DEADBEAT SPRING-SUMMER 2003

 

Kerekou’s Party Wins a Clear Majority

The coalition of Benin's President Mathieu Kerekou has won legislative elections, securing a solid parliamentary majority for the first time since democracy was introduced in the small west African nation in 1991, the election commission announced.    

            It said provisional results from Sunday's polls showed the ruling Union for the Benin of the Future (UBF) and its allies had won 50 of the 83 seats in the unicameral parliament, against 33 for opposition parties.

            The election commission said the main opposition Renaissance of Benin (RB) led by former president Nicephore Soglo and the Party for Democratic Renewal (PRD) headed by Adrien Houngbedji, the mayor of Benin's capital Porto Novo, had won 15 and 12 seats respectively.

            Kerekou, dubbed the "chameleon" for his flexible political ideology, was re-elected in 2001.   But the results from Sunday's vote marked the first time he has won an absolute majority in parliament.   Kerekou led the country's fifth military coup in 1972. But in December 1990, a new constitution adopted by referendum officially put an end to 17 years of a military-Marxist regime in the former French colony.  Soglo, a former World Bank official, won Benin's first multi-party polls in 1991 and served as president until 1996, when he lost elections to Kerekou.

            About 3.1 million people were registered to vote to pick the new national assembly from 1 162 candidates from 14 parties and political alliances, but apathy reportedly prevailed and voter turnout was low.

            A total of 11 parties will be represented in the new parliament.

Reprinted from: South African Press Association April 4, 2003

 

We’re Looking for a Treasurer!

After three years of superb service to Friends of Benin, Lori Killpatrick will be resigning effective XXXXXXXXXX.    Lori is the Treasurer/Secretary and Membership Coordinator for FoB.  She has kept our finances and membership database in top shape.  We are very sad to see her leave.  She promises to stay involved with FoB—in fact, she mailed this newsletter.  While nobody can fill her shoes, we do need someone to take over her duties.  Please consider becoming the Treasurer/Secretary and Membership Coordinator of Friends of Benin.  For a job description, go to www.friends-of-benin.org and click on the “by-laws” link.  If you are interested in pursuing this position, please contact a current FoB officer as soon as possible.

 

Message from the Oval Office by President Reublinger

While sitting in front of my computer late one night searching through the web a realization came into my head.  It’s been just over a year since I took office as President of FOB.  That seems like such a long time ago.  When I look at the big picture I realize that not much has changed.  We are still a strong dedicated group of RPCV’s trying to not forget the past and yet still moving forward.

 As President, I have had the pleasure to work along side some of the most dedicated people this last year.  They take the time out from their stressful daily jobs to sit down, think of a far off land, and remember all the friends they had made in such a short two-year time.  We have never been together in the same place at the same time but we still manage to keep our little organization alive through dedication and hard work.  I’m proud to be involved with such a group of people that I wish that some of them didn’t have to go.

 Times change and so FOB will change with them.  We are currently seeking new Officers (Treasurer and Deadbeat Designer) to take over the fine work of the past.  We are a young group with unlimited ways of expansion.  However, FOB can’t expand without your help.  Becoming an Officer would insure that our strength continues.

 I’m happy to be your President.  I know that whomever rises to the challenge to make a difference will bring new light and ideas to the group.  I look forward to working with them in the future.

 

Deadbeat Graphic Designer Resigns -

Christopher Robbins has been designing the “American” Deadbeat for a few years now.  With other professional obligations filling his plate, he has decided to resign.  He currently resides in Fiji where he is working as the "Multimedia Specialist" at the University of South Pacific Media Centre.  Please consider filling this position.  Deadbeats are published 2 –3 times per year.  The Deadbeat Editor (which should be known as Deadbeat “Gatherer of Contributions”) works closely with the Graphic Designer to get our little newsletter out to our membership.  If you would like to help out with the Deadbeat, let one of the officers know.  Thanks!

 

Welcome New Members

Tuve Floden, Norman Hall, Kathleen Connolly,

Katy Klymus, Kristofer Bowmaster Gwen Paillette,

Heather Campbell, Kolthida Beng, Megan Newell,

Meisha Robinson, Christian Wheelock and Elizabeth Young

 

Friends of Benin Financial Report  January – December 2002

Initial Balance: $ 2,389.86 (01/01/02)

Income  +$1,090.70 (Membership Dues, NPCA/FoB Fete, T-shirts, Misc.)

