Saturday, June 7, 2008


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Electricity cuts, tired moped and storms

The amounts of electricity cuts are ridiculous. For a few weeks we have only been having about 1 to 2 hours of electricity per day. Sleeping is impossible as it gets around 50 degrees in my bedroom, which means that one has to get up one or two times per night to take a shower. Last week the temperature during the day in the shade was closer to 40 degrees, now it feels much cooler as the rain has cleared the air. The last night’s intense wind and noteworthy amount of rain has really cooled the temperature remarkably. Last night I actually pulled my cover all the way up to my ears as it felt so cold. What a great feeling to lie in bed under the cover and hear the wind in the palm trees, the waves hit the beach and the rain hammering through my roof. It makes me think of autumn. Autumn that I enjoy so much with falling leaves, strong wind and cosy evening around candle light. But when I get to work at 8 am it is already hot and the sweating starts.

The darkness in the evenings is also impressive. I can’t even see my own hand in front of me when standing in the middle of my house in the evenings. The occasional light from the moon makes it though much brighter. I never get use to the fact that when walking home at night you don’t see anyone before they are in your face saying bonsoir and you see their bright teeth in the shape of a smile. Often I roll around with Nisse and seldom walk at night, but occasionally I leave the moped at home if I am going somewhere close. Nisse has been working quite well lately, except that the speed meter has been dead for a month, the side mirrors keep on falling down and the fact that I have to run to get it started. Yesterday it got tired on the way home and simply stopped, the motor just died. A bunch of boys came to my rescue and tried to start it with no success. Finally I decided to push it home but got irritated after 50meters and decided to try one more time to get it started. And wroom, no problem, Nisse was back on track. Lots of people have asked about Nisse’s future when I leave, but I have decided to give it to someone that gives it to his father who is sick and has needed a moped for quite some time. Feels like a good decision. Nisse will be in good hands.

Soon my time at Villa Karo comes to an end. All the things I have seen, learned and experienced during these five months. A lot! And still there is more to come, much more. Can’t even imagine leaving this place and the people, really not. The thought of it makes it turn around in my stomach, even though the new job in Helsinki and all the things it will bring is something I look forward to. If I could only take some sunshine, some laughter, the sea, drums, reggae, friends and loved ones, colours, pâte de maïs, fish, pima, culi culi, aloko, Lion bar, Nisse and so much with me to Finland in a bag. Oh how much I will miss it all!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Buying potatoes in Grand Popo

Cooking in great fun even though it is about 55 degree Celsius in the kitchen and so humid that you look like you have been taking a shower. To get ingredients for the cooking isn’t always that evident though. On Sunday I got an urge to make a real Finnish style potato salad so I though I just quickly stop by the petit marché next to my house. Firstly I greeted everyone that crossed my potato search and some for longer time than others. Then I heard the horrible news that there are no potatoes to be found. I was so desperate for potato salad so I didn’t give up. I continued my walk. Then I met a lady that knew me for somewhere that took me to her home to greet her family and when they heard that I didn’t find potatoes they decided to do anything possible to help me, so the ladies’ youngest daughter was sent to help me. The daughter took me on a long walk. Finally after a long, but very nice, walk we found a lady that had lots of potatoes in her living room, but nothing else. At this time I didn’t want to mention that I also want to buy garlic so I bought a kilo of potatoes and got an enormous avocado for free because it was so nice of me to come all this way to buy potatoes. So yes, buying potatoes in Grand Popo can take 1.5 hours, no doubt. It was anyways a nice evening walk, and the potato salad was well received so I was happy that I hade made the effort.
In the beginning I didn’t see a point of cooking as it is so hot in the kitchen and as I can get a great meal for 80 cent. But now after 4.5 months I have started to cook more and more as the rice and fish twice a day is definitely good but sometimes a bit monotonous. Variation is nice.

Yes, by the way, if anyone hears something about a flat in Helsinki from august of September, please let me know. From mid June I can no longer be reached on my Beninese number; so call my Finnish mobile if something.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nonvitcha and new job!

Last weekend Grand Popo celebrated Nonvitcha which meant tons of people on the streets, day and night, but it also meant no sleep for me as I live next to Place Nonvitcha and they played music until early morning and again at 6 a.m. It was very nice though to take part in a local festival where everyone that has left Grand Popo comes back to meet relatives and friends. I also had lots of visitors as my roof terrace is an excellent people spotting place so all in all it was a weekend filled with friends, music, food, dancing, pick nick and let’s not forget the 11th of May: Bob Marley’s celebration.

On Wednesday Villa Karo celebrated its 8th birthday and yesterday I celebrated the news of getting a new job. So, what can I Say? Plenty of reasons to celebrate. For me the new job will imply moving to Helsinki as the job starts directly in August. I will work as a project researcher at the research institute of Soc o’ Kom in Helsinki. Wohoo. Very happy about that. Now it is raining so bloody much that it is quite scary to be at the computer so… gotta go.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Zangbetons, vappu, excursions and Cotonou.

A lively and interesting Zangbeton ceremony, dinner festivities, vappu celebration and excursions to Ouidah, Abomey and Cotonou have filled my last weeks. A delegation group from Finland visited Villa Karo so I had quite a lot of program with them and we went on various trips, which was pleasant.

