Monday, October 13, 2014

One Last Great Adventure

Kunz and Hawkins = African Brothas!

First of all, I want to thank everybody for the birthday wishes! To let everybody know how I celebrated, I will attach my birthday dinner.

My great b-day dinner of tapioca gruel and fried donuts.

As you can tell it was delicious and it only cost me 40 cents... at least this time I didn't get tricked into buying lunch for my companion like last year!

Other than that, my last birthday in Africa has finally gone by... it was pretty much the last thing I needed to celebrate before I leave for home!

However, the most fun thing that we did was not on my birthday... this week I finally got to cross one more thing off of my Benin bucket list: Ganvie, the Venice of Africa!

We were finally able to head out there and just in time too (it was either now or never). As Elder Kunz and I had never gone out there, we decided to plan an activity with the Office Elders so that we could go and see Ganvie... we kept trying to plan zone activities and get our Zone leaders to do it, but... when you only have a few weeks left, you
gotta take matters into your own hands!

Thankfully, it was pretty cloudy and it had rained that morning so we had no problems weather wise! We headed out to Calavi (which is the shortest way to get to Ganvie). We had to, of course, negotiate the price for renting the boat but we ended up getting it for $28 (renting it for three hours, taking 8 people).

The dock parking lot with the cows we almost hit going in
The dock and going out

The beautiful boat: Elders Oliverson, Isampua, Semeha, Me, Kunz, Donadier

It was pretty sweet! The boat looked sea worthy enough so I wasn't too scared but, you know Africa, anyway it was pretty cool to finally get going out there! The lake was very dirty because of the rain (every time the paddle came up from the water, the water was the color of Coca Cola) but that didn't scare us. The only funny thing was that Elder Isampua was pretty scared to go on the boat (I don't know if he knows how to swim) but the lake is only three feet deep so I wasn't too scared. Plus my camera is waterproof so no big deal!

But thankfully our boat did prove sea worthy all through the trip! We had two rowers with us... it took us about an hour to get there but it was so cool. A lot of people on other boats were passing us and looking at us really weird but it didn't matter as we were on an adventure!

Just cruisin' on the water

Kid with a gas tank boat

Thankfully we didn't see much trash on our way over... actually we saw some really cool plants that grow on the lake that had really pretty flowers on them.

The cool flowers on the lake.

Once we finally got to Ganvie, it was quite different from what I had imagined. I kinda imagined a huge village made on a pile of sticks that floated on water, but it wasn't quite like that! Instead, they were just parcels built on sticks, which is probably what I should have imagined.

Cool straw hut


A house with a very visible water line... in 2006, the water was up to this point and most of the city had to leave and wait for the water to come back down.

The Bridge of Ganvie. Not sure where it goes to.

Our tour guide/rower guy explained to us that Ganvie was created in the early 1700s to escape the slave traders (who would think to look for people in the middle of a lake?!). And even after the slave trade, people continued to live there... apparently, our tour guide said that like 40,000 people live out in Ganvie but I really don't see how that
is possible. I think I might have heard him incorrectly but I think it was more like 1000 people lived out there and that might be stretching it.

Once we got there it was pretty interesting to see all the houses on stilts. Apparently, the water on lac Nokoué is either salty or fresh water depending on the season. During rainy season, it tends to be fresh water from all the rain, but during the dry seasons it is salty.
The main occupation of the people would be fishing. Our guide said that usually the men will go out and fish (women are actually banned from fishing) and then the women will go and sell the fish (men are actually banned from selling). Most families have about 3 boats: one for the father to fish, one for the mother to sell fish, and one for the kids to go to school in.

Sad little kid... most of them were pretty happy to see white people though

Nice Coconut tree!

The mosque

Most people's homes only have one or two rooms and are not too big. There are a few small islands on the lake where people take their kids to learn how to walk (apparently, people can always tell that somebody comes from Ganvie because of the wobbly way they walk). Remember, everything that I am saying to you is coming from my boat driver so
you know that it's true fact and reliable. Like Wikipedia. No worries.

Anyway, there were a lot of kids out there who were all shouting "yovo, yovo" which I didn't mind too much! I thought it was kinda funny this time around because everybody else got a kick out of it too.

The biggest island I found

Our first stop was to the Ganvie hotel and gift shop (who in their right mind would stay there? That's like staying in a train caboose). Actually the two places they took us to were to gift shops... but joke's on them! We didn't buy anything! It had some pretty cool stuff
but I liked just being on some crazy Ganvie stilt houses! The Hotel was called the 7 Star Hotel because it's better than a five star hotel in that you can catch a fish right from your bed... Also, the bathroom just turned out to be a hole to the water...

Kunz and I at the 7 star hotel

The floors and the water below!
Cool vintage coke sign in the hotel

The front of the 7 star hotel

the bathroom with the hole to the water haha

Kunz using the John!

These were the toilets that some NGOs built throughout the city for who knows what reason!
Sorry for all the bathroom pictures

As we kept going along, we noticed a few other cool buildings, like this huge three story building that was a hotel and night club (ookaaay). Also, apparently there are two main "roads" in the city: Fisher's road and "The Young Adult Celibate Lovers road" (yes it is
literally called that) which, according to our tour guide, is where all the youths from the city go set up dates. Apparently it's closed off to everybody else save people going on dates after 7 o'clock at night.... so if you're a married man/woman and you find yourself
there, you're in big trouble!

The "Ganvie Night Club"

Oddly enough, I saw a lot of animals that actually lived there like chickens, goats, dogs, etc... as for what they do all day I have no idea as they can't go very far without falling into the water. 

Goats in Ganvie!


Electricity wise, most people just don't have any but there are some
people who are able to afford generators and solar panels (there were various solar panel street lights throughout the city actually). I also asked where people throw their trash away... well, it ends up in the same place that their bathroom waste goes as well.

Hipsta pic of Afrikan lake

As you might imagine, the water on the lake is not drinkable and is highly polluted. So, there are a few fresh water outlets on the city that people canoe too with big tubs to fill up with water. I'm not sure where the fresh water actually comes from but... I'm guessing it's not from the lake.

I think that's about everything I saw out there. On our way back, our tour guides fired up the roaring engine of our big canoe and we got back to the dock in about 10 minutes.

The Mighty Izekor coming down the stairs to the boat.
Donadier and Fr Francois who helped us get out to Ganvie (a member in Cocotomey)
Towards the end there was quite a bit of water in the boat... not as seaworthy as I thought
Thankfully Elder Izekor did not "drive" the whole way.

Big open waters

Getting off the boat was a slippery affair.

Kunz, Me, Oliverson, Donadier

 Anyway, that will probably be my last, real African adventure on my mission! Hopefully I'll be able to come back one day and visit the northern wildlife reserves, but those are just a little to far away to visit (not that Elder Oliverson and I haven't been planning on sneaking off for two days to go and visit...).

Other than Ganvie and my birthday, there wasn't really anything too special that happened this week. Elder Mejean has finally left back to France and he promised me that he will be eating raclette for me this week... we had interviews with President too... mine wasn't really too big of a deal because I'll be having my exit interview in two weeks anyway!

Like I said last week, I'm still chugging along. I'm really thankful for all the advice that people have been sending to me about how to finish the mission well... and I'll be applying it my best! I can't say that this last month has been easy, but nothing ever has been easy on this mission so I'm not too surprised!

Thanks again for all the birthday wishes! I was glad to "talk" with so many people today and hope that everyone has a great week... hard to imagine that next week will be my last in Africa, so this will be the time to take advantage of it!

Love you all,

Elder Hawkins

Me and Ganvie

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