Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Morning at the Market...

This past Tuesday I was able to take a couple of hours off in the morning for some overtime I had put in over the weekend, and so I headed out to one of the large markets here in Cotonou. I took a group of friends with me and getting there was a bit of an adventure in itself.

Driving in Benin is a whole new experience. There are literally thousands of motorbikes and scooters, locally called "Zemidjans" (not sure on the spelling of that one - there are many differing versions of the same word), and it's always quite, well, interesting - and hazardous - driving in traffic surrounded by groups of these bikes. Never a dull moment driving in Benin.

The Market itself was a new cultural experience - although not too dissimilar from Duala Market in Monrovia, Liberia. We wandered up and down endless rows of stalls; stalls where one can by literally anything - from car batteries and shiny watches to fabric and goats. There was even a bicycle loaded with live chickens tied by string to the handlebars. The SPCA wouldn't be too chuffed. Although I doubt there is an animal anti-cruelty organisation here. The colours and smells are so pungent, powerful, bright too - it really is a vast kaleidoscope for the senses.

Many people shouted "Yovo, yovo!" ("White person, white person!"), trying to make a sale as we walked past, and I got quite a few comments because I was wearing my South African cricket shirt. "Hey, you from South Africa! You my friend!" in broken English. Indeed, South African business is booming here in Benin - well, certainly in the area of telecommunications. MTN, a major South African cellular network provider is everywhere here. They certainly have branched out into Africa and are doing really well - with advertising for the 2010 World Cup on posters and billboards in many different, strategic locations - including the Market.

It was a fun experience and is always good to soak up the culture and atmosphere of a new place. But soon the time had come for us to bundle back into our trusty Mercy Ships Land Rover and head back to the ship. And soon enough, we were all safe and sound onboard our big floating home here in Benin.

1 comment:

brenda said...

always enjoy your blogs - you look great at the reception desk - I know you are a great assest with your experience.