December 2016- February 2017.
To the almighty, the author and finisher of my faith.
To Onifade Damini, for his financial support.
And to AIESEC Abeokuta and UAC, for the platform.
And so the thought came to me in an odoriferous manner, as of the fashion of mysticism. Buried in my surmise about vanquishing and conquering the earth, I said to myself, “purpose is what changes the course of a man’s life, passion is what keeps him going and hope is what makes his purpose and passion a proclivity and deportment”. Because every day, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
And I’ll never appreciate how marvelous, astonishing, fascinating, freaky, miraculous, spectacular or extraordinary the world we live in is, unless I explore, from the grand concourse of the north to the chief openings at the west, to the beautiful esplanade of the east and the gentle glacis of the south. I’m a creative writer and this is my purpose.
I chose to travel to Benin Republic because of cultural exchange, adventure, language, proximity, experience and to gain perspective. Which cuts across my core value and purpose in life.
Benin Republic, the home of Dahomey, the epitome and embodiment of exquisiteness that houses the tropics and Sub-Saharan is a wonderful place to visit.
The Benin people are very homely which howbeit, would always encourage me to frequently visit this lovely citadel of peace and tranquility. I must confess, Benin is like a home far away from home, as I could blend in just easily.
The adaptation process wasn’t too difficult for me, because I settled in first, with a lot of acute feasibility study, allowing Benin to pass through me, with this strategy of mine, my eyes were opened to the nitty-gritty and the differences between Nigeria and Benin Republic, and if you ask me, I would tell that there are several differences between these two states.
A lot of things fascinated me about the Beninese people and the Benin Republic in general, for instance, I was surprised to see women tie wrappers on corporate wears like suits and go to their respective places of work, it was also surprising to see women riding motorcycles and also having possession of motorbikes, which is the contrary in Nigeria. Unlike Nigeria in general, I didn’t see any hustle and bustle, which made me conclude that the Beninese are people of great content.
Although I might be wrong, I believe it is a good approach to life. My favorite food was Atassi and Aloko which made the butterflies in my belly come alive each time I ate it and it also gave a soothing feeling to my taste buds.
My house was located at Gbegamey Cotonou, and this made “Tincy boulangerie” one of my major places of contact because there wasn’t a day that I wouldn’t visit there to buy bread, which is a staple diet for the Beninese people. Another major place of contact was the coffee and breakfast shop of a great friend of mine who I simply referred to as “Mon Amie”, meaning my friend, because he had a soft spot for Nigerians.
In the latter part of my stay in the Benin Republic, I passed through Benin, and I must confess this part of my stay was the one I enjoyed the most because I felt like a Beninese already. Nobody knows where life directs one, but I’m grateful to God almighty for the opportunity he gave me to visit Benin Republic.
Place Des Martyrs:
“We are going to Place des Martyrs right away, if don’t know your tour as officially started,” that is what I can remember of the hurryingly voice of Vivien, a local committee member of AIESEC UAC, who happens to be a good friend of mine now, he gave me the directory to the place and told me to meet him there, I thought he was joking, even after seeing me off to the main road, I still thought he wasn’t going to leave me all alone, until I saw him pacing off with so much velocity, enjoying his jolly ride via his motorbike.
All of a sudden, I became a tabula rasa, different thoughts continued to stream and beck in my mind, I was somewhat furious with him, “how does this guy expect me to get to this place?” that was the question I kept asking myself. Fortunately, a “kekenon driver” (commercial motorcyclist) was fast approaching so I beckoned for him to stop, which he did. After speaking the whole French I knew and understood in this world, backing it up with different body languages, signs and signals the man eventually got the message, so he took me to Place des Martyrs.
On my way to Place des Martyrs, I was able to properly view the city of Cotonou and I must confess, I was a bit razzle dazzled because of the beautiful scenery and landscape the city has to offer, there and then it rang a bell as to the reason why Viviane only gave me the directory to Place des Martyrs and asked me to meet him there, so the furiousness and inflamedness inside of me eloped into thin air.
