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France and Benin 2005

Journal 7

We have finally arrived in Africa, and well it is blazing hot!!! This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes is from Cool Runnings, “It's not so much the heat that kills you, it’s the humidity”. This how I’m feeling right now. Africa is known to be a beautiful place, but many people take that saying out of context. When I first got off the plane I remembered a conversation I had with a man who’s native land was Benin. He told me that Benin was a very beautiful country. I thought to myself as I walked through the extremely small airport and out to the main road, “how can this be beautiful?” This whole beautiful thing had me stumped. I had honestly thought the man who told me that was crazy. Until we took our walk as a group through the streets of Cotonou. I began to meet people and started talking to them. Everyone that I spoke with gave me the common phrase that “You are welcome here in Africa.” I thought to myself “how can so many people be so welcoming to a stranger, someone they don’t know or if they will ever see me again.” I didn’t get how generous Africans were until we went and visited the Artisan’s Quarters. While we were there a group of young African men sat for about an hour and entertained us in front of their shop. They were not concerned about selling items or making money. It seemed to me that their only concern was to entertain us. Back at home and in France the only people who would sit and entertain people are street performers who are only doing it to get paid. I think that is what my friend at church Sunday meant when he said Benin was beautiful. He didn’t mean the buildings, the bill boards, or the sky line. What he meant was the people, the clothes and the culture. Being here for almost a week has taught me one important lesson in the first twenty-four hours. It’s here that you have to see past the physical appearance to see the beauty that can be offered. -- Jeremy Webster