– Sophie Shiznit Njenga
Although Voodoo was one of the most interesting things to me about Benin culture, the other one was definitely their food. Boy, to they love their beans! They have like 3 or 4 different types of beans they eat and this can be eaten with anything and everything… from spaghetti to fried sweet bananas (aloko) to yam to having a beans sandwich (which is all delicious by the way, no complaints here). Aside from that, I found their ‘fromage’ (cheese) very intriguing. It literally looked like a piece of deep fried chicken on your plate. Like they took it to the next level; they cook their cheese, and it is absolutely yummy. I came to find out that their type of cheese is different. It is a tougher version so they basically chop it up into big chunks then boil it and throw it in a yummy spicy stew or deep fry it and have it dry. All I was thinking whilst writing that was ‘Yum yum yum’. Please note, most of their food is spicy, so mentally prep your taste buds to handle it.
So how do I get around Benin Sophie? With the best thing evvveeerrr! Kekenon!!!
These are motorcycle guys. ‘Kekenon’ essentially means motorbike guy. ‘Keke’ meaning ‘motorcycle’ and ‘non’ meaning the person who rides it. All you have to do is tell them your destination, hop on and voila! Like Magic. I really loved this about Benin because it made moving around so easy that it almost felt like you were cheating… but only if you are going to a popular destination. If you are going e.g. to your friend’s house, this becomes a bit more complicated. This is because giving/getting directions in Benin is one of the most difficult things ever. It is literally like rocket science.
Most streets are not labelled and sometimes there are multiple branches of the landmark so that can be quite confusing. Signs are a rare commodity in many cases annndddd the most frustrating thing is you can be a street away from your final destination but the people on that street have NEVER HEARD OF IT. *Insert question marks in the air as I throw my hands up*. The good news is that the Kekenons can be found everywhere and at any time. So you are never stuck.
When you take that 10mins walk down that street, you will notice that people wear colourful printed things and in most cases a matching top and bottom. This applies to both men and women. This is because, like in many West African countries, people prefer to have their clothes made than to buy finished modern clothing, which is quite different from home. We wear more of modern clothing like jeans and t-shirts, to name a few. But in Benin, people buy their colourful material, mostly in the market, head off to their tailor, take measurements and describe what they would like made. End result, a colourful people.
I find it beautiful. I believe you will too. I can go on and on about this very interesting country. But I chose to stop here before it turns into a book! So I hope you end up going to Benin to experience that earth shuttering culture shock and end up sharing your experience as well. And when you do go, say hi to the Kekenons for me.
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