around town

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:

Baby on board.

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.

Day of beauty.

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…

Just roasting a pig.

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.

Hauling stuff.

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.

Discarded coconut shells.

Coconuts are everywhere, as are pineapples, avocados, mangoes… we’re pretty lucky in the fruit and vegetable department.

Hello there goats.

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.

A day at the beach.

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…

Palm tree forest.

Speaking of the beach, this is the road that takes you there. Not bad, eh?

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6 Responses to around town

  1. Now how far do you get to live from the beach, and how is the actual beach like? Is it clean? (I heard in many places of Africa it’s not). I’d love to see pictures of it. (As you can tell, I’m one of those beach people 🙂 )

  2. Alex says:

    We actually live ON the beach. Walk out the driveway, turn left, walk about 100 feet and voila — there it is. Unfortuantely it’s kind of dirty and the undertow is so bad the Embassy warns against getting in the water. The beaches where people go to relax are 15-30 minutes by car outside of town. They’re cleaner (although not pristine) and the undertow is better (although still strong enough that I’d never let a kid get in by him or herself.) People mostly just hang out on shore sitting under paillotes, eating at restaurants, etc. There’s not much swimming and certainly no diving, snorkeling, surfing, etc.

  3. Dani says:

    Love the photo of the amusement park! I can imagine taking photos would be hard but you have some great shots even with the point and shoot!

  4. Daniela says:

    Love those pictures of Cotonou! Thanks for the tour of town. The quality is perfectly fine. I find that for pictures around town a small point and shoot is better too. I have yet to take my SLR around town. I wish I did because the picture quality would be better but I am already lugging around a stroller with a toddler, a diaper bag, my purse and whatever groceries I have bought. I think the SLR may be too much. Some people do find them intimidating.

  5. Daniela says:

    Oh, meant to ask you: how to you put your captions at the bottom of the white area of your pictures. I use Picasa and wanted to do something like that yesterday but couldn’t figure out how to do it. Thanks!

  6. Greta says:

    Wow. Interesting pictures.

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