Deadbeat 

4/30/01 Vol. 6

The official Friends of Benin Newsletter

Official Friends of Benin Website- www.friends-of-benin.org (Check it Out!)

 

News and Updates from the Executive Committee:

Officers:

Pres. Peter de Groot- peterd@zygo.com
VP- Jessica Duke - dukeurb@yahoo.com
Treasurer- Lori Killpatrick- Lkillpat@aol.com
Deadbeat Editor- Chris Starace- CStarace@yahoo.com
Grapic Designer- Chris Robbins- fosotima@hotmail.com

Web Master- John Boe - jmboe@iupui.edu (pending vote)

 

Committee Chairpeople:

Social Committee- open

Membership Committee- open

Current Volunteer Support- open

 

Join Friends of Benin Group!

 

                Friends of Benin is a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Benin as well as anyone who has an interest in Benin.  Some of our goals are to help members keep in touch with each other through the FOB website, this newsletter, reunions,  keep up with what’s going on in Benin, support current Benin PCV’s, support Peace Corps’ third goal of brining our experiences back home, and to help members keep their Peace Corps experience alive.  We are a young group and need your participation!

Attn. Current PCV’s:  We will be sending several free copies to PC Cotonou for every edition and we encourage current volunteers to send contributions to the U.S. “Deadbeat” to Chris Starace, 124 Shippan Ave. Stamford, CT 06902.  Let us know what you are doing, give updates on what’s going on in Benin, PC Benin (most of us are quite out of touch), and let us know how we can support you.  Send us copies of your “Deadbeat” so we can include portions of it in ours.  Feel free to include articles from the FOB “Deadbeat” in the PCV Deadbeat. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Registration Form:

Friends of Benin                   National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)
___New                                 ___New
___Renewal                          ___Renewal
Name:________________________


Street Address:____________________________

 

City, State, Zip:____________________________


Telephone: Home_________________Work____________________


E-mail:________________________


Current Employer:__________________________


Current Occupation:________________________


Peace Corps Job:___________________________


PC Country:________________     Years of service:__________

 

___Associate members - I am not an RPCV nor RPCS


I am interested in: ____________________

 

Select one membership category:
___Newly returned RPCV - 6 months free
___$40 NPCA/FOB dues (this is fixed by NPCA and can't be changed!)
___$55 Family NPCA & FOB
___$15 FOB
___$22.50 Family FOB
 
Additional contributions for NPCA:
___$1000 Director's Circle
___$500 Patron
___$250 Leadership Club
___$100 Sustaining
___$10 Overseas Mail
Hotline Subscription:
___$20 (member of NPCA)
___$30 (other RPCV)
$____TOTAL AMOUNT


Make check payable to Friends of Benin and send to: Lori Killpatrick, 3119 Clairemont Drive #2, San Diego, CA 92117 so you can get on the mailing list for the next Deadbeat issue (published 3-4 times a year).   Membership begins on the date in which payment is received and ends one year later.  A reminder will be sent before your membership expires.   Don’t forget to renew your membership and please encourage your fellow non-member Benin RPCV’s to join.

 

Send or E-mail articles, ideas, comments, photos, etc. for the next FOB Deadbeat to Cstarace@yahoo.com. or 124 Shippan Ave. Stamford, CT 06902.

 

There are only a few Friends of Benin t-shirts left! Get yours before we run out. The beautiful khaki shirts with forest green design are only $15.  Please include $2.50 for shipping and handling and mail your check made out to Friends of Benin to: Lori Killpatrick, 3119 Clairemont Drive, San Diego, CA 92117.  Don't forget to include your size

 

Welcome new members! A big thank you to all who joined as a result of our Deadbeat mailing last summer. We are excited to have you on board.


