Netiva's travel journal to Africa
Summary of my
stay in Benin.
picture from Benin

Netiva's travel journal to Benin, Africa


My Benin site
Am back in Chicago.
17-year-old Beninese mother

Porto-Novo is a small town, an hour from noisy dirty Cotonou. I go to sleep to the sound of tam-tam (drums) and wake up at 4am to the cocks' cries and again at 5am to the Moazin calling the Muslim to prayer. There are very few paved streets, no hot water, but lovely people, with beautiful music and tropical vegetation all about. If you are lucky to own a car, just make sure you don't park it under a coconut tree.

My favorite pictures are of mothers carrying their babies on their backs. mothers at Aguegue une maman heureuse une autre maman heureuse au marche babe carrying babe mother hen maman et biche

They call me here YOVO, mostly the kids in the street. It means White. It's not pejorative though feels like it. So I learned to call them back Mais Oui (as in French "but yes") but here it means Black...So they laugh back at me...They love when I talk goun or fon, or Yoruba. I am learning slowly.

even goats ride on bike

Besides moms, babes, dirt roads,and hens's life, what impressed me most in Benin was the mode of transportation which includes zemidjeans, which are the taxi-motorcycles. They are a wonderful invention I think. They are numerous. Almost everywhere you go you can get one who will take you anywhere for a minimal fee of never more than a $1. At first I was very scared and hugged the driver for dear life. By now, I've become an expert at riding and actually enjoy the ride and the human landscape around me. Z ems (their short name) are actually dangerous as are ridden mostly with no helmet. They also use cheap gasoil from Nigeria which causes much of the pollution in the cities. It seems that the situation will not be improved in the near future.

July 2004:

Sun. July 31st: We celebrated today Irene's birthday. It was good. I can't believe I have been a mom for a quarter century...

Mon. July 5th: Am back in the USA!!! Arrived safely to Chicago on Sat. night. Good to be home with my loved ones even though my Beninese friends have become family. I think I will contginue this journal for awhile longer but at A NEW LOCATION. Celebrated my birthday yesterday, July 4th at Skokie parade and 2 bar-b-qs. On July 2nd Ashley's birthday, she woke me up at 5 am to announce that she got accepted to medical school in Israel. Congrats Ash and happy belated birthday!

Thu. 1st: Last day in Porto-Novo. Will be leaving tomorrow morning with the embassy vehicle to the airport for a pre-registration. Then off to lunch with Catherine, and then rest and swim in her pool. Not bad for a last day in Cotonou.
Tonite will celebrate my last evening here with a few friends at Forac= Forum des Arts et de la Culture. Yesterday the Institute gave me a party. It was a very happy event and I hope that I can post here all the videos once back in the States.

like a Beninese

June 2004:

Tues. 29th: I was invited today and yesterday at my neighbors for lunch. Nice to say goodbyes to all. Tomorrow will go to Cotonou to say goodbyes too. Am almost all packed. Am giving things away as there is no room for all in my 3 huge suit-cases. Am also paying my last bills. Will still have to change money at a big loss.

Mon. 28th: My students gave me a nice farewell party today. That was very nice. Time is almost up. I'll miss this place. However am looking forward to being back with family and old friends.

Mes etudiants d'ingenierie

Sun. 27th: Walked through Porto-Novo with Simplist and saw lots of old Brazilian-African houses. Check on the beautiful pictures.
In the afternoon went with Joseline, Edgar and Rick a Adjarra for porc lunch. Was yummy.
Then changed my coif again and gave myself braides one last time, so I can feel and look African...:)

Mignonne fille

maison a Sakete

Sat. 26th: Went swimming today for the 1st time at Porton Novo new pool.
Then went to Sakete, a small village 1 hour away.

Fri. 25th: Spent the day Wed-Thu. in Cotonou saying byes and having some fun at the Hotel du Port and at the salsa class.
The journalist from the Nouvelle Tribune met me there to give me a copy of Fri. the 18th newspaper where his article on my speech was posted. It was very positive. Maybe I'll get to scan it one day and link it here.

Tues. 22nd: Filled up already 2 huge suitcases and you cannot yet see a difference in my house. Am not sure how I am going to pack all my art and my clothes.
Last night did hardly sleep as the zangbettos were making a horrible noise. The Zangbettos are wierd, out of this world creatures, (in reality they are real people disguised). They walk the neighborhoods at night with their tamtams supposedly watching over the houses for security. In reality they instill fear in people who try to avoid them. One is not supposed to look at them. I only hear them at night. Never bothered to sneak out to look.
Lately I've been taking tons of films and pictures around my villa and streets of Porto-Novo so I can have a vivid memory when I return.

Donna and friends

Mon. 21st: Happy Spring! Here it's Spring all year round. Now it's the rainy season so it's cool after the rain and then warms up and feels great. The communion yesterday was just 2 parties for kids. One was Donna Kponon. I ate a lot and took some pictures with the kids and some dancing couples...

Sun. 20th: 12 days left...the count down continues. I am going now to a communion. Yesterday had a few profs from the institut here for dinner with their families. I took a few more movies of Porton-Novo, and can't wait to display them here.

Fri. 18th: 2 weeks exactly are left to be here...Still need to pack, maybe send one piece of luggage thru air-freight, say goodbye to many friends. All seem to want to see me lately. However some were not here before. I think many are just interested in me inviting them to visit me in America. They need this invitation to obtain a visa.

Tues. 15th: Am about to leave for Cotonoo where there will be a jazz concert tonight at Au Berlin. Tomorrow is my big presentation on the topic Ethique en Informatique , or Computer Ethics, in the school of Medecine where I was invited by the dean of the Faculte des Sciences et Techniques at the Universite d'Abomey-Calavi in the big amphitheater. Who knows, maybe 200 people will fill it up as projected.

Mon. 14th: Two and a half weeks left to my departure from here. Time is going too fast. Lots to do and people to see.
Sat. night went to Francois's farewell party. He is leaving tomorrow. Yesterday night went, as usual, to Java-Promo to dance with all the Beninese. This time I was the only yovo in there.

