While Kate’s mom was distracted by buzzing zemis, Al kept marveling at the women carrying huge piles of goods on top of their heads. Several times they turned back only to find him frantically trying to calculate the weight-balance ratio needed to accomplish this impressive feat. Flat Al would soon become equally perplexed by the packing capacity of bush taxis such as this one:
The next morning Al and the girls left the hotel early and were met at the water’s edge by the friendly guide Pascal and his trusty boat. Minutes later they were happily speeding toward Benin’s most popular tourist attraction, the aquatic stilt village of Ganvié where 30,000 locals still carry out their lives in, on, and just inches above Lake Nakoué.
That afternoon, Al, Kate, and Lois hopped over to Porto Novo. Built on a marsh and still liberally sprinkled with colonial architecture, Benin’s official capital has a very different feel from the hubbub of Cotonou. Here, Al and Lois got their first glimpse of Peace Corps volunteers in action. Southern volunteers were in the middle of a week-long summer camp for motivated young girls. The gang stopped over to check it out and meet some of Kate’s Peace Corps buddies.
First stop was the Ouidah History Museum, housed on the premises of the last remaining colonial fort. Built by the Portuguese in 1721 as a trade and missionary base, the fort stood watch as millions of Africans marched by on their way to slave ships bound for the Americas. Today, the museum documents with accounts and artifacts how Ouidah came to be the busiest slave port in West Africa.
Al and the “Gate of No Return”