Kathleen McDavid
89-91, RCD

Gary Kukowski
68-69 Dahomey I
Animal Husbandry

Jack Burch
68-70, Economic Development

Judith Rooney (Scrudato)
93-95, RCD

Corinne Axelrod
81-83, Science Teacher

Bill and Susan Hogan
87-90, Health

Erika Tapman
90-92, Guinea Worm

Michael Dalcher
96-98, Forestry

Wes Peterson
68-70, Grain Storage

John Clark
94-96, Science Teacher

Terry McWhinney
76-78, English

Donald Carey
Peace Corps Doctor

Kristin Szak
90-92, Guinea Worm

Karen Holicky-Michaels
68-72 Dahomey
 
Sarah Fry
76-78, Primary School Health Education

Pete Ryan
89-91, Forestry

Caroline Hossein
97-99, SBD

Elizabeth Goodwin
88-90, Forestry

Bill Lommel
91-95, RCD

R. Steven Taylor
81-83, APCD

Monica Justice
89-91, RCD

Anne Holic (Mullen)
88-90

Kristin Crinot (Cook)
93-97, RCD

 

News from the OVAL OFFICE
(well, more like a cubicle…)

 

We hope you enjoy this issue of the Deadbeat.  There is a lot to read here of interest to Friends of Benin, and a lot to consider. 

During this past year, we made an intensive and successful effort to recruit new Friends, to reach a critical mass as an organization.  As we grow, we will expand the focus for the group to include the possible direct funding of a project in Benin via the Group’s treasury.  Please read the article by Jessica Duke on “What to do with our Money?” and let us know what you think!

The main activity of the Group continues to be “...to establish a community of Peace Corps Benin alumni, volunteers, staff and supporters.”  We on the Board believe the best way to do this is to actively participate in the Internet Listserve, support and expand the website, read and contribute to the Deadbeat, and keep in contact with our fellow Friends.  This includes a possible reunion during the 40th anniversary event in Washington this September.  Again, let us know what you think. 

I would encourage you all to also find out what is happening with your local geographical group.  You may find a Benin RPCV in your neighborhood that does not yet know about FOB.  These Yovo’s hang out in the most unexpected places.

You will find below the proposed Bylaws for our group.  Please read them carefully and vote! 

- Peter

 

 

Here are the proposed Bylaws for FOB. Comments, suggestions, complaints are welcome!

                                                                                The New FOB Website

 

                                                                                        FOB BYLAWS


                                                                                        Article I: Name

The organization shall be named "Friends of Benin" or FOB.

                                                                                      Mission

FOB is a nonprofit organization open to anyone having an interest in  Peace Corps programs in the West-African nation of Benin. The primary purpose of the FOB organization is to establish a community of Peace Corps Benin alumni, volunteers, staff and supporters.

                                                                        Our Objectives Include:

1)  Improve and maintain communications between FOB members, through  electronic mail and other Internet services, as well as through printed newsletters and mailings.
2)  Organize meetings, reunions and other events to bring members together.
3)  Keep the Peace Corps/Benin experience alive for returned volunteers and staff.
4)  Sustain our commitment to international service and understanding through the exchange of information and materials.
5)  Support the Peace Corps' third goal - to bring the world back home, by
     Encourage members to share their experiences with their own communities.

6)  Support of the Peace Corps mission in Benin, including the financial support of specific projects.
7)  Support recently returned volunteers as well as volunteers who are about to leave for Benin.
8)  Distribute news and information about the Republic of Benin.

                                                                 Article IV: Membership

An FOB member in good standing supports the FOB mission statement and is current in their dues, according to the fee structure and procedures established by the Board of Directors (see Article V).

                                                     Article V: Board of Directors

FOB shall be governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of a minimum of three and a maximum of nine Directors, all or some of whom may be Officers (see Article VI).

The Board of Directors conducts, manages and controls the affairs and business of the FOB.

Any FOB members in good standing may nominate themselves or other FOB members in good standing as candidates for the Board of Directors.

Officers shall be elected by a majority of members voting for two-year terms by conventional or electronic mail. Officer positions left vacant may be voted on at any time.

Decisions regarding FOB activities, including in particular the collection and allocation of funds, requires a minimum 2/3 majority vote of the FOB officers, including the President (see Article VI).

At the discretion of the Board of Directors, specific actions by the FOB may be presented to the membership for comment, polling vote or decision vote.

Any member in good standing may request the Board of Directors to perform a general polling or decision vote of the membership on a specific action. However, acting on this request is at the discretion of the Board of Directors.