Sat. 12th: Went to a funeral today of Therese's mom, in Dangbo. Many people from the Institute came and the service was especially nice, not to mention the food after the cemetery. After I get back to the States, will place here some videos which are great but take too long to upload from here.

au tombeau

Fri. 11th: 3 weeks left to be here in Benin! Too short to see everyone I want to, and things I still want to do and see. I miss the place and the friends already.
Yesterday I came back from a day in Adjohoun. It is a beautiful village an hour North of Porto-Novo. Mariette, my new friend, has been living there for 10 years now and taking care of 35 orphans. What a mission. I admire her and regret not having met her before. But am thankful to have met her now...:)
le village et la riviere

Sun. 6th: Am safely back in Porto-Novo after 3 long days on the road. I stopped in Accra, Ghana for a day to give a talk at the AITEC conference. It was good to see again some of my Ghanian friends. Back in my villa it was strange to find things as they were and yet changed by my newer perception.

May 2004:

Sun. 30th: It's time to go back to Benin. Very strange feeling to leave my home and family again for a strange land that has become another home for me. Today I biked the Chicago LSD Lake Shore Drive. It was fun. Wed. and Thur. stayed in the nice Belden Stratford hotel downtown Chicago. That was fun too. All this is very remote from the life in Benin. Now my suitcase is heavy with books and presents, and I may have to empty it a bit as it is beyond my capacity.

Chicago downtown

Wed. 26th: Had a nice farewell lunch with my dept for Vic. CS faculty and staff

Mon. 24th: Just came back from Boston where Ashley graduated from Brandeis university. It was a very happy time indeed.

finally all of us

It is strange to be back home when I know there is a world so very different just a few days away.
I fit right back into my old neighborhood and customs, and yet I know that once I am back in Benin, I'll fall right back into becoming Beninese as I was before.
Am I a lezard?

Sat. 22nd: We've arrived safely yesterday to Boston after 2 days drive. Boston is so beautiful. It was good to find Ashley good and happy. Irene has arrived today. For the 1st time in 9 months that the whole family will be reunited. Hurrah!

Wed. 19th: Carolyn arrived yesterday! It was so good to have her here again with us. We spent some time with our friends: Sheila, Shuli, Mari,etc.
It seems that I blended right back into my old life as if I never left. Am still feeling as if in a dream. It will be strange to go back to Africa, but am not yet thinking about it. Tomorrow we will start our drive towards Boston.
with Sheila With Shuli Eshel

Sat. 15th: I arrived to Chicago!!! after 3 long days on the road. The trip to Accra, Ghana , by bus took almost 12 hours! Way too long, but I survived. Accra was good. I met Kwami, Teddy, and Gershon, which was great. I made it to London on Fri. morning and had to wait 7 hours in Heathrow for the next plane. Long wait. One nice thing that happened is that I met Judy Dench at the airport and was able to get a picture with her. Maybe will share it here soon. The best was to meet my family in Chicago and some of my friends. It wasn't much of a cultural shock. I got used to civilization very fast. The shock was in Accra when I used a public toilet and it just was so nice to find it with a seat, clean and with toilet paper. Wow! Civilization...:)...and no dirt roads...

just a cute beninese girl

Tues. 11th: Am leaving tomorrow for Accra, Ghana , to take the plane back to the US for 2 weeks. Am pretty nervous.

Mon. 10th: Am tired today, like many other days. I wonder if it's not malaria. This is one of the symptoms. I guess I must be just anxious about the long voyage coming up this week.

Sun. the 9th: Happy birthday Shiry! :) yesterday. Yesterday Anais came over for lunch and with Gerard Bassale and Moh Camara we went exploring Porto-Novo a bit more. We saw a Brazilien-African house that is a historical landmark here. We went also to buy a tamtam near Adjarra and Moh rapped for us while Gerard played.

Senegalese parrot on my tree

Fri. the 7th: Sauvage (my cat) ate my Senegalese parrot yesterday. So I decided to free the remaining one as he seemed too lonely. There was another couple of Senegalese waiting for him on the tree. However he forgot to fly and had to climb up the tree. I was considering keeping him until he learned to fly, but he wouldn't stay in the cage (always managed to squeez between 2 bars) and the chance of the cat eating him too, was too great.
Mother hen laid a few eggs again but there must be a snake in the yard eating one or 2 a day. I was able to rescue 4 eggs for my breakfasts, but it hurts to know that those could be a future generation of young chicks. My gardner already warned me that I should eat them all before leaving as someone else will eat them finally, if not me. I wish I could let them live in liberty and upon my next visit, maybe in a year, there will be 100 hens in my yard, enough to feed all of Porto-Novo.

Wed, the 5th: Gave my presentation today at the seminaire at the IMSP. Went well and even got engaged to present on another topic (ethics) on June 16th in Cotonou at the medical school there. So I better get to work...:)

Mon. May 3rd: I visted another famous artist's studio, Simonet Biokou in Porto Novo yesterday. I recognized the style of used metal parts as Simonet is the nefew of Louis Dakpogan, from the family of "forgerons" (metal workers) whose metal art is well known. I wish I had more room in my luggage to take a few pieces back with me.
With Simonet and his friend we went to participate at a baptism. It was another festivity where all sit in chairs and eat and drink with loud music. My name was mentionned a few times over the loud speakers, wishing me the welcome, then bon-apetit, then good sitting, and finally good bye. It must be a nice way to greet invited guests.
Today also I realized how lucky I was to be greeted like a famous actor while walking or riding in the streets of Porto-Novo. I was riding with my student to get his computer, finally paid-for from my house. All along the way, the kids called me and shouted hellos with wide smiles.

some of Simonet's sculptures

Sun. May 2nd:
I stopped by Gerard's new house yesterday and met with Sophie who has the same birthday as me, only a few years apart. Gerard's house is becoming like once was Zion bar. A welcoming place to meet friends. He has no furnitures. We just sit on a natte on the floor in or out of the house, and chat.
I am broke. Waiting for money from those who "bought" computers from me. I'll have to spend my last few days here chasing after all those who owe me money, not a desired task.

at Gerard's new house

at Catherine's house the morning after Thursday night we celebrated the going away of Sofiane at Catherine's house. It was a very joyous party with most of the salsa course dancers. Sofiane cooked for us with the help of the cook, and we easily gained a few calories, despite the swim in the pool that some of us took and the wild salsa dancing. Sofiane will be missed...:(

April 2004:

Tues. 27th: I forgot to mention that I am a gramma to 3 new chicks. This is so exciting...:)

Mon. 26th: Happy independence day Israel tomorrow! and today we'll spend remembering our deads.

drumming away

Sun. 25th: Am back in Porto-Novo after a very exciting week in Burkina-Faso. Laure and I left with Claudie and Jean-Luc and their 4-4. I was welcomed by Laure's wonderful Burkinabe family in Ouagadou. I also left Monday by 5-hour bus trip to Bobo-Dioulasso where I stayed at Rose's and Celestin and their 2 kids. Bobo is gentler than Ouagadougou. It is a bit less hot and has less cars. Ouagadou was much hoter than Porto-Novo. About 40 degrees (110 farnheit?) day and night with hardly any releaf. I had hot air blown at me by the ventilator and had difficulty sleeping at night. However the people were wonderful. The drivers are more polite than in Benin and there is definitely less polution than in Cotonou.
In Bobo I visited the museum where I climbed into an old habitat called case. I also visited with the local artisans and saw how bronze sculptures were made. With Rose I visited some balafonists who played and sang for us while we drank some chai and gangi (some fruit alcohol), and even danced.

