Monday, October 29, 2007

Concession Culture


My place of residence here in Nikki is a cement "house" adjacent to others in a duplex-style of construction. This "concession" also features a small front courtyard/outdoor space in front of our residences, where most Beninese do there cooking. The concession is enclosed by cement walls and a metal gate.


Concession-living caries with it its own flavor of culture—nothing like I've ever know, in fact, despite my two years of service as the RA of a college dorm. If I had to encapsulate the culture of concessional living, I would have to proffer that "Concession" is African for "sharing"… of everything.


For example, in a concession everyone shares his or her noise with everyone else. What follows is a typical schedule of what one might commonly here in a typical day:


8:00 – Neighbor girl sweeping the entire courtyard.


10:00-22:00 – Radios and Televisions, played at various times, from various directions, and at various volumes, but as a rule of thumb more loudly as the evening ensues and the temperature cools.


20:00-23:00 – Neighbors yell-talking in Barriba (a local language). Kids

playing/fighting…sometimes not sure which.


4:30 - (yes, that's four-thirty a.m.) – Neighbor girls making "Ignam Pile" (which is French for "mashed yams") to be eaten before sunrise, when the daily fasting of Ramadan begins. The important part is that ignam pile is made by 2-3 girls pounding with a HUGE wooden mortar and pestols, right outside my bedroom window.


4:5:00-6:30 – Various roosters intermittently crowing. Other animals (goats, dogs, etc.) progressively join in morning chorus. Barriba-talking neighbors join in later.    


5:00 and 7:00 – Calls to worship from the nearby Synagogue.


8:00 – Begin again with sweeping, and we have a fully 24-hour day.


Fortunately, I like all my neighbors, and I happen to even like ignam pile. I guess it's just a matter of adjusting….and cranking my radio.