Beetroot salad with baked banana and beef patty.
Homemade yoghurt with black currant syrup.
That was our supper tonight. After having driven out to Migbowotomey in order to inspect the plot of land on which the church there is to be built. Some 6 kilometers along the paved road north from Dogbo,in the direction of Djakotomey, then on to a gravel road 3 or 4 kilometers westwards toward the Togolese border past Gohomey, then southwards again for another 2 or 3 kilometers along a dirt track to Migbowotomey. Left and right cassava and maize fields, with along the edges spindly tomato plants and hot peppers. Houses mostly red mud and thatch, though here and there an enterprising person has at least started a concrete block building. The most permanent looking structures seem to be the storage barns and bake ovens sponsored by DVN and other aid organisations. And the hospital at Gohomey, a well-kept compound, designed with German thoroughness and laid out with an eye for the natural beauty of the surroundings.
The dirt track is passable, though incredibly rutted. Average speed probably 10 km per hour for the last 5. Just as well our pace is restricted, actually, because there is a lot of traffic. Foot traffic, mainly, particularly women carrying loads of unlikely dimensions on their heads, no hands.
We arrive at Moise´s atelier; he is at work weaving sleeping mats, together with his apprentice, a young mother with a baby bound to her back. She rushes off, and comes back with an enamel bowl full of water which she offers to us to drink. We each take a small sip: though each well is a potential health hazard, to refuse is an affront to their hospitality. We talk, he assigns someone from the village the task of showing us the plot of land, and then he gets back to his weaving; those who don’t work don’t eat, in Benin. After our inspection – what can one say, one quarter acre with manioc and maize growing on it looks an awful lot like the next quarter acre – we go on into the village. Children appear like seagulls round a Tim Horton’s box as soon as it is clear that we have cameras and are using them. I am so thankful that digital has replaced film; their mirth at seeing themselves on the TFT screen is hugely contagious, almost making me forget the poverty every rag they are wearing displays.
We visit with A........ and his wife. Or not yet quite wife. Marriage isn’t a fact until the agreed on bride price has been completely paid. And with cash being elusive in a subsistence economy, A......... has a problem. Not only with the wife’s family, who have cash problems of their own. But also with the church. A......... is working on the problem, though. He sells medicine. We are allowed to look into the wooden box with his stock of pills, which he loads onto his bicycle regularly for another tour around the villages. I spy a bundle of blister packs of Diazepam. Does A......... have a license, training, anything in the way of knowledge of what he’s peddling? Better not to ask. Besides, I learn, talking about it later, most of the cheap medicine comes from dubious producers in India and further East. No guarantees about what’s really inside.
On the way back we stop in at the hospital at Godomey. We meet the doctor, a Frenchwoman in her thirties called Helene, who inspires more confidence (with me at least) than A......... did, medically speaking. There is a well-equipped lab at Godomey, as well as a fully stocked dispensary. Good basic care, should we be looking for that. She gives us her number and says we can call anytime with whatever questions we might have. Good to have started working on our network.