Fri. 16th: Am leaving tomorrow with Laure for Burkina Faso. Am very excited. Don't expect much writing here for the next few days. Still remember the Holocaust remembrance day on the 19th. Six million Jews as well as others who were murdered unnecessarily should not be forgotten. No more holocaust.

Thur. 15th: Just got back from Togo very tired. It was a great 4-day trip with a Finnish woman from Abijan, Pirita, a French man from Paris, Cidric, another French man from Togo, Sofiane, a French woman from Benin, Anais, and her mother from the French Guyene, Anne-Marie We had lots of fun visiting Kpaline, walking its forests and mountains and visiting the artisanal center there.

A la chute at Kpalime

Sat. 10th: Am leaving Monday for Togo till Thurs. with a group of 5-6 mostly French people. One of them is Togolais so we'll have a good guide I hope. Am getting excited. It has been a while since I've done some tourism with a group of friends.
Yesterday some famous Kalif Mirza Ahmad Masroor from the Jama'at Islamique Ahmadiyya came to visit us at the Institute from Pakistan, after he met with kings etc. TV crews were there and I guess I'll be again on TV. Yesterday I was on TV for participating at diploma offering Wed to our DESS students in Cotonou. They make a big deal here of every event. I guess I live in province.

Thu. 7th: The rainy season is finally here. For 2 days in a row we have some pouring rains. Luckily it dries a little after and there is hope the sun will come out, like yesterday. I was able to go to the Hotel du Port for a swim, after I got my Burkina Faso's visa. I hope to go there in a week or 2. So am in my office today getting a chance to read a bit of my accumulated email and work on this journal.

Tues. 6th: Happy passover and Easter to all. Last night I celebrated Passover with 12 Beninese. We said it was like the "last supper" of Jesus. They enjoyed it all. and I loved the opportunity of sharing of my culture with them. It was a fun evening. After all, as Robin my friend said, it all began in Africa. I read in Hebrew, someone read the English translation, and another translated into French. So it was passover in 3 languages and all the symbolism.


Sun. 4th: In a month and 10 days I'll be visiting the US where Ashley is graduating. This is rather exciting. I can't believe that upon my return, I'll have only one month left here, in Benin. Time has passed very fast indeed, though at times I was thinking it was not moving at all. Now I hope I can travel a bit, to feel as though I have seen something around here...:)

Fri. 2nd: Am happy again here in Benin after having met my friends and the nice and smiley Beninese around me.

March 2004:

Sun. 28th: Am back in Benin. On one hand it feels like back home, my 4th home in the world after Israel, Paris, and Chicago. On the other hand am alone again and not too happy about it. See my Paris' pictures if I get to load them tonight. It's a stormy night with no electricity but how lucky, telephone lines (tho no connection to Benecell:(). And this is after we didn't have any water most of ther day. So what else is new?

Chateau au Medoc

Tues. 23rd: We're back from Bordeaux where we visited St Emilion and Medoc. We slept in Pommys castle last night in St Estephe and tasted lots of good wines. I hope to have many new pictures when I return to Benin, pix I have taken with my new camera, which is great.

Sun. 21st: Happy 2nd day of Spring to you! Paris is beautiful as always. Today we're taking the train to Bordeaux to taste some wines. Saw Robin and Mark last night for dinner. The night before we met my old HS friends for dinner at Je The Me. It was a lot of fun. I slept my first night at Minou's and Francois. So good to find back old friends. A bit strange to see old friends from other places here in Paris. We also saw a beautiful exhibit of Miro at the Pompidou.

Thu. 18th: Arrived safely this morning to Paris. Good news: My fracured foot is in reality "only" a torn ligament. So maybe it's not such a good news, as a fracture can heal easily and a torn ligament needs a long time to heal.

with Montmartre in the background

March 17th-Wed: Happy birthday Nir my bro!..
Am leaving today for Paris. My foot is still fractured and will have to put a new plaster on it in Paris. Am used to plaster of Paris by now. I hope our little vacation will not be spoiled. I have about 5 packages to deliver to diverse people. Hopefully we'll find them all easily.

in a plaster

Fri 12th:Monday my plaster will be removed. I am a bit afraid it's not healed as it still hurts when I step on it. I passed 2 nice weeks forced vacation at home with my foot up at least. But kept teaching my classes on Fridays, like today. At home the connection is very slow, that's why didn't write in a long while.
Next Wed I'm going to Paris! for a week to meet with Joel. Am very excited and pray that my foot won't play tricks on me.

Mon. the 1st: My foot is in a plaster. I can't believe I have had a fracture for over 2 weeks and didn't realize it.

on canopy At home the connection is very slow so be patient with my pictures from Ghana. We had a fabulous time there visiting Cape Coast and Elmina forts and sleeping in a wild national forest Kakum. It was great visiting with Sandy and Jack.
We saw some awesome Weaver birds making their nests just meters away from us. Other birds you may see, in names only, from my neighborhood in Porto-Novo.

February 2004:

Thur. 26th: I'm in Winneba, Ghana! My friend Leobard drove me with Peter and Louis to Lome, Togo. From there we took a bus across Ghana to Accra. Jack, my friend and colleague Sandy's husband came to pick us up. We said good-bye to Peter who flew back to S. Africa, and went on 2.5-hour drive to Winneba. Altogether it took us 14 hours to drive/wait/cross 2 borders/even bribe officials to get here. Not an easy day but good being here now, after a good night sleep, good dinner and breakfast. Unfortunately my camera is stuck and until I get it repaired, or receive pictures from Sandy, you won't be able to see fresh pictures from me:(
in Osu in Accra
Ghana is not that different from Benin. One sees less of bottled-gaz pomping that you see in Benin. People are dressed more like in the West than in traditional dress.
We are now at the University of Education in Sandy's office. Louis is visiting with Issifu Yidana around campus.
Peter Lor gave a nice lecture Monday at my Institute on Intellectual property and information flows between the North and the South. Tues. morning we both presented to my Technical English class. It was fun working with a colleague and my students. I think they all learned some English and improved their conversation skills.