Place des Martyrs is a monument commemorating the victims of the attempted coup of 1977. The place reminds both locals and foreigners that 17 Benineses died on the 16th of January 1977, the day French mercenary Bod Denard tried a coup d’etat. The statue is a very beautiful piece of artwork and it is one of the more interesting landmarks in Cotonou. Place des Martyrs eventually became a place I always loved to visit, because of the serene environment, free Wi-Fi connection, and also because it allowed me to always get inspired and get insight into a couple of reflexes that concerns my day-to-day activities.
If you intend to come to Cotonou, Benin Republic for whatsoever reason, Etoile Rouge is an important monument you have to go see.
I was fascinated by the irresistible charming red star, although I wasn’t able to spend much time at etoile rouge.
Etoile rouge is located at the heart of Cotonou in the center of a roundabout. It serves as a posing reminder of former President Mathieu Kerekou’s trifle with socialism.
Babs Dock Island :
This island was my best attraction, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to visit the place. It was a warm Sunday morning, when the vice-president, incoming global exchange department of AIESEC UAC, in the person of Bernis came visiting with one of his team member Massourath, at my place of abode, after a brief pleasantry, I was informed that I was to go on a tour to Babs Dock island.
And so I got prepared and ready for the journey. My journey to the place was very rough, maybe it is because it was via a motorbike, so I began to have doubts as to if visiting the place was worth it.
In no time we got there, it was required of us to travel via a boat to the island, upon hearing this I began to develop an interest in going to see Babs Dock.
Paddling through the tropical rainforest and listening to the singing birds, I felt this connection with nature, something I cannot explain because a sense of calmness suddenly descended upon me, I felt peace like a river and all around my loins. My troubled heart melted away, and I had a free state of mind. It was a feeling, my pen and paper cannot express and explain. That is what I refer to as the power of mother nature.
As soon as we got to the bay, we went to a restaurant to get something to eat, I was able to familiarize myself with Massourath, who all along, I have been trying my best to communicate with, both in English and in French. She kept on making fun of my French accent, which she described to be horrible. I must confess she is such a beauty to behold.
After eating, we did some swinging which was a lot of fun for me, we went to see some animals they had around, I went boat riding, I wasn’t able to swim because I was scared of the water.
Above all, I had a great time at Babs Dock Island, and whenever I’m opportune to be in Cotonou again I would visit Babs dock Island again to relive the experience.
One of the striking difference between Nigeria and Benin Republic is the capital city, unlike many nations of the world, Benin Republic has two capital cities, one in Cotonou and the other at Port Novo. Cotonou is said to be the economic capital, while Port Novo is the Political capital.
My visit to the political capital of Benin Republic was jolly, and it was in three phases as I was scheduled to visit three wonderful places namely; Musée da-Sliva, Pantheon Negro & Africain and Jardin des Plantes des et de la Nature (SONGHAI Regional Center).
Musée in French means the museum, so in other words, I was able to visit da-Sliva Museum. This time around I was accompanied, by two beautiful ladies, they served as my guide and body. My forever beautiful Massourath, who always loves to make fun of my Fench ascent and Clotilde Ballo, someone I love to refer to as a woman of few words.
Musée da-Sliva is a private museum that details the history of Benin, from the old Dahomey kingdom to present-day Benin. I was able to learn about the Afro-Brazilian culture and way of life, I must confess it was mind-blowing. The memoir of Martin Luther King Jr. Was also mind-blowing and inspiring.
The museum showcases a lot of art collections from different parts of the world, the archaic world of engineering, science and technology and also classic cars.
This place is a must-visit for you whenever you are in Port Novo.
Pantheon Negro & Africain:
I have always been proud to be black, visiting Pantheon Negro & Africain gave me more reasons to be proud of my heritage and culture.
