Volunteer Abroad - Benin, Volunteer Abroad Programs

Throwing Rice and Making Wishes in Benin

by Morgann Lyles, Greenheart Travel Volunteer Participant in Benin

This past weekend, I discovered my roots in the port city of Ouidah. This is probably the most famous city in Benin, though I would venture to guess that most of you have never heard of it. That’s okay – neither had I.

On Saturday morning, Eline and I left Bohicon, the transport junction between our two towns, and headed south for the capital city. Our mode of transportation was a share taxi. There were 12 people in a smallish stationwagon: three up front including the driver and a poor man straddling the gear shift, four of us in the middle, then a woman with two kids and two men on the back seat. We rode like that for at least three hours.

Sacred Forest of Kpasse courtesy of Claudemc3's photostream

In Cotonou, we got out and restored feeling to our limbs before changing to another share taxi. We ate some rice out of a plastic bag with our hands as a snack in the taxi. This turned into a disaster for me because I was seated next to the window, so the rice kept blowing out of my hands onto the other passengers. It was pretty embarrassing.

Upon our arrival in Ouidah, which is one hour west of Cotonou, we found a cute hotel with a TV – a necessity during the World Cup matches. We toured the history museum and saw lots of artifacts from the slave trade. Some of the stuff was really shocking. For example, they had a chain that was used to keep the slaves in line. There was practically no space between one slave and the next based on the short length of chain. Also, the yoke that went around their necks was unbelievably tiny.

On a lighter note, as I listened to the conversation of the other people in our group, I realized they were Americans! We saw a fair number of tourists (read whites or “yovos”) in Ouidah. We also went to the Sacred Forest of Kpasse on Saturday. We were a little distracted by the millions of mosquitoes nibbling at our ankles in the tall grass, but we did make a wish by touching the tree that once was a king.

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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