Benin Travel Stories, Page 6

330 430 530 Prayer

330 430 530 Prayer
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Loudspeaker systems, the pollution of the modern world, I am in the middle of church, the protestant minister is hollering brimstone and hell, I am young, I want to know why he is turning red. The Auberge Centrale is located behind a Mosque, the Mosque for some reason is intent on keeping the whole area awake. It started at 3:30 and is on continuing, I am confused, never experienced this level. Cairo Egypt has some record breaker below my hotel, but this is making that look weak. They volume there was like a boom box in the middle of funeral home, but it was soon shut off, this one never ends, it continues the whole day, just when I relax, it starts again, like a never ending game of I feel guilty, what did I forget to do.

That does it, I am moving if for only one night, the hotel is nice, good location, the noise is too much, but they do not have water, the problem is they do not carry water to the tub, the lazy dog mentality is rampant, I do not want to be the noisy wheel, I want to just expect the minimums. This places is falling short, I will move behind the market, to the dodgy, hard to put my finger on, however typical, in an up the stairs, some girl will be there way. Nonetheless, I know I will for sure, 100 percent is immersed in the culture of Africa, I paid the big dime to come here, and I am going to be experienced in Africa. I do not even know the name of the hotel, all the choices have a bar section in the middle, with someone sitting drinking a bottle.

Time to get packed, 5:47 AM, I must go to the internet at 8:00, I have a need for speed, I hear it has some speed between 8 and 10, I have already noticed this in West Africa, I have to be the first one there. Drudgery, I will pack, load up, have it waiting, then leave, come back and move, not a good system, not secure, no option is secure.

330 430 530 Prayer

Opening a Hostel Hotel

Opening a Hostel Hotel
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

- The most precious things in speech are pauses. -
Attributed to Ralph Richardson (1902 - 1983)
British actor

I have been dwelling, musing, obsessing on the idea of opening a Hostel - Hotel since I started traveling. In fact, I left the USA to start a Hostel in Mexico, not to travel. The whole trip has been about finding a hotel, which is all I do, look for a hotel… It is my life, my home, and my country, when I am in the Hotel, in the room, living my life.

Ok, obsessions have focus on a good day; sometime there is method to the madness. I have two friends, they are travelers, different from me, but still they are out and about, I think addicted. It takes at least one year to get a good solid needle punched into a solid working vein, but after one year, the needle is planet. The opiate of travel is inserted, then the question comes… as Craig says,
- So, how will I live when I run out of money? Ah yes, the $10,000 question? -

However, this is not the problem, the problem is this, these are addicts, I am telling myself, I want to start a Hostel, but I am always the one that wants to leave. Reminds me of Yogi from Canada and his strip club full of prostitutes in Pie de La Cuesta, Mexico. They danced one time and someone gave them an offer, they left, and no dancers. Putting a bunch of travelers in to manage a Hostel is about the same, they travel, the leave, they get the wanderlust, the train whistle blows, a girl calls, and they are gone, on the road again…

- I am tempted but not really wanting to stop my travels just yet, but tempted indeed...

- I was thinking of hitting up South America first... -
- Because I know once I get over there, I'm just going to keep roaming around those continents.

- if the right venture comes up...on the other hand 4 months of rest sounds mighty tempting indeed...

On the path, on the trail, whatever the path, there is a need to energize, that little energizer Rabbit, starts to stop blinking, banging and running around. It wants to stop, and it will stop, but as Robert says, 4 months is tempting… I can see a 4 month, maybe 2 month stop in many places, however I am not sure, after two months in one place, I think the person is living. I am not sure, I must consult with many a traveler before me, what is the ruling, how many months can I live in a place before I stopped traveling? I guess, about 2 months, then time to scoot, or you are not a traveler, you are living in another country.