                                                                                    Article VI: Officers

FOB officers, who are all members of the Board of Directors, include:

A President, responsible for providing direction to the FOB organization, and shall use his/here discretion in determining the activities that will further the purpose of the organization. However, any decision involving the collection or expenditure of funds requires a vote by the Board of Directors. The President must take part in any vote by the Board of Directors;


A Vice President, who assists the President and in the absence or disability of the president, performs all the duties of the President;

A Secretary, responsible for keeping a full and complete record of FOB membership, as well as a partial record of PC/Benin alumni and friends who are not currently FOB members;

A Treasurer, who collects membership dues and other sources of revenue, maintains an account and a balance sheet on behalf of the FOB, and has oversight over fund raising activities. The Treasurer also disburses funds as may be ordered by the Board of Directors;

A Newsletter Editor, who oversees the publication of the FOB newsletter (the "Deadbeat"); and

A Newsletter Graphic Artist, who formats the FOB newsletter (the "Deadbeat").

 

A Webmaster, who is in charge of maintaining, designing, and updating the FOB website.  He or she may appoint co-webmasters to aid in this task at his or her discretion.

The Board of Directors may vote to create new or retire existing officer categories at any time.

An individual Director may fulfill the duties of two or more Officers.

                                     Article VII: Adoption and Amendment of the Bylaws

Adoption and/or amendment of the bylaws requires a ½-majory vote of all members in good standing.

                                                                Article VIII: Communications

Ordinary activities of the organization may be conducted by electronic or conventional mail. This includes discussions and voting by the FOB officers.

Decisions of the Board of Directors shall be communicated promptly to the membership.

                                                    Article IX: Nature of the Organization

The FOB is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. Directors do not receive any monetary compensation, nor are the FOB funds used for any other purpose than to further the mission and objectives of the organization as set forth in Articles II and III.

FOB is not currently officially incorporated in any state. The present Bylaws are informal and provisional, until such a time as the membership decides a more formal organization is required to pursue the FOB Mission.

                                                                                Approval

The above Bylaws were approved by the Board of Directors.

Peter de Groot - President
Jessica Duke - Vice President and Secretary
Lori Killpatrick - Treasurer
Chris Starace - Newsletter Editor
Chris Robins - Newsletter Graphic Artist

Web Master- John Boe

The Bylaws will be presented to the FOB membership via the Deadbeat
newsletter for a ½ majority vote.

Please send your votes Yea, or Nay (If Nay- say what you want changed) to Chris Starace at – cstarace@yahoo.com  or send to me at 124 Shippan Ave. Stamford, CT 06902 by the end of the third week from which you received this edition of the Deadbeat.

 

 

What to do with our Money?

By Jessica Duke

 

For those of you who use the list serve, this is a summary of the electronic discussions we have had on funding projects.  For those of you NOT on the list serve, you may join by going to:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FriendsofBenin .

 

To Give or Not to Give

 

FOB's only source of income is from membership dues.  Some of our income must go to the production and mailing of the Deadbeat.  A bit of our funds pays to keep Friends-of-Benin.org on the web.  We have to give a nominal amount to NPCA each year.  As 2000 was, in reality, a start-up year for the group, we do not have a surplus of money currently.  However, as time goes on, we expect to have enough cash flow to do something 'bonne-quoi'.  For the past several months, the Friends of Benin Board Members have been electronically discussing what we should do with our membership dollars.  We decided to open up the discussion to our list-serve in order to get feedback from our members.

 

Many thanks to those of you who participated in the list-serve discussion.  It seems that those who responded were in favor of using FOB funds to support projects in Benin.  Most people thought that Women In Development (WID) scholarships would be the best use of our funds.  These scholarships help Beninese girls pay for their education. 

 

A recently returned PCV provided the list-serve members with her experience in funding projects in Benin.  Though this volunteer applied for Peace Corps Partnership funds, they were a long time coming and her replacement had to finish the project.  Peace Corps Partnership funds are funneled through Peace Corps Headquarters.  Board Members discussed supporting a PC Partnership project for a Benin volunteer.  First, there needs to be a Benin project to support. 

