by Morgann Lyles, Greenheart Travel Volunteer Participant in Benin
On Sunday, I attended part of a Catholic church service at the main cathedral in town. Lots of old ladies were looking at me funny because I wasn’t saying the prayer (The Lord’s prayer, I think) along with them in Fon. You see, because I have black skin, everyone assumes I belong here. I can’t tell you how many times people have rattled off phrases in Fon to me. Someone even asked me directions once! When I am with Eline, it is even funnier because people think I am her guardian or something. They will speak to her in French, then turn to me and say “Tanti, (something I don’t understand).” Never in my life has black skin helped me blend in like this.
Anyway, just across the street from the church was the Python Temple. Religions are not well-divided here. There was a Vodun (for us, Voodoo) ceremony going on involving chicken sacrifices, but we were not allowed to enter that part of the temple. Our guide actually knocked on the door of the python room before entering because the snakes are considered to be divine beings. We chose not to have the pythons draped around our necks, but I briefly held one.
Thankfully, we made the 3.5 km journey down the Slave Route between rain showers. It is a sandy path lined with statues and historic markers. For example, there is a mermaid statute marking the spot where the Tree of Forgetfulness once stood. Slaves circled the tree a certain number of times to forget their past lives in Africa. When we reached the beach, we saw the grand Gate of No Return. This was the last place where my ancestors (possibly) touched African soil before boarding slave ships. I liked the fact that black and white people from different nations were playing together on the beach just beyond this gate. Poignant, huh?
Well, I will be heading home soon. I have learned a lot and will certainly remember this experience for the rest of my life. Look for a wrap-up blog including pictures (!!!!) when I arrive home next week, Lord willing.
Peace and love,