I WROTE ROBERT: (This started this whole post, the culmination of many small thoughts, the summing of ideas and feelings. )

Robert, I do not want to stop travel, I am wanting to establish some bases around the planet, some secure zones where the hotel is secured up for long-term storage of extra junk, needed equipment, etc. A place that has all the toys, whistles and oasis in the middle of continents for a person that knows what they want. Internet, storage, rooms with proper toilets, a comfort zone, a kitchen to cook, sort of like Malaga, that hostel was nice, a family. The dorm was not nice

- So many bad hostels makes me want to do one properly. -

Maybe this is my obsession, to just do one thing right in life. Or more correctly to travel to leave one thing right in life and always look around the corner of the building, down the street, to the next country, is there something more right there?

A pause, a wink, a nod of the head, a longer look than normal at the girl, she weave, wiggle, look just 90 degrees to her right, I need the pause, the time, the brief moment where, I got the look.

Like in the movie the beach, when for one moment, one second, the world was perfect. It was another day in paradise. And you think it can last forever, like the vacation, the perfect week, the perfect day, the sunset that drops into the water, and the breeze bringing in the night, and unexpected delights. Travel…

I need the spot, the stopping, the caesura… The pause, before the eruption of music, the volcano overflows and the life tumbles out.

1. poetry pause in line of verse: a pause in a line of poetry, especially to allow its sense to be made clear or to follow the rhythms of natural speech, often near the middle of the line. Also called pause
Also called rest
Also called break

2. poetry break in line of verse: in classical poetry, especially Greek, a break between two words that are part of the same unit of rhythm (foot), usually near the middle of the line. Also called break

3. music musical interruption: a brief interruption in a musical phrase

4. pause: a pause or break in speech or conversation (formal)

- Mid-16th century. From Latin , “cut,” from caedere “to cut” (source of English concise). The underlying idea is of cutting the line in two.-

The Latin word caedere, meaning “to cut,” from which caesura is derived, is also the source of English chisel, concise, excise, incise, and scissors.

Travel is the caesura, the pause, the escape, the nod, the wink, the stumble of the pretty girl who looks back; give me one last look, before she leaves and never looks back. My one second, when the world was perfect.

I am looking for that one perfect moment, that one perfect place, that exist in every country, in every culture, in every city I enter. I want to pause, only for a brief second, in a hostel, guaranteed to have all my toys in the closet, waiting for me to open. Amazing how a kitchen in a hotel or hostel full of travelers, cooking their veggie, wanna be different meals can give me a rush. The United Nations of Travelers, all making the soup, none agree, however it is good.

I wish to start at least six hotels - hostels around the planet, with routes defined in and out, so I can escape to or way in a never-ending circle of the planet called earth.

Opening a Hostel Hotel

West Africa Travel Budget

West Africa Travel Budget
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The cost of travel in West Africa can be the most confusing subject about West Africa. The tourist that seem to travel here, are only short trip tourist, one country, and the ones that are across countries are scattered so far apart and so diverse in their nature, language, and methods of travel, there is no core travel information.

The internet can change this or bring together the folks traveling in Africa, however, how to do this, why, where, and all the other ideas is not so simple.

Hotels: 3000 to 6000 CFA is what should be paid, and max is 10,000 CFA. Camping is the cheap option.

CATTLE CAR: 1000 CFA or the equivalent will get me 50-100 Kilometers.

DRIVING: A van, Peugeot or Mercedes would save money I think, however the time involved, the commitment to the vehicle, the amount of money to get across borders is confusing. The money saved by sleeping in the van, and by being to tell a hotel to take hike, your prices are too high would offset the cost of any extra gas prices. The danger of driving is higher, a person can be isolated by bandits or police, while the do not normally just take over a cattle car.

FOOD. I truly think a person should buy an electric hot plate and buy foods in the Super Marche, then somehow figure out the cost of street foods. I am now buying some rice for 100 CFA and adding some of my own spices to make it eatable for me.

In the end, most people drink a lot of beer, I do not drink, do not need to sit in empty bars trying to have fun. I am happy being a normal person walking around in West Africa. The bottom line as of today is the cost of Africa is about 15,000 to 20,000 CFA per day or about 30 to 40 US dollars per day. I think it is very possible for the person with a small pack, and small drinking budget to travel for less than 25; however, they are going to constantly be searching for hotels, and need to map the hotels ahead or places where there are hotels.