 

Another RPCV noted: "My wife and I used Peace Corps Partnerships (PCP) to fund some projects when we served in Benin a few years ago.  It was a very slow and frustrating process to go from start to finish with them.  Having money already in a Benin account could be very helpful to volunteers with worthy projects.  I think it is important to discuss this with the Country Director or an APCD in Benin.  PCP requires proposals, reports and receipts, but maybe we could streamline the process for our funds.  The key thing is to have enough CFA accessible for a legitimate project in a timely fashion."

 

We also heard from a woman who began ECHOPPE (Echange pour l'Organisation et

la Promotion des Petits Entrepreneurs) and initiators of the line of fair trade shops called "Artisans du Soleil" of which the first is located in Lomé, Togo; the second in Cotonou; the third and fourth in France (the fourth one being in the center of Paris).  The first shops are franchise shops under contract to work with the most disadvantaged artisans followed up by the work of ECHOPPE.  She would like our support for the Cotonou shop.

 

We would like to get as much input on this issue as possible.  Let one of the board members know what you think.  You may contact us directly, or, better yet, post a note on the list-serve at see above instructions for joining.

 

Consider the following:

 

*How do you feel about funding projects in general?  Is it a great idea to share the wealth and hope a project will be sustainable OR is giving money to projects in Benin just like giving "cadeaux" to kids in the marché?

 

*Other RPCV groups use some funds to support RPCV gatherings or to send group representatives to NPCA functions.  Are you in favor of such use of funds?

 

*If we were to financially support a project in Benin, what type or types of projects should we support?

 

*Would you support directly funding individual projects?  For example, an RPCV receives a request to help his/her Beninese neighbor who wants to plant a community garden for village use.  Funds would go directly to that neighbor to make the necessary purchases.

 

Let us hear from you.  We would like all members to feel their membership dues are being well spent.

 

 

Treasurer’s Report from Lori Killpatrick



Year: January 2000-December 2000

Income:
Dues
                       945.00 - Friends of Benin
                      350.00 - NPCA

Shirts
                      412.50

TOTAL:   $1,707,50

Expenses:
Deadbeat
                  464.18 - printing and mailing for July 2000 issue
                    33.94 - Kinkos copying for October 2001 issue
                     10.76 - Labels for October 2000 (and subsequent) issues

Tshirts
                   523.56 - Production costs
                      92.80 - Mailing of shirts

NPCA dues
                    350.00 - Dues paid through FOB
                     110.00 - Yearly dues ($1 per member)

Miscellaneous
Stamps
                       66.00

TOTAL:  $1,651.24

Net income:  $56.26

 

 

 

FOB Upcoming Activities and Events:

SAVE THE DATE:  22nd, 2001 in Washington, D.C
We are planning a Friends of Benin gathering on Saturday, September 22nd, 2001 in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the NPCA Conference.


Look for details in the next Deadbeat (August). 

 

 

Updates on Members/ Message Board

Announce Marriages, moves, engagements, new addresses, new children,, new jobs, say hi to old friends, locate a long lost postmate ...

 

 

Anyone traveling to Nepal? Monica Carter-Justice (AKA Assiba from Bopa) and her husband Scott would love to welcome you. Just email them at justice@wlink.com.np .

 

Chris Starace (SBD Allada 95-97) and Cara Viggiano will be married in CT on Oct. 7th.   Cara is a special education teacher working in Hawthorne NY and I am doing technical and administrative support for the real time stock data division of Standard and Poor’s.  We share a common interest in road cycling and we met on a club ride 2 and a half years ago.  We are living in Ossining NY and plan on staying in the area, as the biking is good here.  I hope to take Cara to Benin next summer so she can see for herself what Benin is like.  (God knows I talk about it enough).


 

News From Benin:

Transmit news from your in-country contacts and post messages from current Benin PCV’s:  Current PCV’s:   Send us letters and articles from your Deadbeat! 

 

From reading the PCV support group listserv e-mails (see below), I have learned that E-mail and cell phones have become very common in Benin!  Allada even has e-mail access -at 2,500F an hour! I heard that cell phone access is even available up north and one volunteer reports to be able to use-mail with wireless technology!   I’ve learned of a technology ONG that has been created in Benin.  They too have a newsletter that is published on a monthly basis.  You can sign up for it at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/revue_orita .

