Someone asked me the other day if I missed Benin. I couldn’t really answer though, because I’m not sure what the real answer is. Of course right now I miss Benin. But maybe I mostly miss Alex and Flynn. In fact, I’d go so far as to say a big part of me feels like I haven’t left Benin because a big part of me is still there. (Alex would probably argue that if this was really true, she wouldn’t have to wake up so early with Flynn every morning.)
When I really thought about it, I found that there are some things that I miss about Benin. I miss the people from the embassy who helped make my time there much more enjoyable and I miss the friendly locals who would smile at Flynn when we were out in public. I miss seeing things that I could never see back home, like a motorcycle with three passengers, one of whom was a live goat. I miss having affordable household staff who made our lives immeasurably easier and helped introduce us to local culture in a way that would have been difficult on our own. I miss our house with more bedrooms and bathrooms than we knew what to do with. I also miss looking out of Flynn’s window and seeing the beach and the ocean. I miss those small moments of triumph when you finally feel like you’ve figured something out, like when I learned to (kind of) haggle at the artisan market or when I found a better place to exchange glass bottles of soda. I miss glass bottles of soda. Finally, I miss that surreal feeling I’d get from time to time when I’d look around and think, “I bet 2007 Andy never would have believed he’d be here.”
With the good, though, there is the bad. There are things I won’t miss about Benin. I won’t miss the added challenge that the language barrier heaped on top of everything we’d try to do. I won’t miss how frustrating the smallest tasks could sometimes become, like when I had to go to the store for the third time to pay our cable bill because the first time it was too crowded and no one would help me figure out what I needed to do, and the second time the one person who could help with my specific kind of bill was out for a three hour lunch. I won’t miss the crazy motos darting through the streets. I won’t miss the slow internet or the fact that baseball games started at 1 in the morning. And I won’t miss that helpless feeling you have when your kid is sick with a fever and has red dots all over and your power is out and your car isn’t working and the local medical care is not what you’re used to.
Like I said, there’s good and bad.
When Alex and Flynn get home in June and we’re finally together as a family again, I hope we can look back on our time in Benin fondly. I hope we can say that we learned a lot – about ourselves, about Benin, about what we’ll look for in future posts. I hope we keep those lessons in mind even as difficulties like language barriers and a sick toddler during a blackout morph from hardships into funny stories. At the same time, I hope we don’t forget to put on our rose colored glasses every once in a while to focus on the good things.