I also had a vappu celebration at my place, which is rather amusing as I never celebrate vappu in Finland. Vappu celebration in Grand Popo meant dinner for about 30 people, if not more, drinks and drumming until the early morning. The next day, the 1st of May, there was a staff and stipendiat lunch at Villa Karo which was very amusing. The amount of laughter and dancing always blows me away.

Last weekend I spent in Cotonou with Linni, Heidi and Victor. We experienced steamy nights as we all squeezed ourselves in his rather small but charming room. Despite the constant turning of the fan it gets very hot in a small room with 4 sleeping and snoring adults. It was an excellent weekend; just what I needed. I was in a need of getting out from Grand Popo although the many daytrips the previous week. I got to visit the enormous and very lively market in Cotonou, see a jazz band perform, ride moto-taxi in the rain at night, eat tasty Chinese food which was nice as a change, see a drum session in a cozy bar, witness the less posh area as well as a very posh nightclub with the highest bling bling factor I have seen in a good while. We also met some bling bling Lebanese guys that have lived in benin for a couple of years; they were fun company and took us around Cotonou in their fancy sports car. The scenario did though put a wide smile on my face as it is about 10 years ago since I have been riding around a city in a fancy car with terribly bad techno music. All this was a good change from the very calm laid back lifestyle in Grand Popo.

I also managed to put some different pictures on the internet so check out this link.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

april stuff

New Finnish people have arrived and many have already left. One of the greatest things with my work at Villa Karo is that I get to meet and work with so many different kinds of people. I meet all sorts of Finnish artist in various ages. I have made great friends that I hope I will stay in touch with in the future. Some of my good friends here have been men and women over 60 while others have been in their thirties. Excellent. Time just passes by so incredibly fast. People say “African time” when things go slower and there is no hurry but it seems like days, weeks and months pass by faster in Benin. Very strange. Well, one does say that time goes faster when one is enjoying oneself, it must be that then.

I made a terrible loss a few days ago. I threw myself in Auberge’s little swimming pool to cool off from the extreme heat. I was wearing the bikini I had in Asia in 2004, which I haven’t actually used a lot here. After my relaxing swimming session I took a shower but when I returned to work and was about to put my swimming stuff out to dry I realized the terrible loss. I had lost my bright blue bikini pants. I knew I had left them in the shower at the hotel. Kaisa asked after Marina’s pants the next day but the guys just smiled largely and said that they haven’t seem them. Now we are convinced that one of them are wearing them, which actually makes me giggle. Those bikini pants were not worth a fortune so if some guy in Grand Popo gets a kick out of wearing or selling them at the market I will give him that pleasure. I just hope that I will, one day, know what happened to the bikini pants and where they travelled. If someone meets them on their journey please send them my best wishes.

I have decided to return to Finland in July, work for a month in the archipelago and then see what the next step is. I have simply made the realization that it will be terribly difficult to find an ok-paid job here now and unfortunately I can’t afford to work at one of the women’s organisations a few months for free, which I would gladly do if I could afford it. Many of the very interesting jobs at various international organisations go anyhow through Europe so it might actually be easier to find a job in West African from there, which just feels absurd as one is used to the idea that it is easier to find a job at the spot. It is alright though, august in Finland is great and it will be nice to meet good old friends, family and of course my brother, who complains that I don’t specifically write that I miss him . It will definitely be nice to hang out before the next great adventure.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hospitals, Funeral, Dinners and Kia

I am starting to be an expert on Beninoise hospitals. The hospital in grand Popo turned out to be useless, again. So, this time I got to ride a fast speeding ambulance that had the sirens on all the way to Cotonou with two Finnish stipendiates that were in terrible condition. One had malaria + some infection and the other had a serious infection. I also got to spend the night at the hospital with them, as support and translator. Luckily they are both feeling better now. Now I Hope I am done exploring hospitals. Time to explore the next thing. I have also been taking Nisse to the local hospital basically every day as if the tyre isn’t loose then half of the bodyparts are loose or missing. The mechanists like me though and don’t charge me a yovo price anymore. Today I have to say that Nisse is a happy camper and spins like the king of the hill, which makes me smile and invite everyone for crab dinner.

Last weekend I got to attend a voodoo funeral which for me mainly meant eating a big meal, times four, and drinking lots of sodabi. Doesn’t help to say no thank you as it is a tremendous offence if you don’t taste the family’s food or sodabi. So with a smile on your face and very full stomach you say oui oui and gladly eat some more and take another sip of the burning palmbooze. It was a great experience though to visit the village of Adjaha and all the very warm, friendly and welcoming people.

I have been attending lots of lunches and dinners lately, never a dull moment. If there isn’t a spontaneous drumming session in our garden and a huge dinner afterwards then someone comes by and invites me over. I have enjoyed it a lot lately and my need for own a time seems to have disappeared entirely. I was also glad to hear that the article I wrote for Hufvudstadsbladet Volt was published the 5th of April and was well appreciated. Jeah.

Kia is coming over soon (beginning of June) which makes me very very happy. As no members of my family will make it over, it is nice that my favourite travelling buddy comes to visit and at a perfect time when I have finished work so that we can travel around for 6 weeks. Now the plan is to go up north, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali and perhaps Niger. Suppose to be a great area to travel, safe and friendly people. I am so much looking forward to meeting Kia again. It will be another trip of a lifetime.