but in practice it’s just a great party. I wish I were there to celebrate once more, so in honor of the season, I thought I’d share some pictures of last year’s parties.