1200 per month, not including airfare will get you by easily, and 600 if you are a good Hobo.

West Africa Travel Budget

I Am Sad For Thailand

I Am Sad For Thailand
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I read from a CNN update I received in my email box and USA consular sheets, also in my Email box that there has been some type of Military takeover the country of Thailand.

USA Travel Warning System

I do not jump anymore when I read a CNN report or BBC; I know there is only about a 25 percent chance it is as serious as they make it. All governmental changes are serious, however not as serious as they seem. Especially if you understand, do not get in involved, stop drinking and leave the troubled area for the normal people areas.

However, even badly reported news is better than no news. I have discovered that to quickly understand the world, my own page is now the best. However, I NEED to go to it and read, this is not an alert system and I have not myself been on the internet for about 7-10 days. My page collects and groups most of the major web site RSS feeds into one page for easy reading.

The CNN update more or less says that a group, wanting democracy has surrounded the major government areas on the 19 of September 2006, today is the 26 of September, this means I have been out of contact for 7 days. This is not a big problem, unless I had a plane soon for Thailand, which is always possible because I use Bangkok, as a travel base for plane fares.

I feel like Thailand is an old and cantankerous old friend. My friend however can be a fair-weather friend. I do not trust Thailand and I do not trust any country. I trust the USA, England, maybe Germany, possibly Japan, after that it get difficult, I suppose Australia and New Zealand.

Most countries are not stable; there is always the possibility of sudden change. Even if they are stable, that does not mean a larger China cannot come in and take over. Thailand is self-inflated in their sense of self and value, they over-state or over-believe their understanding and capacity to be first world. Rather a girlish, lady-boy, anything goes, and one man can control them problem. A lot of blow, a little steam, however, no real fire under them. This is why any country can be harnessed or capture, a few selected cities, the right buildings, the right people and all the fiefs will sit back and try to not get involved.

I like Thaeksin in way, he was all business, a business running the country is better than a religious person or a funky, and not do anything country. The government of Holland or the Netherlands is almost a joke; the country runs in spite of its government because of the business. I told a person Thaeksin needs to leave, before the kill him, he needs to get out of town while he is ahead. Power, never can accept that they can be removed.

Who knows what is up in Thailand, a good time to return and sniff around, for fun? Nevertheless, how to escape Africa, it is a huge dime to fly in and out of Africa.

I Am Sad For Thailand

Natitingou Benin Hotel Electricity Questions

Natitingou Benin Hotel
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Monday, September 25, 2006

I have a low battery and I have no idea when the Auberge will have electricity, I am paying at the bottom, only 3500 probably could get for 2500, but it has had the electricity off all day. I went to two other Hotels and found the electricity on and room for 3500, and 5000. The problem is the Zim or Motorcycle taxis. There is a resistance to leaving when you need to walk a half mile to go somewhere, the Zims are only 100 Francs or 20 cents US, about anywhere in the city of Natitingou Benin, I am hard pressed to complain.

The electricity just came on, the girl was saying something about dix huit or 18:00 hours, it is now 6:20, and however this is suspicious. Is it just this Auberge or Hotel or is it the whole area. The women working in the hotel knew the time when it would come on, I could now hear the neighborhood turn on their stereos. Weird, difficult and does not make me happy.

I like to understand at least, and truthfully, I do not think the management here in the Auberge Centrale speaks French worth a darn, but it is the cheapest in town so far.

I can get a room behind the market, in an unmarked, building down the hill from the center of the market. It is like a bar, television room and looked to have a French Expat smoking cigarettes. It has the flavor or a drink and gets a room hotel, hard pressed to want to rent a room, however the location is great. I would walk through the cultural market, and down that way seems to be normal life homes. I am thinking I will go there when I come back from seeing the Somba, if I come back, on the other hand, not much reason to return. I keep thinking I will use the internet; my only hope is it is faster between 8 and 10 in the morning, and dropped today by the time I got it working.