Sun. 22nd: Gerard took Brent, Louis and me to Adjarra, this time to see how they make palm oil there. We took a small pirogue pushed by a big pole across a narrow lagune. It was lovely. When Peter arrived we ate and went observing the dancing at Java Promo. It's fun to have guests over. Peter is an ornithologist. We spent some time walking and watching birds in my neighborhood.

Sat. 21st: Tomorrow I'm expecting my colleague Peter Lor to arrive from S. Africa via Accra to give a talk at the IMSP. Will be nice to have a guest. Have planned some site seeing for him. Yesterday evening as I was coming back home from tennis I had everyone wave hello to me in the street and the kids ran to me to give me a five. I felt so welcomed. This cannot happen elsewhere that I'm aware of. Benin does have nice people. Thur. I was in Coo for the hip-hop festival at the CCF. Kashe my young friend was rapping. It was a different experience than I've experienced before: having so many young people around getting excited about rapping. The Ghana embassy was closed and I had to return Fri. to Coo to apply for a visa. Just another administrative pain.

Thur. 19th: Didn't write for almost a week because didn't have much new. Today am going to Coo for the hip-hop festival as my friends Moh, Cache and Mica are rapping. Will also go to the Ghana embassy to get a visa. Am planning a visit to Ghana for next week. I hope that will be good without a car just by taxi. Hopefully my friends there would answer and could show us a bit around.

Fri. the 13th: Happy Valentine's day to all my friends and family! tomorrow... I took it easy today and stayed home and watched a movie on dvd on my computer. I should do this more often. Got my tennis lesson as usual. Am getting good. In 4.5 months I will be returning to the US. More than half my time here has passed. This is very strange. I'm starting the count down. I would love to go on visiting neighboring countries but am not sure I have much time to do so. Will have to investigate into my schedule and obligations. I would love to see all of West Africa but alone is not much fun and may even be dangerous. Paying for someone else to join me may be a bit expensive.

Thur. 12th: Happy birthday to Washington and to my daughter Carolyn yesterday! Today had 4.5 hours meeting at the institute. Lots of administrative and academic topics discussed. We then celebrated the new year with all the students, staff, lamb and profs. More photos here.
Just got back from my salsa dance class. Am sweaty. Saturday there will be a salsa party in Cotonoo. I may go. What else is there to do?
Yesterday I shot many pictures of Simplice A houansou, a great artist from Porto-Novo. As a thank-you he gave me one of his paintings to hang in my office. It is le-fa and I am excited about it. I just hope I can take back with me all these wonderful acquisitions I've made in this land of Benin.

A little girl on my street
Another beautiful day at the beach brigitte, Jacques, Serena et Carolyn

Tues. Feb 10th: A whole week without writing... I guess this means I'm very busy and therefore happy...:) Most of my pictures from the past weekend include a day at the beach on Sunday, and caroussel, a medieval show on horses, on Sat. (at the horse club), and some 9 eggs of my hen when she left them for a minute to get a bite to eat.

Tues. Feb. 3rd: I'm famous! Lots of people came to the exhibit, Americans, French, Beninois, etc. TV crews came, radio, and written press. I was interviewed. The embassy representative introduced me and I gave a tiny speech. It seemed as if the press wanted to know more about the black history month which we were celebrating, by our exhibit. Luckily I chose the Love piece where 2 faces get closer and i made the analogy to two continents. They seemed to like it. I hope to see this whole thing tonight in the local news.

Mon. Feb 2nd: Today is the openning of our art exhibit at the American Cultural Center. It's raining now. Let's hope for no rain so people will show up.

Sun. Feb. 1st: This is the Tabaski holiday for the Muslims here and everyone eats goats and lambs. The smell is in the air and the goats were everywhere all week.

I spent Friday night in Coo at Regine's and Patrice. Patrice was in a jazz concert at the CCF (centre culturel francais), which was very successful.
On Sat. went with Gerard, Lisou and Fabien to a funeral of a 16-year-old brother of Gildas who died of cancer. This time I saw lots of tears. No more happy bands and celebration. We also visited the temple des pythons and had the chance to wear a python on our necks. Apparently they let the pythons roam the city of Ouidah late at night, but only the initiated can see them.
I keep on studying the life of hens in Benin. My chicken has had 9 eggs. I stole one for my breakfast yesterday. It was tiny, smaller than a ping-pong ball, but delicious. It felt good eating from my "garm". The chicken sits on her eggs now for almost a week. She has about 21 days in all. I only saw her once off her eggs when she came for her food. The older chicks are fairly independent and sleep in pairs on my garden trees. I enjoy seeing them climb the trees at dusk, and landing like airplanes at dawn for their breakfast. Two are roosters. It's fun to hear them try their new cries with a very rust voice at first.

January 2004:

Tues. 27th: I met today six students of the new class of engineering we are starting at the IMSP. I am supposed to teach them six hours of technical English a week. This is rather exciting as I will most likely teach them all their other courses but in English instead of French, so they will hear each topic twice. Hopefully they will learn both computer science and English.
Yesterday I brought most of my paintings to the American cultural Center. I'll have to return there Thurs. to hang most of the works, by others as well.
Friday I will return again to Coo to listen to Patrice Toulouse jazz concert. I can't believe I'll be in Coo 4 times this week alone. Too much to my taste. Will I ever get into a routine? This so far seems unlikely. The minute I settle down, something else comes up.

a few of us at the colloque

Sun. 25thA whole week without writing. Have been busy with visiting colleagues and organizing the colloquium. The colloquium was a huge success, imho. I hope other people think so too. The schedule has changed and has improved. The first day was dedicated to education with computers. The second day was dedicated to mathematics. Among the presenters we had a surprise Fermat's last theorem short easy proof that blew our minds. Maybe our colloquium will make history if indeed this is a valid proof as many of us thought. Wednesday was dedicated to water mostly, and Thursday had many interesting discussions as well as several students interesting presentations. We cut the colloqium short, which allowed many to visit Porto-Novo and Aguegues. Wed. evening I had a small gathering of participants at my house for dinner and for video watching of water in Israel. We took the opportunity to also watch my father, David Caftori , the artist, movie of his last year. It was nice to share him with my students and friends.

