As I climbed out of my cab into the practically visible, polluted Cotonou air after 10 hours of travel from Accra, the stale smell of exhaust and sewage hit my olfactory like a glass of wine turned to vinegar. As the zems ran up to the car jockeying for position, joking with one another, I knew I was home. It is good to be back. Cotonou is a city known only to those who've weaved through her traffic on a zem driven by a slightly (one hopes) intoxicated maniac. The city and her people simmer in a cauldron of sweat, tar, and trash. While the ingredients of the stew are essentially the same as most underdeveloped metropolies, the bouquet is specific to this city and this city alone. Over the last year and 8 months, I've become accustomed to its rhythm and tune. I know how to talk to people, engage them or brush them off. In short, its home.
Ghana was a wonderful experience, but it was difficult to reconcile that I was just another foreign traveler, forever out of step with the local dance. Of course there are details I liked more about Ghana than Benin. One might say the same thing when comparing a family member to a friend; but when it comes down to it, family is family. For now I'm Beninois, and I'm proud.