The other hotel is behind the center big Super Marche, and behind the typical or local market. There is a road behind the market and it T’s with this road and goes down a hill and is on the right. The women is funny and spoke English, however the French Expat did not, as normal the women is a local.

Natitingou Benin Hotel


Natitingou Benin West Africa
Monday, September 25, 2006

Rooting around in the encyclopedia for Somba, I came up with a term for the cuts or scars on the peoples faces. They call it Scarification, go figure;

- Scarification is the practice of cutting the skin and introducing irritants into the wound to produce a permanent scar. Although rarely practiced today, scarification has a long tradition in many African cultures, and these traditional markings continue to appear on carved statues and pottery figures. Most scars were made on the face, back, chest, or around the navel. Scarification could indicate status or ethnic affiliation, or it could offer protection against harmful spirits. For example, among the Somba people of Benin and Togo, in western Africa, scarification indicated a person’s stage in life. An individual received his or her first marks at the age of 14, signifying the transition from childhood to adulthood. -

It says above,
- Although rarely practiced today. -

I would have to disagree whole-heartedly with this one, I see it everywhere and anywhere, hard to photograph because the people are not too excited, but I have many already in the blog.

I believe this woman is Fon, she lived in a small village between Bassila and Natitingou Benin West Africa, most likely Fon, however never can be sure until lots of probing. However, I am 95 percent sure, the cheek a has a cut on it, the soldier that was sitting in the cattle car had one that went up his nose, over the bridge and down the other side.

Scars are easy to see, and numerous in small villages.

The type of cut helps to determine the village or tribe, language. I am being hopefully loose in this, it is not as distinct as maybe the Guatemala clothing, however it may be distinct with different groups, there is definite a problem separating them as the culture bleed together. The more common tribal affair is the now the Islamic versus the Catholic, and the dress and style of clothes is worn to distinguish on the too serious ones.


Benin Culture Exchange

Benin Culture Exchange
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Monday, September 25, 2006

I am now a well-known person in the streets of Natitingou Benin, I have probably walked up and down the long stretch of four-lane with a medium about 20 times in the last two days. I found a market behind the big Super Marche, and it is nice. However, what has me going is the group of about five different girls in town.

I am not sure what they are up to, I stopped one, tried my best to inquire as to the name of her village. I am living in an information vacuum, I have less information here than if I was in the Library in the USA looking at photos. The time it takes to jiggle the brain here to put together a connection. I say something like,
- Fon ?

Which means, are you Fon, or the local people, I know the are not, but I want them to say,
- No, I am … blah blah blah -

The girls are interesting, quick eyed, and fast, they caught me when I took this photo, and instantly was walking behind me saying something about Largent or money in French. I just said,
- Le Deux Jolie. -

The two pretty, I am glad I do not really comprehend what they are saying or I would get serious. I have vowed to not give any people money and more, it is ended, no more heart tugs for me, I am off the give money kick. These girls are nice, I am thinking maybe they are the Somba people, however no way to figure this out. Normally, I would inquire or push around in the hotel, but I would do better trying to learn Fon or the Somba language. Not up to snuff in the hotel on daily vitamins.

I am going towards what is Somba country in Benin or a people that live in strange house and maybe walk around naked… hehehe

I am in Natitingou Benin; I will go in a couple of days to Boukombe, then north to Batia or something. There is park with hippos, I want to see, however it may be closed and difficult without a car.

Boukombe and the Park are the two reasons for any excitement in the city of Natitingou, both are tourist attractions, and the biggest city close is Natitingou, I guess, the park I am not sure. This is not a big city; it is long stretch of highway infiltrated by sightseeing NGO groups. May Toyota Land Cruisers here, the car of all respectable and rich NGO sightseeing groups.

I am excited, there is an independent feeling about these girls with the silver or aluminum bangle, they are decked and working the world. Energy and not just lazy dog style of Africa.

