All the best blog posts these days seem to start with a number―22 Spectacular and Bizarre Airbnb Rentals or 6 Secrets to Writing a Great Cover Letter. The reality is people don’t have time to read an entire article, they just want to skim through and hit the highlights. And so, when it was my turn to write the blog for the week, even if it is a few days late (Sorry Guys!), I decided to give it a try.
My topic of choice, like many of my previous blogs, is the Benin. But how do you describe a country like Benin in just a few words? How do you paint a picture of a people who speak over 50 languages using just English? And what’s more…How do you write an article so it can be read by people who have no time without doing a disservice to a people whom you are writing about whose concept of time is known by the adage “If the sun is still in the sky there is time for everything.” The answer: it’s not easy, but here it goes…
Benin is the home of the motorcycle taxi, known as the Zemidjan. Imagine you are standing on the side of the street outside your apartment building and you need to get uptown. If you are in New York you might hail a Yellow Cab or request an Uber. In Benin, you wait till you see a guy in a yellow shirt coming down the street on his motorcycle and you yell, “Zem!” It might be a little scary the first couple times you climb on back of Claude the Zemidjan’s moto and watch him weave in and out of traffic, but by time number four you’ll be an old pro chatting and high-fiving the passengers on the Zem next to you. And don’t worry, from backpacks to suitcases to cows, these guys can carry anything you’ve got.
Baobab is just one of Benin’s many superfoods and natural resources. This special fruit comes from Africa’s iconic “Tree of Life.” 100g of this super fruit will supply you with 12 times the Vitamin C you can get from 100g of pomegranate, the next best source for Vitamin C. (Get some from the amazing social enterprise I worked with while I was in-country called Atacora.) Benin also produces some of the best pineapple, cashews, and fonio (an ancient grain like quinoa) in the world.
Benin is commonly known as the most stable democracy in West Africa. In fact, the most recent presidential election which went off without a major incident, was hailed as good news for all of Africa. The Beninese people are peaceful by nature and are very proud of that fact. Conversations with locals about the unrest and violence in neighboring African countries always end with “that could never happen here, we Beninese are a peaceful people.”
The Beninese are full of spirit. Whether it’s the spiritual connection they have with their ancestors or the spirit of entrepreneurship, there is plenty to go around in this country. It is not uncommon to hear of people making a trip back to the village for an important ceremony or to hear of a new store opening up on the corner. The Beninese have strong spirits that can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and they do it with joy.
A fun-loving, party people, the Beninese certainly know how to have a good time and their reputation precedes them. Many friends from other West African countries will tell you how much fun they had when visiting Benin. I can also confirm this from first-hand experience. Whether it’s spending the day at the famous Boukombé market tasting the local sorghum beer known as tchoukoutou or a night out dancing at an Afro-Cuban bar in Cotonou, there is always a good time to be had in Benin.