Expenses: -$1,216.10 (Newsletter Printing and Postage Costs, FoB Fete Reimbursements, Website Fees, NPCA dues)

Balance: $2,264.46  (12/31/02)

 

Announcing…

J The Birth of Elliot Graham Stern.  Born to Erin Granan and Paul Stern (RPCV 90-93) on February 4, 2003.  He was 8 pounds 13 ounces and 21.5 inches.  Rumor is he is smarter than average.

A NEW SPOUSE?   A NEW HOUSE?   A NEW FAMILY MEMBER?   A NEW JOB?

Send your announcements to the editor of this glorious newsletter, she’ll print them in the next edition.  Send news to:

jessica@urbatsch.com

 

Searching for Puzzle Pieces  By Brian Reublinger

Ouch! These thorns really hurt:

            On April 10th I was trying to cross a muddy stream.  It’s not like I haven’t tried to cross one before.  In-fact that day I had crossed more than I wanted ever to remember.  To get to this point, out in the middle of nowhere, I had been cut and scraped with thorns and vines on every exposed area of skin on my face, neck, and wrists.  With a little luck I find a way around down stream to a narrow section and jump across.  On the other side, after a few steps, I notice something white among all the black decomposing leaf litter and stagnant water.  When I pick it up I discover that it’s a piece of tile.  Alright!

            Why is this so important that I’m happy that I found something so insignificant in the middle of nowhere?  Because to a very few people this is just one piece of an even bigger puzzle.  This little piece of tile floated down from the sky some forty miles up.  It was a piece of an even bigger puzzle called STS-107.  Also known as the Space Shuttle Columbia.  After putting the piece in a zip lock bag I rejoined the 19 other searchers whom I was with.

            For three weeks in April a group of twenty people, including myself, were called to duty with thousands of other searchers to walk the last flight path of the space shuttle in eastern Texas.  We, the twenty from the Wallowa/Whitman National Forest, flew down on from Oregon on April 8th.  After a long flight and a long briefing the next day we started gridding the woods of Texas.  Gridding is a method of search where a person stands beside another in a line ten feet apart.  The line looks down at the ground while slowly moving.  It’s a method used when police departments search an area for evidence.  We were doing exactly that same thing.  But instead of looking for a body, we were looking for space shuttle debris.

            We found a lot of things on our trip.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what we actually found, because this was an investigation in progress.  NASA wanted to treat this like a crime scene.  I understand why.  They wanted to find out why this happened.  They also wanted to make sure that a tragedy like this wouldn’t happen again.  One thing I did find that I could tell you about was the day I was walking through a pasture with a small creek.  A friend of mine on my right said, “I see a snake.”  So he poked at it with his walking stick, which pissed it off.  However, it didn’t attack him, I soon identified it as a water moccasin that slithered as fast as it could to attack me.  I tried to run backwards but it was too fast.  Right before it leaped up to sink its teeth into me I screamed like a little girl and sprinted off in another direction.  Narrowly missing me.  I’m sorry to report that act of me, FOB President, screaming like a little girl, but it seemed like a go idea at that time.  However, the rest of my crew kept reminding me of that funny mistake too.  Oh well.

            It was quite an adventure.  One I will never forget.  NASA was happy we were there to help them out.  After 14 days of soar legs, countless cuts everywhere on my body from the biggest thorns I’d ever seen, contracting poison ivy on my legs, face, and arms, and getting to know some great people we were on our way home.  This was a once in a lifetime event (or at least I hope).  With my help no matter how short of time or how little or lot that our crew found, I hope they find out what went wrong because the journey into space to explore beyond our limits is what drives everyone to go beyond our imagination.

 

Angelique Kidjo’s Newest Album—Released March 2003

From Sony Records:

Angilique Kidjo is more than just one of the world's best-loved African singers--she is a musical ambassador for her country, Benin, and indeed, for the entire African continent. Kidjo has crossed musical boundaries by blending the tribal and pop rhythms of her native West African heritage with a variety of styles, including funk, salsa, and jazz.                      On Black Ivory Soul, Kidjo explores the musical and cultural kinship between Africa and Brazil, specifically her homeland and the province of Bahia. The album's 12 songs feature a stellar, multinational group of musicians from Brazil, Africa, and the USA.   For text to an AFROPOP interview with Angelique   visit : http://allafrica.com/stories/200305140344.html

 