                               

 

Benin Related Web Site Reviews:

 

www.friends-of-benin.org  -Check out the New Official FOB website!  John has done a great job of putting together an interesting website and he needs our help to ensure it will continue to improve.  E-mail him at johnmboe@hotmail.com.   We have past copies of the Deadbeat posted incase you missed some editions.

 

http://hermes.ulaval.ca/listserv/archives/benin.html- This is a very active list server comprised of about 250 people.   Most are Beninese expats living in Africa, Europe, US, and, Canada.  Most messages are in French and topics are frequently about current events in Benin.  I find it quite interesting.  I subscribe to the digest, which sends me all the messages posted for the day as attachments in one message as there are usually several messages sent every day. 

 

WWW.Geocities.com/fon_is_fun   - I (Chris Starace) have created a new website called Fon is Fun!  At.   I recorded over 360 .WAV files of me speaking Fon in short phrases and words to teach people how to speak Fon.  I also have some essays, and stories, that I've written about my experiences as a PCV, and see pictures that I took in Benin.  Please stop by to brush up on your Fon and be sure to sign my guest book.  I have a recording of a well-known song on the home page that will certainly cause either nausea or nostalgia.

 

http://www.peacecorpsbenin.homestead.com/  - Offering Families & Friends of Peace Corps Volunteers and Trainees Actively Serving in Benin, West Africa, a Source of Information, Sharing and Support.  This web site was created by Rena Smith, a mother of a PCV.  She has created not only a wonderful web site, but also a cohesive support group for friends and family of PCV’s currently serving in Benin.  The have a listserv group that you can join with her permission.  Just send her an e-mail (from the website).  I’ve enjoyed the website and the listserv because I’m hearing about what’s going on in Benin and I’m able to relive the PC experience vicariously.  It has been fun giving my advice to the concerned friends and family on a variety of topics that concern them.

 

Stories/ Articles of Interest:

America has the Grammys and Eminem…Africa has the Koras and Kaysha

 

By Jessica Duke

 

The Kora All Africa Music Awards were held 18 November 2000 in Sun City, South Africa. A Togolese, Ernest Coovi Adjovi founded the Koras five years ago.  Legend has it he was watching the Grammys and thought "Africa can do this."  The Kora Awards incorporated a fashion show, music awards and a benefit concert for HIV/AIDS. While no Beninois won an award, there were many Beninois nominations.  Yoro Sinas was nominated for Best African Arrangement.  That Prize went to Bongo Maffin of South Africa.  Yora Sinas was also nominated for Best Group or Artist from West Africa. Beninois Bessanvi Albert was nominated for Best Traditional Artist or Group.  The prize went to King Mensah of Togo.

Best Overall African Artist/Group award and prize money of $26,000 went to Kaysha, of Democratic Republic of Congo.  Best Overall African Artist/Group is the only award with money.  It is also the only award decided by "the general public through phone voting".  Now, how many members of the African general public have phones?  Kaysha , a rapper, really lives in France. 

Reggae star Lucky Dubé won best African video. Zenzi Lee, the granddaughter of Miriam Makeba, was voted most promising Artist, and Extra Musica, from Democratic Republic of Congo, won for Best African Group, adding to dominance of the awards by performers from that country and South Africa. Dru Hill frontman Sisqo won Best Group or Artist from the Diaspora for "Thong Song," beating out D'Angelo, Macy Gray, Puff Daddy, and Toni Braxton. And though music dominated the scene, fashion was important.  In the United States, the tabloids give their Best and Worst Dressed lists.  In Africa, they incorporate fashion into the scene by giving designer awards.  Beninois Lolo Andoche was nominated for the Kora Fashion Award.  The prize went to Clara Lawson of Burkina Faso.  Though Benin did not win any awards, the Beninese presence was undeniable - Angelique Kidjou was the host.

 

Now the trick is to find albums of Kora musicians in your local record shop!

 

 

 

The Winds of Revolution…

By Peter de Groot

 

When I was 23 and Ronald Reagan was elected president the first time, it was cool and even a little reasonable to be a radical leftist.  After all, Reagan, the very symbol of capitalism, seemed to have very little grasp of reality and even less understanding of the suffering of the average world citizen.  It was an act of noble defiance to declare oneself a socialist. 

