Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Africa V: Benin

The seat of government of Benin Cotonou is slowly disappearing. The tide eats away at the coast and swallows the houses. Every year ten meters more. Porto Nove is the capital. On our one afternoon off we again with a few people traveled a bit. We came through a quaint village, a few market stalls, a café with cool Coke (no I am not paid by them, but it was often the only one could safely drink) and a bit further I saw a small boy, I guessed 7 years old, was walking with a monkey on a leash. I thought:"How cute, to have a monkey as a pet!" And smiled. Later in the evening on our way back we passed through the village again. I was fascinated by the lights, the fires in the woods. It was magic. We passed some more stall and on one of them a monkey slaughtered was hanging, bleeding out. With a shock I realized the small boy was not walking a pet, but protecting a meal or an income. Of course this is how ebola spreads, by eating bush meat. I was astonished that some colleagues would eat bush meat. Not realizing the risks.
So what I learned was that seeing with western eyes, one all too often misreads a situation. What I know is that I cannot be sure what I am seeing. So ask and check it out. And don't forget Benin was once the mighty Kingdom of Dahomey.

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