Somba (also known as Bataba and Temberma), ethnic group of West Africa.
- The Somba primarily inhabit northwestern Benin and northern Togo. They speak a Niger-Congo language (see Languages, African: An Overview: The Niger-Congo Family). About 300,000 people consider themselves Somba.-

300,000 that is a lot, I am going to figure out this more, the guidebook made to see them is the city of Boukombe, impossible to believe there are 300,000 people in the speck of a city on the map. I will try to find some other small villages or do the cattle cars run around, I am sure I can figure out what and where they are located. I would go back into Togo, but the Visa is not possible this way easy.

Benin Culture Exchange

Benin Condoms for Cash

Benin Condoms for Cash
Natitingou Benin West Africa
Monday, September 25, 2006

I am going to go and price the cost of Condoms, I am annoyed by the anti SIDA signs, and SIDA is the acronym for AIDS in French of Spanish. There are many signs along the road now, we are in a tourist type area, this area serves two major tourist attractions of Benin, there is the Somba people with funky homes, and the park with Hippos and Elephants. Therefore more NGOs as they are always in the best tourist areas. (Read about my Cusco Volunteer blogs with mad at me.)




This is the buzzwords of the save the world, government, NGO, Ecotourism and every other illogical agency on the planet. It is the decade of sustainable crap.

Sustainable Condoms

Sustainable Defined:
1. able to be maintained: able to be maintained
2. environment maintaining an ecological balance: exploiting natural resources without destroying the ecological balance of a particular area.

I need to continually look up this word, it is always missing in my mind, and it just does not mean what it means to me, it is missing a piece of the puzzle.

Somehow, this world must mean also the step-by-step, algorithmic, causal relations that are needed to make something sustainable. The word is used as an intellectual dogma, which speaks aptly to the give me money people.

A group says, we are doing a sustainable project, and a person thinks, this is good. A project being maintained and will continue through time. This sounds great, but how can a project be maintained when the people have no money.

Cash for condoms.
Condom for cash.

Here is sign in Bassila, Benin, I was laughing, it is to buy condoms for men and women. I was wondering, maybe for the goats… Hehehe. Note, there are arranged marriages, complicated social networks here, and everyone knows everyone, not an easy thing for 16 years old boy to manage that wants to do boom boom with his girl down by the river. One thing that is totally myth to me is that people wait for marriage before having sex, on some other planet.

A person needs CFA or Dollars to buy condoms, how many Pima or Citron, how many Peppers or Oranges does a person have to sell per day to have normal sex with someone. It is not feasible, there is no way the group, under 25 that needs the condoms have the cash, they will not take good money and pay for condoms when they want to buy music or a portable phone. I just do not see it, not sustainable in the least.

There either needs to be a 5 CFA Condom or much better business practices. Everyone is rushing to enter into business that makes a couple of dollars per day if they are lucky. Everyone is in business and no just easy, normal, factory type jobs to create the consumer. I cannot believe one Orange sales person goes over to another and buys an orange.

There is a vicious circle of nonsensical business, everyone starts the same business to make money, and however there is nobody making any money to be a consumer of the products being sold. No diversity of products or food, it is as if all the geese are flying the wrong direction.

Sustainable what?
A marketing program is about from A to Z and there is no free money, a marketing program must make money to survive. A business must be profitable, an NGO wants to say sustainable, however it may be sustainable, however they will never leave because they do not get to the real problem. This place needs the solution of business to thrive. I see the micro-finance idea here everywhere, but what are they going to finance, another grain machine, or another orange stand. There is no ideas being manufactured, all the geese are flying the same direction.

What is needed is idea for business that could thrive in Benin or Africa or West Africa.

NOTE: As a side note, this is added later. I have discovered the company of Prudence sells condoms here 4 for 100 Fran or about 20 cents for 4, this is an exceptional value. This is an uncommonly low price for condoms on the planet. Thailand the price about one dollars for 3, so this is cheaper in Benin.

Benin is the only country though where I have found them in substantial numbers, however as always, anyone can make bad observations.

Benin Condoms for Cash