 

Even better was to be a communist, if you could somehow get past all the obvious and egregious wrongs committed worldwide in the name of Marxism Leninism.  The trappings of communism are alluring.  Flags, berets, songs, and raven-haired Latin women in combat uniform.  I read John Reed, Anna Louise Strong, Emma Goldman, and Rosa Luxemburg--all of the historical icons of the international revolutionary struggle. I went to meetings for the American Socialist Party and attended an election rally for the CPUSA featuring Angela Davis.  Dabbling with the extreme left lets you into an exclusive club, surrounded by instant comrades with which you can be self-righteous in your condemnation of the portly capitalist bosses in pinstriped suits, all racist enemies of the people.  All of this comes for free, if you are young, have nothing to lose, and are not in a position to do any real damage by playing the radical.

 

And so much of my post-Vietnam generation fancied itself socialist.  Many young nations did as well in the 1970’s and 80’s, often for the same reasons.  Dahomey believed it had little to lose by electing in 1974 to become a Marxist vassal state.  The subsequent anti imperialist ranting was given a big boost by an abortive (and possibly faked) invasion by mercenaries a few years later, an event celebrated in Bruce Chatwin’s short story “the Coup”.  The invasion demonstrated to many that communism was the only security against neo colonialism.  The doctrine of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat also provides a convenient explanation for the absence of a free political life.  Without communist dogma, the rule of force requires more feet shuffling to explain.

 

The political situation in Benin in the late seventies caused an effective suspension of Peace Corps activities until my group arrived for training in 1980.  There were forty of us that year, quite an increase from the one or two remaining volunteers at that time.   So we were pioneers, really, starting a new program from almost nothing.  Our training was astonishingly poor, which added to our pioneer spirit.  We learned by doing.  It was as if we were the first Peace Corps group ever anywhere in the world, and it made us a cohesive group, at least at times.  We did all this in the People’s Republic of Benin, a land where according to the national radio the winds of revolution were blowing steadily.

 

When I was a volunteer in Ouidah, fresh from leftist pot luck dinner parties in Seattle, I was tickled to be working in an official communist country while living off a US Government stipend.  I wasn’t exactly a great supporter of soviet communism, actually far from that, but there was much that the US was doing internationally at the time that deserved thrashing.  There was a little bit of Jane Fonda in my attitude.  Anyway, I did not mind at all that a large mural on one of the local buildings showed a patriot kicking the white neo-colonialist pig out of Africa.  There was a valid point here. 

 

“Down with imperialism! Ready for revolution! Forward, the struggle continues!”  This was how my comrade students greeted me every morning, standing at attention as I entered the room every morning to teach physics and chemistry.  There were posters and flags in Cotonou proclaiming the dawning of the socialist age.  Every hour, the radio rang out with children singing the communist international, a song I learned and still remember.  “Rise up, rise up, oppressed peoples, it’s the final battle!”  Then the great comrade in struggle Mathieu Kerekou would speak, extolling the toiling masses to unite against colonialism and work together for greater economic production. The hand-painted portraits of Marx, Engels and Lenin over the blackboard were part of the local color.  They added spice to my Peace Corps experience.

 

But in fact, the communism in Benin was never more than skin deep.  I remember once visiting a school in Togo, a land blessed at the time with a free-world style military dictatorship, and the students asked intensely how things were behind the walls of neighboring Benin, in the clutches of communism.  I remember thinking the question peculiar.  From my perspective, coming from the US, the two countries were essentially the same.  The climates were hot and humid, the food was tasty but not always clean, the people were friendly and loved life, but almost everyone was poor and had few prospects.  Both countries had Peace Corp volunteers.  Togo did have one thing that Benin lacked: Casinos.

 

Apart from the satisfaction of thumbing one’s nose at the old colonial powers, the benefits of communism in Benin were few.  The Russian advisors who lived in Cotonou were an odd lot, evidently chosen because they did not speak French and cared little about Africa or its peoples.  A couple of us volunteers wandered into their closed camp one day to find out who they were and what exactly they were doing there.  They were so surprised that they greeted us warmly, at least for a while.  Through sign language we had a nice long conversation with a propaganda expert from Sebastopol.  He had lovely picture postcards.  Eventually we were politely escorted away by someone who looked important but who did not fancy making friends with disheveled American volunteers who asked too many questions.

