Saturday, August 25, 2007

Some photos

Here are some photos from the last month. There are more, which I hope to be able to post to my Picassa account soon...but a system/opportunity still has to be worked out. Enjoy.

An intimidating stance. At St. Jean Eude's just outside Cotonou, where we spent our first 5 days in Benin.

"The Point of No Return" overlooking the Atlantic in Ouidah. This coast served as one of primary African exit points for slaves from all over Africa being shipped to the Americas.

A view from atop a "mountain" just outside of Dossa. Catholics here annually celebrate an apperation of Mary which they believe appeared on this hill.

On the way North for my post visit our bus--among many others--was held up for about 5 hours near Dossa. The night before a charcoal smuggler had been shot by the Gendarme; appalled what was apparently an excessive show of force, some local witnesses barricaded the road, set some tires on fire, and refused to back down until President Yayi Boni showed up on the scene. He didn'y show, but the Minister of Finance did make an appearance (by helipopter). He checked the scene out, ostensibly said some things to make the peace, and about 2 hours later traffic was moving again. And only 15 hours after the shooting.

Sabastian, one of the other SED trainees, on the beach at Ouidah.

Waiting for the Independence Day parade to begin (only 2 hours behind schedule as it was). That fantastic garb I'm sporting is called a "Bomba," and is tailored from lively "tissue" (fabric) picked out by my host family.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Reason for my Silence

I realize I haven't set the best precedent this past month as far as updates go, but there are good reasons. Training in Azove (Southern city about 5 miles from the Togolese border) has been extremeley structured, and as such there hasn't been much free time to trek to a cybrex in another town.

Azove itself has usually had internet connection in the past; however, in the recent months as I understand it the government shut some services down, ostensibly due to back taxes that have long-been owed.

The cellular phone situation has been similar, as currently only 2 (BB Com and Libercom) of the 4 possible cellular providers are operating. The other 2, Moov and Arriba, were also shut down recently in the name of cracking down on corruption (i.e. collecting on back-taxes, previoulsy uncollected for whatever reason.)

While these interventions have caused some personal frustrations, I surmise that they have potentialy affected more disturbances to the Beninese whose businesses and daily routines are reliant on cell phone service--even those who have SIM cards for the running service providers have had to contend w/ an oversaturated network. About 20% of Africans use mobile phones, and here in Benin the widespread utilization of them is reflective of this wider trend. I heard it reported the other day from BBC that the role of the mobile phone in African life is increasingly important for social communicating, business affairs, even as a means of credit exchange/price negotiating and, during elections, political transparency and accountability. I recall reading in the Economist awhiel back that cell phones were the new "personal computer" [and a relatively affordable one--hence their importance to the developing world], as they have taked on and sometimes replaced many of the communicative functions of a PC.

Rumor has it that a Nigerian Co. has purchased Moov and Arriba and that things are in the works for the remittance of payments, and the resumption of service. Good news for both the people here trying to run a business, and for myself who's just trying to connect with home.