Fri. 16thWill be picking up Debby Mir today from the airport. My life will be again changed for the next 10 days with Sandy and Jack Turner also sharing the house with me during the colloquium.
One thing I'm learning here is the life of hens. Now that my chicks are adolescent the mom hen decided to chase them away and she's violent even and won't let them near when she eats. I have to play tricks to feed them all. I am told she's ready to lay eggs. She will lay 1 egg a day until she has enough, maybe 5, then she will hatch them unless I get to them faster than her. If a rooster didn't get to her yet, those eggs are obviously not fertilized and no sense in hatching them. What surprised me last night is that she still slept with her cicks. Maybe she hasn't yet started to lay her eggs. I'll have to find her hiding place.

Wed. 14th Monday we met at the ACC to settle a few things about the upcoming art exhibit there. With me will exhibit Julien Degan, a seasoned artist who was chosen to represent Benin in America a few years back, Louis Dokpogan, one of the famous metal sculptors here, Francois Levannier, an unknown till now, and Pauline Degan, an artisan in cloth and batik. I hope it will be a successful adventure. Our opening night is set for Feb. 2nd at 7 pm. I invited some musiciens as usual to boost the atmosphere, and a lot of people too. Now I have to worry only how to get my big canvasses there. But will leave that for after the colloquium is over with. Debby Mir, my colleague from Chicago, is arriving Friday. Many others are arriving Sunday. I'll have the house full.

Sun. 11th: Am busy preparing for classes today (for a change) and checking my email. Doing fine being busy. Actually I'm too busy. Still want to finish 2 paintings for my upcoming art expo at the American Cultural Center (ACC) in Feb. Being without a car makes things a bit harder nowadays.

Sat. 10th: It's national Voudou holiday here today. I went to Malahoui for the festival with two friends. We took zems (motorized motocycles) on dirt roads. It was an adventure especially with all the pot holes. At the festival we saw lots of dancing, symboles, temples and ceremonies. I hope you can appreciate from the numerous pictures I have included. We also visited a concession, a small village of a macro-family with old temples and cute kids.

Wed. 7th: My NEIU system was upgraded and I couldn't get here to update this journal. What a crisis! :) Joel is leaving again today, and I'm facing a new challenging period with much to do. On the 19th the colloquium I'm organizing is starting and I'll have my house full of guests and much to do for a week or 2. It will be a nice change I suppose. Am looking forward to seeing old colleagues from the US, Ghana, Nigeria and Tchad. Our budget is slim so I hope it will be decent.

Fri. 2nd: Had a good day visiting Cotonou with Joel. Had a nice lunch with the German and American ambassadors and their families. Then shopped a bit at the artisanal center. Hard to resist the great artifacts.

Thur. 1st: Joel and I spent a nice quiet day at home this 1st day of 2004 except for a simple lunch at Acongo (which cost us a mere $4)

Netiva and Joel

December 2003:

au jardin des plantes

Wed. 31st: Happy new year to all! We are missing Ashley ...Amazing how you get used to a kid back in your house. I hope she's having a swell time in Scotland. My other 2 daugters are in Thailand and Israel and we are thinking of them as well and wishing them all the best for 2004.
Even my shoes were cleaned for the new year. The dirt and brown dust that accumulated in them in 2003 was all washed out to make room to a new slate in 2004. The last few days with Ashley were spent at the Jardin des plantes here in Porto-Novo, and at Dantokpa, the biggest market in the Midwest, in Cotonou. We saw a monkey at the garden and bought a few bracelets at the market. Just an easy time saying bye bye.

Sun. 28th: Ashley is leaving tomorrow...:( Yesterday we had a nice celebration of hannukah at my house. Had close to 50 people over including professors, students, neighbors, the German ambassador and his charming wife and a radio director. I missed some of our French friends from Cotonou and from PN who have lost some Lebanese friends in the air-plane crash. This is, I believe the greatest catastrophy the Benin has known since slavery.
On Fri. we ate lunch at Hassan's dorm w. his student friends. It is nice to take time off studies and enjoy time with family and friends. I still have to work on my new courses come January, the colloquium I run on Jan. 19-25, etc.

Thu. Xmas: Played tennis early this morning, a game I hardly ever played before and now I love, given the chance to get lessons at an affordable price. Maybe I'll be a champion one of these days.
Spent xmas day at Olivier's house for lunch after a visit to his church. Was nice chatting with other Beninese.
Yesterday spent the afternoon at Weke pool with Joel and Ashley before hosting a xmas dinner with Regine, Patrice and the boys.

Tues. 23rd: Almost xmas and we are not that far from a white one as it's the harmattan season here: a wind that comes from the sahel and carries lots of dust with it. So all is becoming white with dust instead of snow. You can look at the sun almost all day as it's hiding behind a thick layer of white dust.
Yesterday we went to Ganvie: a city on water. It is similar to Aguegues where I've been before, but it's bigger and more picturesque.
We enjoyed a drink at the floating hotel there and just navigating the waters in a motorized pirogue.


Sun. 21st: Just got back from Natitengou where we had some great time and some not so great times. We went with the institute bus to honor the winners of the math national contest. We had a good time on the bus with all the adolescents, singing, and joking. We stayed at the Taneka's hotel in Natitengou. With Ashley we took some zemijohn taxis and went to see a tata-somba kind of a habitat. There I met a fetisher who read his shells and told me only good things. I now wear a corie necklace he made for me. On Friday we rented a jeep and left early in the day to see the Tanegua falls and then the Pendjari reserve. We followed the elephants' foot steps, but to no avail. No elephants and no lions in this s till wet season. We saw lots of deer, wild pigs, monkeys, baboons, hyppopotames, cerfs, etc.
Good to be home though with my family celebrating hanukkah (this is the festival of lights in this dark continent, which is not so dark after all), and just resting.
See my hanukkah story written a year later (12/04).

Wed. 17th: Am busy with my visiting family and very happy indeed. Today we're leaving for Natitengou for a few days. Saturday and Sunday spent many nice hours with Ashley and friends at the beach in Cotonou and at Seme, also at Zion bar.

