The Sheets Don’t Fit in the Cooler

Plastic containers for sale at the market.

I recently had a routine physical with the Peace Corps doctor. When it came time to listen to my breathing, the doctor reached under my shirt with the stethoscope. “Your shirt is soaked. Is that sweat?!?” Yup.

I go to sleep sweating. I wake up sweating. As soon as I’ve finished taking a cold bucket-bath, I resume sweating. This is Benin’s cool season. The real heat, I’m told, starts in January. Yikes. A friend at home used to put his sheets in the freezer in the summer, putting them on the bed at the last possible moment before he went to sleep. I mocked him at the time. Geniuses are frequently mocked by the dimwitted.

Fridges are a luxury item in Benin and though Jen and I could certainly afford to buy one, we’ve decided to go without. For now. Our wonderful host mother gave us a cooler before we moved into our new home which we’ve been using, somewhat successfully, as our fridge.

The pale green cooler that we use as our fridge is more frequently used locally to keep food hot. Coolers full of rice or pate or tomato sauce sit at every road side food stand.

 A nearby neighbor has a freezer. They sell .5 litre bags of ice to the community for $0.10 each. We pay them $0.20 per day to freeze two .5 litre water-filled containers for us. We purchased the four empty plastic containers that we rotate through the cooler at our local market. There is a section of the market devoted to used plastic containers. There isn’t a lot of recycling in Benin but most things get reused again and again. A couple of weeks ago Jen bought a cold drink from a neighbor’s stand. One taste and it was clear the bottle had been previously used to transport gasoline.

As long as we don’t put too many things in our cooler, the food stays relatively cool until the next day. The staples that we keep in it are jam, butter, olives and chocolate. Sometimes we splurge and buy extra ice from the neighbors to break up for a cold drink. I haven’t asked them about putting our sheets in the freezer. Yet.


2 thoughts on “The Sheets Don’t Fit in the Cooler

  1. Neusa Araujo

    Love it Adam! Sheets in the freezer, I never heard of such thing in any part of the world I have been to and I thank you for bringing this idea of Benin to my knowledge. I can imagine your faces when you heard of this in PST… How is your project going and what are you doing exactly? Is the language learning easier than Creole and are you speaking it yet? I hope you learn it as quick as you learned Creole di Cabo Verde. The other day I was organizing my e.files and found so many photos of your group from your PST and IST. At some point I want to send you some of them. Take care and enjoy your service in Benin. Please give my regards to Jen and everyone else. Stay well.

    1. Adam Post author

      Hi Neusa! We’re speaking mainly French here. Our CV Kriolu abilities have all but vanished. We recently befriended some Cape Verdeans studying in Benin; I can understand when they speak to me in Kriolu but I respond in French. My mind doesn’t handle more than one foreign language at a time. Hope you are well!


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