Life teems on the back of motorcycles, its’ passengers laughing, dancing and sharing stories. Precious cargo of bread, chickens, babies, wheely desk chairs and window panes zoom through sandy streets jumping up and down over sand bumps. Women with the most elaborate dresses and their sleeves blowing in the breeze, telling their zemidjan driver all about their grievances of the day or their joys, regardless they recount with so much passion that it becomes hard to conclude their tone, they speed and chat.
The zemidjan drivers and their yellow jackets rule the roads and have no laws. The Beninese regard them as invisible on the roads that they populate. “Just drive shouted” my Beninese friend as I waited for hundreds of motorbikes to pass by. They don’t count, they’ll move around you. Though apparent that statement was not entirely true I released the day I drove past a dead one.
Benins markets are a beautiful vibrant tribute to it’s culture and welcoming character it breathes colour and screams I’M ALIVE it’s there where I can get freshly fried donuts, practice some Fon and be completely overwhelmed by the fabric. The fabric is beautiful, the colours litter the small crowded streets and normally completely distract me until the cart pushers end-up nearly sweeping me off my feet and into their rubbish tips on wheels, or on to their cart of meat or cups or what ever they may be transporting.
Little girls play in the streets, plastic bottles tied to their back like dollies so that they look like mummy, they open their mouth wide and nearly die laughing when this Yovo greets them in their mother tongue. I’m like a clown- without paint.
Fan Ice carts squeeze down tiny pathways and knock over a ladies stall of bras, beads jingle and shimmer as they are continually knocked by passers by, the Fan Ice man continues and relentlessly squeezes his bicycle horn to announce his presence.
It’s a beautiful place that strangely brings rest in line with chaos.
Benin is also blessed with beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, palm trees waving and tiny huts spotted out to the horizon, it is loud and the waves give of a thunderous clap that occasionally leads one to believe an earthquake is on it’s way. The beach though, brings calm and has become our church, our resting place, our Sunday place, our close to the weeks trickery.
It is also a good place to chase crabs…