Friday, June 29, 2007

Fais Comme Moi

The following is the recipe for pâte blanche, the staple Beninese meal. I eat this on a daily basis when I’m at home, though I don’t cook it myself. You can buy enough for a very filling meal for 30 cents. Enjoy!

The Sauce

4 tbs vegetable oil
2 big onions
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups water
12 tomatoes, ground
2-3 spicy peppers
1 shrimp bullion cube

Heat oil and add tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes, then add 3 cups of water and the bullion cube. Cover and let boil for about 20 minutes, until all the ingredients have had a chance to mix well.


1 ½ cups corn meal mixed with 1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups corn meal additional
2 cups water

Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil. Add cornmeal-water mixture and let cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining cornmeal, stirring vigorously, until really thick (at least another 5 minutes). You’re going for a consistency such that it will form a mold and stand by its own when you put it on a plate, at least once it cools a bit.

Eating Pâte

Wash your hands. Put the sauce onto one plate and the pâte on another. Then, tear out a bite-sized chunk of pâte, dip it in the sauce, and eat.


Camp GLOW was excellent. Thanks to everyone who donated.

The girls really enjoyed everything, even the sessions that I would’ve considered boring (like the basic HIV class). Two women living with AIDS came and talked to them about what it was like to have the disease, which blew the girls’ minds since they were normal, well-dressed, middle-aged women.

One day we told them that a midwife would be coming the next day to talk about puberty, and that they should write any embarrassing questions on a piece of paper so they could be answered anonymously. About two-thirds of the questions were something along the lines of “why do girls get periods?” (it’s not taught in biology class until 9th grade, by which time most girls have dropped out, and those who do stay have already gone through puberty years before).

We took them to a nearby internet café every day. Most of the girls had never used computers before, so we just put them on Google and told them to type what they were interested in. With few exceptions, they looked up pictures of the Spanish soap opera that is broadcast on one of the main TV stations. My girls looked up the word animals, which sent them to wikipedia, at which point they started copying the entry into their notebooks. They then clicked on the sea anenomy link and took notes on that as well.

“Showers!” they said.

“What?” I asked.

“We want to look up showers.”



So we googled showers. Satisfied with the resulting pictures, we then looked up kitchens.

On the last night, the girls put together some sketches. The best one of all was about a dimwitted, obnoxious father who marries off his daughter to a rich man in Cotonou for a large sum of money. Throughout the sketch he kept acting like a buffoon and making all sorts of dumb, egotistical comments which were extremely funny. In the end, the mother goes to the police and gets her husband sent to prison and the daughter returned. The cast then concluded that child trafficking and forced marriages are bad (there was a session on the legal rights of children and women, given by the first wife of former president Kerekou).

There were a lot of other cool sessions, and it seems like the girls got a lot out of it. I’m not sure if we did a good job encouraging them to teach what they learned to other girls back in their villages, but the teacher that I brought along from my school really liked what we did and will be joining my girl’s club.

Journées Culturelles

Towards the end of the school year, Beninese schools hold a multi-day cultural festival. Most of the time kids just sit around, listen to music, and bring food from home to eat. On the first day they did two skits, both of which (for some unknown reason) were about unwanted pregnancies.

In the first, a girl becomes pregnant and a teacher is accused of being the father. The teacher denies it, but later admits it when the principal pretends like he thinks it’s acceptable. They send him off to the police, and the crowd went wild.

In the second skit, a rich man pursues a young poor girl, woos her with the gift of a car, and then tries to convince her parents that she should go away with him. They eventually consent after he gives them four dollars as a present. The next day the girl discovers that she’s pregnant, and the man tells her he doesn’t want to raise a baby and that he’s going to leave her. She faints, and the skit ends.

In both skits the same student played the part of the impregnated girl, who agreed to start a girl’s club with me over the summer. I’m really going to miss not being able to work with the club over the next year, since the kids that have voiced interest all seem highly motivated. But my successor will have a pretty easy way to get projects started right when they get here, which is always a nice thing to inherit.

I uploaded pictures of the fest, among others. My camera broke the last day when I accidentally dropped it so I haven’t taken any pictures since. Hopefully it should be fixed soon.