Thank You Benin

July 31, 2017

I left Benin 2 months ago. It already feels like an eternity. I’ve already started to forget things. The feeling I hold on to is the one that consumed me as we pulled away from the Cotonou dock, “I have to come back here” and, “Will I ever meet people as amazing as the ones I met here?”

Yes, I do… and, yes I will. I do hope to return one day, yet I know I’ll meet beautiful, inspiring people in all corners of the planet.

Part of my grief about leaving was that I wanted to experience MORE, learn MORE, and love MORE. Something about Benin just got to me. Maybe it was the colorful clothes, or the confident women. Maybe it was the voodoo lurking everywhere, or the hospitality that shocked me repeatedly.

In any case, I have a lot to be grateful for and I want to set these memories in [digital] stone (impossible as that may be).

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Thank you to…

The patients that welcomed me, accepted me, and trusted me. Without them, I’d be aimless on the Africa Mercy.

The translator who showed me the funny videos in French they were watching, so we nurses wouldn’t think the translators were laughing at us.

The translator who served 6 of us dinner even though she didn’t know we were coming.

The translator who took us to see some of Benin and actually brought us to a REAL local food joint. And paid for our meal.

The translator who held me by the hand and led me through the market to help me find a specific hair tie.

The taxi driver who took care of us on our anniversary trip to Togo.

The patient who continues her animated story even though none of us (translators included) can understand her.

The mama of one of the patients who tells me that, if she was a man, she would marry me.

The tailor for being so kind and welcoming and creating dresses and blouses that fit like a glove.

The translator who always seemed to have time to come help us explain our ideas to the tailor.

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The old woman in the bush who let us draw from her well because we had never seen anything like it before.

The mama who told me what it’s like to deliver in a Beninese hospital.

The housekeeper who calls me her “queen” every time she sees me.

The children who try to rub my tattoos off with their fingers.

The patients who play Simon Says with me. Including the kid with a catheter hanging around his neck.

The moto driver who let us use his cell phone so we could get directions to our tailor. Even though we already had a moto to take us.

The burn patient who told me she could tell I cared about her because of all my visits. How did she know that’s all I want any of my patients to know?

There are many more memories…

So many beautiful memories. Quite a few painful ones as well. I have some written down. Some will probably return to mind spontaneously or when I’m with nurses I worked with who have stories they’ve been holding inside as well. My photo books help, both the one I designed myself or the one Mercy Ships gave me when I left.

I won’t miss the stifling heat and hazy skies of Cotonou, Benin, but I will miss the feeling of freedom I got when I rode on the back of a zemidjan. I loved the colorful clothing and tailors on every corner. I will miss the way the market presses in on you and threatens to run you over if you stop in the wrong place. I will miss the way I could speak in Fon and make a new friend. I’ll even miss bargaining for a good price.

I’m so grateful I spent time in Cotonou, Benin!

Check out the rest of the series:

My Benin Bucket List

Snapshots of Life in Benin: The Africa Mercy Wards

Snapshots of Life in Benin: The Seamstress

Snapshots of Life in Benin: Thank You Benin  (You’re here now!)

Provocative Joy; What I will miss about living abroad; Cotonou, Benin

This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org’s Re-Entry Blog Challenge.

 

More about ivannar@gmail.com

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