On Sunday night Ashley and I went dancing at Java-Promo,

Fri. 12th: Ashley, my 21 year old, arrives tonight! Am so excited. Just came back from lunch at projet Songhai where the IMSP had a seminaire for 2 weeks.
I had my 3rd lesson in tennis yesterday and I just love it. Am getting better fast. Sunday morning I will get my 4th lesson in one week. I hope Ashley could take it with me, if she's not too tired.

at Songhai seminaire

Thur. 11th: Had some fun time these past 2 days. On Tues. went w Nassira to Weke to swim. Yesterday went with Brigitte to Cotonou to visit Nalini and Henri and their kids and to shop at Danktokpa, the biggest market in Western Africa.

Mon. 8th: The German ambassador came to visit us at the IMSP. Yesterday had a visit from some neighbors. It's nice to feel surrounded with people who care. I can use more of that. Don't take me wrong. I'm not unhappy here. My struggle is in being a woman alone in this jungle of men and women who are interested in you for a variety of reasons, and most likely because they are bored with their existence. I crave true friendships that cannot always be forged over night, or over a year time.

Sun. 7th: Yesterday went to a funeral in Ifagni, a village 17 km away from Porto-Novo. Someone 102 years old died, and the entire village was celebrating. Many bands came from P-N and played , and didn't leave our sight until we tipped them. Food was good, Beninese: la patte and rice , both with lamb. Many of us bought the same dress material for this happy occasion.
Sat night went again to my favorite bar.

Fri 5th: Am looking different again, this time in braids. Last night went to see a film for the first time here. It was a huge old hall, and the screen was scratched or the movie or both. We were less than 10 in there. It cost 50 cents downstairs and almost a $ for the upstairs. The movie was Freeway. Not bad. I think in the future I'll rent dvd's.
On Wed celebrated with Cyriaque, and the rest, his defending of his doctoral thesis.

am beninese again Just found a place here where you can actually order ice-cream and rent a dvd for 4 days for 50 cents, but need to leave an id. Will have to borrow one.

Tues. 2nd: Already December and I'm here 3 months...Time passes fast, but have lived an entire life. Had better days these past few days. For once spent a lovely day at the beach in Cotonou, "sur la route de peche" (on the fishing path). Felt like vacationning.
Yesterday had a good class at the IUB in Coo, after eating lunch at Regine again. Today I finally taught my 1st Numerical Methods class.
Also spent some time at a nice Zion bar observing a band play. When I miss my friend Sheila I listen to our tape singing together.

Brigitte et moi sur la Route de Peche

November 2003:

Fri. 28th: By accident my gardner this morning found a papaya tree in my yard, so now I can eat papayas in addition to mangoes, bananas, and coconuts.
Yesterday went to Coo for a salsa lesson at So What. The Cuban teacher was great. Had some fun., and exercise. Before that I waited at a beach cafe facing the ocean while it was pouring out. Very surreal feeling. After the dance we went to the Repaire de Baccus to eat and listen to Patrice do some jazz on the piano with his band.

Wed. 26th: Long day at work, especially after the Ramadan holyday yesterday when I didn't come in to check my lengthy email list.
this is my coco-tree and it's a real old man This old man just climbed my coconut trees in no time. You should look at the video.
I got 34 coconuts down from 2 trees. I left the 3rd tree intact for another day. I love drinking the juice and eating the meat. My neighbor Louis made me a great breakfast this morning called bouillie out of rice, cocojuice and citronelle. It was delicious.
See my old me sitting on an old tree trunc near the institute.
I feel very existencialist, asking questions like "What am I doing here?", "What's my purpose?", "Why am I here?". Am not sure I can answer these. I am rereading my Nicht Naht Han budhist book on No death, No fear helping me pass the nights.

Mon. 24th: Spent part of the villa weekend in Cotonou. On Sat. spent a short hour at Projet Songhai a self surviving community which recycles just about everything.
Sat. night ate too much at a French party in the horse club. In the afternoon visited with Regine the artisanal center, an art exhibit, and a couple touristy stores in Cotonou. It was nice to feel the occident a bit and visit with a friend, after spending most of my days in rural Porto-Novo.
See me drink a coconut at Tarangua resto in Coo.
On Sun. spent some time with another American woman, Beth, a peace-corps volunteer, at Salsa resto and at a small botanical garden we have here.

Thu. 20th: May be going today to Calavi again on some mission from the Institute. Did some Tae-Kwon-Doe last night for the 2nd time, bare feet in my front yard in the sand. Got my 4th Beninese outfit yesterday.

Tues. 18th:Took this morning someone who thinks he has malaria (here they call it palludism or in short le pallu) to the doc. I was amazed it only cost 20 cents to see a doc and 10$ to do the lab work for malaria, and typhoid.
Sunday was invited to prof Joel Tossa's house for lunch. It was nice to meet the family, and feel welcomed.

Sun. 16th: First time I'm connecting from home on my new telephone line. Very exciting. Of course it's very expensive during the week so I'll limit this luxury to Sundays and maybe evenings. I've been talking to family on an internet phone with video. We found a free service that works great for us. It feels as if I never left home. It helps a lot. Am not yet into any routine except for getting up early every morning, doing exercises and running every other day, eating breakfast on my beautiful terrace, and the rest of the day is an adventure.
Sat. 15th: Spent the afternoon at the pool of Brigitte and Philippe.
Yesterday went to Calavi to see the new vice recteur being installed. It was my 1st time visiting the University of Benin. Long trip from Porto-Novo.

the life

my birds with earth colors

Fri. 14th: Happy birthday Noam! (my niece:) This time was able to talk to her on the phone, as have a new phone line at home: 229-22-02-04. Call me...:)
I have been painting since my arrival here and am planning an exhibit in February at the Centre Culturel American. Some of my paintings are on birds, others on people . The first one I painted was a couple dancing.
Fri. we also celebrated with Ferdinand his receiving his PhD with the faculty and the students at the IMSP (Institut of Mathematics and Sciences Physiques).

avec Ferdinand et Joel Hounsou

Thu. 13th: Had dinner last night at Sophie's with her parents and B & P. This morning I enjoyed seeing my gardner Emmanuel trim my newly planted lawn, in a very old-fashioned way. On Tues. I finally got the chance to practice my Tae-Kwon-Doe with another 1st degree black belt.. I hope to meet his master and learn more. I also received my 4th tamtam lesson, and am proud to say that I'm getting better.

