I have discovered that Benin has only two seasons: rainy season and dry season. Over the last two weeks, I have experienced rainy season like never before.
Last Wednesday, I left the ship at about 7:40 am to collect my Schengen visa from the French Consulate. The French Consulate is about a five minute walk from the port, if that. The walk from the ship to outside the port is about five minutes as well.
As I was getting ready to leave, I looked out the windows and noticed that the ground was really wet. Being the eternal optimist, I fooled myself into thinking that it must have rained extremely hard during the night and that I had better go before it starts raining again.
So, I slipped on my red shoes (these, I have now discovered are not colour-fast) and threw my beautiful African print handbag over my shoulder, making sure that it contained all the documentation needed to collect the visa. I put on my rain jacket just in case. But walk past the umbrella because I surely won't need that.
As I sign out at the gangway, I notice the drops of rain starting to fall. So I tuck my handbag under my rain jacket (keeping my documents safe from the rain) and make a run for it. About two minutes into my journey, the rain starts falling fiercely. I carry on walking. I am a woman with a mission, after all.
Now drenched, I am finally outside the port. To my horror, I had to walk through a river of water that reached beyond my ankles. As I sludged through the water, I saw some people laugh at me. I don't blame them. The more friendly ones offered me a ride on a zimi. I declined as the Consulate was 500 metres away.
When I finally arrived at the Consulate I was drenched. My shoes had turned my feet pink and my handbag had a similiar effect on my hands and rain jacket. Thirty minutes later, I had to repeat this exercise to get back to the ship. But this time, I had a visa in my bag and I was happy.
This evening I joined a group of friends for dinner at a local restaurant. As we left the ship, it started raining. At least this time I had an umbrella.
But this rain shower turned into a full blown storm. Thunder. Lightning. Icy winds. It had it all.
Our brave driver had to navigate his way through the water and the traffic and the windscreen that kept on fogging up untile we reached our destination.
When we entered the restaurant, we were seated in the outdoor area - it had a roof but no walls. While we were chatting we could feel the raindrops against our skin. We laughed. Some more nervously than others.
As the evening went on, the rain fell even harder and the electricity went out twice. The second time, we got such a fright. Somebody knocked over her drink and we heard the glass break in the dark followed by a gentle squeal for help. The lady opposite her jumped up, and now had a drink on her lap and rain falling on her head. Water was coming from every direction!
Eventually once we had light again, some of the more intelligent members of the party, created a wall with the umbrellas. It was something to behold. It is a dinner that I will remember for a long time.