 

The Chinese built a nice sports stadium.  The North Koreans built a monument to the fallen heroes of the mercenary invasion and provided thousands of bound copies of the collected works of Kim Il Sung.  Libya helped chop down all the trees in Cotonou, in principle to help widen the streets, but mostly so that it would look more like the desert that Khadafi loves so well.

 

The revolution hurt many people.  Not in any spectacular, media-worthy way, as there were no gulags nor killing fields, no mass roundups of dissidents nor extermination of the intelligentsia.   Rather, the revolution simply made it even harder to advance oneself.  Foreign investment was crushed.  The attractive aid and assistance packages available at that time were tossed aside in favor of an austere self-reliance.  Talented professionals left the country to find better opportunities in Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire or France. 

 

So it was that after more than a decade of decorating Benin with red flags, one day the politicos gathered together and declared that enough was enough, the revolution was over.  Kérékou stepped down, only to be reelected several years later as a born-again non-communist president of a new Benin.  This all happened long after I had finished by volunteer service.  To me Benin, a place that I love, will always be the Peoples Republic. 

 

In my mind’s eye, I still see clearly the gigantic banner over the pothole-encrusted main coastal highway announcing that  “Socialism is the only road, Marxism-Leninism is the only guide.”  Yet I also remember that underneath this banner was another, equally large, which advertised “The Beninese National Lottery: Your next chance to be a Millionaire”

 

 

Peace Corps Day

By Peter de Groot

 

I have participated a few times in Peace Corps Day, a celebration of the organization and of our host countries.  Most RPCV’s who take part in Peace Corps Day make a short presentation somewhere, usually at a school or public library, describing their experiences and perhaps showing some slides.  This is generally a great experience for everyone, but after a few times, the novelty can were off for the presenter.

 

This year I tried something a little different.  I visited a high-school advanced French class and made my presentation entirely in French.  I left behind any props and slides and just talked with the students, interactively, soliciting questions, testing their knowledge of Africa and the francophone world.  It was terrific.  They had the opportunity to think about what it would be like to be a student trying to learn in a foreign language, just as virtually all Africans must do.  They asked about the national languages, and I told them about Fongbe and Chris’ new website.

 

In a way, it was much more of a trip back for me than the photographs, clothes and maps have provided in the past.  I was once again in a classroom teaching in French.  For a former education volunteer, this is kind of a big deal.

 

- Peter

 

Benin Current Events:

By Chris Starace

 

On March 26th, the results of the elections for president were officially announced. Kérékou won a second term although the elections were marred by claims of fraud.   Kérékou won the first rounds of elections but shortly after Sogolo (in second place) withdrew from the race claiming that the elections were wrought with fraud.  Houngbeji was in third place and he to withdrew for the same reasons as Sogolo.  That left Amoussou, the fourth place candidate and a minister of Kérékou, to contest Kérékou.  Sogolo and Houngbeji encouraged a boycott of the second round of voting so the turn out was very light.  As expected, Kérékou won easily and observers expect him to maintain his role as elected president for another 5 years despite the claims of fraud.  After this term he will be too old according to the Beninese constitution to run again. 

 

 

The Historical Significance of the Tontine:

 

I found this interesting word on my page a day calendar by Merriam Webster :  Remember the Tontine?  “ Tontine: a joint financial arrangement whereby participants contribute equally to a prize that is awarded entirely to the participant who survives all the others. “

 

“Did you know?  Tontines were the brainchild of Lorezno Tonti, a Neapolitian banker who in 1653 coaxed investors to buy shares in a fund he had created.  Each year the investors earned dividends, and when one of them died, his or her share of the profits was redistributed among the survivors.  When the last investor died, the capital reverted to the state.  Louis XIV used tontines to save his ailing treasury and to fund municipal projects, and private tontines (where the last surviving investor got the cash instead of the sate) became popular throughout Europe and the U.S.  Eventually, tontines were banned; there was just too much temptation for unscrupulous investors to bump off their fellow subscribers.”