Tues. 11th: Happy birthday Adi! (my niece) I bet many around the world are celebrating this day.
I haven't done much in the last few days except for teaching yesterday and going the Adjarra on Sunday where I bought another tam-tam.

Thur. 5th: Went with Sophie to a gala given by the rector of the National University of Benin at Abomey-Calavi. There was folk dansing by students of the university, good company and good food. Rene and Ferdinand have just defended their doctoral theses with high honors. There is no connection today and I'm writing this off -line, which I should do anyhow to save time. I took one more movie of my hen and chicks eating bread crumbs at my feet this morning.

Tues. 4th: Back in PN. Home sweet home. Yesterday dinner-gala was great. The conference keeps on going. I may return tomorrow for another gala.

Mon. Nov. 3rd: I am still in Cotonou since friday at the math-physics conference organized by the national university of Benin at Calavi. I met neat people, many professors and researchers from the US, canada, France, belgium, Congo, Nigeria, etc. When i return to PN I will place my pictures here.
Monday night a few of us met at the CCF for a nice concert by a mixed beninese and french musiciens. Sat. night went to the night club So What for another evening of good music. Patrice played the piano. very few people in the audience. I think it's just too expensive for the locals to pay for such events.
Today we are having a dinner-galla with the minister of education at Info tech , where the conference is taking place.

October 2003:
my new me
See my new me
African hair style:)

Wed. 29th: 2 months here today. Seems like a long time, but have done and lived a lot more. Am not missing home as much as am super busy with friends and studies and preparing for school here and in the US next Fall. Will have to prepare a new cross-listed course with Women-studies on Women in Computing. Am also working with a publisher on publishing my security textbook. This weekend will be in a math-physics conference in Coo.
As I speak my cat is being castrated. I hope he's alright.:(
My new hut over my terrace has been finished. I now have protection from the sun and the rain.
Spent last evening and night without electricity as had a bad storm. My 2nd tamtam lesson went alright.. Maybe I'll get into a band once back in the US...:)

Tues. 28th:The weekend at Grand Popo was good. Sophie, Syl Paris Kouton, Achille and I sun tanned a bit on the beach, had nice lunches and dinner with my friends Regine, Patrice and their 2 boys. We couldn't see the bouche du roi as our ship never showed up:( after we walked some in the hot sun and waited over 2 hours. Before leaving GrandPopo we visited the beautiful Awale hotel which was closed for a wedding.
Friday night I returned to the theater festival for some great dances by the Cite ballet. There were dances about fishermen throwing nets and women buying their fish. Other dances included farmers working in the fields and women celebrating the crop with them. Too bad my camera disk was too small to include all of the dances. Have only 128 megs.:(
Yesterday we had the minister of education, the recteur of the National University of Benin and other dignitaries come to visit us.

Fri. 24th: The theater festival last night was great. We had a puppet show , folk dancing by kids accompanied by a nice band. The dignitaries from several countries were in the audience including 2 local kings, Porto-Novo mayor, some council ministers, and more.
I'm growing hens in my yard. A hen with her 5 chicks has decided to stay put in my yard. They spend there all their day and night. A neat spectacle for me and for my wild cat.

Thu. 23rd: Had dinner at home last night with 3 of my French neighbors. Was very nice.
Today am going to a theater festival at P-N. Tomorrow will go with Sophie to Coo for the Beninese ballet at the CCF (Centre Culturel Francais).
This weekend am planning on going to Grand Popo with my neighbors.

Wed. 22nd: Had my 1st private lesson in tam tam playing. Like it a lot so far.

Tues. 21st: Joel left Sun. Am back to being alone in my new-old life here. So far am too busy to realize the absence.
Spent yesterday in Coo, walking on the beach early morning with Regine, lunch with Dah-Jah, teaching at the IUB in the after-noon, and taking that crowded taxi back to P-N.

Joel and I at Casa del Papa
Saturday we spend a nice afternoon with Regine and Patrice at the Casa del Papa. Joel had the chance to experience zem-taxi (motorcycle) and taxi crowding. I'm sure it left a long-lasting impression.
On Friday, as it rained we cancelled our trip to Jarra and visited two museums in Porto-Novo. One was the Ethnographic museum and the other the Kings palace Hounme museum.

Thu. 16thMy daughter is out of the hospital today and is recovering in her kibbutz. Very hard to be so far and not be able to tend a hand.
Was in an exposition openning last night at Cotonoo at the French Cultural Center. Simplice, Chacal and Paris.

Wed. 15th: Busy with Joel and my new courses. One is on C++ and data structures at the IUB (Institut universaire du Benin). The other is about Access and Linux at the IMSP. In Nov. I'll start a numerical analysis course there as well.
Diverse pictures from all over. Also Cotonoo this past weekend with Bienvenu's family and Raphael, revisit to the Mediatheque de la Diaspora.
Am trying to teach my cat to write, to no avail. See some hens in my yard.

Thu. 9th: Two days with very bad web connection. Tomorrow Joel, my husband arrives so I'll be writing here less if at all.
Two days ago Simplist took me to a sculptor friend of his by the name of Blaise. He makes very nice statuettes and craft especially for the tourists.

Tues. 7th: Bathed again today from a cup. Took a couple motion pictures One is of my yard . The other of my my wild cat

Mon. 6th:Water is back and I'm back to tacking at least 2 showers a day: one after my morning exercise and one when coming back home after a hot sticky day around town.
The visit at Dangbo was very good. We visited the new IMSP there that is very impressing, even with its only building so far. Visited also a small farm, which procured me with lots of neat pictures , and also received some coconuts to eat and to drink from.
Sat. I met another famous local artist, Simplice Ahounansou through an other unknown, as yet, artist Francois Levannier. We decided to exhibit soon together with Louis Dankpotak, another friend sculptor, I didn't even know was a famous sculptor here.

Fri. 3rd:I took a bath this morning from a tea cup as no water now in 2 days and our water reserve is getting low. Amazing how one cup is enough to wash a whole body. Try it sometimes...:)
I'm planting a small lawn in front of the house and am a bit concerned if it doesn't rain and the water doesn't come soon. The lawn is to decrease the amount of dust that gets into the house especially before the armatan (severe dust wind in January) arrives.