Support Your Local Farmer by Jessica Duke (with thanks to Sauvie Island Organics)

If you purchased tomatoes at your village market when you were a volunteer in Benin, chances are they were locally grown and in some small way, your purchase directly supported the person selling the tomatoes.  Our marché vegetables were usually not grown in some far off land (save for all those onions from Niger).  Now that we are back “home” such is not the case.  If you purchase fruits and vegetables from your local supermarket, chances are those vegetables came not from the farmer down the road but from some other country.  There is an alternative.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way for consumers to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, consumers become "members" (or "shareholders," or "subscribers") of the CSA. Usually, CSA members pay a flat fee early in the farming season and will receive fresh produce throughout the farming season.  Some CSAs also require that members work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season.

CSA’s actually began in Japan in the 1960’s.  Housewives, fed up with the poor quality of food that was available in the supermarkets, decided to do something about it.  They could no longer find the quality produce that had been available before industrial farming took over.  So, they went out to the country side and found farmers to contract with.  They wanted to encourage farmers to grow organically and they wanted to rebuild community.  The Japanese farmers were more than happy to have an alternative to the wholesale markets and they enjoyed providing their costumers with the same quality food that they themselves ate on their farms.  This housewife-to-farmer agreement was called Teikei or “face to face” and continues to this day.  It is the origin of the CSA movement in the United States which began in the mid-1980’s.

 

Legend has it that Mel Higgins (who was a PCV forester in the extreme North of Benin from 1990 – 1992) had a “CSA” arrangement of his own.  He gave a local farmer money to plant and harvest a whole field of ignames that Mel would eat when the crop came in.  His arrangement made perfect sense, he lived in a very remote post and even the smallest market was a distance to travel.  He needed a local supply of food and he had it.  I’m not sure if Mel still likes foufou or if he runs from an offer of igname frites, but he was able to eat even if he couldn’t get to market.

Unlike Mel, most of us have the luxury of several markets to shop.  We can go to the bargain grocery store where the emphasis is on cheap or we can go to the upscale store where the emphasis is on taste.  Either way, we still have to spend some time picking out our produce with no guarantee of the quality of your purchase.  With CSA’s, you get a variety of fresh produce every week throughout the season.  You know that the produce is fresh, you will know how it was produced and you will know who you are supporting.  There are CSA’s throughout the United States.  A wonderful web resource for finding CSA’s is  www.localharvest.org  You can submit your zip code and see if there are any CSA’s in your area. 

I have been involved with a CSA for a few years now.  The seemingly large initial investment (I pay $700 for a May – December season) has always been well worth it.  During the season, we (a family of 3) never have to buy vegetables from the store.  Our very fresh vegetables are delivered to our neighborhood.  My CSA share is an easy way to stay connected with the origins of my food, as easy as it was in my Peace Corps days.

 

Your Story Here

Yes, you too can be a published author.  Just submit your writing to the Deadbeat.  Chances are very high you will see your story in print.  Write of recent travels, interesting jobs, frustrations, adjustments, memories, anything. 

 

Send submissions to

Jessica Duke

jessica@urbatsch.com

 

 

NPCA Annual General Meeting in Beautiful Oregon

Who:

RPCVs, affiliate group officers and members, former Peace Corps staff, family and friends

What:

Weekend of activities surrounding NPCA’s Annual General Meeting and President’s Forum

When:

August 1-3, 2003

Where:

Portland, Oregon

Why:

Because it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet with friends, catch up on Peace Corps and NPCA news, learn something new in a workshop, find a job at the career fair, and spend time in a great city and state!

Visit the National Peace Corps Association web site for more details.

www.rpcv.org

But wait, there’s more.  Spend a week in Oregon…

 

Take in the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.  RPCV B&B owners, Deedie and David Runkel, are offering a package deal to fellow RPCV’s

August 5-7.  Contact them at

innkeeper@ashlandbandb.com

 

Join in on an RPCV campout August 8—10 at Silver Creek Falls State Park (90 minutes from Portland).  Visit the Columbia River Peace Corps Association web page for more info.

www.crcpa.org

 


[ Home] [FOB Bylaws]  [ Mission / Strategies] [Membership Form] [Newsletter Archives] [Benin Info] [Maps of Benin]  [Benin Links] [Photo Gallery] [ RPCV Contact List]  [RPCV Bios] [Guest Book]  [Classifieds] [PCV Q &A]