Today has been harder than other days…. I didn’t cope very well with emotions and surroundings!
We went to another orphanage, Saint Enfant Jesus (OSEJ) at 8.15am. It was close to the local market of Abomey, in a town in the Zou region of Benin. There were 6 women, who are called by everyone “les mamans”, the mamas. I remember them well…..Maman Pierret, Nicole, Gérard, Vital, Nicole and Colette. They told me that they spent over 10 years working at the OSEJ. Along these years they have took care of hundreds of babies and seen some of them grow up and enter university, others who reunited their family or others who never had the opportunity to grow.
Nevertheless the place is truly heartbreaking for me…
…there are hundreds of kids and obviously the mamas cannot take care of them all, so they are very dirty, and wild. It must be so difficult to provide to so many kids and show them LOVE…which ultimately is one of their PRIMARY needs.
Our kids in the Western world are left behind for reasons such as career and lack of time, typical of a modern family…
…two realities so fundamentally different from each others that I do struggle to accept their coexistence in our age!
At 4.30pm we went to the other orphanage with more little babies.
Can’t describe the images that pass through my mind, like a frenetic succession of pics that roll so quickly to prevent me to focus on any specific of them.
Too many kids lying around on the floor everywhere, wet, in poor hygienic conditions….careless. No nappies, just pieces of ‘fabric’…many of them eating from the floor…
I often found myself judgemental with those nuns, and mamas taking care of the kids…I could not justify the indifference and emotionless expressions on their faces. “How can anyone be hard with those poor, abandoned, unwanted orphans?”-I WAS ASKING MYSELF.
Having now experienced it directly day after day, I have felt unjuste to those women…Their conditions are so hard that cannot be translated in words, only experienced. Since the first few days, I have only felt an even greater respect and gratitude to them, sacrificing their life to help the little ones…
We went back by motorbike @5.30pm and went for dinner around the same area. We waited 2 hrs to have something to eat in the dark as electricity went off before our arrival.
In our rooms @9.30pm, that night didn’t have a great night sleep. Woken up couple of times and only resisted in bed till 6.30am when there was the guardian outside sweeping leaves from the floor!!!…I noticed how sometimes people here are desperately looking for a task, an activity that can keep them busy for a while…..distracted from the ‘monotone’ sound of their reality.
It was another tough morning spent with little kids, trying to play games till 12pm when they were obliged around the table for lunch.
We went to another place where boys and girls were kept separately (called internato) where we visited the classes, the kitchen and the nun’s residence.
The highlight of the day is of a different note today though….
It was given by the afternoon when we found ourselves in a village voodoo. I didn’t know anything about it and Sergio was very knowledgeable!
He told me that voodoo is the centre of the religious life in West African villages and often celebrated in rituals or ceremonies. It has none of the negative connotations we give it in the West and more than a belief system, it is a complete way of life, including culture, philosophy, language, art, dance, music and medicine.
The Voodoo spiritual world consists of Mahou, the supreme being and about 100 divinities – or Voodoos – who represent different phenomena, such as war and blacksmiths (Gou), illness, healing and earth (Sakpata), storms, lightning and justice (Heviosso) or water (Mami Wata).
Voodoo priests ask these gods to intervene on behalf of ordinary people.
People here do not stick needles into dolls to cause misfortune to their enemies, as we see in some Western films. Some Voodoo priests use herbs to cure the sick – and possibly to poison enemies.
They also sometimes ask for offerings, such as a chicken or a sheep, which is then sacrificed to the divinity, or some alcohol is poured onto the floor.
This can happen when asking for help or when your wish has been granted.
People seek help on a variety of issues – to be cured of a disease, find a job, complete a business deal, find a spouse or have a child (the reality of voodoo in Benin, BBC News).
Egunguns are a very special but important part of Beninese Voodoo. ‘Egungun’ is a Yoruba word and means: ‘the souls of the dead who have returned to earth for a short time to pass on specific advice to the living’. The ancestors return from the realm of the dead as a ghost, and present themselves in the physical form of human beings at the Egungun ceremony.
SKARY BUT FASCINATING…SUCH AS NOTHING ELSE BUT ONLY OTHER CULTURES’ HISTORY CAN CREATE THIS CHARM!!