Thu. 2nd:Tomorrow will go to the new site of our institute at Dumbo. Looking forward to a short 1/2 hour trip.
Have been painting on new canvasses bought here with local earth colors. As don't have yet any brushes, used my fingers and a knife. was some fun.
Yesterday treated myself to my 1st manicure/pedicure here. The whole thing was less than 4$. Not bad. Too bad that local calls are more than 1$ a min. My husband in the US makes some calls for me here as it's cheaper to call here from the US

Wed. Oct. 1st: I can't believe that I'm here now for more than a month. I'm pretty well settled down. Am not quite sure yet about my course teaching at the IMSP, but working on it. My car is still a problem I hope to solve this month. Yesterday I met a neighbor, who happens to be a famous artist by the name of Romuald Hazoume. I liked his paintings and masks. His next big piece to be exposed in NY (if I'm not mistaken) is promising to be an impressive one.

Another kind of picture I enjoy taking is of children: good to be
on back of mom girl in Adjarra girl 

carrying baby

September 2003:

Tues. 30th: A couple days with no electricity or connection and I was forced away from the computer lab...:(
Yesterday I spent the day in Coo to get money from the embassy, visit my friends Regine and Patrice, and go to a planning meeting at the IUB (Institute Universitaire du Benin) where I'll start teaching soon C and C++ with some English teaching as well. I came back by taxi last night, . We were 14 in 3 row-taxi. The driver sat on the widow I think with 3 passengers next to him. I only had 4 small ones next to me.
Sunday I was at a Musulman wedding. The groom was not even there. The bride came out at the end to greet us and accept our presents, after she changed her dress. It was an interesting experience with tam-tams and some good food.
Sat. was my party to some 35 people: My neighbors, some professors, a few students, a few musiciens and artists, and a couple friends. We had great food that Pascal, my cook has organized. The nusiciens played and sang some great African music. Some of the French chipped in with French songs and jazz. Not a bad way to start the new year. I have made some blessings and explained a few things about the Jewish new year. All had a good time.
Earlier that day I went to another party at Projet Songhai for the going away of the director of Thu USAID Harry Lightfoot. Again lots of good food, and nice hosts with great projects exposed to me.

Thu. 25th: I met the american ambassador yesterday at a reception at the American cultural Center in Cotonou, along with several other dignitaries. Made some connections with radio stations directors who are going to interview my students who are studying wa\ter pollution in Benin.
Misceallenous pictures

Tues. 23rd: Yesterday I drove for 15 minutes to the outskirts of Porto-Novo and virtually left Africa. It was a swimming pool in a hotel compound at Weke. Besides the beautiful pool, there was a small forest of palm trees, a small zoo, a camel and even cows.

Mon. 22nd: This past weekend drove to Bohecon, 2 hours North of Cotonou. From there drove to Cove, a small sculptors' town where I purchased some artifacts. It was my special prize for having driven in an unpaved road, thru rivers, rocks, and what-not.

Fri. 19th. Just got back from Cotonou by taxi. This time we were only 6 in the small cab with Gisele, 7 year old girl on my lap (my cook's daughter). We left Porto-Novo yesterday in a van-kind of taxi, 17 people piled up. I suggested my shoulders as well so we can fit in a 18th person, but got only smiles back.
I enjoyed the openning of an art exhibit by Julien Degan whose sculptures I love.
At night I slept at Regine's house after we spent a nice time drinking and chatting in a restaurant where her husband plays piano jazz with 4 other musiciens. I had a great time.

Wed. 17th: Drove myself for the 1st time to Cotonou. Not a bad experience after all, if you don't mind the smoke breathed in from exhaust pipes.
throwing the net

Yesterday went by boat (perogue) to a village on water, Aguegues. A bit like what I saw in Thailand.
When came back took my 2nd hot bath from a pail (boiled on my kitchen range). I never thought I would appreciate washing that much.

Monday Sept 15th: I went to a nice party Sat. night with local musiciens and artists. I even tried a real bomba outfit but I was too hot.

Also hosted a couple of couples at my house for lunch, and went dancing at a local jointe, African dances.

Friday, the 12th: Went with my new friend Radegonde to Cotonou by car, and came back by taxi (full w people). Had the occasion to ride a zemidjon (a motorcycle-taxi) twice that day. Was scary but I survived.

Sept 11th: Thinking about you guys out there in the US on this day... Am moving pix little by little though losing the connection often. We only have 3 live connections here, 2 on portable computers and one on the only working computer in the lab. Hoping this will improve.

A few days ago Bienvenu Olory came to take me for a visit to his family in Porto-Novo. I enjoyed an afternoon with this nice family, related to the king of Porto-Novo, whom I'll meet one day soon.

9th: Had some time to take a small trip where the slaves left or died.

 Olory family

Took a trip to Ouidah, the port of non-return. Saw a Voudou celebration.

Had lunch with my gendarmes neighbors.

I have tropical trees around my villa

5th: Mes etudiants a l'IMSP ( Institute of Math and Physical Sciences) et quelques personnes et choses achetees pour ma villa

4th: Went on a short trip to the Seme beach at Porto-Novo. It was a great trip where I followed a woman and her baby. We also had lunch at a fisherman hut on the sand using our hands to dip into the food.

baby on the beach. 
baby on the beach. 
baby on the beach. 
baby on the beach. 
baby on the beach. 
baby on the beach. 
baby on the beach.

August 2003:

31st: Am in Porto Novo!! Heart breaking missing my family, but the whole experience is so far worthwhile. My villa is spacious and nice. Was given a guardian and a cook by the Institute. So am spoiled from the start. The house is surrounded by mango trees, Dates, cocnu trees, etc. very tropical indeed. In the compound there are other villas all with French gendarms.
Am making friends. Tomorrow am starting work at the Institute. I thought I was starting Oct 1st! I understand I only have a dozen students.
The course is an introductory course and will last only 2 weeks.

Am leaving for London on Aug. 26th, and for Benin on Aug. 29th passing by Paris. I have only one hour in Paris, and wonder what if my plane is late and I miss my connection. The next plane to Benin is 2 days later, on the 31st. It won't be so bad to spend 2 days in Paris with all the tourists.

My earlier journal from the last days in Chicago before leaving for London and Benin.

Found out that since stopping in London for 2 days, I am acquiring the weight limitation on my luggage by Air France. It will cost me about 25$ (yes) for each additional pound over 50 pounds of luggage weight. I am down to bare necessities.

Will appreciate any comments from you on this journal. Thanks!

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Last updated 5/19/04

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