Question / Answers & Discussions About Being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin

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Forum: Question / Answers & Discussions About Being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin
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Re: Kitchen choses....

Yes, gas stoves. Actually, I think they were propane. Peace corps gives you one canister (or maybe it was 2?), you can get it refilled at the closest gas station. You can get taxi drivers to pick you up from your house and drop you off at your house, so even if it's far to the gas station it's no big deal. I think I only refilled mine once in 2 years.

I don't think I brought any kitchen supplies, I don't remember. They sell everything you need in-country. Maybe bring a good can opener, I think the ones they had were pretty flimsy. Other people usually recommend bring powder mixes for soup, or sauce, or kool-aid. I didn't bring any of that stuff, but I do admit I took kool-aid handouts and used them all.

I would recommend bringing a cookbook, though. There was a cookbook the volunteers put out every year with some recipes, but I also used some from a book I found. Some people brought a book called Frannie Farmer or something like that. A cookbook with recipes that use basic ingredients, like rice, corn flour, tomatoes, onions, tomato paste, okra, eggs, etc.

I also highly recommend eating lots of local food. If you cook your meals every day you are missing out big time. Eat with your family (if you're living with a family) as often as possible. Make friends and show up at meal time. I was at post a couple days and complained to another volunteer that had been in a nearby village who'd been there a year that no one had invited me for a meal yet. She said, Don't wait for an invite, just show up at meal time. I started doing it, and every time I got fed. It was great! They are great cooks, and have such great hospitality. For holidays (christmas, independence day, muslim goat-sacrifice day (Tabaski, I think it was) I would just go from house to house to house and eat and eat and eat. Also if you're in a reasonable sized town there's food for sale. I had a big taxi station in my town where you could get omelettes and coffee or tea or chocolate milk and a baguette at all hours of the night. Mornings they have really good hot cereal made out of millet (but be sure to ask for sugar!) which is a yummy way to start the day. So the idea is, learn to use your kitchen, but don't rely on your kitchen - eating with the locals is one of the greatest joys of peace corps life.

Peace corps also issued refrigerators to most volunteers when i was there - also ran on propane. They were kind of a pain - I hardly ever had mine going. Most people just used it to keep water (or kool-aid) cold. In the US you think a fridge is essential, but turns out it's not. I even made my own yogurt - you just need a little to start, then make some milk out of powder (you'll probably always keep a can of powdered milk around) and the yogurt (a tablespoon or two per quart or something like that), mix it, cover with a cloth, leave at room temperature, wait 24 hours (or something like that), and voila! yogurt! I did that everyday for over a week. If you break the chain, though, your yogurt will go bad and you'll need to get a new starter.

Oh, just thought of something else to bring. Someone brought one of those waterbottles that filter the water for you from REI or something - that seemed kind of clever.

Re: Re: Kitchen choses.... - by Chris Starace - Aug 1, 2004 4:08am
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