Admittedly, we’ve been pretty awful about capturing Cotonou during the almost 10 months we’ve been here. Beninese people don’t really like to have their picture taken, so venturing out with my big SLR is a recipe for disaster. (Other expats have been known to be chased out of public spaces for flashing such cameras.) So if you want to take pictures you need to be kind of sneaky about it. A point-and-shoot is great for this, but unfortunately the one I’ve been using had a really slow shutter speed — too slow to capture anything besides a blur. Luckily I recently got a new one that’s a little more effective, so voila, some shots from a morning drive.
Here’s something I’ve been meaning to take a picture of since arriving:
Every third or fourth motorcycle you see has a baby on board. It gives a little perspective to my stressing about which of the several hundred dollar car seats is an iota safer than the other.
Makeshift beauty salons are set up all over town. You also often see makeshift manicure stands on the side of the road.
Also on the side of the road…
And, a little ways outside of town…
Surprisingly, there are at least two amusement parks in the Cotonou area. When we first arrived there were three, but at far as we can tell the third is gone for good. Now that Flynn’s getting almost big enough to enjoy that sort of thing we probably should go one of these days. However, I’m wary enough about amusement park rides back home where there’s some semblance of safety regulation, so Flynn’s going to be pretty limited in what I’ll allow him to do here. Really tall ferris wheel? Not a chance.
As you surely know, it’s common practice to carry things around on your head throughout Africa. Probably the most impressive I’ve seen was a guy carrying a full-size couch on his head while riding a motorcycle. I didn’t have my camera on me that day, sadly.
Coconuts are everywhere, as are pineapples, avocados, mangoes… we’re pretty lucky in the fruit and vegetable department.
Cotonou doesn’t have some of the more exotic animals you might associate with Africa, but it’s not uncommon to see goats, chickens, pigs and horses hanging out on the street. Sadly for Abbey, only lizards and the occasional frog make their way into our yard.
You know how some run-down U.S. neighborhoods have abandoned junk like rusted out cars all around? Well, my neighborhood can top that — we have a grounded airplane that’s slowly crumbling. The story we’ve heard is that there was some sort of entry or exit tax dispute that resulted in the plane being abandoned. Who knows.
One of the loveliest parts of Benin is the beach. Having grown up in the middle of the country, far from water, it still baffles me that everyone flocks to the beach on holidays. Christmas? Head to the beach! Easter? Head to the beach! This isn’t how my childhood holidays were spent…
Speaking of the beach, this is the road that takes you there. Not bad, eh?