This place reminds the black race where we’re coming from and how we’ve been able to wilder the storm of colonial imperialism and slave trade.
This museum truly preserves the African memory and gives insight as to why Africa is important in history.
It is no gainsaying that civilization started in Africa, so it is high time Africa ascended the place of prominence which she is endowed and potentially gifted to be, and assert herself to be an important race.
The museum showcases portraits of African heroes, masqueraders, African drums, art designs, and sculptures.
My favorite attraction is the Negro’s tree of liberty which symbolizes the perseverance of the black race.
Jardin Des Plantes Et De La Nature (SONGHAI Regional Center):
SONGHAI farms to me is another world completely. This place was my last point of contact in Port Novo.
Commercial agriculture is not gathering too much momentum in Africa, subsistence agriculture, on the other hand, is gradually fizzling out to the blues because many people don’t want to farm anymore. And to be frank I believe agriculture is the future for Africa.
I was razzle dazzled with the way and manner commercial agriculture is been practiced at SONGHAI farms, a world-class farming settlement.
Unlike many other farm establishments, SONGHAI farms is a multidisciplinary entity that integrates an array of sub-divisions from the whole agricultural dynamics. I.e. the integration of agronomy, horticulture, agricultural engineering, agricultural economics, and animal science.
The farm’s beautiful view of lush greenery showcases the bi-causal relationship that exists between man and his environment.
Part of the innovations put in place by SONGHAI farms, includes soil improvement using completely organic animal waste, these wastes are converted to nutrients via bacteria processes, this processes also releases gases which are then used to power the center’s generators.
At SONGHAI farms, nothing is left to waste, all inputs are been recycled to further production.
My visit to SONGHAI farms was an eye-opener, as I have been able to see the greater advantage agriculture poses to the survival of mankind and how industrious it is, entering into that line of business.
SONGHAI farms is a must-visit for you whenever you are in Port Novo.
Knowledge is light, ignorance is darkness, education fosters knowledge, so knowledge is power. One of the many reasons I respect the inhabitants of Benin is their thirst for knowledge, this was why I decided to visit the University Of Abomey-Calavi. Abomey-Calavi is another city on its own.
Established in 1970, the University Of Abomey-Calavi is one of the Beninese best citadel for learning and discovery. The University provides several academic and non-academic facilities and services to students including a library, housing, sports facilities and/or activities, financial aids and/or scholarships, study abroad and exchange programs, online courses, and distance learning opportunities, as well as administrative services.
This place is also a must-visit for you whenever you are in the Benin Republic.
Other side attractions I visited include the famous tokpa market, the China cultural center, Bibliothèque Gbegamin, Elevon beach, and Obama beach.
I am eternally grateful to God for the opportunity to complete my project peacefully without any disturbance.
Although I had some challenges at first, for example, the spending of coins which was completely strange to me, as I had misplaced so many of them, communication/language and cultural barrier, fear of missing out and food, etc. But I was able to persevere and this paid off for me at last.
Afritours 2.0 was a wonderful experience for me, which I will always want to relive. Every moment spent in the Benin Republic was a memorable one, and forever I’ll hold on to them for the rest of my life.
I want to sincerely thank AIESEC UAC, for their warm reception and hospitality. I was able to meet a lot of people from different races and cultural backgrounds, which allowed me to strive for excellence, activate leadership, live diversity, act sustainably, demonstrate integrity and enjoy participation. I was also able to make new friends and contacts, mostly Ghanaians which is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Friends like, Cornelia Mensah, Clotide Ballo, Bernis, Loretta Badu, Martin Akodo, Adolf Buduka, Mohammed, Jamiu Marjid, Suzzane, Clinton who loved to call me ‘Omo Naija, Vivien Gbewezoun, Elvire, Bernita, Victory Mesona, Mon Ami and Esther, all made my stay a memorable one, and I miss all of them.
I am very happy with myself, because I came, saw and conquered.
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